This guest post is by Anthony Brey a young man on the autism spectrum who has been accepted into Miami University majoring in computer science. Anthony 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 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 here.
In many ways, I am similar to my Saint Ignatius High School classmates, such as my commitment to service and work ethic. However, one part is different from my peers: my Asperger’s Syndrome diagnosis. Key strengths of mine, and common in Asperger’s Syndrome, are math, science, technology, and musical abilities. I am interested in studying computer science because of my love for technology and math and my skill in easily noticing patterns. I plan to channel that passion into software engineering or bioinformatics.
I am equally passionate about music, playing the trombone for nine years, and my musical ability has grown in high school. I have been dedicated to music by participating in marching band as well as jazz band, pep band, pit orchestra, and liturgical musicians. I love being in band because it has allowed me to make friends and become more social, something hard for people like me with Asperger’s.
At band camp, for example, I got to know many people within two weeks before my freshman year and actually felt comfortable being myself. One senior band member was the head of Nerf club and invited me and other freshmen to participate. Every year after, I had fun getting to know new members. I am very grateful that I joined band; it gave me a group that I consider my family. This is something that I look forward to doing in college, too, which will help me to meet people. The desire to connect and make friends is something that we all have in common.
I have worked hard throughout my school years to overcome challenges that come along with Asperger’s Syndrome which affected me as a student. When I was young, I struggled with reading comprehension, especially fiction. I sometimes had a hard time seeing “the forest through the trees” and would focus on specific details instead of the big picture. Through junior high and high school, I learned how to better approach reading literature from excellent English teachers. My English teachers also helped me to be more clear in my own writing. Another obstacle I faced early on in school was messy handwriting due to issues with fine motor skills. I worked with an occupational therapist to strengthen my fine motor skills and improve my handwriting. In addition, schoolwork had begun to be more electronic with less handwriting involved, which made things easier for me. Group work was also difficult for me in grade school. It seemed easy for my classmates to quickly find a group, and I was sometimes left out. I learned to approach people as quickly as possible. When I realize how far I have come and how much I have accomplished as a student, it truly touches me and makes me proud of myself.
Some of my other challenges include athletics, social skills, and sensitive feelings. From 4th to 8th grade, I ran cross country. However, I was not fast at all. It was a long and sometimes painful journey. Despite my lack of speed, I still was determined and gave it all I had. As a result, I ended up with a personal record of 18 minutes. I learned that it isn’t really you against the other hundred kids and being among the best, it’s you against yourself. Again, this is something that is true for everyone as we all strive to become better. Regarding social skills, there are a few struggles for me. It is hard for me to look people in the eye, and I often look down, especially when I do not know someone well. My verbal and written speech can be quite formal, but I am honestly speaking from my heart. I can also be sensitive, and it is sometimes hard for me to determine whether others are being serious or if they are just messing around. In the past, I often believed the former when my friends made jokes. However, I have a much easier time telling the difference nowadays. People without Asperger’s Syndrome, especially kids, may also struggle with knowing the difference between innocent jokes and mean behavior. I have been open with friends, classmates, and teachers about my diagnosis to help them understand my differences. I even gave a speech about it. When others understand why I might act a certain way, they are more patient, kind, and understanding. I am able to help anyone who meets me to grow in their acceptance of others just by being myself, acknowledging my own differences but also recognizing how much we all have in common.
Because I have some differences, it is easy for me to appreciate differences in other people and accept them for who they are. I make sure to be a kind, compassionate, and gentle friend to everyone I meet, no matter what differences they may have. When you think of others first, you can impact the world around you, whether it is larger society or just one person right in front of you. As a West Side Catholic Center volunteer, I served breakfast each week to people who had nowhere to go. One woman always looked for a bear claw pastry, so I saved one for her until she arrived. She really appreciated that I remembered this. The Center has impacted Cleveland for many years, and I was trying to make a difference in one person’s life by showing her that I cared for her and saw her as a person, even though we are different. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and our differences make us unique. All people want to be part of a community and want to be loved.
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.