Troy: overcoming the odds, Attorney with #Asperger’s

Troy graduated with a law degree yet is having difficulty finding a job as an attorney
Troy graduated with a law degree yet is having difficulty finding a job as an attorney

Autism Unveiled Week 2

“Who Am I?”

“How is Autism Part of Me?”

When I look around me, I see masks where others see emotion. When I listen, I hear only what is said when others hear what is meant. I was born with a disorder classified as Asperger’s Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism. Today, society at large is becoming increasingly aware that the limitations of those with Asperger’s are mostly in the social realm, but this was not always the case. Growing up, I had long odds against me more times than I care to remember, and I have beaten them all.

I do now know when my peers and the adults in my life began noticing there was something different about me, but the first time I received a diagnosis was in third grade. Although Asperger’s had been discovered by its namesake in 1944 Austria, it was not until the mid-1990’s that it was recognized in the United States. Hence, I was initially misdiagnosed as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a mistake that was not corrected until sixth grade. At the time, I neither noticed nor cared. It was around this time also that a powerful work ethic awoke within me. After that, regardless of what people labeled me, I always tried to do my work to the best of my ability, more often than not matching or besting my “normal” counterparts in this regard, much to the surprise of those who expected otherwise. Since this strategy has worked so well thus far, I intend to continue to employ it to the maximum.

In the eighth grade, I allowed myself to be a subject in an Asperger’s research study investigating family history and the role of genetics in autism. Concerned about my future, my parents discussed my prognosis and other issues with the medical experts in the autism field who were conducting the study. While admitting that the research was in its infancy, the doctors told my parents that most people with Asperger’s do not fare very well in college. As such, the odds were stacked against my collegiate success before I even entered high school. Fortunately, my parents did not pass along this pessimistic forecast to me, so I just kept on succeeding.

The high-school era results of this drive speak for themselves. I was invited to join the National Honor Society, graduated in the top tenth of my class and was one of only nine seniors to be named a Rotary Student of the Month. Far from simply having names drawn out of a hat at random, Students of the Month are chosen by the faculty for demonstrating outstanding performance in academics, service, leadership and character. And to top it off, out of the 12 high school semesters, there was only one when I was not on either the honor roll or the high honor roll. (If I could have typed then as fast as I do now, I would have been on the honor roll all 12 semesters!)

When I began applying to colleges, I learned that all the awards and respect I had earned in high school didn’t matter to some Admissions Offices. Friends I had academically outpaced were recognized for their awards and talents by a few of the same institutions that saw me as autistic and a potential embarrassment. Fortunately, several colleges were willing to risk admitting me (as a “provisional” student.) Once on the college campus, I continued to do my best and beat those long odds as readily as I had done in high school. Thus far, I have earned four Dean’s Lists, numerous scholarships and awards, and most importantly, respect for both me as an individual and those like me with Asperger’s who will follow after me.

Asperger’s Syndrome masks the emotions of others to me, just as the very word “autistic” conceals who I am and what I am capable of achieving. I have faced adversity in my life, and I am prepared to face more. After all, to paraphrase the great Roman poet, Horace, “good fortune conceals the true essence of a person, while adversity reveals it.”

Troy Crumrine, Pennsylvania

Father’s note: This is the essay that my oldest son, Troy D. Crumrine, wrote in 2007 as he was beginning to apply to Law Schools across Pennsylvania to fulfill the application requirement to write an essay that ”describes how you have overcome a difficulty.” Of the six Law Schools to which he applied, he was accepted into the night division of only one—the only one that did not receive this essay as part of the application packet. But as always, through character and hard work and only God can imagine what difficulties, Troy made the most of that opportunity, graduating in 2012. He passed the Bar Exam on his first try and spent the next two years sending out hundreds of applications and going through dozens of interviews. When he was able to get some feedback from the failed interviews, it was just more of the same – “we can’t imagine you being the kind of guy to sit next to some of our older clients and really listen to what they have to say,” one group of partners told him.

In November of 2014, he began a 14-month opportunity as a paralegal with the Department of Justice in Washington D.C. Underemployed? Yes, currently. A talent under recognized and under appreciated? Yes, so far. But a giant of character and a tremendous role model for ANY person facing difficulties.

Troy Crumrine is part of the six-week advocacy project Autism Unveiled Project commencing on April 2, 2015, World Autism Awareness Day.

