This guest post is by Dylan Paul, a young autistic adult who is attending into Art Academy of Cincinnati. Dylan 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.
Imagine spending your entire life being told you’re just “weird.” No matter what, it’s just “oh, you’re so weird.” or “you’re quirky!”
I was diagnosed with ASD at eighteen. Eighteen years of my life went by, and no one seemed to acknowledge my breakdowns, hyper fixations, and stims. My autistic traits were always passed off as “weird.”
I’m 20 now, I’m a full-time college student, and I have to work full-time to scrape up some to pay my tuition. I’ve been figuring everything out on my own for YEARS NOW. I’ve learned how to present following those around me and how to mask and keep my thoughts and feelings to myself; anytime I tend to get invested and excited, I retreat the second anybody pulls the word “weird” out. I felt censored, silenced, limited held back in almost all aspects of my life. If I mention my diagnosis, it’s “oh no! you’re so high functioning!! you pass for neurotypical!” P.S: High functioning isn’t a compliment. Being told you’re “not autistic enough” is weird, implying you have to fit a cookie-cutter form of what autism is harmful to the individual and the community.
I’ve always felt like I was alone, but that didn’t stop me from trying. I joined a band program at a nearby university because I really enjoyed making music and thought it would be an opportunity to try to make friends my age even though we didn’t go to the same school. I made a friend. He and I talked about our very similar diagnoses, but he got diagnosed way earlier than I did; he explained how he uses his platforms to talk about late diagnoses and how he can’t imagine how different his life would be if he didn’t know. He told me, “hey, ASD is kind of like a superpower you know?” and I sat there confused; I’ve convinced myself into shame over my disability.
“ASD for me is kind of like a superpower. Your stims and ticks are your spidey senses telling you that something isn’t right, even before you can verbalize it. You’re not weird or odd. You’re just a superhero who got out of the comic books. You have every right to talk about your experiences.” and that resonated with me. I talk about my experiences, and I don’t hold back (even though I probably should at times). I’ve spent so much time dwelling and worrying and feeling some way about myself, but anything and everything I’ve felt has been “normal” for me. It’s my normal; it’s not weird. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. I still feel disappointed that it’s taken me so long to start to figure it out, and I feel sad that some rejected that I may have autism when I was younger.
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.