Asperger’s and Dreams By Heather Paisley | October 10, 2011 | RSS The BC campus is home to a diverse student body, full of interesting people. Some students have stories and experiences that you never thought possible. Take education major, Hannah Burgess for example. She’s an intelligent and passionate young woman, but she’s battling a fight that I can’t imagine: Asperger syndrome. Hannah Burgess Asperger syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. It differs from other autism spectrum disorders by its relative preservation of linguistic and cognitive development. Usually there is more than meets the eye and for Burgess this rings true. I first met Burgess a year ago in the SAC singing at an Open Mic Night, but she wasn’t just singing, she was singing her heart out. I could see the passion in her eyes, a passion I would discover when I sat down and met her for the first time. Burgess is a native of Carroll County, Va. She is a junior aspiring to become a fourth or fifth grade elementary teacher. “I wanted to be a teacher for many years,” said Burgess. “My mother works in education, and I have volunteered to help in classes several times.” One of Burgess’ favorite interests is her love of Anime, which are cartoons that come from Japan. “I love Anime,” said Burgess with a smile. “It’s very well written, the characters are real, and a number of surprisingly attractive men are in Anime.” Burgess first found out that she suffers from Asperger syndrome when her mother brought home a book called “Freaks, Geeks, and Asperger Syndrome: A User’s Guide to Adolescence” by Luke Jackson, a 13- year- old with Asperger’s. “When I read this, I realized that someone else thinks like I do; I’m not crazy,” she said. It’s safe to say that this book changed Burgess’ life and gave her the necessary strength to brave the storm and a new goal. “I want to write a book about a girl who has Asperger’s because most girls don’t have Asperger’s,” said Burgess. Strength is the capacity to sustain the application of force without yielding or breaking; it’s more than muscles; it’s a strong heart. Burgess is the perfect image of strength. “I try to do well in my classes and make good impressions on my professors,” said Burgess. Finding herself at BC was a long ride. Burgess was bullied throughout school. “I started being bullied in the fourth grade by boys who said that I was too busy being myself,” said Burgess. After the fourth grade, bullying seemed to become more and more of a problem. “I wasn’t athletic, so I didn’t fit in,” said Burgess. Burgess didn’t let the bullies win and now she’s at BC making her dream of becoming a teacher come true. “I’ve been raised to think of myself as very independent,” said Burgess. Living with Asperger syndrome means that Burgess has to be appropriately accommodated at BC. Working closely with Crystal Kieloch, Director of Academic Support Services, Burgess is able to accommodate herself in the classroom and dorm room. “I have to take my tests in the ACE center, not a classroom,” said Burgess. “Crystal gives my teachers a list of accommodations and most teachers are okay with this.” How Burgess remains strong and true to herself, is a question that only her heart can answer, but a little optimism helps too. “I’ve always been optimistic,” said Burgess. “My mom said her proudest moment was when I would always go to school knowing that I was going to have a good day, regardless of how bad the day before was.” Her positive outlook is something that everyone one on campus can learn from.