This guest post is by Alex a young man on the autism spectrum who has been accepted into Bowling Green State University for Aviation. Alex 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 here. Can I ask for a favor? 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 this video below and subscribing to our Youtube page here to get to learn more about the work we do in the community.
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.
It goes without saying that once someone receives a diagnosis that will stay with them for the rest of their life, that person’s life will change in a drastic way forever. This was most definitely my case, and I can still feel and experience the effects the diagnosis has had on me to this day. I have had a crazy journey so far when it comes to my autism diagnosis, and I have no doubt the journey will continue for many years to come.
My name is Alex. I am currently in my senior year at Bishop Watterson High School, a private college preparatory high school. I will be going to Bowling Green State University to study aviation there so I can become a pilot. My story is a little different in that, while getting bullied and people doubting my abilities is a part of my journey, it’s not the most prevalent part of it. The biggest challenge is in how I view myself as someone with an autism diagnosis. The biggest enemy that I have had to face is myself.
Let’s start when I had entered Kindergarten and was beginning my K-8 education at Saint Timothy’s, a private elementary school. Not even a month into the school year, and I was already a problematic student compared to my peers. I would frequently have meltdowns during class for no real good reason, and even for a group of five and six year olds, I was looked at weirdly from within my age group. I was the only one who was abnormal in comparison to my peers. This all eventually led me to getting tested, and the results showed that I had Asperger’s. At the very least there was now an explanation for why I was acting so strangely. As a result, I was promptly put through rigorous therapy sessions to, for a lack of a better term, train me so that when I was older, I could blend in with society and not seem out of the ordinary.
I got additional help with schoolwork, I was trained on how to identify different facial expressions, how to hold a conversation, etc. However, just because there was an explanation for why I was so different, it didn’t make me any less of a target. If anything, it made me more of a target for my peers. Due to the fact I would need to be taken out of the classroom, the fact that tutors would be in the room with me, etc., my peers found me to be very strange. This continued on for some time until things finally began improving when I made it to the fifth grade. My peers, now a little older, began understanding why I was different and why I needed the additional help I received. It took roughly five years, but when I entered fifth grade, I was finally allowed to be friends with my peers. I had also been participating in sports during this time, I was in Boy Scouts climbing through the ranks, and in general, this was the year that things were finally starting to improve.
Things were slowly but surely improving for me during my fifth grade and middle school years as I became more and more independent. I began needing less aids, less time out of the classroom, and overall it seemed as if the intense tutoring I had gone through was beginning to pay off. However, during my junior year of high school, things began to slowly fall apart again. It was in that year where I finally figured out what I wanted to do, become a pilot. However, this was also the year that I noticed something else. I had been more independent than I had ever been in my life. I was at a point where people were surprised to learn I had an autism diagnosis if I disclosed it to them, and those who already knew said that I had made significant gains. And with my dreams of wanting to be a pilot, coupled with the fact I wanted to be independent, I began hating myself for who I was.
I began to resent the fact I had what I called a label attached to me, an asterisk next to my name. I was (and still am) worried about if the aviation industry will be hesitant to hire someone that has a documented diagnosis of autism, and I was done with the aids in the classroom, and done being treated differently because ink on a piece of paper said so.
I truly hated myself for who I was. I only saw the downsides to having my diagnosis. It got to a point where I began looking up cases of people no longer qualifying for an Asperger’s diagnosis having their label removed. They were suddenly deemed as normal because ink on paper said so. And for a period of time that was all I could think about.
Being treated normally without the fear of people thinking of me differently because I had an Autism diagnosis. For about a year or so I was obsessed with this. Thankfully though, during the first half of my senior year, I finally began seeing that having an autism diagnosis wasn’t so bad. I of course still worry about how others will react when I disclose information to them, but overall I now see the positives that come with the diagnosis more so than the negatives. I no longer hate myself for who I am. I’m not happy that I have this diagnosis, but if I can make it work for me, then I can look at my diagnosis, and myself, in a more positive light.
Join us for our Free Workshop “The Transition To Adulthood For Those With Autism” on 4/30 at 8PM where I’ll be talking about topics such as our autism scholarship program – Register at: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_vofL2kFjRBCSHGJ5JcfyVA
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.