This guest post is by Jensen Palencia, a young man on the autism spectrum who was accepted into Lesley University to study Animation. Jensen 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. 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.
If you were to ask me what it is like to live on the autism spectrum, it is hard for me to say; as this has always been my life, I do not have a frame of mind without it to compare. I never attributed the personal hardships I faced to autism, but I thought that it was just that there are certain qualities that some people struggle with and others do not. Although I was diagnosed with autism at age 8, I did not actually know about my diagnosis until I was a teenager because my parents wanted me to be mentally mature enough to understand it. If I were to describe my experiences growing up on the spectrum, it would be that I have challenges in areas that others might find easier, and that I have talents and strengths in areas that others might find more difficult.
School was particularly challenging and specific classes where I had to remember vast amounts of information. For example, even after four years of high school History I cannot really recall specific details about U.S. and world history and can only give general information. However, for areas where I have specific interests, my memory is amazing and acute. For example, I can give specific details about Japanese history, especially about the Sengoku Jidai or Warring States period. Other things I can recall in full detail are happy memories like vacations and stories from various media like movies, anime, or video games. I am also talented at art and computer animation. I usually show my best when a task requires me to create something.
Another aspect about me that I attribute to my autism is that I am more sensitive than most. I am very easily saddened or angered by certain events, such as a sad death in a story or an anger-inducing character, and I tend to act out whenever I am frustrated. Secondly, I cannot understand teasing or sarcasm from people, as I assume them to be serious. Because of this, I can’t really take joyful jabs in a friend group. Then there are times where I feel like the world is too much for me and I find ways to shut it all out. Most of the time it is putting on headphones and playing loud music.
I also had a hard time making friends growing up. I tended to go off to do my own thing and not hop on the bandwagon. There would be times where I felt lonely that I had a small social circle. On the other hand, my kindness and caring, which I partially attribute to my autism, has made it easier for me to find the few close friends that I have today, particularly my two best friends, Daniel and Brendan. Then there are my other good friends that I’ve made through Dungeons & Dragons and other hobbies, like Mini. Now that I am in college I am finding more people to call my friends. This past year I have joined clubs and people at college are starting to remember my name.
Another thing that I find myself to be different from most people is that I knew about myself and my interests at an early age. What I mean is, I knew what I wanted to do with my life from the very beginning. I always knew that I wanted to make movies, it is just the method of how I would go about it that had changed over the years. While most people my age were struggling on what careers to choose. I had a set course in mind that I’m now following through Lesley University in the department of animation.
I was taught that everyone in life has their own strengths and weaknesses. So for me, growing up on the spectrum means that I have certain strengths and weaknesses too. Now I am learning more about what it means to be on the spectrum and by proxy learn more about myself. To sum up, for me growing up on the autism spectrum is simply just life. It is a life that shares many characteristics with the lives of others, and in the end, it is my life that I choose to live.
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.