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This guest post is by Linda DeGise-Kotowski a woman on the autism spectrum who was accepted into New Jersey City University where she is seeking a degree in Creative Writing. Linda is applying for the Spring 2018 Making a Difference Autism Scholarship via the nonprofit KFM Making a Difference. You can read more about the organization and how to apply for our scholarship here. You can help our scholarship program continue to help these students by making a donation here (the majority of our scholarship program is ran through donors from our community such as yourself so no matter if you could donate anything, whether it be $5 anywhere up to $5,000 it would be making a difference!).

I was determined as a child to attend college, despite my learning disability. My parents told me I would have to work hard. When, the public schools were no longer able to meet my educational needs, my parents found out about ECLC OF New Jersey. It’s a special needs day school.   I attended ECLC for eleven years. Mrs. Arosen was my first teacher at ECLC. She was a strict teacher yet was fair and kind. Mrs. Arosen made learning exciting. She had a great sense of humor and was very helpful.

She taught me cursive, despite obstacles I was determined to learn handwriting. Mrs. Arosen made it simpler when she used a pencil graph for me to hold. She and my occupational therapist worked with me. The exercises included touching the tips of my fingers, also opening and closing buttons. Several months later, cursive became second nature to me.

Mrs. Arosen, Mr. Luongo the school social worker and my speech teacher encouraged me to work on my eye contact. They reminded me to talk less and listen more, too. My progress was gradual, however my social, academic and daily living skills improved. I made lifelong friendships with my peers. I was finally having my classmates over to my house and visited their homes, too.

My speech was still a little delayed. I had trouble pronouncing words such as beautiful and frustrated. Words with the s sound were the hardest for me to say. Paying attention and controlling my emotions remained challenging. Whenever, I was out of my comfort zone I became anxious. Occasionally, I had meltdowns, Mrs. Arosen calmed me down or contacted Mr. Luongo.   He taught me deep breathing techniques. They each had a significant impact on my life. They encouraged me to look beyond my learning disability and insisted I work to my fullest potential.

I was twelve years old when Mr. Luongo noticed I had some of the sign and symptoms for persuasive developmental disorder. Understanding other people’s body language was close to impossible for me to graph. I was unable to tell whether someone was disinterested or annoyed with me when the conversation became one way. I stopped immediately whenever an adult reprimanded me. Mr. Luongo and my parents explained the importance of empathy to me. They asked me how I felt when someone talked to me nonstop about a subject that did not interest me.

I had a passion for learning. However, I easily became distracted. My parents and teachers kept after me about paying attention in class and social situtions. English and Social Studies were my favorite subjects. In middle school, I learned about poetry from my homeroom and English teacher Mrs. Oehler. I developed an interest in poetry. Our English class made little booklets outs of the poems we wrote. I started to borrow books at the library on famous poets such as Maya Angelo and Emily Dickinson. I also discovered a flaw for creative writing. I was determined to be a poet/writer. I submitted several of my poems and short stories to highlights magazine. Unfortunately, I was rejected each time.

As children, my parents took my sister and me to the library. They each took turns reading to us at night. I loved classic novels such “Little Women”, “Anne of Green Gables”, from a young age. I enjoyed reading biographies, too I could spend the entire day at the library.

My first job was at Jersey City Public Library, I worked at the Heights Branch for six years. I worked every afternoon and all day Saturdays. I developed a good work ethnic thanks to my boss Pat such as being on time to work and following through on tasks.  My job was to look for books and research information for patrons. I learned to use data entry and the dewy decimal system. Pat was a mentor and friend to me.

I had friendly rapports with coworkers and the patrons. I learned how to deal with the public effectively. Helping the kids out was the best part of my job. I monitored both the children and adolescent sections. I was a mentor of the kids. I enjoyed assisting Pat in the summer reading program.

Several years before, I graduated from ECLC, was when more professionals knew about Asperger’s. Which is an autism specturn disorder. Through observing me Mr. Louongo was sure I had it through what he observed during our weekly sessions, frequently talking to my mom over the phone and speaking to her alone when she would visit once a month. He expressed his concerns my mom throught an indidivual with aspergers was socially withdrawan. I was the opposite.

I was diganosed with Asperger’s by my psychologist. I was not adjusting well to the real world and failed finals in community college. Both my mom and psychologist encourged me to give college another try. With determination, hardwork and help from a tutor I passed finals at the end of the fall semester.

I resigned from the libaray that spring. I have worked full-time at the HCIA for the past fourteen years. Its an autoomus agnecy though Hudson County. I attended college at nights for six year before gradurating in May 2011. I thrived as a student and learned skills on the job such as Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint.

I have been an active member of The Jersey City Writers for several years. I currently finished the first draft of my young adult novel. They held a full-story session for me in late March of this year.

In the future I would like to use my bachelor’s degree in creative writing to teach creative writing classes to public school students.

-Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.- (2)

Kerry Magro, a professional speaker and best-selling author who is also on the autism spectrum started the nonprofit KFM Making a Difference in 2011 to help students with autism receive scholarship aid to pursue a post-secondary education. Help us continue to help students with autism go to college by making a tax-deductible donation to our nonprofit here. Also, consider having Kerry, one of the only professionally accredited speakers on the spectrum in the country, speak at your next event by sending him an inquiry here.

We’d also appreciate if you could start a Facebook Fundraiser to support our nonprofit’s scholarship fund! You can learn more about how you can do just that here