Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

August 7, 2014
Building Spirit

Autism doesn’t keep Tooele missionary from doing what he loves 

DJ Droz gets on a bus.

He gets off.

He walks to work.

He works.

Then he walks to the bus station and rides home.

This might sound pretty ordinary, but for DJ, who has autism, it is quite a feat.

“It’s not so hard,” DJ said modestly.

DJ is currently serving a service mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and, due to bus schedules, walks just under a mile from the bus drop off to the Bishops’ Storehouse. And he has only gotten lost once.

DJ, whose given name is Duwaine, has high-function autism and faces lots of challenges, said his mother, Nancy Droz.

DJ was born with several challenges due to a complicated pregnancy. DJ is the son of Nancy’s ex-husband. She got custody of him as an infant and later adopted him. His adoptive father died several years ago.

He has a lot of social challenges because of his autism, Nancy said, but has progressed more than she hoped.

“He finished high school with a 3.6 grade point average, which I thought he would never do,” she said. “And now he wants to go to college. When he was first born, they said he would not be able to do any of that.”

DJ did have some help from aides to finish school, but he has also learned how to handle other situations.

For example, last year he earned his Eagle Scout award.

“For his project he painted the Tooele County Animal Shelter,” Nancy said. “That involved getting the material, organizing volunteers and getting everything done.”

For him it was really hard, because DJ has an aversion to getting dirty.

He was also helped by some dedicated and loving scout leaders.

Another example of his progress is found in his ability to help others. DJ loves to babysit his nephew, Jaxson.

“He makes up songs for him and is so patient and loving with him,” Nancy said. “I really never thought he would do that with a baby.”

On his mission, DJ works to keep the Central Bishops’ Storehouse clean. This is the facility that stores and delivers food and household items to the other storehouses in Utah, and humanitarian aide projects worldwide.

“I like the part that I am helping people,” he said.

His duties include sweeping the building, cleaning out the freezers and mopping. Some days he said he gets to use the scrubber to keep the floors clean.

“It rubs the floors,” he said.

There are about 30 missionaries in this mission. They are supervised by couple missionaries.

“Sometimes you get a special assignment that you don’t know about until they assign them,” DJ added. “It usually means you do service at another Bishops’ Storehouse, or maybe doing other assignments someplace else.”

He once went to the Heritage State Park to pull weeds. Another time some missionaries went to rearrange furniture at the Ronald McDonald House and he was in charge of the missionaries who were left at the storehouse.

DJ has recently been called as an assistant district leader.

“That means I am in charge when the district leader is gone,” DJ said. “And sometimes I make assignments.”

In the evening he likes to hang out and help his mother.

He was called to his mission on Sept. 9, 2013. Service missions generally work for one year.

“I could be released on Sept. 9, but I will wait until the end of the week,” he said.

What does he plan to do after his mission?

“We will see when we get to that point,” he said.

Nancy said he applied for a scholarship from Berrick Mercur and was awarded $1,000 to be used at any college he chooses.

He is thinking about Salt Lake Community College for his general education classes and then to finish a degree in graphic design someplace else.

Even on a mission, DJ has his two great loves: Legos and Transformers.

He received Benny’s spaceship from the Lego Movie for his birthday.

“It only took a couple of hours, following the directions, to put it together,” he said.

And he likes not having to follow the directions all the time.

“I just like to think about designs I could do next,” he said. “And I can see how to integrate the piece together.”

He loves building other Lego designs too.

He once built a Lego cassette player into a Transformer, combining his two loves into one, Nancy said.

The only problem he said, is he doesn’t have many basic Lego pieces to work with.

DJ can talk about Transformers for hours. Nancy said he has over 150 Transformers. He has Decepticons downstairs and the Autobots upstairs.

“If they were together they would fight,” he said.

For Christmas, DJ received a 2-foot tall Transformer, a 30th Anniversary Metroplex.

Nancy said he plays with them all the time.

“I just like them all,” DJ said.

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