The Story of Eric: Overcoming The Odds

The Army can be a challenging place to adapt to, especially for a person like Eric. Eric suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism. No thanks to his disorder, Eric finds it hard to recognise people's faces, comprehend complicated commands and choose appropriate responses to his superior's questions.

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With the Army being an organisation based on discipline and procedures, one would doubt Eric's ability to work well within such a framework. However, through his own determination, in addition to the support and patience from his colleagues and superiors, Eric finished his Full-Time National Service in February 2005. He enjoyed great experiences and learnt lessons through bitter ones, ultimately improving both his social and work skills necessary in civilian life. Eric recounts some of his experiences in the Army in his recently published book, "Mirror Mind".

"Hell."

Eric's introduction to NS life was a difficult one. The five-day Induction Course at the basic Military Training Centre was, as he put it, "Hell." Eric's disorder led to him rubbing his superiors the wrong way. This was often due to his inability to respond to commands quickly the way the others in his company could.

"The commands from my CSM (company sergeant major) did not make sense to me, so I was always a second slower than the rest as I had to see what they did before I could follow. I also could not differentiate between what to say and what not to say.

It was bad, but I did learn how to get along with people during these five days."

Trials and challenges

Eric was then posted to the Applied Behavioural Sciences Department as a clerk. The problems Eric faced were numerous as he had no prior experience in working together with colleagues in an office environment. It was there that he learnt proper time management and improved his social skills. Gradually, he was also able to adopt a positive work attitude. How did he do so?

"The very first thing I had problems with was constant interruption. My boss would call me often, and I got very irritated and disturbed by it. I like to sit down and focus deeply. However, I learnt to adapt and I can now handle this better.

I also learnt how to choose proper words to use. Before, when someone gave me work or trouble, I would say, 'That's evil.' My superiors obviously did not like it very much. I learnt that I must use words that are not so negative.

I was also too much of a perfectionist. I was frequently behind schedule and stressed myself out by doing unnecessary things that were of no use. I learnt to let little imperfections be, in order to be able to spend more effort on the things that are more important.

I got along well with the older people in my office, like my colleague, Misnah. We got along very well, talked a lot about cats, shared jokes and helped each other. I had never done this before."

A WITS Ace!

Making use of his creative ability to come up with solutions to common problems, Eric invented many gargets and came up with many solutions to common niggling problems. he even won a number of awards for his WITs suggestions.

"There was a big problem with our office's photocopier. It kept jamming. I devised a system of inputting it so that it actually took half the time to copy. It benefited everyone, i think. Although not all my ideas were feasible, I did easily fulfill my WITs quota.

NS may be tough, but as they say, it's the bitter medicine that is the most effective. I've learnt a great deal from NS."


Resources

PDF file of the newsletter at the Army News website

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