This guest post is by Eric Pastore a young man on the autism spectrum who was accepted into Washington & Jefferson College. Eric 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.
Hyperlexia. It’s a word most people have never heard of, let alone know what it means. It’s what I was diagnosed with when I was 5. It made me who I am today.
My parents first noticed something different about me when I was 12 months old. My favorite toy was a number puzzle, and I would line the numbers up. I could recognize the letters and name them. Then came the alphabet, and by the time I was 2, I would read. Except, I wasn’t talking the way other 2 years old did.
I was diagnosed with autism when I was 3. The doctor said I would struggle for the rest of my life. A private preschool rejected me because they couldn’t handle my behaviors. A behaviorist told my parents that I would stop learning someday. They refused to believe that. After searching the internet, they found a group of parents with children who exhibited the same signs of autism: fascination with letters and numbers, early reading skills, autism… it had a name. Hyperlexia.
While many experts believe this to be a splinter skill, I have realized that hyperlexia is the way my brain works. And along with its many amazing gifts, it has presented me with challenges. An inability to cope with perfectionism, lack of social skills, meltdowns, outbursts, just to name a few. I’ve had hours of speech, occupational, and physical therapy. I’ve had special education services throughout school. I’ve had a one-on-one therapist follow me through my classes to help me calm down when I meltdown and help me navigate through the irrational thoughts that plague my brain.
With the love and support of my family, I’ve overcome expectations. I joined the high school band and made friends. I participated in community theater and starred as the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz. I’ve earned a 4.25 GPA while taking honors classes in mainstream high school. I was accepted into the National Honor Society. I’ve lived through remote school and will graduate this spring from high school. This fall, I’ll attend Washington & Jefferson College with a major in computer science. I would never have been able to achieve these goals without the constant support of a team of family, friends, teachers, and therapists who never gave up on me. They never let me down.
Hyperlexia is just a diagnosis, but it doesn’t define me. My hope is that others with the same disability will look up to me as a role model and realize that there is hope. My advice to others would be to remember that even though we do things differently, we are still capable of greatness. We may develop more slowly, but we will get there. Don’t give up when things get hard, and it’s okay to stop and cry. Better days are ahead. We are all a work in progress.
My hope is that experts will begin to recognize that hyperlexics are part of the autism spectrum, and parents out there searching for answers may find others out there just like their son or daughter. I am proof that it takes a village; some villages are just bigger than others.
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.