Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Job Excitement

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on November 16, 2011

    Frank, twenty-six, took seven years to slog through college. He started in community college, that lasted for three years. He then transferred to a four-year college, and after multiple withdrawals, finally finished after four more years. He was passionate about engineering, but he had a terrible issue with procrastination. High school did not go well for Frank, and for that matter, neither did middle or elementary school. He was relentlessly teased for “not fitting in,” which, as he says “was true.” Frank, one might say is shy, but in the view of multiple mental health professionals, they told him he was on the “spectrum.” I started seeing Frank at age ten, consistently arguing against putting him on the “spectrum,” the autistic spectrum, that is. Frank has theory of mind. He understands how other people think. He is kind, considerate and extremely thoughtful. Yet, he is profoundly afraid of being disliked, which makes him awkward, while at the same time, making others ill-at-ease.

    Frank worked at his job search in the same way he slogged through school. He was tenacious and resistant at the same time. He felt determined to find a job, but when the employer showed interest, he stalled. It was like he asked a girl out and when the girl said yes, then he would “get sick” so as not to close the deal. His fear overwhelmed his desire for independence. Yet, just like with his studies, he persevered and he landed a job, despite his reluctance and despite the economy which tilts against his age group. Sure, technical skills are in high demand, and that helped Frank, but what also helped him was his belief in himself, despite his fears, and despite his track record of delaying adulthood. Uncharacteristically, Frank came to my office with enthusiasm. He landed a job. He was proud of himself. His “spectrum” behavior disappeared. I can say with certainty that his “spectrum” diagnosis would be more  accurately labeled low self-confidence. At twenty-six, he is starting his life, on so many levels. Go Frank!

2 Responses to “Job Excitement”

  1. Shelly said

    Why did other professionals label Frank as being “on the spectrum?” Because he was socially awkward and shy? Labeling and young adult as such without solid proof could ruin his life, not to mention his self-respect. Procrastination is not a symptom of ASD. Good for you for holding back from giving him that label! And good for Frank for getting through school, getting over his fears and nailing the job! Did you recommend any medication for Frank, or did you just give him support throughout?

  2. Yes, socially awkward and shy kids, often, according to me, get mislabeled on the “spectrum”. Yes, these labels can be very destructive to self-esteem and lower one’s expectations for oneself. Procrastination is not a symptom of ASD, but as a result of his procrastination, it appeared from the outside, that he could not engage with his world. Others did not view his behavior as procrastination, but rather they saw it as lacking a desire to socially engage with the world. Yes, Frank did benefit from anti-anxiety medication, but as with all uncontrolled situation, it is hard to say definitively if the medication played a major role, a minor role, or a placebo role. Having said that, he reports that the medication was beneficial for his development. Yes, I do hold back giving diagnosis, because time often helps sort out difficult questions. And yes, good for Frank for having tenacity, and faith in himself, to persevere, despite negative input from professionals. It appears that deep down, he had more determination then others thought. Thanks.

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