This guest post is by Luke Bender, a young man on the autism spectrum who was accepted into St. Joseph University. Luke is applying for the Spring 2021 Making a Difference Autism Scholarship via the nonprofit KFM Making a Difference started by me, Kerry Magro. I was nonverbal till 2.5 and diagnosed with autism at 4 and you can read more about my organization here.
I hope you can support my nonprofit like I’m trying to support these students with scholarship aid for college. Learn more on how you can help our cause with a small donation (just asking for $3 today, equal to your daily cup of coffee) here.
During my life, I feel that I have had to overcome many obstacles that a person who does not have autism would not have to face. Many of my challenges have been around having friends, fitting in, and participating in activities. Many times, I have stayed away from people or activities because of my autism which has made it hard for me to make friends in high school.
I like to be around people and have friends, however, I have found that many people do not understand my differences. In fact, at times due to my autism, I believe people judge me. For example, I often do not make eye contact or will fidget. I don’t want others to think that I am not interested so I try to force myself to sit still and make eye contact even if I am not comfortable. I also often take things very literally and do not understand context or jokes. This has been difficult as many times I misinterpret a joke or something that I am learning about. I often have needed to remind myself to think about what else could be meant by what is being said.
One of my biggest challenges is my hearing loss. I have bilateral permanent hearing loss that was present ever since I was a baby. My doctors have always recommended that I wear hearing aids in order to communicate better with others. I have been told that if I wore my hearing aids, I would do better academically and in sports, however, I have found that my hearing aids amplify all sounds including all the background noises that are present. Due to my autism, I do not like to be in loud, noisy environments. Loud noises and voices make me uncomfortable. Because of this, I have decided not to wear hearing aids. Instead, I have decided to learn how to read lips, watch facial cues and make other accommodations to help me hear better.
I love to play sports. I play ice hockey, lacrosse, and golf. I have learned that in sports I always need to watch others perform the drills before I do to make sure that I heard the directions correctly. In school, I sit away from fans, heaters, and other noises so I can concentrate better and not be distracted. Although these strategies have helped me to succeed in many ways, they have also made me feel different. Always sitting in the front of the room or going last in sports can be challenging, however, it is what I put in place to ensure my success.
Many persons with a hearing loss who do not have autism would not have had to deal with these challenges, however, it is something that I have learned to adapt to. At times, I find myself not wanting to make eye contact or not feeling confident in a situation due to autism but I remind myself that I am my own unique person and my struggles have made me a stronger person and who I am today. Thank you for considering me for this scholarship.
My name is Kerry Magro, a professional speaker and best-selling author who is also on the autism spectrum that started the nonprofit KFM Making a Difference in 2011 to help students with autism receive scholarship aid to pursue a post-secondary education. Help support me so I can continue to help students with autism go to college by making a tax-deductible donation to our nonprofit here.