This guest post is by Colin Nelson, a young man on the autism spectrum who has been accepted into the University of Oregon where he’ll be pursuing a Masters in Psychology. Stanley is applying for the Spring 2020 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 and how to apply for my scholarship here. I’m trying to make this nonprofit self-sufficient so I can make this my full-time job supporting the special needs community and would appreciate you taking a minute before reading on to watch the video below to see why this cause is important to me. 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 here.
To someone I have just met, I would seem “normal,” maybe a little shy, but I have had to work harder than other kids my age to get where I am today. All through grade school, I had an IEP (Individualized Education Program) and had in-home tutors for multiple summers. I hated being in IEP. It made me feel as though I was a lesser person; that I was not as smart as my classmates. Having an adult follow me around throughout each day killed my confidence seeing as none of my classmates had that “privilege.” I stood out like a sore thumb in all my classes. This attention was the opposite of what I wanted. All I wanted was to blend in and feel as though I was “normal.” This unwanted extra attention I was receiving from teachers lit a fire inside me, igniting my internal locus of control. I set out to show the “stupid adults” (as I viewed them in my younger years) that they were wrong about my needing this extra help I was receiving in grade school. I intended to escape the tight grasp they had over me, so much so that I started outworking my classmates when it came to my studies.
While I was in IEP, I could never figure out why I received this special treatment because, as a kid, I assumed everything about my struggles was “normal.” As I grew older, I slowly started to realize that my wrestles with pronunciation, comprehension, focus, and being around others were not “normal,” but I did not know why I was struggling as much as I was. Well, that is until recently when I saw a psychiatrist. My parents always suspected I was different from the other kids my age, but I was never willing to see a psychiatrist for testing. They wanted to get me tested for as long as I can remember; I even remember a time my mom tried to bribe me with a turtle (I always wanted a pet turtle growing up), but my fear of the stigma that came along with seeing a psychiatrist outweighed my desire for the turtle. I feel as though they did not want to force the psychiatrist on me because they knew the pain it would cause me.
After the realization that I was different from most kids, I agreed to see the psychiatrist and get tested as my parents wanted. The psychiatrist diagnosed me with a few things, most notable being high functioning autism which caused me anxiety in social situations. After this diagnosis, everything became apparent, and all my struggles started to make sense. I have pushed myself using immersion therapy to get myself in more social situations. I started saying “hi” to more and more people, as well as hanging around people I am not familiar around. This exposure has helped me an immense amount, to the point that I am now working at Starbucks.
The more I immersed myself with new people, the more I realized that my thought process is different from that of those whom I hang around. It seems to me that most people tend not to be self-aware, whereas I am almost too self-aware of all my actions and thoughts. I will notice when I am having negative thoughts, which makes it possible for me to take a breath and take measures to change these thoughts, whereas others I see tend to spiral in their negativity and do not realize what is happening to themselves. As I continue to surpass my parents, my former teachers, and even personal expectations, I think that this autism I have is not a curse, but rather a gift. I cannot imagine life thinking the way most people seem to.
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.