Daily life can be difficult from time to time for most teens and many young adults, but anyone who lives, works, or goes to school with someone diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome knows all too well how hard every single day can be for them. Because of the differences associated with AS—such as sensory issues, anxiety, inflexibility, poor intuitive skills, and/or lack of friends or peer relationships—day-to-day life can be very difficult, especially at school or the workplace.
Matthew Dandurand of Westfield, Mass. was no exception. Diagnosed with AS in elementary school, life was a challenge for Matt, but when he found something he loved, he was all in, evidenced by his passion for the Red Sox, computers, or the music of Metallica. His effort was obvious when he briefly took guitar lessons but largely learned to play by ear. He would listen to the opening bars of songs and figure out how to play them, even though he didn’t always master an entire song. Matt had a heart condition that, combined with some medications, often reduced his stamina, but he also managed to overcome these limitations with a keen sense of how to get the job done when playing golf or basketball.
Matt died August 13, 2005 at the age of sixteen. His heart stopped, but his courageous spirit lives on through this award, as well as an annual seminar presented for teens and young adults. (The time and place for award presentations in the year 2011 are to be determined.)
The Asperger’s Association of New England (AANE) will publicly honor a teen or young adult (13-22) with AS from Central or Western Massachusetts for their own exceptional effort. We invite friends and families, teachers and administrators, support staff, colleagues, and employers to nominate someone you know by completing the online form by Friday, May 11, 2012. “Exceptional effort” can take many forms and is as individual as each person; it might be a monumental endeavor, such as starting a job or college, or undertakings around self-advocacy or disclosure, or persevering through a challenging situation or time. Sometimes special effort is necessary to complete homework consistently, learn a musical instrument, try out for a team or club, or expand hobbies and interests.
Like Matthew Dandurand, people with AS are often misunderstood, but most just want to be accepted and work hard towards that goal. We hope that the award recipient, his or her family and friends, and all those with Asperger Syndrome will accept this acknowledgment of the exceptional effort they make every day.
The presentation of the Matthew Dandurand Award for Exceptional Effort, along with a check for $250, will be made during the 6th Annual Dandurand Confernce in the Spring.
The workshop and award are made possible through the generosity of the contributors to The Matthew Dandurand Memorial Fund.