When you hear about someone with Asperger syndrome in the news, it’s usually for all of the wrong reasons.
But many people who are actually living with the condition are defying the stereotypes every day. David Gunther, a 17-year-old Hagerstown resident, is not just getting by – but thriving.
“I know it’s categorized as a disability, but it just means his brain works differently,” said his mother, Tiffiny. “And sometimes that’s an advantage.”
While Asperger syndrome is generally thought to be a high-functioning form of autism, it’s also clouded in negative stereotypes and reactions from others.
Because their brains work differently, they can be easy targets for ridicule,” Tiffiny added.
Even in David’s own family, he’s not alone. He has three brothers and two sisters, the majority of which are also on the autism spectrum.
For some on the spectrum, medications are needed for secondary conditions on top of autism. But for David, his medicine is playing the viola.
“Music is an outlet that helps me express what I’m feeling internally, and get it outside,” he said.
However, David wasn’t always as outgoing as he is now. He said what changed him was attending the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts.
“He kept to himself. I think he even felt like an outsider, whereas you would never know that today,” said Principal Robert Hovermale.
“I told my mom, ‘hey, I’m going to make these next four years the best four years of my life, because I want to go out there and make myself into a different person,” David said.
Outside of school, he is an Eagle Scout at Troop 65 in Hagerstown – and he’s learned more there than he ever could in a classroom. He was given a National Medal of Merit, after saving his little sister, Gwen, from choking.
“I’m just really grateful, because if it wasn’t for the scouting program and divine help, I wouldn’t have all my kids here,” Tiffiny said.
David will be graduating from Barbara Ingram School for the Arts on June 1, the same day as his 18th birthday. In the fall, he will start his college career at Brigham Young University, majoring in business.