Erik Weber is using his autism to become a legal specialist who can make a special contribution to education law.
In May, he became the first student with autism not only to graduate from Cal Western School of Law, but the first to pass the bar exam, which he did at his first attempt.
After giving an oath of professional conduct before a panel of judges, he announced he would focus on special education law to help other people like himself.
Weber sat down with KPBS to talk about his life and how he navigated law school.
“I can still see that little boy who had no language, and who was really struggling to trust people, and I never take that for granted,” Weber’s mother, Sandy, told KPBS.
The road to becoming a lawyer wasn’t an easy one. Erik was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3. When he was 5, doctors told his parents his autism was so severe, he’d have to be institutionalized the rest of his life.
Sandi Weber, Erik’s mother, refused to put her son in a home.
“You have to grieve the loss of the perfect child. What you thought you were going to have, is not going to be the same,” she said.
When Erik was first diagnosed there wasn’t a lot of information about autism, so Sandi had to improvise. She started videotaping her son’s behavior and playing it back for him as a teaching tool because Erik responded better to visual learning.
To help Erik understand facial recognition, she and Erik campaigned door to door for Councilwoman Marti Emerald. Sandi said having Erik see people’s reaction to cold visits helped him understand first impressions.
“Suddenly with his non-verbal face and big eyes, he realized I got him,” she said.
She also enrolled Erik in Special Olympics. The organization gave him confidence, friends and strength as he attended college at Point Loma Nazarene University and got into the Cal Western School of Law.
Now Erik plans to practice special education law.
“I got into it because I wanted to help other people with special needs, other people like me,” said Erik.
He’s already written a paper about group homes that house special needs people.
“Two thirds of them in Southern California are below standards on how they treat the residents in group homes,” he said. “The oversight is not there.”
Source: NBC San Diego
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