This guest post is by Lauren Roth who is a senior at Carmel High School who will be attending Ball State University in the Fall 2017 to study Special Education. She is active in her community. She participated in Carmel Marching Greyhounds and has over 210 volunteer hours at various organizations. Lauren is applying for our Spring 2017 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.

A few days ago, my younger sister with ADHD came home from school and reported that her classmates made fun of her for stuttering while reading. I feel bad about it. Not just because she’s my sister, but also because they wouldn’t have picked on her if they knew me. Her stuttering comes and goes, and compared to the habits I had as a younger teenager, that’s nothing. When I was seven years old, I was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism used to make it difficult for me to communicate and interact with others. Although I am “high-functioning”, when I was younger, I had some unusual habits because of autism.

In elementary school, I would often communicate by writing my thoughts with my fingers in the air instead of paper. I often forgot the rule about no skipping or running in the halls. In fifth grade, in 2009, I got my own bedroom. Even though I eventually got used to it, I couldn’t have been more scared the first few nights. I had read a book of scary poems the first night and one picture scared the heck out of me! In eighth and  ninth grades, I repeated lines from movies and TV shows, informing my family about what we watched and what happened, rather than original thoughts that came from my own head, which was what they all wanted to hear.

In middle school, we learned about the negative effects of smoking, alcohol and drugs, so I became militant against people who do these things. My dad is a former personal trainer, and my family rarely eats fast food, so I also became militant about people eating at McDonald’s. I had another habit of making irrational comments such as: “Since so-and-so is (doing something that I had no interest in doing myself), I must do this also” or “I’m never going to be able to (do something I want to do).”

In the spring of 2015, the second half of my sophomore year, I met a behavioral consultant who helped me break these habits. She recommends activities to help me prepare for college and my future. Autism still mildly affects me — I tend to have trouble being social and sometimes I laugh when it is not appropriate. I have learned techniques and strategies to use when I have the urge to laugh and nothing funny is going on (because if that’s the case and I laugh, other people will think I’m laughing at them). The strategy that helped was pressing my lips together. Now, when in public and I feel the urge from my endorphins to laugh, I can avoid it.

Autism is a neurological disorder, but not many people understand it. During my junior year, I took a Child Development class. Our teacher assigned a brochure project on a birth defect of our choice. One student did hers on autism, which, honestly, offended me a little! However, I was proud that I didn’t show it. Many people with autism see it as a gift, such as Dr. Temple Grandin, who has revolutionized the beef processing industry through her knowledge of cattle behavior. In 2011, I was honored to meet her at a lecture, and she taught me how to shake hands with people.

Despite obstacles due to autism, I have never given up. I am now a seventeen-year-old Carmel High School senior. I have been in the marching band for four years. I do community service for several non-profit organizations. I have logged over 210 volunteer hours since the beginning of ninth grade. I have become a Bat Mitzvah and completed my Jewish Confirmation classes. I do not let my disorder stop me from being the best I can!

I have also won some awards. In 2015, I won an award from my synagogue for having the most volunteer hours in my confirmation class. That summer, I was selected to participate in the Youth Leadership Forum and stayed for a week at a local college. We met the Governor, learned how a bill is passed, learned about public policy, health, fitness, college, careers, and so on. We also attended the signing of a bill that removed the word “retarded” from Indiana law. In 2016, at the end of junior year, I won the AVID Positive Attitude award. And, in November 2016, our marching band won the Grand Nationals Championship.

I am now a seventeen-year-old Carmel High School senior. I do community service with the Autism Society of Indiana and other organizations. I have logged over 210 volunteer hours since the beginning of ninth grade. I do not let my disorder stop me from being the best I can! Even though I am very introverted, I get along with my whole family and I am a hard worker.

I want to attend college so that I can have a fulfilling career. I am interested in working with children, and I believe I can be an inspiration to them and their parents because of my own experiences in special education. I have done several things to prepare for my career with children. I have taken ukulele and clowning lessons. I have worked as a peer facilitator in a Life Skills classroom. I am now working in the preschool at my high school. I have taken Child Development classes, done 4-H projects in this subject, and I have also been employed as a teacher’s aide at my synagogue for several years.

So, today, autism does not define me. I have met these challenges throughout my school years and have no doubt that I will succeed in college as well. I may even do better than peers who have not had to deal with an obstacle like this. I may have autism, but it definitely does not have me!

-Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.- (2)

Kerry Magro, an international motivational speaker and best-selling author 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 who travels around the country speaking about his journey on the autism spectrum at your next event by contacting him here