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This guest post is by Katie Marie Baumgartle, a young woman on the autism spectrum who was accepted into Butler University. Katie is applying for the Spring 2021 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.

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.

I was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3. I could not speak or talk to others and liked being by myself. My parents thought I was deaf because I would not respond to them. I had trouble with school and learning. I could not communicate and tell someone my thoughts and wants. I had trouble with conversations with peers because I was confused and didn’t understand what others were saying to me. My parents had to teach me humor and how to inform people if I got hurt. I had a hard time moving from assignments to assignments without finishing them and I would get upset if I did not finish. I like to get things done. Now I understand it is not due right now and can finish it at home for homework. I had to learn to say hi to others too. It is not that I’m rude. It is my brain just processes things a little differently than other kids. However, my brain also works in unique ways that you can not see. I can remember dates and events. My mom will ask me when a Disney movie came out and I can tell her the year. I can hear a song and know which movie it is from or what artist sings the song too. It comes in handy for trivia.

I went to Bridgepoint Elementary for preschool. This is where I got help with my communication with other students. I received Speech and Occupational Therapy to help me. I did not want to be pulled from my classroom but, it has really helped me now in school because I am independent and do not need assistance in my classes at High School. I’m taking Accounting and Spanish and getting A’s.

I struggled with school when I was in elementary school but, I worked hard and did not give up. Every day I would go home and sometimes my homework took hours to do. I would even get Fs or Ds on my work, but I did not stop. I did not give up and keep trying my best until I got it right. In middle school, we had smaller classes at Parkview Middle school. This really helped me learn to love math. I still struggle with writing. This speech was a challenge but, I love to face my challenges and complete them successfully.

Now, I am a senior at Jeffersonville High School where I am a varsity swimmer. I participate in Key Club, Anchor Club, Buddy Up! leader, and theatre.

Also, I swim for Special Olympics. I have been swimming for 12 years. I have swum at a lot of colleges for swim meets like the University of Louisville, the University of Kentucky, and Rose-Hulman. Throughout this experience, I got to go to the USA summer games in Seattle, Washington in 2018 where I received gold, two silver medals, and a fourth-place ribbon. My race was also shown on ESPN2.

During the opening ceremonies, I ran up and got a selfie with Allen Stone during his performance and was in his music video. I am not shy anymore. I also got to see Marshmallow and Charlie Puth perform at the opening ceremonies. I also received the State of Indiana award for Special Olympic athlete of the year and I got to light the torch at the Summer Special Olympic games in Terre Haute, Indiana in 2019. I also won the Today’s Woman magazine’s athlete/fitness women of the year, which I was the youngest at sixteen to receive that honor. In 2019, I was nominated for the IndyStar Special Olympic High School Girl of the year. This year I received the Image Award from Rauch.

I have a lot of struggles but worked hard to get my school work up to grade level like my peers. In elementary, I got every letter grade. I did not give up but, keep on going. Now I have a 4.0 GPA. They told my mom and dad that I would not swim because it was too many steps. They said I would not be able to do a lot of things. I like showing people that I am like everyone else and I can do it if given the chance. In the future, I want to go to college and be an accountant because I enjoy math.

My suggestion to all the students in here today. Don’t let someone define you as your label. The label does not determine your path. You determine your path. You can do anything you want to. My word of advice if a student has autism or any disability give them a try. They just need a friend and might not know how to ask. They are just like you and you might find they have a hidden talent in the process.

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.