This guest post is by Jackson Sallee, a young man on the autism spectrum who was diagnosed with autism at 6 and now has been accepted into University of Missouri in Columbia to study Computer Science. Jackson 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 and how to apply for my scholarship here. I’m trying to make this nonprofit self-sufficient so I can make this my full-time job supporting the special needs community and could use your help.
I am Jackson Sallee and I am a Senior in high school with Asperger’s Syndrome, which is high-working autism. I was diagnosed at the age of six. My parents noted behaviors such as echolalia, lack of eye contact, sensory issues, poor gross and fine motor skills. In addition to these behaviors I was reading full books on my own by age two. They consulted with Missouri First Steps and Grain Valley Early Childhood who recommended further evaluation Children’s Mercy Hospital where I was diagnosed. Since that time I have spent many years learning to overcome my diagnosis.
In Elementary school, I struggled to learn things that my peers seemed to already know. I got upset over small things and struggled to understand how to relate to my peers. I was in a Special Education classroom a couple of times a day, getting out of the regular classroom. I had to learn things that most people already picked up on their own, like “Don’t use the same joke over and over again”, or “Don’t be a worry wall”. Also, I struggled with fine motor skills like handwriting, coloring, and tying shoes. I needed to take time out of the regular classroom to work on these skills and many others. However, I learned that even though I struggled with many things I was good at many others like technology. I had many teachers in elementary school that came to me for technical support. I learned that I had a lot to add even though I struggled with other things.
In Middle School, I was the person that wanted to achieve greatness, and I was introduced to leadership. At first, I went overboard, taking some things over. I had to learn that being a good leader means supporting and empowering others rather than plowing ahead. I still struggled relating to my peers and adapting to change but I was learning that I could advocate for myself and ask for the things I needed. I was learning to be responsible for my own education. I was given the opportunity to get involved with live streaming and making professional videos with all the equipment that I could get a hold of. For my assignments, I was able to take a computer with me to type so that I didn’t have to write them. I learned to overcome my difficulties with the things I was good at.
In High School, they decreased my time in the special education classroom, because my IEP team has decided that most of my behaviors are normal for a person without a disability, I had learned to adapt and use my abilities to overcome my inabilities I have applied the majority of my social thinking skills, and I basically blended in with the other people in my classes. Nobody knew that I had a disability until I told them. I was able to advocate for my needs, and I basically was pretty level with the rest of the students in my class. High school is when I realized that my diagnosis does not define me.
It is significant to note that I excel in my everyday life just like everybody else. I earned my Eagle Scout with no accommodations. I was the Senior Patrol Leader of my troop, I was a section leader of the Saxophones, and I am currently the Executive Producer of our High School’s TV Production called GVTV. These are all roles that people respect me in, and most of them didn’t know about my disability. Asperger’s Syndrome: It’s only a diagnosis.
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. If you have a referral for someone who many want him to speak please reach out as well! Kerry speaks with schools, businesses, government agencies, colleges, nonprofit organizations, parent groups and other special events on topics ranging from employment, how to succeed in college with a learning disability, internal communication, living with autism, bullying prevention, social media best practices, innovation, presentation best practices and much more!