This guest post is by Nathan Ross, a young man on the autism spectrum who was accepted into Bellevue College. Nathan is applying for the Spring 2021 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.
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.
My life being autistic growing up in society has been confusing. There have been many different things, norms, rules or challenges that came my way that I know seem trivial to the average person. I struggle with these things every day in a way that is almost impossible for a normal human being to understand. Growing up with autism is a challenge. Some things that are frustrating are having to pay attention to things for an extended period of time, getting to work on assignments, and making friends. Whenever I go to a lecture or meeting, it always goes on for at least around an hour. This length of time makes it difficult for me to hold attention and makes my mind wander and miss important details.
When I am tasked with doing an assignment, I have trouble getting into motion to start working, and sometimes need an extra push to get assignments done. This even applies to recreational activities I partake in, as sometimes I have a hard time getting started on an activity. As a person with autism, I struggle with making friends. I never get around to really getting to know someone or interacting with them on a daily basis, and I don’t make it a priority as “normal” people do but wish I could.
Being highly functionally autistic is difficult when it comes to a variety of things, even if those things seem easy to the average person. My autism, although it’s different for everyone, can affect with how you think, with how you act, and how you work. To a “normal person,” being attentive for an extended period of time can be something that is done automatically. But to someone who is autistic, it can be a real chore trying to stay on track for long periods of time especially when the subject is not one that I’m interested in.
Something that has helped me is I have become a self-directed learner. Being a self-directed learner means I have the qualities such as dedication, determination, and being a good problem solver. Being a self-directed learner means it is easier for the people who care for me to support me, simply pointing me in the right direction and advising me what to do. Being a self-directed learner will support me in becoming independent as an adult.
During high school, I chose to be in the International High School at Sheldon. I have enjoyed learning through the international curriculum, however, the program is very rigorous, and there have been a lot of pieces I have had to navigate. For one, there are many group projects, which are hard for me, and I have had to learn how to collaborate with my peers.
In a school setting, I have pushed to work on a team, complete a project which means working really hard to interact with my peers. Some days I find it exhausting and other times I don’t know why it is so hard for me.
One thing that has helped me is I advocate for myself. I reach out to my case manager, I attend office hours with my teachers, and I find multiple ways to acquire the support I need to complete difficult assignments. Whenever I receive a challenging assignment, I find myself going to ask a teacher or my parents to break the assignment down and scaffold it so I can further understand how to deal with it. Another thing I have done is worked on my weakness of not being able to pay attention. When I am required to pay attention to a lecture that I have little interest in, I find that I always struggle to pay attention. This is a recurring problem that I face all the time in school. One strategy is to fidget with a giant rubber band on the legs of my chair.
The hardest thing I get asked to do is write an essay. It is a very tedious task for me since it’s sometimes a subject I don’t favor, has too many words, needs a lot of research, or there’s a lot to do even before I actually write the essay itself. I figure out ways to motivate myself and ask for help. When an essay is scaffolded, it is easier to accomplish the single, easier tasks that are all part of the bigger assignment. But I have learned I must ask for help and that is not a natural thing for me.
There are some things I have learned about how my brain works. I have a hard time keeping attention to things that I find to be “not interesting.” I also struggle with writing essays. But with the help of others and other solid educational strategies, I can handle some very tough projects. I also have had to adapt so I can handle trickier assignments. I’m looking at attending Bellevue College because it has services for me to receive the help I need to be successful and the great Computer Science department. They have a program called Neuro-Diversity Navigators that works with students on the spectrum and with that support I can get my degree and find a job doing what I love, creating video games.
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.