This guest post is by Christopher Upton, a young man on the autism spectrum who has been accepted and hopes to attend St. John’s University. Chris 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!).
We all face challenges in life, and my personal challenge is living with Aspergers Syndrome. I face these challenges every day and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.
My journey began when I was four years old and was enrolled in a Catholic School Pre-K program. The school felt it was not an appropriate place for me. I was asked to leave and was placed in P.S 37 which is a school for severely disabled children. While there I was struck or bitten by the other children daily which interfered with my progress since I was the most verbal student in the school. This lasted only a few months because my mother fought to get me into a school better suited to my individual needs.
Next, I transferred to Tendercare Preschool and it was there I made my first friend who asked me to have play dates with him. He was understanding of my differences, probably because he had a cousin who was severe. At Tendercare I had many supportive teachers and therapists who assisted me develop academic and social skills .
Later, we learned about a therapy that could potentially help. The only School on Staten Island that had this program was at P.S. 4. There were 1,500 children turning five and only eight available seats. I was lucky enough to get one of those seats! I had an amazing group of teachers from elementary school all the way through high school. They all worked very hard with me and taught me self awareness, impulse control, empathy and so much more. I went from being referred to as the Tasmanian Devil when I entered kindergarten to now being a high school senior with over a ninety cumulative average looking at colleges. Through a lot of hard work and sacrifices from all involved I have come a very long way. My sacrifices are the lack of spare time and summers off. I had to go to school and therapy for 12 months a year. I must work harder to concentrate. My parents’ sacrifices were not only their time, but also financial since my mother chose to stay home to assist me whenever I needed her.
Living with Aspergers Syndrome for me in particular can be compared to attending a rock concert. The music is loud, the lights are flashing, and the crowd is noisy. Now imagine trying to solve a calculus problem under these conditions. I constantly struggle to keep my body still and to concentrate. Some teachers think I am not paying attention because I am not making eye contact, which is a classic symptom of Aspergers Syndrome, but I am learning and developing skills to help me get through life. A teacher once said to my mother, “Don’t get mad at him. He tries so hard and it is a hundred times harder for him to sit in that classroom and he is doing it.”
The social environment has been challenging since I have few friends and they are mostly all medicated and on the Aspergers Syndrome Spectrum. I am functioning on my own without medication and am very proud of it. We all have our own unique qualities. The “neuro-typical” students do not really include us much. The girls are a little more tolerant, but the guys in the gym are the worst! Being a big guy, when I meet people for the first time they always say, “You must be great in basketball.” They could not be more wrong. The guys in the gym constantly tell me I stink and will not pass me the ball. One cannot get better if they never get the ball and practice.
Aspergers Syndrome is a lifelong disorder so I must do my best with the tools I have learned and keep practicing so I can continue to navigate life the best that I can.
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.