This guest post is by Andrew Arboe, a young man on the autism spectrum who was diagnosed with autism 8 and now has been accepted into Charter Oak State College for Psychology. Andrew 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. While many nonprofits have hundreds of volunteers fundraising for their nonprofit, I’m just one guy trying to make a big difference for people with autism via this program. With that I hope you will take a minute to consider making a donation to our scholarship fund here so we can keep it running moving forward (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!).
My name is Andrew Arboe and I am an adult on the autism spectrum. I work in many jobs as a job coach, event facilitator, clinician and peer mentor in the autism community, but I am an autism advocate. In my experience, I followed a more stereotypical path until I turned 21 and faced “The Cliff”, which made me confront the reality of being an adult. This is my journey.
In my early days, I always had a history of stereotypical behaviors. I would repeat a lot of phases from TV shows, video games and movies. I laughed a few times during more inappropriate situations. I had noticeable anxiety with a perfectionist streak. Then I had a rather low motivation towards the big picture, which is developing your own life. I just followed what my school district and my dad told me to do. Not to say there were not positives, there were a bunch of good times. I developed an interest in movies, video games, cooking and made some friends I can count on. Eventually I was in a post high school program and I was doing good. I did some courses in a community college and I was emerging as a force to be reckoned. Then that changed when I turned 21.
Before I aged out of the post high school program, I had a freak out moment. I realized that I really did not had a plan and my idea of being a chief backfired. Seeing others in my crowd usually made me feel down and I’ll make it a point to learn from them. I went to my state’s vocational agency and successfully got a job through them and the moment I got papers from them. It was not flattering, and it felt like my old self was a lie. I remember being so lost with no idea of the next step to go. It got worse as I discovered the adult aspect of autism. From employment statistics, to adult agencies and so on. Even actual autism groups, I felt out of place. It felt like I had to make a major choice on just staying the same or find a path where I could do a difference. I picked the second choice and things changed for the better. I discovered that my own experiences could empower the autism community and I ended up getting an associate degree in Disability Specialist and work in several jobs helping the community. I also got my driver’s license, which got rid of most job restrictions on the transportation piece.
I have learned major themes in my adult life that I use to share my views in this world. For anyone living in the world with autism, they must be proactive on everything. I notice the trend where people do everything for the individual with autism without them trying and doing a task. It is a horrible idea because eventually, it is up for the individual to provide for themselves. Even if they are getting state services and having to be part of waitlists, they must be doing something during that time. Again, parents are not going to be around forever, so the individual must make their own choices. This aspect of myself is why I went to school and got my license. It drove me to do amazing feats. The second theme is accepting perspectives and embracing the gray areas of life. I learned by my own experiences is that to better yourself, you must accept perspectives. I found that thinking in black and white did no favors for me. I saw in groups and communities where that mindset becomes consumed by groupthink and how one difference is seen as a threat. Unfortunately, the autism community has its divisions between the medical, self-advocacy, and other groups. I swore that I will never submit to it and keep seeking perspectives as much as possible, even if it hurts so much. The third and last theme is destroying stereotypes. Years ago, I thought that most on the spectrum usually get jobs relating to math and IT/computers, and anything jobs having to be social is out of the question. As I decided my career field, I thought I was the loner. Then meeting with people who went the same field I am, it changed my mindset. I realized that keeping fields limited for individuals with autism is downright silly. Trying to do this to a regular crowd of people and that would not go well. Everyone is so different, so this is not a one size fits all. Therefore, I make sure in my job coaching that I respect every person I work with is different and I shall do everything I can to support and encourage their employment growth.
In the long run, I want to keep engaging myself in the autism field. I want to join large organizations in my state to really make a difference. I am not letting education level keep me away from organizations I love. I already seeing positive effects of all my past to recent experiences shaping me into who I am today. I just want to be proactive and prove myself as capable to change the world.
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.