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This guest post is by Ridge Strange, a young man on the autism spectrum who has been accepted into Hawaii Community College. Ridge is applying for the Spring 2019 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 to our scholarship fund 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 have discovered that all you really have to do is don’t focus on what you don’t want to do. You can do anything if you want to. Focus on the good things. Just do it.” – Ridge Strange

I was born into a military family with a father in the US Army and my mom was a teacher. I had two older siblings, many pets, and moved at least 10 times before I was 18. I enjoyed playing outside, science experiments, my dogs, Legos, football, video games, and YouTube.

I did not enjoy school however. I found the curriculum boring, was terrified of the authority figures and reading was torture. No matter how many remedial programs I went through, phonics made no sense. After years of failure, I developed an armor with buttons ready to detonate when pushed. My pain was masked with an explosive temper and rage that escalated into meltdowns on a regular basis. Elementary school was a battlefield of confusion, resentment, and many misunderstandings. My diagnoses in first grade were ADHD and dyslexia and I was retained.

In second grade autism, anxiety, depression and a mood disorder were added labels. At my worst, I got into a fight with another student that resulted in me having a public melt down and a suspension. I regressed into a nonverbal, angry rage that I could not control. This cross road forced my mom to quit teaching and became my full time therapist and advocate.

Using Applied Behavior Analysis and armed with the legal rights of an Individualized Education Plan, I was better able to manage in the classroom the next year. By the end of third grade, I had what I call “an awakening” of being able to control my thoughts and anxiety.

I discovered fantasy fiction novels that were exciting although above my decoding ability. My mom read over 400 novels to me before we discovered Audible. This “biblio-therapy” ignited an insatiable desire for learning that never ended. With continued reading practice, I surpassed my peers.

My family relocated to Texas as I entered 6th grade. At that point, I asked not to go to my special education classes. I did not want the social stigma from the other kids . My teachers respected my decision and with accommodations, I found myself on the honor roll, playing football, and making friends.

My life was going very well until my mom was diagnosed with cancer. Fortunately , she recovered and I learned that I had to step into being my own advocate.

By the time I completed the 10th grade , my dad had retired and took a job across the ocean in Hawaii. I can still remember my anxieties and fear to move again and this time to attend a private prep school.

My biggest challenge was in managing my own fears. My writing and spelling were still not fluent. I was embarrassed but with the use of a word processor, I managed very well. I was indeed preparing for college.

After graduating with honors, I will be an undeclared major at Hawaii Community College with the hopes of transferring at some point to Hawaii Pacific University as part of their honors program. It was exciting, but the tuition was too expensive for my family. My dad lost his job that had brought us to Hawaii and we were struggling.

My hopes are to become more confident in college and see my unique learning path as different rather than less than.

Follow Kerry’s journey on Facebook, his Facebook Fan Page, & Instagram!

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. If you have a referral for someone who many want him to speak please reach out as well! Kerry speaks with schools, businesses, government agencies, colleges, nonprofit organizations, parent groups and other special events on topics ranging from employment, how to succeed in college with a learning disability, internal communication, living with autism, bullying prevention, social media best practices, innovation, presentation best practices and much more!

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