About Jay Serdula

Jay Serdula is a young man from Kingston Ontario with Asperger Syndrome. While on the autism spectrum and often confused with high-functioning autism, Asperger Syndrome stands on its own. Furthermore, there are vast differences even amongst the people who have this disorder. Asperger Syndrome is commonly viewed as a disability or handicap but it doesn’t need to be; by and large it simply entails a different way of looking at things. Just as left-handed people often find themselves at a disadvantage because they are in the minority (most tools are designed for right-handed people and manufacturers don’t want to be bothered to make tools suitable for left-handed people), people with Asperger Syndrome are at a disadvantage solely because they are different. Most of life’s situations (such as the school curriculum or instruction manuals) are designed so that they can be readily handled or understood by the “average” person. People with Asperger’s can learn the same concepts as anyone else but they process and retain the information differently.

Jay was born in Deep River Ontario in 1972. Asperger’s Syndrome did not have a name, even in Europe, until 1981 (ref. 1). This explains why Jay’s parents were unable to get a diagnosis for him when he was six, even though they knew something was wrong. Jay was integrated into the regular public school system without any special education. During his years in elementary school he had difficulty distinguishing between playful teasing and blatant bullying. Jay was often unaware who his true friends were and who was “out to get him”. Even true friends would at times get impatient or frustrated by his seeming lack of empathy (understanding the thoughts and emotions of others) and difficulty with the concept of “personal space”.

Jay’s hobbies have included long-distance running, cross-country skiing, and chess. Jay learned to swim at age seven, which was considered late for someone living in a small town on the waterfront. He did his first triathlon at age seventeen in 1990. When Jay was younger he was afraid of change and afraid to try new things, which is a very typical Asperger characteristic. Now, Jay is pushing the opposite extreme and always on the lookout for new challenges. In July 2006, he was awestruck by the successful crossing of Lake Ontario by 15-year-old Jenna Lambert, who has cerebral palsy, of the greater Kingston area. Within a matter of days, Jay decided that he wanted to swim across Lake Ontario . Jay has chosen Asperger Syndrome as the charity which he will swim for, seeing that Asperger Syndrome has personal significance to him. Through this swim, he plans to not only raise money to assist with research and programs for Asperger Syndrome, but also to raise awareness plus demonstrate what Aspies are capable of accomplishing when they put their minds to it.

Jay received his Bachelor’s in Applied Math with an electrical engineering elective at the University of Waterloo in 1996 and he earned his Masters in Physical Oceanography at the Royal Military College of Canada in 2003. Jay is currently working in the Chemistry & Chemical Engineering Department at the Royal Military College of Canada. His duties involve mathematical analysis and computer programming to study defective fuel rods in nuclear reactors.


ref. 1 Hitchhiking through Asperger Syndrome by Lise Pyles, 2002

Jay treading water holding Gatorade bottle, photo by Sara Hay

Jay and Heather treading water in Chippego Lake, photo by Sara HayJay swimming in Chippego Lake, photo by Sara HayJay about to put on swimming goggles, Jess in bow of canoe, photo by Jason WamboldtJay swimming, mainland Kingston in background, photo by Jason Wamboldt

 

Responses

  1. I recently heard Jay speak at a church and I would like to help. I know that he currently needs volunteers to make it happen this year, but I don’t know what kind of help he needs. I would love to be of support and use in some way. Please direct me so that I can be involved in this incredible effort.
    Thanks
    Rebecca

  2. Hi Rebecca,

    There are many ways that you can help. From fundraising, to supervising training swims. To find out more, get in touch with our volunteer coordinator at swim4aspergers@hotmail.com

    Thank you!
    Oliver

  3. Go Jay Go! I heard about you from my friend Sherrill, who recently wrote a letter about you to the editor of her local newspaper. My son is an Aspie and it has been a fascinating journey. I could not agree more that being ‘different’ does not mean being ‘less’ and I’m going to share your website with him!

    Rooting for you from Florida!

  4. Hi Jay, I have been slow responding to your last phone call wanting to talk to me. It’s a crazy time of year and I’m just about overwhelmed with all of the things that I have to do to finish the school year off and all of the things I want to do such as chat with you.
    I am really interested in the swim that you are doing. I have an opportunity for you to talk to a group about it, if you’d like. Here’s the story: this summer, I am teaching Part III of Special Education at McArthur College. I have a class of experienced teachers who need to learn more about Asperger’s. Would you like to come and speak to my class for about 50 minutes one day, probably in the second week of July. You might be able to rally some more support for your swim. Let me know. Thanks. Val Hamilton
    P.S. please use my sympatico address to respond since I am working on my summer course mostly at home. Thanks.

