For Debbie Mack, a 55-year old Lexington, Virginia resident, social interaction was a lifelong struggle. In social situations, Mack invariably felt like a fish out of water, unable to fit in with her peers. In 2012, Mack was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a condition on the autistic spectrum that impairs social and communication abilities.
Mack received her diagnosis after reading a checklist of Asperger’s symptoms, and deciding to get herself screened.
“It would have been much better if someone would have diagnosed me younger,” she told the news site Richland Source this month. “My life would have been a lot easier. If I would have known what my diagnosis was, I could have made better decisions and understood why I did what I did.”
Mack received a standing ovation after speaking at a conference held by the advocacy organization Autism Speaks. In her speech, Mack emphasized the potential of many people with autism to succeed academically and professionally.
Mack herself is proof of that assertion, having graduated from high school a year early with a 4.0 grade point average. She went on to earn a B.A. in business administration from Baldwin Wallace University, a juris doctor degree from Cleveland Marshall College of Law, and a Master of Business Administration from Ashland University. She began practicing law in 1996, and now deals primarily with financial planning, foreclosure defense, consumer bankruptcy, and offer in compromise.
In addition to Asperger’s, Mack received a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) in 2009.
Mack says her diagnoses, and the challenges they’ve presented, have taught her the value of diversity and the unique perspectives and talents people with conditions like autism and ADHD can contribute.
“We need all types of people to complete our world,” she said, “and sometimes those more impaired people with autism are the sweetest people you will ever meet, and sometimes you’re going to find people who are on the upper end of the spectrum that are highly-degreed professionals that we also need.”