This guest post is by Kate Breininger, a young woman on the autism spectrum who has been accepted into Kutztown University. Kate 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.
My autism has greatly impacted my life, both academically and socially. I was not diagnosed until eighth grade, but upon looking back I have always had trouble in school and social settings. I had a wide variety of problems such as the inability to properly communicate with people in groups, being unable to ask questions in class, and not voicing myself when I had a problem or was being bullied. I had trouble making friends and approaching people in general. The most problems specifically arose when I couldn’t bring myself to talk to teachers that I wasn’t very comfortable or familiar with. If I was struggling in class, I wouldn’t ask any questions or seek out help, I would just take the bad grade and dwell on it until my parents approached me about it.
In elementary school, I had the most problems with my kindergarten teacher. I would always get scolded for not wanting to participate – the scolding I perceived as yelling. I was never into the ‘singing and dancing’ aspect of the kindergarten curriculum. I just preferred to sit alone and color or draw, which the teacher seemed to consider unusual for a kindergartener and always made me go do the stuff the other kids were doing even if I didn’t want to go participate.
In third grade, I had a lot of problems with my learning, so many problems that my teacher told my parents that she was worried I wouldn’t make it to the end of elementary school with the learning style I had at the time. I was slower at processing math, and we had to do many timed math tests in third grade, both speaking aloud and on paper. I dreaded pretty much every day, knowing that I would have to go to school and take a timed math test, it had put a great stress on my life at the time.
Eventually I made it to middle school, still undiagnosed. We had all just assumed that I had a different learning style, and the school kept assuring my parents that I didn’t need to get educationally tested. Throughout my first two years of middle school, I continued to struggle in math and also with difficult teachers in general. Aside from that, many of my friends stopped talking to me, leaving me basically without any friends. My stresses and fears arose to the point that I was having almost weekly panic attacks and breakdowns over small things like needing to approach and talk to a teacher or if I missed an assignment or notes one day.
In eighth grade, after a series of really bad breakdowns and eventually some time out of school, my parents finally took me to another place to get me educationally tested. That was when we discovered that, alongside other problems like anxiety and depression, I was on the autism spectrum. My mom, upon looking back, wished she realized it sooner so that I could get the proper help that I needed.
High school started kind of rough, too. Newly diagnosed, we still didn’t really know what kind of help I needed, and the high school psychologist insisted that I didn’t need any accommodations to help with my learning. I was frequently overwhelmed in crowded classrooms and hallways, and I frequently missed notes and parts of class because the teacher was moving too fast or I lost concentration. After a rough first semester, a long battle with the school psychologist, and a doctor’s note saying I needed an IEP, we finally got some accommodations in place for me. I was allowed to leave the room when I was overwhelmed and go down to a quiet room to decompress. I was also able to request notes for missed parts of class. These accommodations really helped me, but I still struggled with talking to teachers. Thanks to my school’s great educational and emotional support team working so closely with me, I was able to improve my ability to approach teachers and participate in classes.
I still struggle to approach teachers and classmates, and also properly express my feelings about things, but I have had a lot of help from my school’s educational support team getting me through high school. In freshman year, I didn’t think I would be able to make it to the end of high school, but I am glad that I was able to get through this rough journey and see it to the end. Honestly, I owe a lot of my personal growth to my parents and my school’s emotional support team. Thanks to them being able to learn how to work with me and be able to push me a little bit, I am the person I am today.
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.