This guest post is by Cameron Muskelly, a young man on the autism spectrum. Cameron will be attending Georgia Perimeter College. Cameron is applying for our Summer 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.
I am Cameron Muskelly. I am from Covington, Georgia and I am nineteen years old. I will start college at Georgia Perimeter College in the fall. I love fossils, rocks, and minerals.
My story isn’t a simple one to tell. It has many parts. I was first diagnosed with a condition called Microcephaly when I was very young. This is when a baby’s head is smaller than average at birth due to abnormal brain development. My mother can recall taking me least seven different psychologists and therapists. Many of them noticed I had problems with communication and interaction. At the age of 10 when phycologist were doing many tests I was finally diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome ( now specified as Autism Spectrum Disorder). It would take me some time to understand what this diagnosis meant and how in the world would I cope with this condition. Living with Aspergers has been a bit of a challenge. I have sensory issues. I am very sensitive to sounds such as alarms. I can’t be in a room with balloons. I am afraid of the noise when they pop. I also have to cover my ears when I walk by the bus land. I don’t like the gas sound when the bus stops. I have to cover my ears when i’m around any kind of am or siren.
I also have meltdowns. These are not as common but they do occur from from time. This happens when I am put into a situation that is too stressful or me and I am taking too much information at once. Schooling was also a bit difficult too.
I faced a lot of bullying throughout school. I was teased in mocked in may places. Middle school was the worst of it. I was pushed, laughed at, was picked up and thrown in a trash can, and also had food thrown at my at the lunch table. The principle didn’t do much about it. I felt like teachers and student thought that I was stupid. With Asperger’s comes intense special interests. Mine was dinosaurs. I was interested in dinosaurs ever since I was three years old. I began to read everything I could on them. In fact, my autistic fixation with dinosaurs is why I was bullied a lot in school. I was introduced to a fossil collection from a 4th grade teacher while I was in the second grade. She had amazing fossils and I was hooked. I began to read everything I could on fossils and later geology.
I also began to collect rocks and minerals. I taught myself how to identify, categorize and classify fossils and rocks. I would spend a lot of my time in libraries in in my room reading books on paleontology and geology. In the 4th grade my mother took me to my first rock and mineral show in Cartersville, Georgia. There, I met my first geologists. They were very impressed on how much I knew about fossils and how I could remember a few chemical formulas of various minerals. I had good teachers in school who supported my interests in geology and paleontology. I was able to teach the class on a few occasions if it was related to the course. I also began to do lectures on the fields of palaeontology and geology. This all started with a video I watched Youtube of a Geology professor making videos on the subject. I thought I would do the same thing. I would set up an old camcorder in my bedroom and would teach about basic geology. This later prepared me for actual professional talks. I have no given talks in many places and I have met a lot of professional geologists and paleontologists. I was treated like I was their own and was respected despite my condition and my age.
I graduated school in on May 27th, 2017. It was such a victorious moment. I now plan to start college in the winter and work on getting my Associates degree in geology. My main goal in life to become a Historical Geologist and Paleontologist. I also would love to be an Autism advocate and give talks on my experiences on growing up on the Autism Spectrum. I am living proof that you can be anything you want to be. You have dreams? By all means go for it. I would to end up with a PhD. will it be hard? 100%. Is it impossible? definitely not.
Kerry Magro, an international 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, one of the only professionally accredited speakers on the spectrum in the country, speak at your next event by contacting him here.