This guest post is by David Kirchoff a young man on the autism spectrum who was accepted into Le Moyne College and is majoring in Psychology. David is applying for the Spring 2018 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 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!).

As I gaze in the direction of our tangled and over-so-complicated backyard garden, I realize that the ascending buds of a safely-stored container outside are new aspirants that all but seem to yearn for the potential of breaking free. Like with my own first sweep of seemingly stagnated garden growth, many of my initially discounted plants soon gave way to bountiful yield; they simply needed more time and resources than the rest of the plants to achieve their maximum potential. I take strength in my recent epiphany that my struggles with Autism and Obsessive-Compulsive Desire have not diminished my intellect, merely challenged them with conflicts that continue to augment my strength and perseverance.

I had always navigated Autism and anxiety/mild depression in High School with little medication, exercise, and rigorous study, becoming a successful cross-country runner and earning a spot in the “Top Ten” of my graduating class, but beginning in my Junior year, a sinister sense of fatigue and anxiety began for me, coupled with growing depression, which led to a brief hospitalization stay. I was stabilized and am proud of my academic perseverance that year, as I still earned: top grades, my driver’s license, and a janitorial job at my high school, but the irrational anxiety which had reared its head this past year came back to almost destroy me in my Senior year…

My doctor has recently said that Asperger’s and OCD “go together like peanut butter and jelly” but I did not realize then that this was what was occurring to me. During the fall of my Senior year, I struggled with finding a balance of medication, as everything began spiraling; I could not sleep, as anxiety which I could not name took hold, and my thoughts would not stop perseverating with irrational force. During our Spring Break, I truly began to sense, on some level, that my affection and warmth for my loved ones was starting to flicker on and off. I was beginning to feel distressed in an extremely hard-to-explain way, but I truly started fearing for myself. This would lead me and my family to searching throughout our city for a diagnosis and treatment to end these horrific and irrational thoughts, as I had always lived life wanting to be the most ethical and helpful to all living things. Little offered alleviation and I persevered as best I could through graduation, maintaining my place as #8 in my class, but this growth of irrational fears and compulsions grew to overwhelm me during several inpatient stays over the summer.

Finally, during college orientation on the day before college started, I was overcome with the tragic beliefs and thoughts that continued to fester on in the inside while I was around so many new people in a new setting. Then, a painful situation happened where I went to the hospital. I broke my left wrist and the sixth vertebrae in my neck. I also lacerated my liver, broke a rib, and lost two teeth while chipping another.

This hospitalization led to my and my family’s year-long odyssey to find successful, expert treatment for both my Asperger’s and OCD. Two stays at the renowned McLean Hospital, as well as consultation at Columbia’s COPE Clinic would determine that my severe OCD-like behavior was more connected to my Asperger’s and was NOT OCD or Schizophrenia. The doctor at Columbia even humbled me by telling me I was one of the most unique young minds he had encountered and that my brilliance would help the field of psychology some day! I received new treatment, found a new balance of medication and counseling, and dedicated each day to vigorous exercise, diet, volunteering at our local animal shelter and “Meals on Wheels,” taking online classes for free, and drawing, painting, and researching to provide balance in my life. Little by little each day, those irrational thoughts in my head began to go away, not returning, as I worked on my recovery with all I possessed. One year to the day of that horrific incident, I was re-enrolled at my college and ready to pursue a degree in psychology. Today, May 22, 2018 witnesses the end of my first year in college, with a 4.0 for both semesters, and a 3.87 GPA overall.

If such an individual as the famous John Nash, featured in A Beautiful Mind, can better the world of intellectualism and his fellow man through his doctoral thesis before the crippling mental illness of Schizophrenia and, refusing to succumb to it, dominate it to return the Ivory Tower of Princeton until the age of 86, how, then, can I be deterred from my path now?…

-Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.- (2)

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.

We’d also appreciate if you could start a Facebook Fundraiser to support our nonprofit’s scholarship fund! You can learn more about how you can do just that here