This guest post is by Jared Hites a young man on the autism spectrum. Jared has been accepted and will be attending Itasca Community College in the Fall. Jared is applying for our Summer 2017 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.
My name is Jared Hites, I’m 18 years old and just graduated from Hermantown High School in Minnesota. I am the oldest of four kids. I have PDD-NOS and ADHD. I am pursuing an Engineering Degree this fall at Itasca Community College, Grand Rapids, MN then after two years transferring to University of MN-Duluth, Duluth, MN.
I have just succeeded in graduating from high school. My diagnosis of PDD-NOS, an Autism Spectrum diagnosis, and ADHD have greatly impacted how I developed into the person I am today. I was diagnosed when I was seven and four years old respectively. I have to overcome obstacles on a daily basis because of my autism. High functioning autism is an invisible disability making it harder for people to comprehend that you have a disability. Normal Neurotypical (NT’s) people don’t realize the constant internal struggles I have all day long.
I have always preferred to be myself. This past senior year I ate my lunch alone everyday sitting on the floor leaning against the wall avoiding eye contact. Others may feel sad for me. But for me this made me comfortable.
I’ve learned my brain processes things differently and that I see the world differently than NT’s (Neurotypical people). My mind won’t let me just see the “surface” of a question. I can’t help but see so many other questions I need answered to answer the original question. I need all this other information or I feel great stress and anxiety not having it. I remember a question on a Health test. It asked if you could get Hepatitis C from a needle. I answered no and it was marked wrong. But you can’t get Hepatitis C from a sewing needle or a knitting needle, so I was right. My mom said the teacher was going to think I was being a smart ass. It was assumed because it was Health class that the question referred to IV needles. However, I can’t stop the way my mind works. I can’t just see the question. I see everything written between the lines and I need this information.
I feel most NT’s don’t word things properly to convey the correct message. I see exceptions to what is asked or stated. For example a sign that reads,”No food or Drink Allowed”. This tells me I can have food and no drink or drink and no food. If they meant I can’t have either, then they need to word it “No food and No drink Allowed”. Or telling me “will you take the garbage out.” You asked and I answered no. My mom explains to me that this is a polite way of telling me to do it. I say then just tell me to take it out, don’t ask me in a question. I can’t stop myself from seeing other meanings to your words.
In Physics I had problems answering questions because I needed so many more questions answered. I remember a question asking if two people drop a ball at the same time, but one person is taller, which ball will land first. Well, I can’t answer because I need to know what planet each person is on and what surface each person is standing on. I really need to have this information or it’s mentally painful. All this missing information is obvious to me. I don’t know why the books don’t provide this information. This way of thinking isn’t something that I can willfully change. It’s like someone wanting to be tall. You can’t just will yourself to be tall because you want to.
I also had a hard time with diagrams in textbooks. The pictures are never drawn to scale. How can they ask a question regarding a diagram when it clearly doesn’t represent the information correctly. This bothers me so much.
I am also unfiltered in my responses to questions. I just answer exactly what I think. I’m told I can sound offensive at times, even though I mean no offense. I am getting much better about keeping these unfiltered responses in my head. I then release these thoughts at home. My parents are worried that these unfiltered responses could get me hurt one day. As my responses could be perceived as being a “smart ass” even though that is not my intention.
I’m not your typical excited high school graduate. I didn’t really even want to attend my graduation ceremony. I’m done with school, why do we have to put on a big show? Also because I prefer to be alone I didn’t attend the all night grad party. To me this would have been torture and uncomfortable. I’m also not having a graduation party. My autism causes me to feel uncomfortable with big social events. All the so called “big events” of high school like Sweetheart dances, Prom and lots of pictures with friends are things that I chose to not be part of.
Again people probably look at this and think how could I not want these things. But, I’m not wired this way. As much as NT’s enjoy all these high school traditions, is how much I enjoy being by myself. I also chose to not play on the Tennis Team my senior year. We decided that working my job at Home Depot would benefit me much more in my life after graduation than possibly being selected for the Varsity Tennis Team. It’s given me “real life” social interactions, experiences and independence, but with the safety net of still living at home and having my parents to help guide me when needed.
I’m not afraid to tell people I’m autistic. It makes me the person I am, and I wouldn’t change it. One day at work I was skipping in the parking lot while collecting the carts to make things more fun, an adult looked and me and stated loudly, “what are you retarded!” I kindly replied no I’m autistic but he was already walking away. I recently got two new baseball caps. One has the saying “Autism is my Super Power” and the other says “ Be Patient with Me I have Autism”. I wear these proudly at work. I’m proud that I’m autistic and I’m not embarrassed to let everyone know it.
Kerry Magro, an international speaker and best-selling author 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 contacting him here.