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Stories on the Spectrum: Digging a Foundation for Success – Part 1

People are the foundation of your success. The ones you hire, the ones you help, and the ones who help you.

I want you to meet Nathaniel Dawson (aka “Digg”), PHI super hero. Nathaniel has been with PHI since 2016 and works out of our Arizona office. His powers are numerous, but the ones that help our customers the most are his willingness to provide the correct solution, no matter how long it takes, to offer suggestions when all seems lost, and his striving for excellence to make our customers happy.

Digg is a bit of an IT guru, with a dash of process improvement, a bundle of Customer Success expertise, and a big ol’ bucket of work ethic, all wrapped up in a brilliant young man who happens to be on the autism spectrum. Meet my favorite super hero – Digg:

Nathaniel Dawson – or as his officemates call him – “Digg” after a gradual (and funny) nickname transition over time, has been an employee of Pathfinder Health Innovations for a year and a half. Nathaniel started out with PHI part-time handling data entry in our Phoenix office and helped with bulk re-billing, Accounts Receivable investigation, and manually filling out claim forms for the Customer Success team on the Practice Management platform. When a full-time role with Customer Success opened, Nathaniel was the obvious choice. He has been training PHI customers on the Practice Management solution since and is well liked by all who have the opportunity to work with him. What makes Nathaniel unique on the Customer Success team is his autism diagnosis.

Nathaniel has graciously agreed to share his experience of the difficult transition from teen years to adulthood while on the spectrum. Nathaniel’s story is proof that sometimes your path in life is not always the one planned, but through trials and tribulations, it is possible to find success and happiness.

In the early- to mid-nineties at the age of 8 or 9, Nathaniel was participating in a program at UCLA for children with developmental disabilities. While he was there, Nathaniel’s mother took advantage of UCLA’s library to learn more about different disabilities and stumbled upon autism spectrum disorder (ASD). She recognized similarities in Nathaniel’s behavior and took him to a doctor for diagnosis.

There was still so little understanding and knowledge about ASD at the time, that it made school difficult. “School could be frustrating. There would be activities that I would not be interested in, particularly group projects, and teachers would get mad. English was my worst subject,” Nathaniel reflected.

In 1999, his family moved from Las Vegas to Phoenix where his mom found a great school with programs for computer science and Japanese. Nathaniel was very interested in both programs, and they led him to make friends with common interests, helping his social development and expanding his horizons.

Nathaniel attended Life Development Institute (LDI) in Glendale, Arizona following high school graduation. At the time, Nathaniel said LDI’s focus was assisting people with hidden disabilities develop life skills to help them live independently in the future. These were skills he felt he already had: vacuuming, laundry, doing dishes, etc. While he feels LDI may have held him back academically, he made friendships that have lasted since.

In the fall of 2007, Nathaniel started attending college at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. His first semester proved difficult when a class he thought he was doing well in landed him on academic probation. He was unable to register for the spring semester, so he took a job in internet support at a phone company call center.

He did incredibly well in the training courses for the phone company and was the only person in his training group to score 100% on the final test.

When it came time to work with customers, though, Nathaniel found he wasn’t really ready to handle the job; it was just too much for him at the time. He also received very little support, if any, from his supervisor. “It got to the point where I would jump when the phone rang, so I quit,” Nathaniel recalls.

But this didn’t detract from Nathaniel continuing his education or career journey.  Check back for the rest of Nathaniel’s story on April 20 at the PHI Blog.

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