  5. my daughter has recently been diagnosed with aspergers and although i still havent told her it is a struggle in day to day living. maybe i am wrong in nto telling her but her dr seems to think its best yet she doenst know as she also has panic disorder. your story has touched my heart and given me hope for my daughter

  6. Hi Jay,

    How will you maintain your body temperature? Will you wear a wet suit and two+ bathing caps?

    Blessings,
    Brent

  7. Go Jay Go. Our son is married to Jay’s sister Claire and that is how we met Jay. We didn’t know Jay had Asperger’s until the past year or so. I will not be able to cheer you on in person as I will be looking after Melanie & Vanessa so Claire can come to support you, but I will be cheering you on in spirit. My husband Wilf is planning on coming to Toronto to add some more support. Congratulations Jay on your dreams & goals. Lois Chapman

  8. Good afternoon Jay,

    I heard about your upcoming swim across Lake Ontario by our mutual friend John Paterson, who I understand will be a part of your team during this tremendous event.

    Just wanted you to know, that you will be in my thoughts and prayers throughout this special event to raise funds and awareness of Aspergers.

    I wasn’t aware of Asperger’s until John told me about your swim. A worthwhile cause indeed, and you are to be commended for making this superb cause. You have my support, and good wishes, and I will be sending a donation to Kerry’s Place Autism Services in honour of your swim.

    Good luck and blessings.

    Cheers – David (Blackman)

    PS. I will be watching the news for the successful results of your swim!!

  9. Congratulations Jay on your amazing swimming. Keep up the great work!

    Tara

  10. Cheering you from Calgary AB, I used to live in Kingston and although I never did swim it, I sure do miss Lake Ontario… The bow river is beautiful but no comparison!!!! BEST WISHES. (P.S. found you through a former classmate on Facebook!)

  11. Jay you have done us PROUD!!!!
    My son is Aspergers and struggled with Autism for years. Go to Keminications where I have spread the word!

  12. We have put the coverage on YouTube for you. Thank you for educating us further. I cannot even swim in a pool let alone LAKE ONTARIO??? We are Proud of you!!! The YouTube link is on my name link. My 21 year old son Eni is so PROUD of you!!! Thank You! Thank You, Thank You! Please embed the video as you wish!!!!

    Stay in touch.
    Kemi
    647-344-5390

  13. Way to go Jay!!!!!

    Jenna, Natalie, John and I watched your progress through out the day and evening. I knew through our correspondence that you were mentally tough, but wow!!!! You are the epitome of perseverence. Congratulations!!! You worked so hard, I hope you get a good night sleep, and then sit back and savour your success. Congratulations Jay!!!!!!!!

    Vicki

  14. Congratulations Jay!! I have never heard of Aspergers until I heard about your swim. You have definitely raised my awareness. Thanks!!

    Luke

  15. Congratulations, Jay!!!! An absolutely incredible effort and accomplishment! Have a good, long rest. See you soon.
    Kathy, SLOWPOKE-2

  16. Jay, my mom Kemi told me about you this morning when I woke up. She called me at 5am to tell me about someone with Aspergers that swam across Lake Ontario. WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    You have made me feel that there is nothing I can’t do. I use MySpace and Facebook to make friends as some experts say we have no social skills. Can they swim Lake Ontario? Congrats! Watch my video and let us keep in touch.

  17. Jay,
    I assumed you were tough to take on such a challenge but swimming for 41 hours in strong currents and cold water and not give up is more than tough. You are such an inspiration and you have shown what can be accomplished when you set your mind to it. Congratulations! Get a well deserved rest.
    Diane Creber and swimmers from Progress Fitness

  18. Hey, Jay! Never doubted you could do it for a minute! Congradulations from all of us in Arnprior!

    WAY TO GO!!!!!

  19. Way to go Jay! I just saw a news clip about you and wanted to congratulate you! I attended high school with you in Deep River and remember the challenges you faced with your peers. I’m so happy to see you triumph!

    Best of luck in spreading your message to the world!

  20. Awesome news, Jay.

    As parents of a 15 year old child living with Asperger’s, I have been following stories about your attempt to cross Lake Ontario. News of your successful crossing gave us chills up our spines , lumps in our throats and tears in our eyes. Your accomplishment makes us proud to say that Aspies can do anything they put their minds to. You are an inspiration to ALL in the Asperger’s community and we thank you for using this event to get the word out about Asperger’s.

