Meet Joanne from PEI
Both Ivan and I would like anyone to know that being diagnosed is a relief. It gives one the ability to focus on what works for them, and it can be freeing emotionally, as it helps to explain a lot. Learning to function in the real world can be challenging, but worth it. Find what you are good at and make a career out of it, understand you may need to be your own boss. Lean on family and friends, and always focus on the good.”
Jo is proud Mom to her 25-year-old son, Ivan, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome when he was 5 years old. Jo also received a similar diagnosis four year ago, which she said helped to explain some of her childhood.
Jo and Ivan have found ‘their place’ in Summerside, PEI. They live next door to each other in an apartment building which works well, as they get to be close, but not living together. They each have their own space and share dinner almost every night.
Jo is a successful entrepreneur, taking her challenges of finding employment on the spectrum, and creating her own success. She has created employment opportunities for Ivan as well, something they aspire to continue in the future to ensure he is set up for the long term.
Learn more about JoAnne and her son Ivan in this Q&A below.
At what age were you diagnosed with autism?
The day my son was born, I knew something was a bit different about him. He didn't want to be held and would cry if people hugged him. His socks had to be turned inside out, and he would only eat white food. At age 5 he was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, and has been training for the real world ever since. Ivan was non-verbal for a long time, but with great support from family and school he has excelled and is a very competent and capable adult. Autism spectrum disorder also runs in his father's family. Four years ago, I was advised I am Asperger's as well, which has since helped explain a lot of my childhood.
How has autism affected your life?
Autism has affected our ability to find employment in the normal sense. I've been an entrepreneur since my early 20’s and provided a job for Ivan once he was ready to work. Both of us are not good at punching clocks and prefer to work on our own time.
How does it make you unique? And help you excel?
We look at Asperger's as a superpower. Ivan's ability to focus exclusively on the task at hand means it is done perfectly. However, it also means he can only receive one instruction at a time.
I am super-organized and can find efficiencies everywhere, while focusing on the big picture. It has served both of us well in business.
What struggles have you faced because of your autism?
Travel for Ivan is very difficult, as it interrupts his daily routine and takes him away from his apartment (safe place). He is unable to compensate quickly enough for bad drivers that roll through stop signs and has chosen to no longer drive. He is very black and white in his thoughts and actions, therefore grey is a no-go zone.
For myself, my senses are heightened. Loud noises, stray hairs, temperature swings, bright lights, strong smells and flavours rule most of my day. Sunglasses, ear plugs, layers of clothing and a small bottle of scent are my coping mechanisms.
How has your family supported you through your autism journey?
My family has been amazingly supportive. They help Ivan however they can, be it by doing his taxes, making food specifically for him, even learning to not hug him. For myself, my mom pushed for answers to my behavior, and it’s been a positive experience. Having been identified as ‘gifted’ at an early age helped her shape where my education went. She’s our biggest advocate, and critic all rolled into one, and I am forever grateful to her.
Has your life been impacted by Coronavirus? What are your some of your goals and hope for the future?
Ivan is a solitary person, not much has changed for him. I enjoy travel and can’t wait to get going. Our goal is to work together again once things settle down and build a self-employed future for him.
What five words best describe you to the world?
Jo – Efficient. Meticulous. Sociable. Curious. Optimist.
Ivan – Nightowl. Focused. Solo. Funny. Reliable.
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Disclaimer: These are subjective opinions and real experiences of autistic people across Canada. Autism Speaks Canada does not provide medical or legal advice or services. Rather, Autism Speaks Canada provides general information about autism as a service to the community. The information provided on our website is not a recommendation, referral or endorsement of any resource, therapeutic method, or service provider and does not replace the advice of medical, legal or educational professionals. Autism Speaks Canada has not validated and is not responsible for any information, events, or services provided by third parties.