The Autism Spectrum Disorder, more commonly called as ASD of Autism, is a condition that could have wide-ranging symptoms for people. Difficulties in social interaction, communication, and focus on certain interests can limit people with autism and may further lead to behavioral challenges.
But this isn’t the case for everyone. Despite these unique hurdles, I’ve met individuals with autism, like the talented woodworker Gregory Chabolla, who thrive and lead full, meaningful lives beyond their diagnosis.
Gregory Chabolla’s Story – From Heavy Diagnosis to a Woodworking Business
Back in 1998, 3 ½ years old, Gregory was diagnosed with a form of autism called the Pervasive Development Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified or PDD-NOS. We asked his mom, Michelle, about Gregory’s growing up years and how he was able to handle his condition.
Michelle: At this time (1998) the diagnosis was 1 in 10,000 children. So this question is hard to answer, both he and I were battling society, schools and everything it brings along with it together. So “handling” it at that time was pure survival. Sorry, there is no short answer to what he and I went through during those next 15 years of school and growing up.
True enough, as they say, you would never understand autism and what changes it brings to a family’s life until you have experienced it yourself. And for Gregory and his family, it came with a heavy diagnosis.
Michelle: His diagnosis from several so-called “specialists” was he will never speak, dress, feed himself, much less write, read or learn, so take him home and love him.
But with the support of his family, Gregory did not let that diagnosis define his life. He was able to accomplish much more than what was “predicted” for him by his doctors, and proceeded to take interest in carpentry and woodworking, and became an accomplished woodworker.
Michelle: He is amazing. As you can see, he is a very successful scroll saw artist and works at Einstein Bagels on the weekends. He has two jobs, one is his own business.
And all began with an encounter with a woodworker that sparked interest within Gregory. Often, we are familiar with woodworking and power tools such as our favorite and powerful professional chainsaws, but it takes someone introducing us to the ropes to really get into it. We asked him how he was introduced to woodworking.
Gregory: I saw my Grandma and Grandpa’s neighbor, Patsy Williams, making crosses on a saw and thought it was great and looked fun.
Patsy agreed to teach Gregory woodworking, seeing how he was interested in doing it. They started working on easy woodworking projects and then eventually branched out to more complicated cuts and designs. Gregory was able to turn that initial interest into a full career, and even started selling his works to other people.
His woodworking business grew across Texas and online too, especially when his official website and Facebook account allowed people to easily reach him for orders or even just to express their admiration of his works. Gregory’s woodwork products now range from intricate designs on crosses and unique designs on Texas Mesquite to custom pieces on different kinds of wood, far from the beginner pieces that the best woodworking books cover. But Gregory’s favorite pieces to make are those where he can put his skills to work.
Also Read: What is Green Woodworking?
In addition to creating and showcasing his work, Gregory actively participates in art shows and festivals, using platforms like Facebook to invite others to view his creations. Through these platforms, I’ve seen firsthand how he shines as a woodworker and how much joy he derives from connecting with his customers and those dear to him. His woodwork serves as a medium for fostering meaningful relationships and bringing happiness into his life.
Gregory: It makes me very happy to make friends, family and customers smile when they see my work. They are amazed and it makes me smile. I make a lot of friends at my art festivals when they come to my booth.
Indeed, Gregory’s life and woodworking career is a story that could inspire thousands of lives. It’s an investment, but it need not be hard on the pocket, such as with under $1000 table saws. Despite his condition, he was able to find his passion and use it to make the most out of it, including the benefits of income and of course, sense of pride and fulfillment. His mom thinks the same way, too.
Gregory: Woodworking gives me a way to work in my own special way on my own.
Michelle: It has helped his self-confidence, self-esteem and it gives him a purpose which he has always wanted. He is happier, has less anxiety and worries less about what he is going to do with his life, he also keeps his mind and body in shape. Contributing to his income is a great achievement for him.
If you are inspired to try out woodworking or know someone who would be interested to start learning about it, you may start to focus on its general benefits and then build your own workshop second. Even woodwork projects for children are quite beneficial, too. Gregory himself attests to it.
Gregory: Woodworking is good for anyone that can be calm and focus, not all people can do that.
And if safety is a concern, just always remember that following proper safety precautions and necessary guidance would go a long way in woodworking. In Gregory’s case, it’s his focused mind and careful steps that allow him to stay safe while working on pieces, even when working with a power tool, his favorite scroll saw. When we asked his mother if safety is a constant concern, this is what she said.
Michelle: There is always a concern for safety, but he is so careful and never hurries and takes safety very seriously. So I am very comfortable with him on the saw.
Summary – What can we learn from Gregory’s Story
Woodworking has become a means for people to live their lives fully despite different circumstances in life. Given that they know how to venture into a profitable woodworking business, it can positively impact their lives. We’ve previously talked to a former drug addict that found a new life in woodworking and people suffering from CPTSD who use woodworking as a way to cope with their symptoms, but Gregory’s story is a very special one that’s rarely encountered nowadays.
We’re grateful to Gregory and his mom Michelle for sharing with us his wonderful journey. For other parents out there, don’t hesitate to encourage you child to do something new that will challenge and teach them. Woodworking is a great starting point. If they’re interested to learn, there are a lot of woodworking kits for kids and online resources nowadays, so they can learn even without a teacher.
You can also start on your own, and any of these one-sheet plywood projects is a great place to start.
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