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Journey Beyond the Spectrum to a Woodworking Success

The Autism Spectrum Disorder, more commonly called as ASD of Autism, is a condition that could have a wide-ranging symptoms for people. Difficulties in social interaction, communication, and focus on certain interest can limit people with autism and may further lead to behavioural challenges.

But this isn’t the case for everyone. Despite unique challenges, there are people with autism that are able to live beyond their diagnosis and enjoy a full and meaningful life. And such is the case for woodworker Gregory Chabolla.

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.

Gregory with his mother and brother

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 not short answer 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 himself, 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 woodworking and actually became an accomplished woodworker.

Gregory sawing in the workshop

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. 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 simple things 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.

Gregory cutting with scroll saw

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. But Gregory’s favorite pieces to make are those where he can really put his skills to work.

Gregory is also very active in joining art shows and festivals, and through Facebook, he often invites people to join him and see his work. So beyond being able to create something and showcase his talents as a woodworker, his interaction with his customers and family through his woodwork brings joy 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.

Gregory in his handmade woodcrafts sale

Indeed, Gregory’s life and woodworking career is a story that could inspire thousands of lives. 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 fulfilment. 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. Gregory himself attest 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 own focused mind and careful steps that allow him to stay safe while working on pieces, even when working with a powertool, 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 serious. 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. 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. Hence, we’re grateful to Gregory and his mom Michelle for sharing with us his wonderful journey. If you want to see Gregory’s works, visit his website (www.gregorysgifts.com) and his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/gregorygifts/).

 

4 Comments
  1. Reply Deniece W Pogue November 22, 2018 at 8:50 pm

    I am so happy that you chose Gregory for one of your articles. I am fortunate to know Gregory and his mom, Michelle.

    His work is truly amazing. It is so intricate, beautiful and each piece is a one-of-a-kind piece of art. He has accomplished so much at a young age.

  2. Reply Joan November 22, 2018 at 11:11 pm

    Having purchased Gregory’s works to give as gifts, I can attest to their quality and beauty. His story, his neighbor Pam’s mentoring, and his mother Michelle’s steadfast support are inspirational!

  3. Reply Ann Lippincott November 24, 2018 at 9:25 am

    We received a beautiful cross Gregory made. It was so pretty that I was inspired to read Gregory’s story. Once I read about his craft I ordered two custom gifts for friends. They far exceeded my expectations and are the most special gifts I’ve ever given! My two friends will love opening the packages with their wood carved last name out of beautiful wood and finished perfectly.
    Thank you Gregory for sharing your gift!

  4. Reply Terry Fetzer December 6, 2018 at 11:40 pm

    What a great inspiration to all those who struggle to find their way in life. So glad that Gregory and his family have shared this uplifting story. Let this be an encouragement to all who are on the Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families. Always keep searching to find that which makes you happy. It can lead to a life that gives meaning and hope. Thank you Gregory!

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