As a poker player Anton has accrued $1.6m in live tournament earnings and $3.6m in online tournament earnings with the highlight of his career coming in 2010 when he won an EPT title in Copenhagen for $672k.
But long before Anton discovered his skills as a poker player he volunteered his time to help children suffering from Asperger’s syndrome and it’s this role that we are going to concentrate on today.
Can you start by telling the listeners what Asperger Syndrome is?
“The description of Asperger’s Syndrome is a very broad topic. In the last couple of the years they have divided it into sub-diagnoses because it is such a broad matter. People who suffer from the syndrome function normally and have pretty normal intelligence, they speak fine and have specific interests; but their social skills are not as advanced as others.
“They might understand a lot of things better than other people, but then have difficulties understanding what you would construe as ‘normal’ phrases. For example, in Sweden, we have a saying for ‘skipping coffee’ called ‘jump over coffee’ and an Asperger’s sufferer may take this literally and would ask, “why would I want to jump over a cup of coffee?”
“I have worked with so many extremely smart individuals who just lack a certain understanding about a lot of social situations because the skills they need to makes sense of it all were taken away from them.”
What was your role?
“I started working as a personal assistant when I was 18-years old and still at school. I was working with a 12-year old boy who was pretty smart, in most ways, but had fairly low self-esteem and had a hard time with motivational issues.
“His father was looking after him, and he had support from the government, which is why I was helping him. The child wouldn’t listen to his Dad on a lot of issues so my role was to become a role model for him.
“We started by going for walks so we could get to know each other; then we started swimming and doing work outs together. He had a problem in big crowds so I would train him in skills he didn’t have so he could handle these situations better. I saw him once a week for a year and I saw a lot of progress during that time.”
What particular problems did the children display?
“Sometimes a child is really stubborn to the point where you have to find alternative solutions to the problems instead of just telling him, or her, that’s the way it is – because that approach doesn’t work. You have to be a lot smarter about how you are going to manage the problem because confrontation could cause bigger problems.”
What was your most memorable moment working with these children?
“I worked for four months at a home for people with Down Syndrome, severe cases of autism and a few other illnesses. I then worked at a daycare center for people with very severe autism. Then after that I worked at a living facility for young, and older, adults with severe Asperger’s syndrome.
“My best moment involved a new guy that came to the daycare center. I was working there for a year at this point and I got to be the one who took him around the center and assessed him. I worked with him for two weeks and discovered that he had always lived with his mother, who was very protective of him and always taking care of him and he was 18 years old.
“But this wasn’t what he needed. He needed structure, and someone to hold a harder stance with him. I almost had to take a military type role when dealing with him. He was a very big guy, very strong minded, very intelligent, but also very stubborn and very spoiled.
“We made a lot of progress and wrote my report on how people should approach him when working with him in terms of his development. A few weeks later I was in an outdoor area where we would take the children to go to have an outdoor experience, and this young man was working with another young girl from where we worked.
“Then I seen her running after him and trying to control him. You have to give the care workers their space in these situations. You can’t interfere with their work because you undermine their authority, which isn’t really any good at all. Then after a few hours she came to me and asked for my help.
“I walked over to him and he didn’t want to look at me. Taking the same line as I did during our two weeks together I told him to listen to what she had to say and to show her respect. I also told him that he was much better than this and that I would be keeping an eye on him.
“He stares at the floor for a few seconds and then jumps over and hugs me. That was by far my best moment when working with these children. It was nice to see that my work was actually helping him a lot.”