This guest post is by Benjamin Spichiger, a young man on the autism spectrum who was accepted into Kennesaw State University. Ben 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.
I was born in the town of Bowling Green, Kentucky and I lived there for 6 years of my life before moving to Douglasville in 2009. While I lived in Bowling Green, I was fortunate to be able to attend Big Red School which is part of the Kelly Autism Center at Western Kentucky University. The mission of this program is to put neurotypical kids into the same peer groups as kids with autism. That way both groups can learn about each other. I don’t exactly remember a lot about going there as it was a long time ago, but some things I do remember liking are the amazing costumes we could try on and the ball pit. It was a wonderful experience for me.
When I started 1st Grade at Chapel Hill Elementary School, I had to deal with a rather difficult relationship with my teacher. Looking back on this now, I feel bad for him. He was thrust into situations that he didn’t know how to handle, and it made his job very difficult for him. I don’t know what he is doing and where he is currently, but I hope that he managed to learn the ropes of his job and is doing much better now.
I can’t really say that I have experienced overt prejudice and discrimination or microaggressions from people regarding my autism, but I can say that it has made social relationships difficult for me. The most difficult part in dealing with my peers is maintaining eye contact with them. Another difficult part in dealing with my peers is not knowing when they’re joking around or not finding certain things funny when they think so. Thankfully, my parents and siblings are very loving and understanding towards me and make it clear that they don’t wish I were neurotypical. This provides me with a safe place to be myself.
Growing up with autism has come with many difficulties in school and outside of it. Because of how my brain works and processes things, it makes it hard for me to understand difficult assignments or instructions from my teachers. Thankfully, I have had an IEP in place throughout my school years that has helped me overcome most of these difficulties. I still like to have detailed instructions from my teachers regarding projects or assignments. I realize that college is going to be different in that most professors won’t be able to provide detailed instructions, but I hope I can overcome that problem.
One important thing that I want to say to neurotypical people who are unaware of the difficulties people with autism face: Not all of us are the genius prodigies that Hollywood likes to suggest we are (think of Rain Man or The Good Doctor). Many of us are just regular, everyday people you might pass by or say hi to on the streets. Another important thing that I want to say is having autism doesn’t mean life will suck for us, the only reason life would suck for us is because of that misconception and mentalist discrimination we may face. Neurotypical people should remember that if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism. We are all different in our quirks, backgrounds, lifestyles and our place on the spectrum.
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.