This guest post is by ToniAnn Smith, a young woman on the autism spectrum who was accepted into the College of Southern Nevada. ToniAnn 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.
Growing up with autism had challenges. By the age of three, I was nonverbal and started speech and occupational therapy. As I grew older, I started to develop some anxiety problems that I never shared with my parents until I was fifteen years old. In order for me to cope with my anxiety, I would take a break from my school assignments and listen to music & watch videos. In fifth grade, I joined Girl Scouts that helped me with my social skills. Girl Scouts taught me about teamwork, leadership, cooperation, and giving back to the community.
In seventh grade, in health class, I was learning about different disabilities. I came home from school and read them to my Mom. I told her, “Hey, Mom. I sometimes feel this way.” That was when she explained to me about my autism diagnosis at three. She never told me about my diagnosis because she didn’t want me to feel different from the other kids. She said, “Now that you are old enough, I can explain about autism.”
That’s when I came to understand the way I am and act. In ninth grade, I mostly sat by myself at lunch because I liked being alone, and I was a little shy at making new friends. Because of that, my Mom got me into Best Buddies so I make new friends and learn not to be so shy when meeting new people. The group helps people with disabilities and helps them feel included. I’m really grateful for her and letting me join Best Buddies because I have so many wonderful friends who bring a smile to my face.
One of the things that helped me become more social is being in the advanced women’s choir. Not only did I get to make friends with many talented students, but I also got to show my talents at school events. Performing in front of others gave me a chance to step out of my comfort since I sometimes get nervous about singing in front of people. One of the traits of being autistic is having a creative and hyper imagination. And since I have an active mind, I tend to create stories in my head that I want to bring onto the screen when I get older.
That’s why I want to work the hardest I can do; so I can achieve my dream as a film and tv series director and creator. Even though I have some challenges with my autism, I am determined to earn my dream job. With my determination and perseverance, I am getting all straight A’s in my classes at my school. When I attend college, I’m going to continue to work hard and excel at my studies. With my college degree, I would love to open my own film business and give back to the community. I hope that I can be an inspiration to kids with autism that you can accomplish their dreams no matter what obstacles you have.
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.