Joseph Gannon, diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, looks forward to owning a business.
By BARBARA GIASONE
The Orange County Register
FULLERTON — Job landed, job lost, job landed …
Joseph Gannon's employment record looks like a stock market graph in a see-saw economy.
In the past 10 years, Gannon has been hired and laid off from more than 10 workplaces.
"My bosses don't respect my side of the story when something goes wrong," said Gannon, 35, seated in his Fullerton home. "They just write me up and then ask what happened. They should take me off to the side and discuss the problem."
It's not that Gannon isn't good at what he does, his mother, Daralyn, explained. He just has problems socializing. He knows he's doing his job, and expects everyone else to do the same.
That's one of the perils of Asperger Syndrome, an offshoot of autism that causes a patient to struggle with social skills and restrictive and repetitive behavior.
Lisa Murillo, the director of employment services for the Easter Seals Society, has been working with Gannon for two years, trying to find a job that will suit his skills.
"But it keeps coming back to computers," she said. "Joseph likes to work independently and make decisions by himself."
For that reason, the Troy High School graduate hopes to find a mentor who will work with him on developing his own home-based, computer-building business for private customers.
Paula Pompa-Craven, the regional vice president of the Easter Seals of Southern California, said Gannon would be well-suited for what Easter Seals calls "micro-enterprise."
"He's going along that path, but we just need to find someone to help," said Pompa-Craven, who noted the Regional Center of Orange County in 2007 provided services to 2,700 people diagnosed with autism.
Yet, unlike many of those who have been treated for the disease since childhood, Gannon wasn't diagnosed until he was 27 years old.
"Autism wasn't part of the English language when Joseph was growing up," Daralyn said. "He had a speech impairment, auditory discrimination and he could read, but didn't understand the meaning of words."
Gannon's parents took him to behavior modification classes at the Child Guidance Center in Fullerton, but Gannon didn't adjust to the program.
In the second grade, he couldn't handle the structure and confusion.
He was enrolled in the UCI live-in program that Daralyn said, "was a disaster."
"Joseph was tormented emotionally," she said. "When he went back to Commonwealth School, teacher Katie Reitzel took an interest. But classmates chose Joseph last on the team."
Gannon's father, Gerald, who is a math instructor at Cal State Fullerton, tried to help find a campus job for his son.
But that didn't work out.
The bewildered student attended Fullerton College, Orange Coast College Culinary Arts and worked in fast-food industry.
"Food services were frustrating because of the number of people who come in – and all the noise," Gannon recalled.
And even though he dislikes confusion, his favorite hobby is going to Disneyland.
Finally, at age 27, Gannon met his mother's friend who works with autistic students in the Placentia-Yorba Linda School District. She maintained it was autism, and recommended Gannon be tested.
The friend was right.
Several agencies stepped into the picture and provided some help. Eventually, it was the Easter Seals Autism Services that took a strong interest in Gannon's case.
He works several days a week at a small department store in Placentia. Easter Seals provides a job coach who works right alongside Gannon every minute of the work day.
The rest of the week, the skilled computer expert retreats to his home office where he enjoys computer programming, watching DVDs and listening to music.
"I just need somebody to help me get started in my own business," Gannon said. "I know I could handle everything."
And it would be in a quiet, non-threatening environment.