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Ahronovitz eyes robotic future

Whitney High grad lives with autism; will attend Sierra College's Mechatronics Program
By: Amanda Calzada, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Assembling a 2,000-piece Lego structure, using a drawing for inspiration, poses no challenge for 18-year-old David Ahronovitz, who has been diagnosed with high-functioning autism. “Fifty percent of normal people don’t have his ability to see in space,” explained his father, Miha Ahronovitz, who believes his son’s visual learning style will help him succeed in Sierra College’s Mechatronics program. The Whitney High School graduate’s certificate of completion grants him entrance into the community college program to study systems involving electronics, mechanics, and computer control through logical sequences. Although Mechatronics experts usually engineer ATMs, ski lifts or lab equipment, robotics is the application that most interests Ahronovitz. “I programmed the color,” said the young man, who now programs computer lighting, but looks forward to working in the robotics field. His son’s performance accuracy combined with information learned during a conference, “Driving Forces Behind Post-Secondary Education and Employment for Young Adults with Intellectual Disabilities and Autism,” inspired his father to begin a blog about employment opportunities for individuals living with autism. Miha Ahronovitz sees the Silicon Valley, the “world hub of entrepreneurship,” as the place to cultivate employment opportunities for autistics so they can be integrated appropriately and sensitively into the mainstream. Through his blog (my-inner-voice.blogspot.com) Miha Ahronovitz hopes to inspire the creation of jobs that would utilize the special skills of high functioning autistic individuals at entities like Google, Facebook, and Oracle. “We cannot force nature to make them be as we want,” he wrote in his blog. “The sensitive approach is to create for them environments where they feel comfortable the way they are naturally.” Ahronovitz noted that individuals like his son can transfer a higher rate of electronic data than the average person as well as master software quality assurance. He stressed that his son’s visual abilities are an asset. Albeit a low score on the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI) exam’s verbal IQ section, David Ahronovitz’ performance IQ of 98 places him among the average percentile of the population for fluid reasoning, spatial processing, attentiveness to visual detail, and visual-motor integration. David does have some limitations. While he does not like to drive, his parents call him a “human GPS” because of his strong sense of direction. But, he will search for points of interest on his Android phone and keeps his parents up to date on the movie schedule for the local theater. He enjoys going to the movies with his father and has memorized all of the Harry Potter books. Unlike most teenagers, David keeps his bedroom in pristine order. Miha Ahronovitz describes David’s obsession for perfection as something that could be “channeled to be highly productive in the right enterprise.” “People in our society feel like it’s a disease and it’s not,” said Ahronovitz’s mother, Regina, who worked with an early intervention program for autistic children in the Bay area. The family decided to leave the Bay Area and settle in Placer County after David was diagnosed at age 4. They find Placer County’s services for autistics much more effective than those of the Bay Area, especially the services provided through the Rocklin Unified School District’s Special Education and Speech Therapy programs. David Ahronovitz has earned positive comments from teachers over the years for his pleasant personality, compliance, and tolerance of change in the classroom. While at Whitney High School, he attended a social skills training program offered through the UC Davis M.I.N.D. (Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders) Institute. The program is designed to teach autistics how to converse over the telephone, socialize, and build good relationships with peers. The program endorses empathy as a tool for attendees to connect with others at home or in the workforce. “If you realize they are different, they will be much more successful than if you don’t,” said Miha Ahronovitz.