This guest post is by Cameron Krizman, a young woman on the autism spectrum who has been accepted into Cleveland Institute of Art in the Fall of 2021 studying graphic design! Cameron 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. Can I ask for a favor? I’m trying to make this nonprofit self-sufficient so I can make this my full-time job supporting the special needs community and would appreciate you taking a minute before reading on to watch this video below and subscribing to our Youtube page here to get to learn more about the work we do in the community.
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.
My name is Cameron Krizman and when I was in 6th grade I was diagnosed with high functioning autism. That might sound like a fairly direct event, but it was not. There were a number of misdiagnoses and a general lack of understanding because apparently girls “present” differently than boys on the spectrum. Also boys are diagnosed frequently 4 to 1 over girls. I believe this is the case because typically girls are quiet and learn quickly to parrot appropriate behavior early in order to fit in. For me the inability to read non-verbal social cues caused me to withdraw and feel anxious in social situations. When the diagnosis came it was a relief to finally understand what was going on with me.
Being diagnosed with autism and anxiety has presented me with many personal challenges that I have needed to overcome. One such challenge is an admittedly rather common one, an aversion to large groups of people and loud environments. I would find them overwhelming, and I would often shut down. I had a desire to overcome this, and looked for methods I could use. I eventually ended up taking figure skating classes in a group environment. It was difficult for me in the beginning, both working with something that I knew I had trouble with, as well as fostering a new skill, but I persisted, and before long it became something I could enjoy.
Over the course of six years I mastered each of the required single jumps, and worked on developing programs set to music for myself with the help of my coach. I wouldn’t have met my amazing coach if I hadn’t worked on my aversion to crowds and people. My coach understood my challenges, as well as the benefits figure skating had for improving my executive function and sequencing challenges.
The teaching program I followed often held shows, displaying the skill of each level of the participating skaters. They were large events, hosting large groups of people coming to see us perform. During the dress rehearsal, I had been terrified. Seeing the stands full and feeling the cold air of the ice on my face were physical reminders that I was there and performing in front of so many people. I had pushed forward, until I had tripped on a bit of rough ice. This is common in figure skating, but at the time I was mortified, and couldn’t bring myself to stand up and face the crowd. My coach came out and helped me, and standing back up took all of my resolve and determination. I managed to figure skate in front of that huge crowd of strangers, tears on my face, and still somewhat frozen from the familiar feelings of anxiety, and the desire to shut down. Completing that dress rehearsal, and the actual show the next night, was a high point for me that I’ll never forget, a turning point in my journey towards living with my disability.
Overcoming invisible challenges that you don’t understand is a brave and determined thing to attempt. Feeling the sense of accomplishment when you do is the best feeling in the world.
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.