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Stamford Firefighter Beats Learning Disabilities

STAMFORD, Conn. — Jason Bernstein, 27, a fireman with Stamford's volunteer Turn of River Fire Department, has been battling blazes for 11 years. The challenge, though, hasn't always been the fire.

“I have to slow myself down and run through my head. Did they say the fire is at 346 or 364?” said Bernstein. He noted that other firefighters are quick to correct him and offer a joking jab if he gets it wrong.

Bernstein is dyslexic and has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD. It's something he has worked with his whole life but not something he allows to dictate his future.

As a child, Bernstein attended Villa Maria School in Stamford, where he learned valuable lessons in managing his conditions. The school specializes in students with an array of learning disabilities and helps provide the tools needed to succeed in high school and college.

“You know it's an issue so you develop ways to handle it,” said Bernstein. “You do a lot of double checking and just making sure that your mind and your eyes aren't telling you two different things.”

Bernstein earned a degree in arson investigation from the University of New Haven. Studying was difficult, and at times he said he threw his hands in the air and felt like walking away. But Bernstein persevered. It took him a couple of extra years, but he earned his degree. Since then he has added many certificates onto his resume and earned fire marshal status.

He's also a part of the Sikorsky Fire Department in Stratford. It's all part of a family tradition. His father, Peter, is a career fireman in Stamford and his mother, Betty, works with the EMS.

Part of his success comes from knowing that he needs to focus on activities. The gym is more than just physical improvement to Bernstein, it's also a centering experience. Beyond that, he knows that he sometimes just has to slow down and concentrate.

“If you have something set in your mind, there is absolutely nothing stopping you. It may take a little bit longer, but you can get there. And when you do, it is so much more rewarding,” said Bernstein. “You'll have doubts along the way; push through them.”

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