Every Friday at noon, Blane Singletary’s voice comes over the radio at KACU to give listeners an overview of what’s new in Abilene entertainment. One week, Singletary, an electronic media major from Abilene, will be busy covering the latest events and another he may be conducting an interview with a well-known musician.
What most listeners don’t know is that Singletary was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. However, this condition that has historically been considered debilitating didn’t hinder his success in broadcasting. In fact, it may have done the opposite.
“Even with friends and people I’ve met, I don’t come right out and say I have Asperger’s,” Singletary said. “I used to not say it, I was ashamed of it, but I’ve overcome it. It’s not going to completely define me.”
Asperger’s syndrome is a high-functioning form of autism and is a lifelong condition. People with Asperger’s struggle to interact socially with others. Although they will usually have difficulties learning, those with Asperger’s tend to be as smart as or smarter than the average student.
It wasn’t until 1994 that Asperger’s syndrome was considered an official diagnosis. According to Asperger’s Association of New England’s website, about one in every 250 people has Asperger’s and 50 percent of those people aren’t even aware of it.
Now, narrower definitions of autism will decrease number diagnosed even further and narrow down who is eligible to receive aid for certain treatments.
Singletary started hosting and producing the Eye on Entertainment broadcasts two years ago. What started out as a two minute segment quickly grew into a 15 minute segment. The show is now approaching its 136th episode.
“I’d love to make the show go national if I could get some financial backing and hire a team of reporters,” Singletary said. “That’s one of my goals.”
On top of his broadcasting success, Singletary also writes for the Optimist editorial board, dabbles in film, creates his own musical mash-ups, is a video game fanatic and is a student manager at KACU. All of Singletary’s activities involve talents that he has displayed since an early age.
“I’ll go back and find audio cassettes where I will be introducing little skits,” Singletary said. “I liked playing it for my parents and for anyone who wanted to listen and it just kind of stuck.”
Jean Beckendorf, Singletary’s mother, said he was initially diagnosed with a hearing auditory dysfunction. She had noticed that, when he was about two years old, he had a hard time focusing and listening and she began taking him to a speech pathologist.
“Blane’s always spoken very well from all this speech and language therapy because he learned from the ground up how to pronounce everything properly,” Beckendorf said.
Singletary said others tell him he is especially good at articulating.
“I’m not sure if that’s what gave me my edge for broadcast but it certainly helped,” Singletary said.
Singletary was diagnosed with Asperger’s when he was in fifth grade.
Singletary’s mother said he was a good student and had good grades. However, she noticed that he was rather antisocial and did not feel comfortable around crowds.
Beckendorf put Singletary in a private school, which kept him from ending up in a special education program and enabled him to stay mainstreamed with other kids. Singletary’s teachers suggested he might have some disability, so she brought him to a child psychiatrist who finally diagnosed his condition as Asperger’s.
“I remember thinking, ‘Why is this a problem?” Singletary said. “I didn’t see it as an issue.”
Beckendorf said Singletary struggled with bullies in school because of his anti-social tendencies. One day he stood up for himself when another boy unzipped his backpack and caused all of his books to fall out. He then began learning how to handle the bullying better and made more attempts to be outgoing despite his Asperger’s.
“Something clicked and I accepted that I did have it and that I should try to overcome it,” Singletary said. “When you’re younger and images are all-important, it does feel unfair that I had it while everyone else was fine.”
Since Asperger’s was so new at the time Singletary was diagnosed, the teachers had to be educated on what it was and how to help him. The main adjustment they made was simply to give him more time to complete tasks.
“Some parents see that their kid is a little bit different, and they’re afraid to accept it,” Beckendorf said. “Blane’s doctor used to say that if God made everyone alike, this would be an incredibly boring place. Everyone’s wired a little differently but you’re going to be very good at what you do.”
When Singletary entered college, he said he made more of an effort to interact socially with others and build confidence.
“I still feel like I have some social shortcomings at times,” Singletary said. “I’ve been working to try to be more outgoing and I think I’ve done that pretty well, and the radio is helping quite a bit.”
Singletary is known among his friends for his sense of humor and has a reputation for keeping groups of peers entertained with his wit and creativity.
“I think that’s what’s changed – confidence,” Singletary said. “I’ve noticed I’m becoming more accepted and I’m feeling like I’m a bit more popular.”
When he came to ACU, Singletary enrolled in the Alpha Scholars Program, a service for students with documented disabilities, just in case he decided he needed some help. Now, he has found that he doesn’t really need it. He believes that how well he is doing in school reflects just how much he has overcome the disorder.
Singletary’s father, Steve Singletary, said he is now good at boldly interacting with others.
“On karaoke night, he’s the first one up there,” Singletary’s father said. “There isn’t anything he’s never rose to the occasion for. He does anything that’s expected of him.”
People with Asperger’s tend to concentrate on a narrow scope of topics that interest them, which allows them to become strongly skilled and highly knowledgeable in those specific areas.
“In some ways it is a gift,” Blane said. “It gives me skills that other people don’t have.”
In fact, some have argued that both Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton may have had Asperger’s syndrome.
Singletary’s father said he does not think Asperger’s has hindered Blane at all when it comes to accomplishing the things he sets out to do. His mother said that he expects perfection from himself and once he gets something down it’s mastered.
“My mind just works differently than other people’s so I’ve come to accept that, it’s just one thing that makes me unique,” Singletary said. “They thought Albert Einstein had it and people still regard him today as a genius.”
Singletary said that, though many view Asperger’s as a hindrance, he sees it as a source of many of his talents and strengths. His experiences with it have given him an appreciation for what he has and have shaped his ability to overcome things.
“It’s just the way God makes us and He has a plan for all of us,” Singletary said. “For me, maybe He wants me to be a great broadcaster someday.”
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