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