This guest post is by Jaiden Varner, a young man on the autism spectrum who was accepted into the Eastern New Mexico Roswell. Jaiden 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.
My name is Jaiden Varner. I am 18 years old and live in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I moved here from Breckenridge, Colorado when I was 10 years old. I lived with my moms until I moved into my own apartment in November 2020. When I was young, I was put in special education because of my behaviors. In second grade, I was diagnosed with an intellectual disability. My teachers thought that I would not succeed in regular classes and they put me in a special class with older kids. When I was in 4th grade, my moms and I moved to Santa Fe. I went to school, but stayed in a special class, this time with kids my age. My teacher, Mr. Stark helped me understand that I could do good things and I was worth something. When I went to middle school, the principal said I should go to the behavior school, Zia, because I hit others. I had a lot of problems with anger in middle school and had to go to 2 treatment centers in Texas. They helped me realize that I wanted to do better. I also talked a lot to the counselor at the behavior school and she listened to me and helped me learn how to handle my anger.
When I left my second treatment, I had some testing that showed I have autism. That helped me understand myself better, and people understand me better now too. I have kept my therapist during middle school and high school and hope to keep talking with her. We talk on the phone now, and I hope to see her in person again soon.
When I was going to go to 9th grade, I went to the freshman orientation with the other kids and my mom was my support person. I learned a lot during the week and my group leader was in ROTC. I have always been interested in military and knew that I wanted to be in ROTC in high school. I also met the football coach in town and started being a football manager—before school even started. My moms always encouraged me and supported me being in activities. I went to my first meeting, education planning, before school started and some of the people said that I should go back to the behavior school because I couldn’t be safe in the high school. My moms and I and Coach Martinez disagreed and finally the school let me start my freshman year. We decided that it was best to have a 1:1 support person to help me with my academics because I couldn’t read well, and to support me if I became frustrated or angry.
Since that freshman year, I have participated in ROTC all 4 years, Football all 4 years and this year, I made the varsity team. I had my first varsity tackle in the first game this year. I also participated in Track and Choir and went to Disneyland with the choir as a freshman. I have been in Senior Mentors this year and Student Leadership in freshman and sophomore years. My support person changed when I was a freshman, but I have been lucky to have Ms. Verle help me the last 3 years. She has helped me with reading, writing, math and other schoolwork, but I have gotten much better. I participate in classes, and during the COVID-19 time, I have done all my work virtually. Ms. Verle has helped me, but I also help her understand the computers. I do not have any extra support for ROTC, Football or other activities and have not had disciplinary actions in high school.
Ms. Verle, my therapist, my family all help me to stay calm, but they always say that I do the “heavy lifting” which means that I am the one who controls my actions. I don’t hit people, damage property or hurt others. I know that if I am angry or mad, I walk away or go for a run. Reading has been difficult, but I learned how to use the computer with voice commands. That has helped me a lot and it lets me work on my homework. I answer most questions and always attend regular classes. It is important to me to be on time and to get my homework finished. I currently have a 4.0 GPA this year, and am proud of my grades. I even tell my sister that I have better grades than she had in school, and she is a nurse now.
I want to learn about Animal Health in College because I have always had dogs and cats at home. To help me be ready for college, my moms rented an apartment for me so that I could get used to cooking and cleaning my own place. I cook some meals, and am learning how to cook new things. I also ride my bike to practices and when I need to go somewhere in town. I haven’t learned the bus routes yet, but when COVID-19 is over, I will learn them.
During my younger years, many people have said that I couldn’t do things like other kids, they even said I shouldn’t be in regular classes or activities. I learned in high school, that if you keep trying and practice, practice, practice, you can accomplish anything. When I graduate in May, I am one of only 31 seniors in my class to receive an Honor Blue Award, which is a very high honor. I had to have a good GPA, be involved in many activities and have teachers recommend me. To all of those who said I couldn’t do something, I am hoping they are at graduation and see me get my award. I have continued to try new things, stay calm and talk with others if I need help. I realized during school, that it is ok to need help, and to ask for it.
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.