David Francis: Resilience Embodied

Resilience is a uniquely important character trait. A resilient person is adaptable, someone who meets life’s adversity head on, stays positive and strives to learn and grow from their experiences. Adept at seeing the bigger picture, those with a developed capacity for resilience understand all that they have to offer and view setbacks as hurdles to be overcome in the complex journey of life. 

It is a trait that Transition to Life graduate David Francis has come to embody. 

David’s work experiences prior to Transition to Life were part-time, with inconsistent hours and often long stretches of intra-provincial travel. Holding a degree in Religious Studies and a certification in HR Management, he was looking for a full-time, salaried position that would challenge him while engaging with his many skills. 

Enter Integrated Autism Consulting.

Armed with job readiness skills from the Transition to Life program, founder Patricia O’Connor connected David with Specialisterne – an organization devoted to helping autistic and neurodivergent Canadians find meaningful employment. 

With this support, he was able to land a position with CIBC as a Measurement Specialist, tracking and reporting on projects in the business information technology department. 

David described the supportive ensemble of Integrated Autism Consulting and Specialisterne as “exactly the kind of networking support I needed to get into the corporate door,” explaining that “interviews have never been my strong suit, so it was nice to be connected directly with people who could help people like us more efficiently than a standard workshop can.”

Since having first been hired, David’s position with CIBC has evolved. No longer working specifically as a Measurement Specialist, his responsibilities have grown to meet the needs of the organization while simultaneously recognizing the skills and efforts he has brought to the role during his tenure. He has become a recognized expert in his area, called upon to decipher the complexities of the information technology department and rectify any issues. 

He says it’s a position he enjoys. 

“It is also nice to be clearly appreciated for the work I do and trusted in my field,” he said. 

And in his experience, have his ASD characteristics proved to be assets in his day-to-day fulfillment of his job?

“Yes, absolutely,” responded David emphatically.

“Being meticulous in my work is generally appreciated in my line of business, but the biggest asset it has brought has arguably been my ability to consider issues differently from most others around me, which is a well documented trend among neurodiverse people. This skill is often called ‘thinking outside the box’, which in our case is literally thinking unlike those around us and seeing patterns/problems/solutions that others tend to overlook,” David explained. 

While assured of what he brings to the table within the context of his work environment, David nonetheless credits those he works alongside with valuing his unique approach to his work. 

“It is also nice that this has generally been appreciated by my peers and supervisors, rather than ignored or derided as frustrating,” he said. 

David admits that he – like anyone – still experiences adversity in his every-day life. Life, he says, presents difficult situations that can be discouraging and hard to deal with. Nevertheless, David expounds the virtues of positivity and optimism in the face of life’s challenges.

“If I had to choose between focusing on the good and otherwise trying to look at things as a short-term challenge, or being cynical about how difficult things can be, I would say that choosing to be positive instead helps better mentally manage my daily burdens,” he explained. 

“At the end of the day, what I can control I can control, and what I can’t control I can’t, but one thing I can control is whether or not I choose to go with whatever is thrown at me. As far as I am concerned, choosing to stay cynical and negative even when presented with the chance to move forward is counter-productive, so in some ways trying to push through becomes a point of pride for me.”

David swears by the power of his positive approach and encourages others to practice it in their own lives. This manifests itself in a number of ways, he says, not least of which through that most ubiquitous of phrases all too familiar to those on the spectrum: getting out of your comfort zone. 

It is an adage David understands if people sometimes roll their eyes at, but one he nevertheless deems important. 

“I am fully aware of how hollow the term ‘getting out of one’s comfort zone’ usually sounds to people like us who experience what feels to be inordinate sensory stress and/or social hostility,” he said.

“From my experience, I feel that there is a tendency for many people in our shoes to be so embittered by our traumas and poor experiences that we edge instinctively towards pessimism and over-skepticism as a coping mechanism.”

“But at the end of the day, it doesn’t solve anything, or even help in properly processing the difficult experiences. Since I genuinely want to get through this life with as much good as possible to show for it, there’s a long game that has to be played to get there… and keeping my pride barrier up has never helped with that,” he explained. 

“Pushing through our negative feelings is sometimes the only way to be freed of their hold on us. Unless we want to become hermits and live off of crickets and honey in the desert all alone, we do need to be able to work with people to get by in life, so that is just what has to be done,” he concluded. 

Written by: Connor Lalande 2024

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