Personal Accounts of Being a University Student with HFA/AS

Jean-Paul Bovee, M.A., diagnosed with autism (

I started my undergraduate work at Southwest Missouri State University in 1986. The academics challenged me at the beginning, but I was able to do fine. The hard thing was to deal with other people. I lived in the dorms for two years and had to learn how other people acted. Most of the people were pretty cool and nice to me, but some would take advantage of me. I was pretty gullible and trusting then, but I learned the hard way on many things. People would trick me into giving them money and they would never return the money.

As far as my classes and professors, I never told them that I was a person with autism. I felt that I wanted to make it on my own skills and abilities and be treated like any other student. In math classes, I did pay someone to tutor me and I made sure that I went to the professor's office hours very regularly and the study sessions as well.

I tried to join fraternities during the pledge week, but no one wanted me. I was too "weird" for them, due to the fact that I have autism. I just did not know the rules of what you were or were not supposed to do. I would come to a party too early, drink too much, and stay too long. That did not endear me with any of the fraternities that I hoped to join. They did not mind if I came to their parties and got roaring drunk, but they did not want me as part of them.

I also did not know how to approach girls and ask them to go out with me. I would just walk up and talk to them, whether they wanted to talk to me or not. Some accused me of harrassment, but I thought that was the way everybody did that. Some understanding people helped me to realize that this was not working and that there were better ways of doing this.

I did join lots of different groups. I was a student government senator for all four of my undergraduate years, was involved in the Wesley Foundation(United Methodist Campus Ministries), the Phi Alpha Theta History Honorary, and Omicron Delta Kappa Leadership Honorary. So, I got my greek letters and did not have to drink to do so. These groups were where a lot of my friends came from and I was accepted as a part of them, even though I am a little odd, compared to a "neurotypical". I had a lot of fun, but worked hard as well.

I was in a rock band my freshman year of college. Some friends of mine from my dorm floor started up a band and needed a singer. I have a good voice and knew all the words to the songs, but did not have a stage prescence(ie. Mick Jagger). So, I was not quite seen as cool. I also wore shirts with pineapples on them all of the time, because I thought that they looked "cool". My peers did not feel the same way.

In my junior year of college, Good Morning America, a morning TV show, wanted Mom and I to be on their program. I got a call on this when I was in German class. The secretary of the foreign languages department gave me a note to call my supervisor over at the university library. Once class was done, I called my supervisor and went over to the library. She told me to call Mom. I called her at her work, caught a bus(I did not know how to drive at that time) and came over to her school. In the meantime, Good Morning America had called back Mom to set up the filming. This was all done during the time that "Rainman" was showing in movie theatres. The show wanted me to do "tricks" like counting things dropped on the floor or playing music that I had heard only once. I did not know these things until later. Mom said that I do not do those things, so they cancelled having us on the show. Unfortunately, one of the TV stations picked up that we were going to be on Good Morning America and did not listen to Mom or myself, when we told them that it was not going to happen. The next morning, instead of Mom and I, it was Jimmy Swaggart being caught with a prostitute.

I also had part-time jobs at Southwest Missouri State University working at the Duane B. Meyer Library. The other two part-time jobs were at Mexican Villa and at Ryans Family Steak House. These were as a dishwasher. I learned that dishwashing was not my calling.

I graduated from Southwest Missouri State University in 1990 with a B.A. in European History and carrying a 3.2 grade point average. I decided that I would go to graduate school to get my M.A. and Ph.D.(at the time) at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas. I lived in the graduate student housing at KU. I lived with foreign students from China, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Japan. It was a great learning experience. One of my roomates was Sikh and I learned so much about his faith. I am a Christian, but I learn so much from other faiths and cultures. It strengthens my own.

I worked at the Watson Library at the University of Kansas for a year and a month. It gave me extra money, which I needed. Previously there, I drove a van for the Continuing Education department until I wrecked it about a week later. The part-time jobs were not so good for me then.

I did not have much luck with relationships here either. I seemed to feel too strongly for ladies who felt nothing for me. I learned a lot and I use what I have learned later in my life. I also had friends that would look out for me.

I also had to deal with anger, frustration, and depression that I had been keeping inside since high school. Thank goodness, there was a counseling center on campus both at KU and at MU when I went there. I had both one-to-one and group therapy. These helped to improve my self-esteem and make me proud of who I am as a person with autism.

I was involved in United Methodist Campus Ministries at KU as well. This provided me with friends who cared about me for who I am and a lot of fun.

It took me a little while to get used to graduate studies. I did well in some classes and ok in others. But, I made it through with a 3.67 grade point average, but decided that I would not go for the Ph.D. Right now, I have an M.A. in Medieval and Roman History. The future did not look bright for jobs in this field, so I switched gears and went into library science. I received my degree in May of 1992.

I did my second M.A. at the University of Missouri-Columbia. It was in Library and Information Science. I was able to do well in most of my classes, except Cataloging and Classification. That was sheer agony for me. I got a C in it, but in graduate school, C's are looked at with disdain. I did enjoy my colleagues and we did have some fun.

I also was involved in Wesley Foundation at the University of Missouri. It was my only outside activities besides work and classes. We did a lot of fun things and they were people who accepted you for who you are. I have lots of fond memories of this group.

I had a lot of part-time jobs, first as a telemarketer. That lasted for a week. I have a conscience and you can't have one to be a telemarketer. I also worked for Montgomery Wards, a department store, that did not work either. My first really successful part-time job in Columbia was working at a Price Chopper grocery store as a bagger. I was there for 9 months. Then, I worked at the Central Missouri Regional Center for Persons With Developmental Disabilities as a Disability/Autism Consultant. That was a very good experience.

Prior to the Price Chopper job, I did not tell my employers that I have autism. I am a very proud person who wanted to make it on my abilities and not get "special" treatment. I don't need anybody's pity!!! But, I was losing jobs, because people did not understand how and why I did things. So, I told my manager at Price Chopper and things worked out. Since then, everyone at my jobs know I have autism , but it seems to be a plus for me now.

I received my M.A. in Library and Information Science from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1994 and since then, I am the Manager of the Missouri Developmental Disabilities Resource Center at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Institute for Human Development. I have been there for almost 6 years and it is great. I love what I do and I provide information to people.

Return to the University Students With Autism And Asperger's Syndrome main page.