This guest post is by Victoria K. Rash, a young woman on the autism spectrum who was accepted into the University of Texas at Dallas. Victoria 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.
Many parents work hard to foster a love of reading and storytelling in their children. But for some of us, the part where we can read and understand comes with more challenges than most. Every factor predicted reading success like my family of avid readers indulging my endless story-time requests and my huge book collection I called my private library. No one expected the battles in my journey to read independently to become a quest to defy the odds or the talents dyslexia would bring.
After extreme stress trying to read was just too much, Mom said everything is “figureoutable”. Children’s dyslexia books were bleak, but we are strong and hopeful. We preferred heroic stories like Greek myths. Hercules was sent to battle the serpent-like Hydra in the swampy marshes in Lerna at the gates of Hades to do twelve labors that should not have been possible. When sword and might did not work because the heads of the beast multiplied, he came back with reinforcement and the science of cauterization. Hercules was strategic.
In the classroom, I knew why kids were not inspired to fight to be readers. Knowing of the worlds that awaited in other stories, I hated being stuck in the Dick and Jane level of readers if I made more than five errors per level. All the Dyslexia signs were there. Why was I not tested then? Read more books? No. I pictured myself drowning in a swampy marsh of letters as Hydra attacks on my eyes doubled with every book. I wanted to scream that I was neither lazy nor stupid, but that is hard to do when you are drowning.
Then a specialist changed my life. I spent fourth grade at her boutique school for learning outliers when I was at the 1st percentile of reading fluency. She taught me to look through different eyes. We played cognitive games. She saw raw math talent. I loved visual-spatial learning games. Mentally rotating images come naturally. She tailored my online curriculum. I learned that I think in pictures and read by photographic recall which is a STEM talent but needs different reading approaches. It was like a boutique homeschool steroids. We trained my eyes and the endless nights of homework vanished. With the right strategies, I returned to public school ahead of my peers.
I will be a researcher because the only message I can send now is of hope. I see the big picture of Point A. My talent is not writing the stories, but I am the best to put on teams solving them. My college goal is to learn valid research skills for my future thesis.
I am seeking a research Ph.D. in applied mathematical psychology with a specialty in computer engineering. I will be part of rethinking our education models and designing computer simulations to test the impact of programs on literacy success. Since junior high, I planned to become an actuary because I love the ability to predict outcomes and factor the risks. In high school, I realized I could take the same principles and apply them to special education programs. For my career, I plan to stay in research until we can make a meaningful impact on literacy odds and school programs. I would like to also explore a career in education public policy. In the community, I plan to continue education, advocacy, and mentorship. I look forward to traveling, attending events, and am likely to be seen on a food show or host one. The sky is the limit.
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.