This guest post is by John Bronzi, a young man on the autism spectrum who has been accepted and will be attending Arizona State University majoring in Computer Science. John is applying for the Spring 2019 Making a Difference Autism Scholarship via the nonprofit KFM Making a Difference. You can read more about the organization and how to apply for our scholarship here. You can help our scholarship program continue to help these students by making a donation to our scholarship fund here (the majority of our scholarship program is ran through donors from our community such as yourself so no matter if you could donate anything, whether it be $5 anywhere up to $5,000 it would be making a difference!).
It took an intensely specific and fortunate combination of circumstances for me to even communicate, let alone compose this essay. That is because I have Asperger Syndrome. However, I believe having such a condition is in fact a good thing. People who are uninformed in regard to autism sometimes think that it is extremely debilitating to be on the spectrum, but I personally feel that it is more of a blessing than a curse. Autism Spectrum Disorder is basically the brain being inclined towards different priorities. Of course, there are challenges that come with the disorder, but there are also benefits to it. Even the parts of Asperger Syndrome that people fear have ultimately shaped me for the better.
Those who do not have close associations with people who have autism-related disorders sometimes assume that people with autism have savant abilities. I feel that such stereotypes are unreliable at best; every person on the spectrum has different talents and interests just as neurotypical people do. That said, in my case, the ability to focus on specific, detailed concepts seems to have manifested in my experience with mathematical and scientific studies. I am also a fairly creative person, able to come up with concepts and refine them to a high level of detail. Socially, Asperger syndrome presents more difficulties, but I draw some benefits even from those challenges.
I went through a rigorous therapy schedule as a toddler, overcoming difficulties in language and sensory issues. As I went into preschool and eventually elementary school, I became involved in self-advocacy as well, attending my own IEP meetings, bringing along some cute little PowerPoint 2007 presentations I put together. Through this, my parents, teachers, and therapists all helped me learn how to deal with problems I barely understood. All this support let me see how much other people help someone get to where they are, which I hope has kept me grounded and grateful. As the years have gone by, I have also found that with the people closest to me, Asperger syndrome rarely influences the actual dynamic of my interpersonal relationships; Whatever aspects of it influence me seem to have melted into my personality and I imagine interactions I have with other people are ultimately not any more “unusual” than those solely between neurotypical people.
I still deal with a number of difficulties from my disorder. I have pretty unusual motor functions (I do not hold a pencil so much as squeeze it with my thumb and pointer finger), I find it difficult to socialize effectively, I have some minor sensory quirks, and I focus a bit too much on stuff I am passionate about without even realizing it. Even still, I would almost certainly refuse a hypothetical “cure” to autism-related disorders. Both through benefits to reap and challenges to overcome, I feel like Asperger Syndrome has ultimately helped me to grow as a person and become an integral part of who I am, which ultimately makes me feel blessed to be on the spectrum.
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!
We’d also appreciate if you could take a minute to create a Facebook Fundraiser to support our nonprofit’s scholarship fund! You can learn more about how you can do just that here.