This guest post is by Roman Haberli, a young man on the autism spectrum who has been accepted and is attending into NYU for Computer Science. Roman 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 here. Can I ask for a favor? 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 with a small donation (just asking for $3 today, equal to your daily cup of coffee) here.
As crazy as it might seem things were easier for me when I was a child. It never dawned on me that I was different. I was surrounded by people who wanted to engage with me, who read to me, and played with me all day up until my head hit my pillow. When I was younger, I could do those little odd things I loved like bouncing balls, obsessively reading books, and lining my cars up into a precise little row. Fortunately, my inner circle showed me how to take these “quirks” and use them to my advantage. My ball bouncing skills gave me pretty good hand and eye coordination and no doubt played a role in my love to play baseball, it was something I did from tee-ball all the way to playing varsity baseball in high school. It allowed me to feel included, while building my self-esteem. All that time I spent in my room reading books no doubt helped me become a better student and enabled me to focus for long periods of time on subjects that I truly loved. All my autistic traits somehow seemed to work in my favor. What I most enjoyed about my childhood was that no one ever made me feel different, and when I found it difficult to cope because the world around me was too loud or chaotic, I knew I would always have a parent, my brother, a teacher or an aide to help me get through.
When I left for college, I experienced an array of emotions, a bit nervous because the people I had come to rely on were not as close, yet excited by the prospect of meeting new friends. I was eager to learn all I could about computer science and fully understood that the academic curriculum would be difficult but felt up to challenge. I was optimistic, hopeful and ready to go. What I was not prepared for was realizing just how different I appeared to others, it was evident the bubble I had grown up in had burst and I was on my own. I wanted so hard to fit it in but could not find a way to convey to others I was awkwardly shy and struggled with initiating conversations. This was a characteristic of my autism I clearly had not been able to work to my benefit.
Throughout my time in school I must say college life has had its ups and downs; it has been a challenge to navigate my way around. In some ways it has forced me to become a stronger advocate for myself when it comes to my schoolwork yet I still find it difficult to insert myself into a study group without being asked. Learning to use the resources within my school and finding a connection group for students with disabilities has been a great source of comfort and has made my time at school much easier. As difficult as it has been, I recognize that I can rely on myself to find my way. I realize the roadblocks I have encountered at school will be the first of many, most importantly I’ve come to accept the fact that some may find me different but haven’t given up on the idea that I will find my niche.
Recently I was given an opportunity to publicly speak in front of high school students who were disabled about my experience transitioning from high school to college while being on the spectrum. I had never spoken about my autism publicly to anyone, and while I wanted to remain positive, I felt it was my responsibility to be honest about my college experience. Looking back, I wish that someone would have had the same conversation with me before I left for school. Incredibly, what began as a frightening experience for me actually became a positive event. Not only were the students receptive to what I had to say, I walked away feeling like I had made a difference. Maybe I was finally finding my niche.
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.