Beating autism, UK man not schooled until 18 years is now a Cambridge professor
Beating autism, UK man not schooled until 18 years is now a Cambridge professor Image Credit: The University of Cambridge/ website

A 37-year-old autistic man from London, UK, who could not read or write until he was 18, has become Cambridge University's youngest black professor. Jason Arday has now taken up one of the most prestigious professorship posts in one of the world's top universities. From March 6, he will teach Sociology of Education at the University of Cambridge. The internet applauds Arday for his persistent and relentless efforts to overcome difficult circumstances.

According to the news reports, growing up in Clapham, he struggled with autism and learning delays that left him struggling to speak until he was 11. He was diagnosed with global developmental delay, affecting his ability to learn how to talk and read. Therapists and career advisers predicted he would spend his adult life in assisted living and require lifelong support.

Initially, he used sign language to communicate. Arday’s family helped him during his teenage years, and he learnt to read and write, which later enabled him to get into college. His close friend and college mentor, Sandro Sandi, encouraged him to pursue a career. Arday said: “He always believed in me.”

Becoming a physical education teacher after studying at the University of Surrey, exposed him to the deficiencies in the education system.

"Becoming a school teacher gave me a first-hand understanding of the systemic inequalities that youngsters from ethnic minorities faced in education," he recalls.

Talking to the local news channels, Arday recollects his past experiences and how getting accepted in society was complex. The sociology professor recalls being "violently rejected" when he first started writing academically.

"When I started writing academic papers, I had no idea what I was doing. I did not have a mentor, and no one ever showed me how to write. Everything I submitted got violently rejected. The peer review process was so cruel that it was almost funny, but I treated it as a learning experience and, perversely, began to enjoy it," said Arday.

According to the University of Cambridge website, When he was 27, Arday wrote a set of personal goals on a bedroom wall at his parents' home while studying for his PhD. One of these reads: "One day, I will work at Oxford or Cambridge."

He went on to become a professor with two master's degrees and a PhD in educational studies from Liverpool John Moores University.

He will start at the University of Cambridge on March 6 as a Professor of Sociology of Education in the Faculty of Education, hoping to inspire people from under-represented backgrounds into higher education. "My work focuses primarily on how we can open doors to more people from disadvantaged backgrounds and truly democratise higher education.

"Hopefully, being in a place like Cambridge will give me the leverage to lead that agenda nationally and globally."

Social media users shared this story with their heartfelt messages on the internet.

LinkedIn user @Geoff Bowling wrote: "As a father of a nonverbal, autistic, six-year-old son, I find this story so encouraging . My boy will find his way."

Another user Nigel Morris commented on the post: "This is one of those stories that genuinely cheer you up for all the right reasons. My son has dyslexia and is struggling to find a school at the moment. I read this man's story yesterday, and it assuaged some of my anxieties."