The story of Tauranga's Josh Flannagan on page 5 is inspiring and thought- provoking.

Reporter Ruth Keber this week met Mr Flannagan, a 20-year-old who has found permanent employment working with horses.

While Mr Flannagan was on work experience at the Trinity Valley Riding School the owner was so impressed with his "stickability" that he offered him a job. Since then he has worked his way up and now runs the school.

What is inspiring about the story is that he left school at 16, without qualification or hope and is now a highly valued and respected full-time employee in a local business.


What is thought-provoking about the story is he had so much potential, but it was not developed at school.

Mr Flannagan's school experience was not happy.

He says he was bullied and changed schools several times.

At school he felt so negative about himself he did not want to leave the house.

Mr Flannagan has Asperger's syndrome, a developmental disorder, which can affect an individual's ability to communicate and socialise, among other things.

But his position today shows that Asperger's doesn't prevent a person from achieving dreams, living a happy, full life and being a good employee.

In fact, people with Asperger's often have above-average IQ and can be outstanding in their fields.

The interesting aspect of his story is that Asperger's doesn't need to be a disability. Mr Flannagan has proven that, and his employers vouch for it.

His employers were able to see beyond the symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome, described as a "clinical condition" but which simply means he prefers to be socially independent.

Teachers do their best to accommodate children's different learning styles.

But they cannot operate alone and a child's happiness or not at school often depends on his or her peers.

We could all do more to accept, and teach our children to accept, that being different is actually really cool.