This guest post is by Amanda Healey, a young woman on the autism spectrum who has been accepted and will be attending Manchester Community College. Amanda 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!).

My name is Amanda Healey. I have a form of autism called PDD-NOS. I always knew I was different from my peers, even at an early age. I didn’t start talking until I was three years old, so I was enrolled into the Preschool Outreach Program. My mother often complained that I was more sensitive than most individuals my age. I not only cried when I was placed in time out, but also when I was frustrated, or didn’t get what I wanted.

Even when my parents were talking to me in a stern tone, my mind perceived it as yelling, even when it wasn’t yelling, and I started crying. I was pulled out of class to go to an OT/PT room starting in pre school and continuing into first or second grade. I don’t remember what I did the room during preschool, but I do remember that in elementary school it was more motor skilled oriented. I started the mainstream system in Fall 2006, and that’s when more of my quirks started to show. I enjoyed watching Barney on TV, even in first grade when most kids had already outgrown it. They even started to make fun of me for watching that program. I imitated a lot of characters I saw on TV, even after walking in on my dad watching The Simpsons. I would engage in habits like face rubbing and often had trouble pronouncing certain words, like jewelry. I would also say “That hurted.” instead of “That hurt.” I found spelling to be more difficult with me, which is ironic since one of my multiple intelligences is linguistic. I was a coward when I was younger and didn’t enjoy gym activities like dodgeball, and I wouldn’t go on the monkey bars for fear of falling. Well, I overcame my fear of monkey bars, then I fell off them, and that phobia returned. Beginning in third grade I squealed every time I saw a dolphin, which is still my favorite animal. Despite these challenges, I was also considered to be really intelligent. I had a fantastic memory, and I could store a lot of information in my brain at once. I even surprised my teachers by saying the word “flabbergasted,” which I had learned from a series of shorts on television called “The Amazing Colossal Adventures of Word Girl,” which was a prequel to a TV series called “Word Girl”.

When I was nine, I had to go to a doctor’s office to take a few tests. When the test was over, I was diagnosed with autism. I felt kind of scared. I knew this was going to change my whole life. I thought I might get moved to another school (I loved my elementary school), that people might try to help me when I didn’t need it, or that I would get bullied. When I was ten, I remember being kicked out of a sibshop group because they did not want any autistic participants. For five years, I was afraid of telling anyone except my closest friends and relatives that I was on the spectrum. I tried to act neurotypical, but it seemed like I failed at that. When I was fifteen, I was browsing on Facebook and I found a video about autism. While I was watching it, it seemed to describe me exactly. That was the day I began to grow more comfortable with my autism. I was starting to tell more people about my autism, and I started to get more actively engaged in autism awareness. I even did a video where I debunked autism stereotypes.

I think my autism makes me a better person, despite its quirks. I’m smart, I have a good memory, and I consider myself as more considerate and empathetic than most people. I can’t hide my sensitivity, or my phobias, or my habits. It’s impossible. But autism makes me who I am, and I’m proud of it. What I’m trying to say is it doesn’t matter whether you have autism or not. It’s a part of you, and if people don’t like it, then forget about them. All that matters is being yourself, and that’s what really counts.

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.