This guest post is by Joshua Mack, a young man on the autism spectrum who has been accepted and will be attending Trident Technical College, majoring in Civil Engineer Technology. Joshua is applying for the Spring 2019 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. You can help our scholarship program continue to help these students by making a donation to our scholarship fund here (the majority of our scholarship program is ran through donors from our community such as yourself so no matter if you could donate anything, whether it be $5 anywhere up to $5,000 it would be making a difference!).
On December 22, 1992, at 2:34 pm a seven-pound little boy was born to proud first-time parents Shirlene and Joseph Mack. Little did they know the challenges that they were going to face as a couple and new parents. All the “normal” things took place, like first words, steps, and a birthday. However, around eighteen months old, life was taking them down another pathway.
At eighteen months old, I started losing the ability to communicate, my social skills and cognitive abilities began to diminish, and I had odd stereotypical behavioral issues. They sought out professional advice, assessments, and examinations, but were told that it was not unusual for boys to regress in their development. However, I eventually became diagnosed with Complex Partial Seizures at four years old, March 1997 and then on October 3, 1997, two and a half months before my fifth birthday; I was finally diagnosed with autism and later other disabilities. Nevertheless, my parents addressed these concerns with speech and language, aquatic, occupational, sensory integration, music, play, vision, and auditory integration training therapies. My mother gave up her career as a registered nurse to involve me in an intensive ABA Program in our home for forty hours plus a week that she named “Treasures of Hope and Faith.” I was homeschooled for my preschool, first, second, and the latter half of my fifth-grade years, as well as my sixth and seventh-grade years.
I had to overcome many obstacles related to my disability, such as loss of my understanding of language and speech, eye contact, repetitive movements like rocking, spinning, hand flapping, turning the light switch on and off. Additionally, I watched the ceiling fan spin for extended periods and watched the steam rising from boiling water. I spent time lining up objects, spinning the wheels on my trains, I sprinkled sand along my peripheral vision and was unable to tolerate large groups of people. I was susceptible to sounds, touch, taste, texture, and could not tolerate water touching my body. My parents decided that one of the goals for me was to be able to function in the “normal” society when they were no longer around. However, I am glad to say they are still here with me. Therefore, they exposed me to everything that I had a hard time tolerating. They never took “no” for an answer from me, teachers, professionals, etc. I am so happy that they did not give up on me because I know this to be true because my younger sister was diagnosed with PPD-NOS at around the age of three.
I communicated by pointing at things and making sounds. To grow off of this, my parents and speech therapists taught me basic sign language, so I would have another way to communicate. Also, I used a picture exchange system and social stories as time went on for communication. I also repeated people’s words like a parrot. As I matured, my parents bought a Crespeaker Maxx and a portable one for me to use to help me communicate with others. I had to use an FM Auditory training device, which I still use today in college.
My parents have always instilled in me the belief that anything is possible as long as I knew where my strength came from and believed in myself. I was never told that I could not do anything; however, instead, it was instilled in me that the more you practice, the better you get at whatever goal you set to achieve. Was it easy? No, I have had to overcome numerous challenges. As a result, I have experienced success every day of my life.
Some of my accomplishments are being a member of Fort Dorchester High School (FDHS) Strings Orchestra for four years, and in my senior year, I performed with the College of Charleston Orchestra. I believe that is a result of music therapy from when I was younger. I volunteered as a student teacher assistant with the Dorchester District II School’s Gifted and Talented Education for Artistic Youth Program; this was a program that I was a part of third-fifth and eighth grades. I was a student member of the FDHS FIRST Robotics Team 342 as a mechanical/electrical engineer sub-team member. I was Patriot freshman of the year in high school. I have received academic and music awards in high school. I have received academic awards such as the Dean’s List School of Civil Engineering Technology. The most remarkable success in my life is my relationship with Jesus. My parents were told that I would never understand the concept of God or Jesus. Also, I would probably be institutionalized by my teenage years. However, I developed a relationship with Jesus, and this has led to me experiencing academic success throughout my education and positive relationships with others.
I am now a freshman at Trident Technical College and continue to have the support of my family. I have not had any seizures, since my freshman high school year. I had to overcome numerous obstacles, but I continue to keep the “Faith” that all things will work out for me. Additionally, I am very much aware of the challenges I still have today. However, deep in my heart, I believe if I take what my parents have instilled in me that I will continue to have success in life. I continue to educate myself about my disabilities, and I have a support system in place. I hope to inspire other individuals on the Autism Spectrum to believe that anything is possible.
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!
We’d also appreciate if you could take a minute to create a Facebook Fundraiser to support our nonprofit’s scholarship fund! You can learn more about how you can do just that here.