A Successful Employment Experience for Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome: What it Takes
Tamara Eastman, Peter Skirbunt
As a follow-up to our summer series on transition to adulthood and workplace considerations, Peter Skirbunt, Ph.D, and Tamara Eastman, B.A., will discuss their experiences in establishing and maintaining successful employment for a person with Asperger’s Syndrome. Tamara Eastman is a published historian specializing in the research area of female pirates. Tamara will discuss her successes and triumphs as they relate to her employment experiences. Peter Skirbunt is the Chief Historian for the Defense Commissary Agency at Fort Lee. Dr. Skirbunt will share details about his role as a “coach” in the workplace for Ms. Eastman. The dynamics of their relationship will be explored in an interview presentation.
Tamara Eastman, B.A., was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) in her late 30’s while attending college at John Tyler Community College in Chester, VA. Her childhood and early adulthood were a series of traumatic experiences – being ostracized and bullied by classmates, and punished by parents and teachers, who had no idea what her problem actually was. After being diagnosed with AS and learning to compensate and overcome many of the social obstacles that once stood in her way, Ms. Eastman graduated Summa Cum Laude from Virginia State University with a B. A. in history at the age of 48. Since 2009, Tamara has been employed as the Deputy Historian for the Department of Defense at Fort Lee, Virginia. She expects to receive a master’s degree in history in 2013 from Virginia State University, and then plans to pursue a Ph.D. in history.
Ms. Eastman is also a published author of historical nonfiction, and is considered one of the world’s leading experts on the subject of female pirates. A Hollywood production company has expressed interest in purchasing the rights to her first book, “The Pirate Trial of Anne Bonny and Mary Read” and turning the story into a movie. Her research work has appeared in a documentary on pirates for the History Channel, and she has served as a historical consultant for other documentaries.
Tamara sometimes still finds difficulty in fitting in with social groups and age appropriate socialization but continues to work on improving her social skills. She sees a behavior coach bi-monthly and receives help and coaching from her current supervisor, Dr. Peter Skirbunt, the Chief Historian for the Defense Commissary Agency. Dr. Skirbunt has taught her the job of historian from the ground up. She feels her most difficult behavior challenges at work include staying focused and remaining seated and still for prolonged periods of time, such as during meetings and in classes at the university. She has also found that it helps to keep checklists and reminders of the tasks she is to complete, both at work and at home. She credits the Federal Government and Dr. Skirbunt’s patience and understanding with much of her employment success – in fact, she has received an “exceptional” performance rating three years in a row!
Peter D. Skirbunt, Ph.D, is the Historian for the Defense Commissary Agency, Headquartered at Fort Lee, Virginia. He has been the agency’s Historian since its establishment in October, 1991. As such, he has initiated and established an extensive archive on the history of the armed forces’ commissaries, which have existed at over 1,200 locations since they began operating in 1867. Before his assignment as the agency historian, he was the historian for the Air Force Commissary Service at Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Prior to that, he had been a staff historian at the San Antonio Air Logistics Center, also at Kelly Air Force Base. He had also worked for California Computer as a Graphic Plotter Assembler and Technician in Anaheim, California; a photographer in Columbus, Ohio; and a camp counselor in Cleveland, Ohio.
As a member of the Office of Corporate Communication and an experienced photographer, Dr. Skirbunt has produced hundreds of commissary-related photographs, and has discovered and collected hundreds of historical shots as well. He has written dozens of articles for Vision, the employee magazine, to help in the employees’ understanding of the benefit’s past. In 2009, he published The Illustrated History of American Military Commissaries, the only history ever written on the four services’ commissaries. The two-volume book took years of research, compilation, and writing, and contains a wealth of material unavailable anywhere else.
He earned his Doctorate in History, with a specialty in American Military History, at Ohio State University in 1983, and had been the recipient of the Dissertation Year Fellowship bestowed by the U. S. Army Center of Military History the year before. He taught at Ohio State and Purdue Universities, and since 1985 has conducted courses in American, World, and Military history for hundreds of military students, and their spouses, at the University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio College, Wayland Baptist University, Virginia State University, Richard Bland College, Central Texas College, and Saint Leo University. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Dr. Skirbunt now resides in Chesterfield County, Virginia, with Rebecca, his wife of 33 years; their daughter, Christine; and their son-in-law, Scott.