8 Comments

  • Michael Whary says:

    I enjoyed your story very much. I have to apply to Colleges very soon. Would you advise not mentioning being autistic on the applications? I have always tried to embrace my autism, but hate to be discriminated against as I certainly can excel in a university environment. Thank you very much for your story!!!

    • Troy Crumrine says:

      Thank you. I would most definitely mention it on the application. The usual cliches about “Their loss then!” aside, if a university is going to have an issue with you being autistic, it is best for you personally to know that going in. Remember: universities are, at the end of the day, businesses competing with each other for you.

  • Christian Blattenberger says:

    Excellent. Troy, you will continue to do well, and you have already succeeded. God has a plan for your life. You probably don’t realize it yet, but I’d be willing to bet that the adversity you are fighting your way through right now will probably come in very handy in the future. It took me 20 years of work to realize it is surviving those struggles that help us excel above those who are afraid to take risks, and fight through difficulties. I’ve learned to welcome those challenges throughout my career. Your kind of work ethic, dedication, and determination are quite rare in today’s graduates I see entering the work force. Once the right opportunity finds you, I’m sure you will be ready for it. Congrats on your accomplishments Troy! You are weclome to contact me about job opportunities at my company. I would be happy to recommend you personally if you an open position that interests you.

  • Greg says:

    Congrats on your accomplishments Troy! My wife recently finished law school and I am all too aware of the difficulties surrounding law school, taking the bar, and finding work as an attorney. I believe your experiences give you a unique opportunity and insight for a lot of people. Good luck in D.C and in all your future experiences.

  • Chad Iwertz says:

    Troy – thank you for sharing your story here. I really appreciate the chance to read about your life. Do you have any advice for children who are going through what you went through but haven’t had as much success as you have?

    • Troy Crumrine says:

      Sorry for the long delay, Mr. Iwertz; I only now saw this.

      Best advice I could give would be keep trying and learn from mistakes and past failures. Easier said than done, believe me, but at the end of the day it’s a game of attrition.

  • David says:

    Regarding the comment by a doctor that Asperger’s do not do well at college: the BBC presenter and scientist Brian Cox reported in one of his TV series that it has been found scientists are half-way between autistic & “normal”. This may mean they are only mildly Asperger’s but it’s pretty rare a scientist can have much of a career without doing well indeed at university. Actually I’d say medicine is very similar to science, sometimes it is science, so I’d wager that doctor mentioned has traces of autism too, I’m increasingly thinking there may be no other way of being gifted in this way.
    I’m a visual artist, come from a family of doctors & scientists, I think I might be a little autistic, I spend a great deal of time remembering & thinking about peoples expressions and body language “what did that mean??” it’s possible I’ve learned to cope (somewhat) with great conscious attention to these things, I suspect “normal” do it automatically without thinking. Cheers

  • Roman Soiko says:

    I too was diagnosed with a multitude of disabilities yet I proved all those “professionals” wrong

    Cannot communicate? I speak 14 languages
    Cannot understand abstract concepts? a lot of international humanitarian law (law of armed conflict) has abstract concepts I understand them perfectly fine like responsibility to protect jus ad bellum jus cogens responsibility to protect is the idea that every state has the right and duty to protect citizens from genocide war crimes and crimes against humanity and if they don’t international community should. jus ad bellum is how to wage a war humanely and jus cogens is how to interpet the law correctly.
    Cannot build relationships? I build a relationship with the most intense relationship oriented culture Malawian and I learned Precious’ languages Chichewa Ndiayankhulo Chichewa yankhulo chiyankhulo chimbwenzi Chichewa
    Do not have empathy I spent five hours of my time helping a friend on his UN essay He got a 90 percent on it

    I taught myself international human rights humanitarian criminal refugee law in all six UN languages انا ادرس القدوونمة النسمي نسم الجنينة العولاين في صعبة الغت المم المتحدة 我知道国际人道法人权法国际形事法国难民法全六语联合国 Je me conaissances droits international droits d l’homme humanitaires criminal refuges en alles six langues oficiel des Nations Unies Я знаю международный гумианатрный права человека уголовное права беженец на все шесть языков организация обеденных наци Yo sé derecho international humanitario derechos humanos criminal refugiado en todos seis idiomas de las Naciones Unidas

    Everything professionals taught me I couldn’t do I did
    the professionals tell us this for a simple reason their pathetic careers are based on telling autistic people what we cannot do if autistics were seen as capable they will be out of a job

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