This guest post is by Kristen Chew, a young woman on the autism spectrum who has been accepted and is attending Lock Haven University. Kristen 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 here. Can I ask for a favor? 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 this video below and subscribing to our Youtube page here to get to learn more about the work we do in the community.

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.

“Kristen…Kristen!”

I heard a faint noise, my mother’s voice, echoing in panic as her sorrowful face slowly appeared directly in front of my squinted eyes. Dazed, scared, and confused, I curled up in my bed that I had apparently been sleeping all day in. I gently turned my head towards the mirror across from my bed. That’s when I saw what my mother was looking at. A distinct bruise, rather large, appeared on the surface of my face. Although I did not recall seeing this disturbing mark on my face earlier, I had an idea of what it was the result of. It wasn’t the first time that something like this had happened, and it certainly wasn’t the last. This was the day—the day that everything changed…

I’ve had signs of being on the autism spectrum ever since I was a young child. I was eventually diagnosed with Asperger’s. Every aspect of my life was different. I was different, and I was surely treated different by others. Worst of all—the bar was lowered, and little was expected of me. Some people may perceive a special needs student as a one who receives fair treatment, high respect, and much care. This was not the case, at least not for me growing up. Throughout every earlier grade, my mornings were often filled with anxiety. On no day did I look forward to showing up at school. Why was I so scared? The reason for my fear was the bullying I often endured from other students. Every fist that swung across my face, every foul message taped to my backpack, every voice that condemned me for my developmental disorder, produced tears, bruises, and even more so—self-doubt. Why did these others seem to despise me? What did I do wrong? This was one of my greatest challenges I faced.

One morning, during my last year of high school, my mother slowly walked into my room. The sound of her presence awakened me. “Kristen…it’s time,” she said.

I sighed in disbelief while holding a pillow against my face, “I don’t think I’m ready for this change. It isn’t fair!”

Apparently, I was being switched from general education classes to special education classes. Once I found out from the school office that I wouldn’t be graduating with my original high school diploma and possibly not even be graduating on time, I was livid. I felt as though all the effort I made to keep up with my courses and stay in good academic standing despite my condition were wasted. I wasn’t prepared for this change, and I certainly wasn’t prepared to have my goals altered by someone else. Despite being uncomfortable with the changes that had been made, I slowly entered the classroom during my first day of special education classes. As the door creaked, I heard a voice.

“Hello,” said the random voice.

I looked around the class until I turned around with someone standing directly in front of me. It was another student. He wasn’t very verbal, but he did signal me to follow him further into the classroom. He led me to a specific area, an area where there were tables and art supplies. A rather beautiful piece of artwork was resting on the side of one of the tables. It was colorful, abstract and stood out among the other pieces of art.

“Is that yours?” I asked.

He nodded and showed me more pieces of artwork. As someone who’s interest has always been art, the pieces I saw from this student were beyond fascinating. In fact, for a brief moment I felt a sense of relief. From that day, I took my time getting to know this classmate. He introduced me to other classmates and different art projects they created. I eventually joined in, and my passion for art continued to grow.

Over the course of my last year in high school, I began to bond with these other students, quite well actually. It turned out that I wasn’t the only student in the classroom on the autism spectrum either. Many if not most of the other students were as well, including the first one I originally met. We learned a lot about each other. We were all similar but different at the same time. Each of us had uniqueness that defined who we were. It was then that I realized that my life wasn’t destined to be miserable and that my self-worth was underestimated. From then, I made my next move, and with zero regrets.

Life has become much better over the years. With the aide of summer courses, I had the opportunity to graduate high school. I enrolled in college and am working towards completing my degree. I also volunteer for Give Kids The World by interacting with children with different conditions. Every one of them is unique and has their own qualities that define who they are and differentiate them from others. I get to witness different talents and even share some of my own (art, for example). Volunteering has also helped me improve on my social skills. I’ve been able to discover more about myself than I ever have before. Having made new friends, joined an art club, participated in college activities, and built friendly relationships with professors, I’ve been enjoying college life. Most importantly, all students are friendly with each other. There’s no bullying or labeling. Differences among others are respected instead of condemned. Now having an interest in business and art, I have decided to major in accounting and minor in art. I may have had a rough start in life but I’m willing to break through any chains to continue my education and achieve my goal of graduating college.

Follow my journey on Facebook, my Facebook Fan Page, & Instagram!

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.