This guest post is by Ellie Rappaport, a young woman on the autism spectrum. Ellie will be attending Dean College in the Fall where she will be pursuing an early childhood education degree. Ellie is applying for our Spring 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.

Since I was fourteen, I’ve wanted to become an adult with a daycare, where I spend my day, on my hands and knees, connecting with children. But, sadly, at just eighteen months old, doctors diagnosed me with being on the Autism Spectrum.

For years, as a girl, I remember sobbing as my mom held me tightly in her arms. I felt trapped by crippling anxiety and learning challenges that turned simple school subjects into quantum physics and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. My learning challenges robbed me of my confidence.

Despite my insecurities, my mom and dad loved and protected me. After searching every street corner in Atlanta, they found the best medical experts to help me like my pediatrician, psychologist and occupational therapist. After visiting their office every week for years, I cultivated the emotional and mental tools to walk through life with Autism — and still succeed.

As I gained these coping skills, my parents and I were back on the streets of Atlanta hunting for the perfect school that could accommodate my Autism. We shopped around for schools like a teen shops for jeans at Old Navy. After trying three different schools, finally, we found The Cottage School. While strolling through halls of the school while my parents spoke to the staff, a light bulb went off in my brain. Bingo! This was the right school. I just knew it. So I started 7th grade at The Cottage School.

When my classes began, I felt a rush of excitement, but I was also scared because I was haunted by those vivid memories of simple school subjects feeling like quantum physics. The little voice in my head started running her mouth again, telling me that I should just give up. But, Ms. Lauren, my homeroom teacher, encouraged me to push ahead. One morning, I walked into my homeroom class feeling down. While I slouched in my seat, Ms. Lauren, my homeroom teacher, came and talked to me. I told her about my crippling anxiety, and she listened. She gave me a dose of wisdom and advice. She told me to push past my fears and, luckily, I took her advice.

Today, I’m an A-student. No. I don’t know quantum physics, but the staff at my school handpicked me to become our school ambassador. When families are shopping around for a school, and they visit mine, I’m the guide who gives them a tour.

And although I don’t understand Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, I became captain of my school’s basketball and volleyball team. In fact, I’ll be playing basketball for my college this fall.

My life has been intense, and after reflecting on it, I realized something today: maybe, having autism isn’t a disorder I should be discouraged about; maybe it’s a gift. It’s a gentle reminder of how much love my parents have for me in their hearts. And when I crawl on my hands and knees to connect with children, one day, at my daycare, I plan to pass on some of this love to them. Thank you for listening to my story, and for creating this scholarship opportunity.

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

Kerry Magro, an international motivational 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 who travels around the country speaking about his journey on the autism spectrum at your next event by contacting him here