This guest post is by Anne Meadows a young woman on the autism spectrum who has been accepted into University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio studying Biochemistry. Anne 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.
One of the areas that I really struggled with throughout middle school and high school was getting good grades. My challenge was not the academic content, it was executive function. I just was not able to keep myself organized. Because of this, I would feel very overwhelmed and I would shut down. I frequently lost assignments, procrastinated, and fell behind. Sometimes I would lose my assignments before I started them, and I would either forget about them or not ask my teacher for another copy because I felt uncomfortable and didn’t know how to advocate for myself. Because I was unable to complete the work, I would not know the material and would struggle on quizzes and tests. Other times I would lose my assignments after I had completed them, and I would get mad at myself and not redo them. This was hard for me because I was in the Gifted and Talented program throughout elementary school, and I was always told I was very smart, but I doubted everyone because my grades did not reflect that. I thought I was not smart anymore.
Another thing I struggled with was making and keeping friends. Joining a group was hard for me. I had a couple of friends in middle school, but one of them turned out to be really unkind. The one that I was closest with during eighth grade moved away and we lost touch. My freshman year I really didn’t have any friends. It was very hard and lonely. My sophomore year I became close with two girls, but then one of them started being homeschooled and we, too, lost touch.
Right before school started up again after winter break my sophomore year, my grandma, with whom I was extremely close, fell and hit her head. Because had Parkinson’s disease, the fall caused her health to decline significantly. She went to a rehabilitation center and then she went to an assisted living community for two weeks, and then she would be coming home. (She was living next door to us.) After the two weeks was up, my mom and uncle decided that she needed the extra help offered at the assisted living community. This whole ordeal was very hard for me. My grades suffered, and it affected me emotionally.
My junior year was a turning point in my journey with autism. At the beginning of the year, I met a girl named DJ in my Forensic Science class. Then I found out that she was joining my lacrosse team. Getting to know her in two different environments allowed us to become great friends. Another girl in the class, Mackenzie, who was one of my friends from sophomore year, also became friends with DJ. For the first time in high school, I had a group of girls. But not everything about my junior year was good and fun. Since she fell, my grandma had been getting much, much worse. She was dying. At the beginning of December, the doctors gave her until Christmas to live. During this time, my mom had to take care of her and was unable to help me like she always had. At that time, I was either barely passing or failing my core classes. I had a big dilemma. I realized that I was going to have to figure out a plan for myself. I began to do research on how to get organized and started forming my game plan. I found assignment logs and calendars as well as other tools that worked well for me and was able to use them successfully. I was able to pass all my classes! Sadly, on Christmas day that year, my grandmother passed away. I was devastated. I was extremely worried that it was going to affect me in school, so I decided I would modify my game plan from the first semester to get me through the entire second semester. I worked very hard and made a planner binder containing multiple resources including assignment trackers, weekly and monthly calendars, a color-coding key, and priority breakdown worksheets. Using this plan, I was able to get all A’s for the first time in high school.
Another reason my junior year was so important in my journey with autism was that I started going to speech therapy to help with my social skills and occupational therapy to help with my executive functioning skills. Speech therapy was very important. It made me feel more confident talking to people I didn’t know and people who I wanted to get to know. I didn’t always want to do what my therapists told me to do, and I certainly didn’t always like it, but looking back, I see it made me a better person. One very important way that therapy helped me was that it taught me how I could advocate for myself, and to ask for help when I needed it.
Now it is my senior year. I have continued to receive all A’s and even improved my GPA enough to graduate with honors. It isn’t Magna or Summa like I wanted, but honors, nonetheless. This year has been great for me. Even though DJ and Mackenzie are in college, I have kept in touch with them and grown our friendships. My senior year was going great. I had my eighteenth birthday right before spring break and I couldn’t wait to get back and start the special senior activities.
But then the coronavirus hit. I was so upset. I still am. But I have learned many things about myself. I have learned that I am a very social person. I have learned that creating a schedule for myself is nowhere near as complicated as I thought it would be.
I am excited to continue my journey as I start college in the Fall. I am so excited to see myself grow and thrive.
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.