    41 hrs!!!!! Rest well friend!!!!

    Thank you,

    Jamie and Nikki McFarlane
    St. Catharines, ON

  21. Jay, My mom is sending your story to CNN. They ought to see this.

  22. Hi Jay:
    congratulations!
    I have been following your story since frineds of mine and people you know from Parham told me about your swim.
    They knew I would be interested My son also has Asperger’s. He is now almost 29 years old, and was diagnosed at 18. School was a struggle often but he graduated from Algonquin College. thanks for your accomplishment — it encourages a lot of us!

    Patsy Henry

  23. Simply amazing.

    I’m proud of you Jay!

    All the very best and I hope that you continue to conquer your goals. You’re an inspiration to us all.

    Neil Cornett

  24. To My Hero: I have to thank you for allowing me to be a part of such a special event. It is something I will never forget as long as I live. To watch a man overcome exhaustion, nausea, cold; the challenge of crossing Lake Ontario, and hanging in for over 41 hours without any assistance, without stopping, without sleeping, without the aid of any floatation device, or warmth of anything but his own heart: it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life, and your strength has made me a stronger person. You have achieved your goal of bringing awareness to Aspergers and Autism, and I know you will inspire people for many years to come. Again, thank you Jay, for letting me witness this firsthand.

    Love from one of your supporters (and humble coach).

    Pamxxoo

  25. Jay I am very proud of you! I know how much this has meant to you and I admire your determination. I’m looking forward to seeing you back at work so you can tell us more about this incredible feat. You have really caught the attention of many on Asperger’s syndrome.

    Your friends and colleagues in the Nuclear Fuel Group.

  26. Thank you for bringing attention to our cause. you accomplished a great personal goal for yourself and you brought attention to Asperger’s Syndrome.

    Over a decade ago I married a man, who unbeknowest to the both of us,was and is an Aspie. Not until our child got diagnosed with Autism that he finally realized that he was an Aspie. Would I marry him again if I had known of the challenges we faced in our marriage, YES. I’m a nurturer and I would have at the time figured I could “fix him”. (I stress at the time). I love him and our child and my life is better with the both of them.

    I need to say that me and my dh are complete opposite. He is an introvert and I”m the extrovert, yet it works. I’m told that since he met me he is more outgoing (I like to think that that is the natural progression of his personality). I’m glad I married my dh and I love the child we have, I know I would have missed out if I had not married him and had a great child.

    Zig

  27. Jay, on behalf of the entire Bethel Church Family, WAY TO GO!!! We are supremely proud of your great effort and success.

    God bless!

  28. jay
    you seem to have things in perspective, i need your help. our son might be diagnosed with aspergers, very mild.
    as christians we believe our prayers will be answered and that he will not have this diagnoses, we love him uncondionally and want to help. are there any books resources tools that we can use? we are concerned with labelling people, and now that it is not necessary important. thank you for what you’ve done

    many blessings
    gisle

  29. you can contact me at 99gisele@sympatico.ca

  30. I saw information about Jay’s swim on the Kingston TV news today.
    My sister and I used to go to Wesley Acres Camp with Jay about 15 years ago.

    Way to go!

  31. Jay,
    What an amazing accomplishment! It has been a long time since our camp days and I am so please to hear how well you are doing and what a difference you are making for Aspergers awareness. Please let me know if you are OK with me sharing your site with my students with Aspergers/autism- I know they would be inspired.

  32. I recently heard Jay speak at my workplace and I just have to say how enlightening his presentation was and how much I learned about Autism. Jay is living proof of how someone can take their disabilitiy and turn it into an ability and be the best they can be. It was evident Jay is an extremely intelligent and gifted person. I can only hope that he can reach out to more people and tell his story over and over again so that everyone can widen their understanding of autism and realize how much we have to learn from individuals such as Jay. Thank-you so very much.

  33. My family actually has a cottage on Chippego Lake, and we were forever wondering who was swimming laps around the lake from time to time, now we know :) I want to congratulate you on previous accomplishments and wish you all the best on your future endeavors.

    Hope to see you swimming this summer :)

    Danielle

  34. hello jay,

    i saw your inspireing speech at school today i thought you were the best guest speaker we’ve had yet it was a honour to have you at Cat.woods .

    Sincerly, Aimee

    Good Luck on your futher accomplishments.


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