By Pearl Cantrell
KEMP–Like many college students, Blaine Clamon, 22, enjoys the social aspects of attending a public university. His personality is friendly, outgoing and he loves to talk. Unlike most college students at Texas A & M University at College Station, Blaine has had to overcome challenges related to Asperger’s Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder.
With help from his parents, Cheryl and Rusty Clamon, he completed his third semester with two B’s and four A’s, after a rocky first semester start.
“He struggled with change in routine and location,” his dad stated. “The first semester in the fall of 2014 was an academic disaster.”
The Clamons appealed to the review board of the College of Liberal Arts and convinced them to give their son another chance. After all he had proven his ability while earning his Associates Degree at Trinity Valley Community College, and they knew their son could make the necessary adjustments to do well at A&M. Blaine’s academic performance proved their trust in him was well placed, and Blaine built a great deal of self-confidence in the process.
“I want to be a historian, working in the archives of a museum or doing research or perhaps at an observatory,” the history major told The Monitor. Computer science also remains a strong interest, he added. During the interview, Blaine demonstrated a keen memory for details, facts and figures.
He told The Monitor one of his most helpful coping devices is to schedule in his out-of-class study time and book regular times in the computer lab. This daily schedule keeps him on track to perform better on test days. During his first semester at A & M he took six course like he had at TVCC; however, one course provided for just two final exams and no interim quizzes or projects.
In an effort to their son from afar, after that first disastrous semester, his parents enrolled him with the school’s Disability Services, which provided Blaine with regular academic counseling, some technical assistance to help him in his classes and the use of a testing center, which afforded him extended time and helped him manage his anxiety. “I have also taken a couple of exams with the class,” Blaine said.
“Blaine’s pattern with the Asperger’s Syndrome is essentially that he encounters a new situation, struggles, learns how to adapt and then conquers the problems,” his dad observed. “It’s the same with anyone who is succeeding in life. He learned a great deal during his first semester and then made the necessary adaptations to ensure his success.”
He is also studying sports management as his minor, which covers free agency, marketing, academic funding as well as aspects of coaching. Each semester, he has taken two history courses and some of his sports courses are earned online.
Like most students, he finds the courses he has most recently completed to be the most interesting. At the top of his list at the moment is Africana studies from the 1600-1800s. While in intermediate and older grades, Blaine enjoyed learning Texas history, he said.
One other important element to Blaine’s success is his living situation while away from home. A former Kemp coach moved his family into the College Station area where he and one of his own sons had attended the university successfully. The Clamons had struck up a friendship with this family and maintained it after Kemp High School Coach Walt Mangan left the area.
They were willing to have Blaine stay at their house while he attended A&M, and Blaine contributes to the household by looking after the family’s pets, especially when they go out of town for any reason. That arrangement has relieved his parents from anxiety and worry about their son’s day-to-day care, management of his meds and oversight of his routines, and transportation.
Blaine anticipates graduating in the summer of 2016 and is already planning for his master’s degree, including searching for avenues to fund that venture. As the eldest child in the Clamon clan, Blaine recognizes the importance of his example to his brothers and younger cousins. “Hopefully, my brothers can follow in my footsteps,” he said. He and cousin Wade are the first ones to earn college degrees. Blaine has two younger brothers, Derek, 12, and Cameron, 15. His dad has been serving as president of the Kemp Area Sports Association and is in his second year as a Kemp School Board member.
Blaine’s parents first learned of his condition when he was in the second grade and attending New Horizons Private School and Day Care, a facility the Clamons purchased when Blaine was 18 months old. “Having that school was a godsend to us,” Cheryl Clamon said. “We were able to learn and adjust his early education to meet his needs from the beginning.”
The outlook for Blaine’s future success is bright and hopeful. Here is a young man who has much to offer his family, community and world, not least of which by his example of persevering his way to success!