This guest post is by Cullen Freeman, a young man on the autism spectrum who was accepted into High Point University. Cullen 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.
For a person on the outside looking in at my life, they might see me as a kid that lives a privileged life. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have caring parents and some natural strengths that I am extremely grateful for. However, what most people don’t know is I have Asperger’s Syndrome, which has caused many obstacles in my life.
Many children on the autism spectrum develop specialized interests and strive to learn everything they can about their chosen subject, mine was sports. I memorized players’ stats and had a knack for remembering the outcome of every game. I started playing on organized teams at age 4, however, because of Asperger’s my motor skills were developmentally behind my peers but I compensated by practicing more and developing my knowledge of the game. Later, I became easily frustrated because my younger brother and other kids were better than me, and I couldn’t understand why things came so easily for them.
After several years of therapy, I no longer felt different from other kids. I admit while I was receiving treatment I did feel different, but I was so innocent that
I didn’t understand the therapies were not normal. My parents tried to make me feel normal. They would say, “every kid has things they need to develop and work on and this is your thing”. They ensured my treatments didn’t interfere with me playing sports as they understood it was my passion and a way for me to connect with people.
Unlike sports, school had initially come easily for me; I had an exceptional memory and was able to achieve success with little effort. In junior high that changed, school wasn’t coming easily for me and I saw my friends getting similar grades with minimal effort. I wanted to give up! Around this same time, I also realized there was a stigma associated with having Asperger’s and it made me different from other kids. It was something I wanted to pretend wasn’t a part of me. High school was looming and I really wanted to understand who I was.
Sports were still my passion. I played baseball and soccer along with being a kicker for the football team. Through lots of hard work and practice I made it to the highest-level baseball team. I wanted the same with soccer. After many years of trying and being passed over I finally made a high-level soccer team. With the help of an amazing coach I played almost every minute of every game that season. The team went on to win a state title and I was the MVP.
In high school, I have broadened my interests by participating in the Investment Club, DECA, and National Honor Society. I achieved some success, however as my senior year was closing in I was feeling angry and frustrated. I still had to work so much harder than other kids, and it felt unfair.
My mom recommended I talk to someone. I wanted to say no; I was tired of these struggles. Eventually, I agreed and revealed to someone how I was feeling. She listened and shared some wisdom that stuck; “embrace the struggle, embrace yourself”. Her words caused me to think about how far I’ve come; how with my diagnosis the odds of success were against me, yet I had succeeded. I realized how the idea of nothing coming easy for me is just part of who I am. I now embrace my past and no longer feel stigma around who I am. I am confident I will reach where I want to go; I will just have to work harder than others and it will probably take me longer, but I will get there. It’s just part of my journey, and I am okay with it! It’s what makes me special.
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.