This guest post is by Bobby Anderson Fitzgerald, a young man on the autism spectrum who has been accepted and will be attending Florida Southern College majoring in Political Science and Pre-Law.
My name is Robert Anderson Fitzgerald, but everyone just calls me Bobby. I am a Senior at Brookfield High School. I am a member of CT KASA (Kids As Self Advocates). I will be attending Florida Southern College this Fall. I want to be a lawyer and help people like me who face challenges getting through their daily life.
I Am Resilient! I was born 13 weeks early and spent four months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). I weighed 2 lbs 1 ounce. My mom told me the nurses were constantly telling her that I was strong and a fighter. When I started preschool I was having trouble seeing, I was on oxygen for 9 months after birth and they said I may need glasses someday. This was the day. In middle school the glasses started giving me headaches. They checked my eyes and I no longer needed them.
I Am Resilient! In preschool I was diagnosed with Sensory Integration Disorder. Loud sounds would startle me. I still startle when I am focused on a project or an assignment any loud sound can make me jump. This eventually became ADHD, or as the Doctor that diagnosed me called it ADD-H. He believed that I might outgrow the hyperactivity component. I went through trying out many different medicines to help me stay focused and still be myself. I started taking Okinawan Seidokan Karate when I was five to help with my focus. I earned a yellow belt.
I Am Resilient! In Kindergarten, I was toe walking and tripping. We found out I had Cerebral Palsy on my right side. I had leg braces for both legs as I was growing. I could move better with them. I was climbing the spider web and rock wall on the playground. I could take them off when I was training for Karate class and late in Taekwon Do after we moved to CT.
I Am Resilient! We moved to CT and they started treating my right leg with Botox injections. I got three over three years. This was to help my hamstrings become a little more flexible. I also had to go for months of physical therapy after each Botox injection. In seventh grade I went to Farmington for a Gait Study to see if surgery could help me more. The summer before eighth grade they operated on my right leg. They cut into the medial hamstring and my quad, and inserted 8-plates on either side of my knee cap and over the front growth plate to slow it down. They also moved my knee cap into the correct position. I started running to challenge my leg to adjust and work more normally. Seven months later I earned my 2nd degree Black Belt in Taekwondo.
I Am Resilient! All through middle school I had trouble writing. I would have so many ideas, but I was never able to get them all down on paper. I would get so frustrated! My mother tried for three years to get a neuropsychological evaluation approved by the district. She wanted to see if we could figure out if my difficulty writing was neurological or psychological. It never got approved. She noticed that it was like I had a disconnect between the thoughts and me being able to get them down on paper. My father noticed and said that my brain worked faster at getting the ideas that I could writing them down. We tried programs where I spoke to the computer and it typed for me, but I was still having trouble with it understanding me because my CP created challenges in my pronouncing “th” and “f” sounds (when I get tired, they almost sound the same). My mom would type what I said into the computer and I would edit after the typing was done and correct grammar and spelling.
I Am Resilient! In my freshman year of high school they finally gave us permission to get the Neuro-psych evaluation. It all came about after I was having trouble with a teacher in my honors science class. She didn’t think I belonged there. In spring of my freshman year, about a month before I turned 16, I was diagnosed with Autism, High Functioning Autism. The doctor went on to say that it takes me longer to learn things because I process information more slowly that my typical peers, but once I learn something I will likely never forget it. It is also what makes social situations more challenging for me, even though I am a friendly guy.
I Am Resilient! I loved volunteering to help kids with special needs and teach them before my Taekwondo gym closed last year. I love working with everyone at New Milford’s Special Olympics’ Team. I have loved running Cross Country and Track at my high school in Brookfield. I love going to the dances and being social. I have given 2 speeches on Special Education Day at the Capitol in Hartford about Special Education and Advocacy and how they have affected my life.
I Am Resilient! My Autism, Cerebral Palsy, and ADHD do not define me! The path I create for myself and my future defines who I am and will be!
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!