This guest post is by Noah Alpert, a young man on the autism spectrum who was accepted into Gettysburg College. Noah 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.
Everyone has a unique challenge. All challenges and struggles a person might have will vary in degrees of severity and subsequent impact. For people with Asperger’s syndrome, it may be individual mannerisms or centric to others. My biggest obstacle growing up (and that I still have) is reading body language and social cues. This can be in the classroom with my peers and teachers, my work environment, or even at home with my family. Even after 17 years of knowing and living with my family, I still continue to learn how to recognize their individual and unique body language and cues. Throughout my life, understanding people has been one of my life’s greatest hurdles to overcome. I have learned that not every person is the same and the world is not all black and white, but immensely varying, different shades of grey. This is my story of my greatest obstacles and challenges with Aspergers’ syndrome.
My story begins when I was in elementary school. I remember I could never sit still, I always had trouble getting along with others, including my teachers, and my grades and work were not of high quality. I remember always having someone in the room and following me around and taking notes on my behavior. I didn’t particularly care for this person constantly following me, but I accepted it at the time for what it was. This individual who followed me stopped in what I recall was 3rd grade. I found out later in 3rd grade that this person was a behaviorist assigned to my case based on my Individualized Education Plan (IEP). In 4th grade, I had a fabulous teacher. She was a teacher who was strict but caring. I had a little friction with her, but she taught me some of the most important lessons that I retain to this day. She taught me that we all have a (magic toolbox). I was given by her the (tools) to pick up on body language cues. My teacher also mentioned how my (magic toolbox) would evolve over my life. Her tools that she started me off with made my greatest challenge a little less daunting.
Two years have gone by and I find myself in middle school. Middle school brought me old and new challenges alike. My first big challenge that (I had not necessarily mastered) was the ability to pick up on social cues. For example, in 7th grade, my history teacher had given me detention for something that has long escaped my memory. I tried multiple times to try and plead with her to rescind her detention but she would not relent.
Currently, I still have many hurdles to jump, however, I have managed to conquer quite a few. I have now become better at being able to sit still. However, this hurdle took quite some time to overcome, but I constantly practice keeping my focus and calming myself. I found that practicing these techniques were first and foremost excellent at ridding myself of me not being able to sit still. Additionally, this technique had the added bonus side effect of being good tools to add to my toolbox for future need.
Another challenge I have managed to overcome was my fear of asking for clarification, more specifically, my fear of asking my peers for clarification on their body language. I have a very hard time with understanding body language, it’s part of me and is one of my biggest struggles. I used to be afraid of asking my peers what their body language was indicating. I was scared of being teased or being ridiculed because I needed clarification on what their unspoken signal was supposed to be telling me. However, I have matured and come to the realization that if people are seriously going to mock me for my challenges, then why bother associating with them in the first place. My struggles however are not done, in fact, the struggles will never fully go away. For example, a more recent struggle is one with anxiety. My anxiety mostly stems from my relationships, friendships, and business. I find that I am frequently doubting myself on certain things when there is simply no need for me second guessing myself. This anxiety will hopefully relieve itself over time as I add new tools to my magic toolbox.
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.