This guest post is by Alex Lee, a young man on the autism spectrum. Alex attends Eastern University. Alex is applying for our Summer 2017 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.
This writing is about me, Alex Lee, and my life experience with autism, and some struggles I have faced. But also, some of the many things that I have accomplished over the years, despite having autism.
I started my life unaware that I had autism, and so did my parents. But after a while, I ended up being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. This made life different for me than most others. It explained a lot about how I acted up differently many times. I however, like many who have autism, never let this bring me down and keep me upset. I have always had a positive life, both before and after I found out that I had autism. Through the years to today, I almost forgot that I even did have autism due to the fact that I am able to get past the things I cannot control (having autism) and am able to focus on everything else that I actually can control.
A major thing that autism made different for me was my education, somewhat, due to having multiple accommodations and a 504/IEP. This included having me go to many meetings every few months and allowed me take tests in quiet locations with extended (usually double) time. It was indeed helpful for me, as without extended time, I would usually panic.
One of my bigger problems however, is making friends. I am a pretty social guy, however. That is what is so surprising, but doesn’t take away the fact that it was still difficult to make friends. And getting used to my first year at college only seemed to make it harder, as getting used to the classes and environment was hard enough at the time. I remember going to doctors and social groups very often to help with my situations. This is something that is still somewhat difficult to this day, which is why I am working on it. And this year at college, making more friends is one of the many things I intend on doing.
I know the difficulty of making friends can be dealt with. I have had many difficulties in my life including losing my father at the age of 14. Despite not being as upset as one would think, it was a difficult time with the funeral and other things related to his death. This was also right around the end of school and finals were approaching, which only made that time worse. And being in the school marching band, made it more difficult to study. But in the end I managed and did well that year, due to my perseverance and positivity, which didn’t let my father’s death completely ruin my life. My life actually got better from there.
I have done plenty of good things. For one, I participated in the swim teams at the township pool and the schools swim teams from 2009 to 2014. I started off pretty bad at swimming, but got good over the years, which led to joining the swim teams. I did very well and won many events, even getting the team points at many swim meets. Even if I lost or wasn’t the best, it was still a good way to spend time, and a great form of exercise.
Also, when I was very young, I was sick of riding my bike with training wheels. Nearly every day I would fail to do so without them. But I kept trying and trying until one day, just went outside, got on my bike, and was able to ride it without the training wheels. I then realized that my mom was watching me. She smiled and cheered that I was finally able to ride my bike. I have gone on long bike rides for over 11 years now, sometimes with friends, and sometimes alone, and like to look back at the moment that started it all.
Another thing I have done was help out a friend who is a boy scout, and some of his fellow scouts by marking storm drains with “No dumping” stickers. This is to inform/warn the community about deliberately throwing trash and other pollutants down the drains, as they lead into to the river and forms of drinking water. This was a great help to the scouts, and all of us doing this even made it into the local newspaper.
Despite having autism, I have been able to accomplish many things in life that I thought I wouldn’t be able to do. But I now realize that I am a lot more capable of doing great things. And I have and will continue to do so.
Kerry Magro, an international speaker and best-selling author 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 contacting him here.