Living with autism presents Cisco Networking Academy student James with challenges and opportunities


“I've been interested in computers since I was three, and I have found that I can learn something new every day on my own by researching using the computer.”


Towards an independent life

Living with autism means that for James processing English is akin to learning another language. In school, this means in class he needs time to process verbal lectures, presenting an obvious challenge.

It is a challenge he has largely overcome through hard work and determination, spending three to five hours daily—even on weekends—on homework, just to keep up with his peers.

But where language can be a challenge, James is incredibly gifted in other ways. He started to read as a two-year-old, and by three could assemble 50-piece jigsaw puzzles quickly, even if they were face-down.

And to say James is good at mathematics would be to understate the situation. He has tested in the 98th percentile in math since the third-grade, and has been in double advanced math since the fifth-grade. His math SAT score is in the 98th percentile as well. And overall his grade-point-average is as high as it gets.

And James does more than academic work. Since 2016 he has done tech support for a range of businesses, builds computers, servers, and networks, and even volunteers to collect old computers for repair and donation to families in need.

Technology was an early interest for James. “I've been interested in computers since I was three, and I have found that I can learn something new every day on my own by researching using the computer,” he says. “This is what has got me interested in operating systems, hardware, software, networking, and now something as high-level as cybersecurity.”

James is currently studying for his CCNA at Seaholm Highschool in Birmingham Public Schools. “My teacher, Dom Wilkins from Cisco Meraki, meets with me on a regular basis to support me in my learning, help me solve problems, and build my confidence to help me stay on track independently,” he says.

“I feel very fortunate that I have been able to take these Cisco NetAcad courses while I'm still in high school and use them as high school credits, since many colleges would also recognize them as college credits,” he says. “Having the opportunity to do a cybersecurity class, since it is in high demand right now, is great for me since it's in my interest.”

“I am definitely planning to study more after my CCNA,” he says. “I would like to go for the Cisco Certified Networking Professional (CCNP), and then continue on my bachelor's and master's degrees in cybersecurity, networking, and IT, and Cisco's Networking Academy has helped me get there.”

“Really, my passion for computers has turned into my career,” says James. “I’m most grateful for my mother, who inspired me to find a subject that I was passionate about, and encouraged me to challenge myself and work towards a goal of something that can make me independent for the rest of my life.”

As for the future, James is open to opportunities. “I would love to work for Cisco! I would also like to start an IT business, help people create their own networks, and provide hosting services for clients,” he says. “I'm still learning new things every day.”



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