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Living with asperger's syndrome, an Arizona boy adapts and overcomes

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PHOENIX (KSAZ) - What do Dan Akroyd, Beethoven, and Thomas Jefferson have in common? All have or are believed to have had asperger's syndrome.

It's a development disorder often linked to autism. Statistics show that 1 in 500 people have it, most are not only living with it, but conquering it.

7th grader Sam Anderson always seems to be smiling, and he's eager to learn. His hand repeatedly shoots up in the classroom.

He may not always give Mr. Shroder, his teacher, the right answer, but he never stops trying, especially when it comes to anything science.

"Besides hanging out with my friends, science is my favorite subject... since I can remember, I've always liked building things, and just science in general, chemistry, I don't know how to describe it, I was born to be scientific," said Sam Anderson.

Born to be scientific but also born with a form of autism called asperger's syndrome

"It really just means that you can think faster, and you can learn things faster, your brain just runs a whole lot faster. That is good, but you can also have some emotional problems such as depression and anxiety," said Sherri Anderson.

Social interaction is sometimes awkward; Sam is well aware of this, so are his classmates.

"I just know they know I'm different, they just don't know what makes me different," said Sam.

"That's really hard to see your child be rejected, or struggle, and when you're driving in the car, and he says, "I just wish I was normal", and he is, but the other kids don't get it," said Sherri.

The key for Sam was to find his passion and nurture it. He found it at Legacy Traditional School in Maricopa.

"Sam mentioned his teachers and honestly it's made all the difference in the world," she said.

One of the hallmarks of asperger's syndrome is an intense focus which when channeled properly can be a great asset. That's where a recent science competition came in.

Sam and his classmates constructed a 3-D printer. His team took first place, the youngest team competing against two high schools, Sam was a key player.

"He brought ingenuity and great ideas," said Sam's teacher, Judy Noneman.

Noneman is a computer teacher at Legacy Traditional School, she oversaw the team of eight students. She watched Sam become completely immersed in the project.

"When this 3D project came up it was just a perfect fit for him because it just went along with something that was very important to him, technology, and being innovative," she said.

She's been teaching Sam since he was a little boy, and she expects great things.

"He does inspire me, I've seen him overcome challenges that were not easy for him... he is intrinsically motivated and he will do whatever he can to accomplish his goal," said Noneman.

Sam has not only accepted his challenges; he's turned them into an asset.

"I used to hate it, I used to just hate asperger's syndrome, but now I almost kind of like being special, you know... it's a gift, and you just gotta learn how to take the flaws in it, it's a part of you, it always will be, but it doesn't define you" said Sam.

Sam said his dream is to one day own his own science and tech company named SAIL. It stands for Sam Anderson Invention Laboratories.
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