This guest post is by Michael E. Hwang a young man on the autism spectrum who was accepted into the Edgewood College. Michael is applying for the Spring 2018 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 so no matter if you could donate anything, whether it be $5 anywhere up to $5,000 it would be making a difference!).

I was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder around the age of ten. The transition that I can see from diagnosis until today makes me so joyful that at times I have nothing to say. I hope that where I began to where I am today will inspire those with autism.

I have struggled with many things in my life, like not always understanding social cues, having difficulty initiating and maintaining conversations, and not speaking in sentences. I also could not be interested in others, and not joining in even though there was a group of children at my place. While I was showing some processing issues, I struggled with cognitive disability.

Picture this; nearly seventeen years ago, I had difficulty understanding the rules while playing on a soccer team as well as getting distracted pretty easily. I was a shy kid who would be withdrawn pretty easily and experienced difficulty making friends. I would stay outside the playfield and watch kids kicking the ball towards the goal. I wanted to join in to play with them, but I did not know how to do it. Then while attending the local public recreation provider’s after school summer camp program during my middle and high school years and working with special education teachers in school and receiving therapy from them, I was able to feel the difference bit by bit. I was bashful as I was on every first day of the summer camp in weeks and months gone by, but on this day, there was something in my heart that I could see the difference slowly. I felt like I was beginning to socialize and participate in volunteer opportunities and social/recreational activities with others who liked me. They wanted me to do things socially while participating in volunteer opportunities, socializing, and conversing with them at the same time. Along with the summer camp program came middle school and a time when I started to blend in socially with others who wanted to do things socially with me, because they liked me. Therefore, I slowly started to be less diffident to communicate and converse with others.

Next, when I was a junior in high school, I served as a track team manager for a few years. Because I have flat feet, I could not be a track player and had no alternatives but becoming the manager. In every practice and meet, I cared for my teammates to improve their abilities by doing warm-ups with them, jogging for a few laps around the stadium, cheering to do well in sprinting, and telling them to build their self-confidence in track practices. As a result, my track teammates liked me, supported me, and socialized with me by inviting me to their high school graduation parties and their places to hang out with them, taking me to track meets, and driving me home after the track meets ended. Like I said above, I was pretty shy and reticent. I found the self-confidence I need do better at the track practice/meets, and in the classroom. It was a great feeling not only for me as a person, but it also strengthened my social skills allowing me to interact and meet students who are looking for ways to make new friends.

A few years later, I could feel the differences more after I started to go to a church. When I went there, I started to get to know people who are non-judgmental and accepting others from diverse backgrounds. Because they are good at treating others equally, they did not discriminate and reject me. They accepted me into their church community by inviting me to their places for Sunday dinner, a bible study group discussion, sports, and their weddings. Also, those people I met at the church I go to nowadays had positive influences on me by asking me to usher on Sundays, welcome newcomers to make them feel welcomed to my church, get involved in the Friday night praise band ministry, plan church events, and go out to the community for volunteer work. When I tried these things that I have never done before, I was happy that these things helped me to improve my social skills and be comfortable with myself as well as with others in various environments.

After I started to take classes as an Outreach Student, for the Cutting-Edge Program at Edgewood College, I was happy that I was able to make new friends more like attending events that were hosted by that school and accepting invitations from them to participate in fun activities with me on weekends (as well as getting emails from that school about activities, events, and announcements, and looking at the flyers that are attached on the bulletin board to socially connect with the Edgewood Community).

As a result, I got accepted to the Cutting-Edge program at Edgewood College this year after building my social skills with college friends I met through that program. College was a big change for me to change myself from who I used to be and I made things smoother making my college experience much happier in every way.

I did not think that big changes in my life helped me to see the differences slowly. As a result, learning how to be more comfortable with others, being more outgoing, and building my relationships with others have truly made things better and helped shape who I am today.

-Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.- (2)

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 sending him an inquiry here.

We’d also appreciate if you could start a Facebook Fundraiser to support our nonprofit’s scholarship fund! You can learn more about how you can do just that here