David Keenan: The Asperger's advantage
Not all heroes wear capes – some wear homemade costumes.
David Keenan, a staff associate in Corporate Real Estate, has Asperger's - a developmental disorder on the autism spectrum. While most people are diagnosed at a young age, David didn't get his diagnosis until he was 43 years old. But living with Asperger's doesn't keep him from working full time or stop him from doing what he loves.
David makes his own costumes, spending up to 50 hours on each one. His favorite design element is a plastic bubble helmet with an air system.
He calls it "Bubble Boy." The plastic muffles out just enough of the external noise, and the air system provides some white noise and cooling air, making it comfortable for him to wear.
It makes a huge difference for David who has a sensory processing disorder. The slightest sounds can cause sensory overload and impact his emotions. Typically, wearing a mask on his face would be extremely uncomfortable, but his bubble design has proven to work well for him.
"I discovered costumes as a way to express myself and gain self-confidence," he said.
This passion is David's way of showing the world what he can do. Being able to share his accomplishments, both big and small, is important to him - it's part of who he is. And the best part? David says the people around him have been supportive every step of the way.
Embracing our differences
David has become a trendsetter – inspiring co-workers to join him in wearing costumes to work for Halloween and special events.
"Just last year my area manager came down in a costume of his own, and we went to lunch," said David.
"David's perspective and focus on inclusion is highly valued," said Jim Lee, David's area manager. "My advice to other leaders and managers is to be patient and open-minded."
David's story is a reminder that we should embrace and celebrate the things that make each of us unique. He believes that Asperger's and autism are not limitations that define or debilitate someone but are instead great examples of the power of unique perspectives.
AT&T Inc. Diversity & Inclusion VP Melissa Corwin agreed. "Every day, thousands of employees with disabilities inspire us with their strength and courage," she said. "They remind us that understanding starts with listening and show us what's possible when we do."
David said he is looking forward to continuing his career at AT&T and expressing himself through his costumes. His next big project? Transforming into Buzz Lightyear for Halloween.