This guest post is by Jared Hites a young man on the autism spectrum. Jared attends Itasca Community College. Jared is applying for our Fall 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. You can help our scholarship program continue to help these students by making a donation here (the majority of our scholarship program is ran through donors from our community such as yourself).
My name is Jared Hites, I’m 19 years old from Hermantown, Minnesota. I am the oldest of four kids. I have PDD-NOS and ADHD. I am currently pursuing an Engineering Degree at Itasca Community College, Grand Rapids, MN. Then I plan to transfer to University of MN-Duluth to complete my BS Engineering.
I am currently almost finished with my first college semester of my freshman year. I have added challenges compared to most incoming students related to my diagnosis of PDD-NOS, an Autism Spectrum diagnosis, and ADHD. I was diagnosed when I was seven and four years old respectively. These diagnoses 100% impacted how I developed into the person I am today. I have accepted that I will have to overcome hurdles in my life on a daily basis because of my invisible disabilities.
In high school I had an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). This IEP allowed me accommodations like: extra time for tests, testing in quiet room, printed notes, and re-testing to name a few things. However, colleges don’t have IEP’s, instead they have Disability Coordinators. But, accommodations aren’t automatically given to me. I have to self-advocate and seek out the Disability Coordinator and discuss what type of additional assistance I feel I need and not all accommodations available in high school are able to be carried out in college. So I am having to adapt to my new limitations in the school/classroom setting.
I don’t like socializing period. This is how I am wired. Ever since kindergarten and throughout my high school years I have always kept to myself. I always played by myself on the playground. This made some teachers feel sad for me, so they tried to get me to join others playing. But, what they failed to understand was that I was enjoying myself, I was comfortable in my own world. By forcing me to join the group play they made themselves feel better at my personal expense. Now I was anxious, stressed and uncomfortable and nobody cared. I have never had a “best” friend. I had a few friends who had “problems” too, and we did hang out infrequently. But that was over five years ago. I don’t miss having friends, this doesn’t cause me sadness. I’ve survived for 18 years without friends why would I need any now? Here at college I do have two fellow Engineering Program roommates. I wanted a private room. But mom said having roommates in the same program as I was would be a good idea and it would also force me to at least have some social contact outside of the classroom. I have to say that I’ve found that a few of the Engineering students seem to be somewhere “on the spectrum” too. Most people would consider us all a little odd. So I fit right in with my roommates. It doesn’t bother us to sit quietly in our own spaces and just do our own thing. It’s a relief to not have someone constantly pressuring me to join the group and get out there.
I can’t just accept all things that I’m told. I need to know the reasons why. However, most reasons I’ve been told I can make counter arguments as to why they are false. After all we are supposed to be independent thinkers. But I don’t understand why or when in some situations your not supposed to think for yourself and in others it’s okay. I’ve been told because that is the “social norm”. Well, I don’t understand social norms and rules. What is obvious to normal people (Neurotypicals-NT’s) is not to me. I had to be told to say goodbye before ending a phone conversation. I would just hang up when I was done talking. I’m done why should I say anything more. People also daily ask others in passing “how are you?” Why? Just because its the “social norm.” Do people really want to know or are they just uncomfortable with the silence. I’m not, I like silence. In fact too much noise and activity causes me great anxiety. Using silverware is another “norm” I don’t understand. I have always used my fingers if the food can be picked up. This was good enough in the past and I don’t see the value of using silverware just because it’s the social norm and that someone might be bothered by me using my fingers.
I also can always see loopholes in rules and directions. For example if I’m told to write a one page paper I feel I am correct if I submit a post it note with one sentence on it. I did indeed write a one page paper. Mom tells me the social norm expectations of a one page paper are: 8 ½” x 11” paper, black ink, size 12 font, times new roman type, double spaced, and with standard margins. Well then why didn’t they tell me all the exact rules if they expected me to follow them. In 5th grade the teacher told me to write a one page paper and she told me I could use any paper in my desk. Well, I found a post it note and wrote one sentence on it and turned it in. I did exactly as she said, but I got in trouble. Another thing, asking me “will you take the garbage out?” I respond no, yet I’m expected to do it anyway. You asked me which gives me a choice and I declined. Mom says this is the polite way of telling me to do the chore. I say then just tell me what to do, don’t ask me if I don’t really have a choice. I can’t help but see the different meanings in what is said. I’m not trying to be a smart aleck, which is what mom says people will think of my responses.
My favorite activity is playing my PS4 games online. While playing video games the way my mind sees, interprets and interacts with the world is an advantage to me. In this make believe world just being myself is enough. I am actually rewarded for being me. However, I know I can’t live in the make believe video world. I have to try daily to find my way in understanding the real world.
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 contacting him here.