This guest post is by Ryan Matthew Arnold, a young man on the autism spectrum. Ryan will be graduating from Chandler-Gilbert Community College and will soon start at Arizona State University with a major in accounting and a minor in sustainability. Ryan is applying for our Spring 2017 Making a Difference Autism Scholarship via the nonprofit KFM Making a Difference. You can read more about the organization and how to apply for our scholarship here.
When I was 1.5 years old, my parents first thought there was something different about me. They did not understand why I did not talk, and why it seemed like I was not a good listener. I had good problem-solving skills, but I was not a good communicator. After my parents took me to the doctor at age 3, I was diagnosed with high-functioning autism. Then they understood more behind why I did not talk, and why it seemed like I was not a good listener. They kept on loving me very much. In spite of having autism, my parents have done a lot to help me overcome some of my challenges of having autism.
For instance, my parents took me to speech therapy to help me learn how to be a better communicator. I struggled with phonics, so my speech therapist helped me learn good speech through the consonants of “-th”. My paternal grandma was involved with my therapy because she had earned her PhD in special education at Arizona State University in 1988, and wanted to pass her expertise onto me. Not only was she involved with my therapy, she also went to my IEP (Individualized Education Program) meetings after my family moved from Westminster, Colorado to Phoenix, Arizona in June of 2002.
My grandma would advocate for me at my IEP meetings when I was a little boy because she wanted what was the best for me. Not only did she do so much to help me overcome some of my challenges associated with having autism, I also got to spend a lot of time with her in my childhood life.
For instance, I would sometimes split the eggplant parmesan meal with her at an Italian restaurant called Carrabba’s. She was very health-conscious, and set a great example for me in regards to eating healthy. Also, I would sometimes go up to my grandparents’ condo in Prescott and stay overnight there. In addition to the time I spent with my grandma as a child, I have had many other activities that I really enjoy doing.
For instance, I love to walk, read, go to the gym, kayak, decorate cakes, and eat out at restaurants. Cake decorating has been my favorite hobby for a long time. I took my first cake decorating class when I was 11 years old with one of my former habilitation and respite providers. She worked with me for three-and-a-half years, and took me to a lot of different places to help me learn my social skills. In addition to the hard work my former habilitation and respite provider did to help me overcome some of my challenges associated with having autism, I have accomplished a lot of great things in my life.
For instance, when I was a junior in high school, I received an award for being an outstanding exceptional student. I was the hardest worker in my earth science class compared to the other students in that class. My grandma went to see me receive my award for being an outstanding exceptional student because she felt like she was a part of my success in helping me get through school. In addition to an award I received my junior year of high school, the biggest award I have received as a student at Chandler-Gilbert Community College was my business certificate.
When I was taking a business communication class, my business communication professor, Mrs. Nuneviller, suggested to everyone in my class to apply for the business certificate. I took her word on it not only because she was just trying to help me, I also wanted to take advantage of a wonderful opportunity I had while taking my business classes at Chandler-Gilbert. After finishing up my business communications class that semester, I finished up with all of the business classes I needed that following semester to obtain my business certificate. Because of my good grades and hard work I put into the business classes at Chandler-Gilbert, I was awarded the business certificate on December 16, 2016. I am so excited for my bright future ahead of me!
Kerry Magro, an international motivational speaker and best-selling author 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 who travels around the country speaking about his journey on the autism spectrum at your next event by contacting him here.