This guest post is by Caitlyn Beth Jung, a young woman on the autism spectrum who has been accepted into Virginia Tech for biomedical engineering. Caitlyn 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 one guy trying to make a big difference for people with autism via this program. With that I hope you will take a minute to consider making a donation to our scholarship fund here so we can keep it running moving forward (the majority of our scholarship program is ran through donors from our community such as yourself so no matter if you could donate anything, whether it be $5 anywhere up to $5,000 it would be making a difference!).
Growing up with autism brings its challenges as well as highlights, many of which non-autistic people never get to experience.
For a majority of my life I didn’t have the diagnosis of autism, 88% to be exact. Only in this last 12% of my life have I been able to truly understand why I function in the way that I do. From the constant mind-wandering, puzzles, and digits of pi flowing through my brain.
I can remember being young while playing with my dolls and I wouldn’t change their outfits unless the dolls came with that outfit. The dolls could only wear the outfits that were theirs.
When it came time to go to sleep the Disney Princess blanket that I slept with had to be the “hair way,” meaning that the princess’ head had to be close to my head and their feet close to my feet. There are many more little things that had to be done in a certain way in order for me to function.
Like many others, my autism had impacted my education. It has made some aspects, such as group projects and public speaking very difficult, but has made other parts easy. For instance, in second grade we had a math quiz. Due to my hyperfocusing I was able to see the two sets of directions on the quiz. I was the only one to notice the extra set of directions, therefore causing me to be the only person to pass the quiz.
Years later in sixth grade the loom of March 14th came. The pi reciting competition would be in full effect and I wanted to be the kid to win a single slice of pie. To do so I needed to memorize the most digits of pi amongst our entire grade. My autistic brain allowed me to find patterns within pi that aren’t there. I was quickly remembering the digits with little to no difficulty. I would memorize the digits everywhere from the car, to lunch, to the dinner table. However, my parents quickly became annoyed with the endless amounts of numbers that were spilling out of my mouth to the point they had to make a rule of “no pi at the table.” Even with this new rule I still won the competition. I ended up reciting 205 digits from memory. My closest competition was over 100 digits away. I did all of this for a slice of pie (not to mention I don’t really like pie).
Over the following summer I spent a week at girl scout camp. I brought all the necessary camp supplies such as bug spray and an algebra 1 textbook. During the camp where I was supposed to be baking cakes I spent my free time teaching myself algebra from a textbook I bought. Needless to say I was kinda seen as a geek, to the point I got the nickname Einstein. Now looking back I see it was just a way to limit social conversations with unfamiliar people.
In the loom of starting high school I found myself itching to be the valedictorian, and what I like many autistic people do, is make a list. I listed what grade I would take each of the necessary classes to graduate, become top of my class, and the grades I would receive in said classes. One thing stood in my way. The guidance department. When I told them that I wanted to take AP Biology my freshman year they promptly told me I couldn’t because I wouldn’t have completed honors biology beforehand. I came to realize my school offered honors biology, online, the summer prior to my freshman year. I signed up immediately. Upon completing the course I went back to guidance and had them put me in the AP Biology course. To this day I haven’t deviated from my list of classes.
Kerry Magro, a professional speaker and best-selling author who is also on the autism spectrum 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 sending him an inquiry here. If you have a referral for someone who many want him to speak please reach out as well! Kerry speaks with schools, businesses, government agencies, colleges, nonprofit organizations, parent groups and other special events on topics ranging from employment, how to succeed in college with a learning disability, internal communication, living with autism, bullying prevention, social media best practices, innovation, presentation best practices and much more!
We’d also appreciate if you could take a minute to create a Facebook Fundraiser to support our nonprofit’s scholarship fund! You can learn more about how you can do just that here.