Hello, my name is John Levai, and I’ve been a resident of Montclair for almost 40 years. I’m on the autism spectrum and would love to share my autism journey.
I was born in 1984 and attended the public school system. I attended Nishuane from Pre-K to second grade, Hillside from third to fifth grade, Mt. Hebron (now Buzz Aldrin) from sixth grade through eighth grade, finishing the last four years at Montclair High School. I graduated in June 2003. My autism limitations at times made me afraid to ask questions and to speak up when I didn’t understand the content. I overcame that by thinking of the benefits of comprehending the work, including earning good grades and developing confidence.
After high school, I attended Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, New York. I completed my undergraduate degree in business administration. I earned mainly above-average grades in my undergraduate studies, finishing off the program with a 3.5 grade-point average. I was granted special education services at Mercy College, like extra tutoring. During my undergraduate studies, I started to learn how to combine my skills with classroom studies with performing well in a business setting. In addition, I began to learn how to interview properly for jobs. I had multiple mock interviews, which I did well with despite my autism.
Starting out, socialization was a little bit of a challenge for me. In the younger grades, I made common autism spectrum errors, like talking about the same topic repetitively, not understanding humor, and a lack of sustained eye contact during the elementary grades. I got help from my counselors, teachers and family members to overcome those hurdles.
As I entered my mid-teens, I learned how not to obsess about the same topic over and over. I did that by learning about and finding additional hobbies. When I got to middle school, I mitigated that issue significantly. In my late teens, I improved on making eye contact when engaged in conversations of more than a few seconds. As a result, that has helped my listening and comprehension skills.
Considering that I have Asperger’s, my journey in the workforce has been a smooth one. At times, I have felt overwhelmed with multitasking and following multistep directions. To reduce that, I have been able to take deep breaths, telling myself that you can do the projects successfully. My abilities to follow instructions, communicate with my colleagues and superiors, and arrive at work punctually has resulted in me getting very good performance reviews. Right now, I am employed by a company that I have been with for many years.
My journey as a person with Asperger’s has been a unique one. I have told myself that I could be successful if I put my mind to something. I’ve had my “cuts and scrapes” but have been able to get back up and execute to the best of my ability. Thanks to having a great support system, I have been able to be successful in many different capacities.