This guest post is by Lauren Gill, a young woman on the autism spectrum who has been accepted into and will be attending Grove City College where she will be pursuing an Early Education major and minoring in Special Education! Lauren 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 trying to make this nonprofit self-sufficient so I can make this my full-time job supporting the special needs community and could use your help. Learn more on how you can help our cause here.
A Puzzle Within a Puzzle
Most puzzles contain between one thousand and forty thousand pieces to make up the tapestry of an artistic expression. Within each puzzle is a piece that is essential to completing the entire work. Without it, the design would ultimately fail. Sometimes that piece is misplaced during the creation, causing confusion and unrest while it remains separate from its intended purpose. However, once found, it creates an image that illuminates a full picture. My autism is my unique piece and it has the complexity of a jigsaw, the frustration of a crossword, and ultimately, the stimulating joy of a solved Rubik’s cube.
Like bright lettered building blocks tumbled on the ground, my brain was scattered upon entering kindergarten. Blue jeans did not feel right, math was a menace, and the slightest noise was overwhelming. I was different; but could not make sense of it. Each person; each puzzle piece had their own grouping where edges merged, while mine was lost among the carpet threads. In fourth grade, others formed their acquaintances by talking and giggling at a screen held in the palm of their hands. I did not have a tiny screen, and could not relate to what they found amusing. Each attempt to make friends resulted in my piece being cast to the side. The dynamics of friendship were confusing. They had their own ridges and rhythm to fit in to the walls of the coherent picture. I could not discern the pattern, yet somehow everyone else seemed to understand. In Middle School, the walls expanded and some parts went unnoticed while groups formed without my participation. Like the discarded piece lost between the cushions, the edges begin to change. I morphed into someone that loved literature and with an inquisitive mind. While others took comfort in gossiping and joining sports, I was reading tales of misfits and adventurous heroes. The cardboard that backed my shiny veneer was stitched with determination to succeed no matter the cost. Through High School, I sought to achieve my fullest potential, while some felt the need to coast. Sensing my blueprint was different; I realized a need to switch schools. Suddenly, it became clear that my piece was originally mixed and misplaced in the wrong box. With change, matches became possible and friendships became a reality. I had finally found a small cluster of others that likewise posed insightful questions and had a quirky sense of humor. Each of these new parts was different but managed to intertwine among the walls of my private school. Clubs, theater, and TV production became possibilities instead of threats. Now I could build the confidence that led me to pursue a job and contribute in ways that were previously unthinkable. I was a valued team member called upon to lead by example. My part was recovered from the cushion and appreciated as a key component of a complex landscape.
Each person can be described as an enigma, or a riddle where their interactions can bewilder, perplex and baffle those who do not fully understand. Autism is no exception. It was not until my guidance counselor informed me of my positive impact on the school that the last piece fell into place. I wanted to pursue early and special education, but was unclear if this new venture was within reach. With the opening of my acceptance letter, the final image came into sharp focus. There were visions of helping other students to find their place, much like my own tangle with the autistic puzzle.
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!