This guest post is by Sam Kirkpatrick, a young man on the autism spectrum who has been accepted and will be attending into Southern Maine Community College.  Sam 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 would appreciate you taking a minute before reading on to watch the video below to see why this cause is important to me. 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 here.

My mother always pushed me out of my comfort zone. My first answer to every request was always no so I suppose I gave her no choice. I wasn’t willingly going to try anything new on my own. Since I was not diagnosed with Aspergers until I was 17 years old, I didn’t know that the struggles I had growing up were because of my Aspergers. As I reflect back over the years, I can remember moments in my life that now become more clear as I learn more about my diagnosis. Things just make more sense now.

Whenever I had meltdowns as a kid, which happened quite a lot, my mother would get frustrated when I couldn’t explain to her what was wrong. As a result, I would just shut down which made the situation harder. When it was happening, I physically couldn’t explain what was wrong and I didn’t have the words. This in turn made her more frustrated and I got more upset. It was a tense cycle trying to navigate a very sensory commanding world.

As I grew up, I had to learn to coping mechanisms. I had to learn to understand what would cause me to get anxious and act out. It was a difficult process to identify my feelings, but my mother was a source of support by helping me learn. I knew that life was going to get increasingly difficult if I was going to keep acting the same way. As I got older I started maturing and having fewer meltdowns. I am now finally able to stop and breathe before I react to a situation. Finding the words to explain what is going on inside my head was, and still is, extremely hard to identify.

In school I was, and still am, a good student. I am a master at masking any symptoms or triggers outside of my home and I have flown right under the radar for 17 years in the educational system. I do my work, although I am not the best planner. My executive functioning skills are my weakest link. Over the years, I have had good behavior in school and I am well liked by my peers and my teachers. Having undiagnosed learning disabilities has made my work in the classroom harder than my peers. I didn’t know that I was working harder, it was my normal. Studies in the classroom have not come easy as I have had to work hard my whole life. If anything, it has given me an internal desire to succeed.

I am still very much an introvert and talking to people gives me anxiety. I prefer the quiet solitude of my room and my gaming friends online. When I was younger, I craved the difficulties of building lego sets and I had a dream of learning how to design and build lego sets for a living. I have gotten better over the years about talking to people and doing things outside of my comfort zone. I’ve learned that in life there are things I just need to put forth a great effort and do because it’s necessary.

When I was a child, I always had to be the first one at any event we would go to, even family events. Showing up to an event where there are already people would be an anxiety trigger. Whenever we went somewhere I would always make my mom take us early, but if we showed up and there were lots of people there I wouldn’t get out of the car. It was something I can look back on now and describe it as a crippling anxiety. Idon’t actually have meltdowns if there are lots of people already at an event now, but I do still like being early. I am normally at least 15 minutes early when showing up to anything.

If I had found out about my Aspergers earlier on in life I am not sure it would have changed anything for me to be honest. I believe my parents may have been more understanding, but I am the man I am today because I had them behind me pushing me out of my comfort zone. I managed to make it 17 years without knowing about Aspergers and I could have made it the rest of my life without having an official diagnosis. Not knowing has made me into the person that I am today and even though there have been struggles, I have had the best outcome.

My desire to go to college to study Engineering started with my love of building legos as a child. I am excited to get to college and explore the different paths of Engineering so I can fine tune my desired career. I love math and exploring the mechanics of how things work and I am anxious to see what the next phase in my life has to offer.

Join us during World Autism Month by RSVPing here for our ‘A Night For Celebrating Our Autism Community Virtual Event’ on April 20th where we will be spotlighting several members of our autism community like our scholarship applicants!

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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.