This guest post is by Mairi Hallman a young woman on the autism spectrum who has been accepted into University of Ottawa for biochemistry. Mairi 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 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 here.
Dear Little Mairi,
Hey! It’s you, from the future—17-year-old you to be exact. I know that, right now, you’re feeling lonely and lost. Starting Grade seven didn’t bring the new beginning that you thought it would. I know that you get yelled at for wearing sneakers with your kilt and can’t make friends with the other girls. You spend most of your recesses inside getting caught up on homework, reading, or playing Minecraft. I can almost hear you thinking, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just be like everyone else?” I’m here to tell you that there’s nothing wrong with you, but you are right that you’re not like everyone else. You won’t find this out for another few years, but you actually have autism.
You may need a few minutes to let that sink in. I know that I did when I first got diagnosed a few weeks ago. Looking back, I really wish that I had been diagnosed at your age. It would have helped us to understand our challenges a lot better. Your autism is the reason that you get “abnormally” anxious and upset when things don’t work out “just right”, whether that means getting less than a 90% on a test or misplacing something. It’s the reason that you can’t gauge the intensity of people’s emotions, have poor eye contact when talking to people that you don’t know, and think everyone hates you when someone is angry at you. These challenges are never going to go away, but you will learn how to regulate them so that you can live your best life. About a year from now, you’re going to meet Dr. Nguyen, who will be your psychologist. She’s going to help you work through these challenges so that you can live a happy, balanced life.
I know very well that you’re an extremely curious kid, so you probably have a lot of questions. Don’t people usually get diagnosed with autism when they’re really little? Why did it take us so long to figure it out? You see, girls with autism are often diagnosed late. This is because most of the diagnostic criteria for autism is based on studies done on boys, and girls often exhibit different autistic traits. In addition, girls are more likely to subconsciously mask their autistic behavior so that they can fit in. You were never a problem kid at school—you were the exact opposite—so teachers never noticed anything amiss. Your parents thought that you were just quirky and high-strung. It would take 17 years, two incorrect diagnoses and two incorrect medications before two psychiatrists would eventually figure it out via a three-hour psychiatric assessment.
I know your next question—does this mean that I’m dumb? The answer to this is quite simple: no. Autism does not equal intellectual disability. The two can be linked, but they are by no means mutually inclusive. In fact, many people with autism are actually very smart. You fall into this category of high-functioning autistics, and let me tell you, this can be a great thing. Not only are you smart, but your autism makes you incredibly focused, which allows you to perform very well in school. That kind of work ethic is going to take you far. You’re going to be top of your class in Grade 10 and 11. Does that sound like something a dumb kid would be able to do?
I know that things are hard right now, but they’re going to get better very soon. In a couple of months, you’re going to start hanging out more with Veronica and Vanessa, the twins in your class, and they’ll still be your best friends in Grade 12. By Grade nine, you’ll have a huge group of awesome friends who love and support you, no matter how quirky you act sometimes. You’ll have an amazing boyfriend named Ethan who has infinite patience and loves you in spite of your occasional (okay fine, habitual) nonsense. You’re going to go to the University of Ottawa for biochemistry with a French immersion option, and live in a super nice dorm with lots of your friends. Your autistic traits will still make things difficult for you sometimes—changes in plans are never going to be easy for you to deal with—but as you get older you’ll get better at controlling your reactions to these situations. Things are never going to be perfect, but they’re going to be pretty awesome. You’ll see.
Love you lots,
Join us for our Free Workshop “The Transition To Adulthood For Those With Autism” on 4/30 at 8PM where I’ll be talking about topics such as our autism scholarship program – Register at: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_vofL2kFjRBCSHGJ5JcfyVA
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.