This guest post is by Caedan Clarke, a young man on the autism spectrum who was accepted into Texas Tech University. Caedan is applying for the Spring 2018 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. You can help our scholarship program continue to help these students by making a donation here (the majority of our scholarship program is ran through donors from our community such as yourself so no matter if you could donate anything, whether it be $5 anywhere up to $5,000 it would be making a difference!).

Hi, I’m Caedan Clarke. I was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, and raised in Austin, Texas. My neighborhood is more suburban and comfortable than most neighborhoods around us. The selection of stores, restaurants, and parks in the area is great. There are plenty of sidewalks in and around our street, and there’s even a greenbelt that we can hike that’s connected to a park.

I was lucky to have been born into a middle-class family. There always is plenty of food and drinks to consume, and I was able to learn important skills such as teamwork, compassion, sportsmanship, and sharing – all in a safe learning environment. At a young age I abruptly stopped speaking and my parents were both concerned. Due to additional support my parents were able to provide me, I was able to receive things most kids wouldn’t, such as speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, medical intervention, dietary intervention, and a special program during my time at public schooling. I really got into trouble in 9th grade, as I constantly got depressed about my poor grades. My mother once remembers me saying, “I know I’m not stupid, but why does it feel like I am?” Eventually, they realized that I wouldn’t gain the support I needed in public school, and they took me to Odyssey School instead. All of these things helped me succeed. I also have two younger brothers, and I especially enjoy conversing with them, most of the time about video games and other interesting things. It’s really made me more social within my family circle.

I also have many activities I do or have done that I’m proud of. I’m part of the Boy Scouts, having started about a decade ago at the Wolf rank. I currently have the Life rank, and I’ve completed my Eagle project, leading about twenty volunteers to remove invasive plants from a neighborhood park. I’m also very capable of physical activity, especially running. I have managed, through practice, to run five miles without stopping; I even completed the 2017 Austin Marathon in under six hours. I also not too long ago managed to master ridership of the public transportation system in the Austin area, giving me a sense of independence, as I don’t always need to rely on my parents to travel to and from school and other locations.

I have taken a college-level class at Austin Community College. It was a US History class, and the teacher’s communication style was challenging for me. To start, he provided a five-page syllabus that I found overwhelming. He also had exceedingly long tests that I found somewhat disorganized. Because the tests were so long, it took me longer time to complete them, and the longer test times made it harder for me to maintain my focus. There was also a ten-page final that was basically a book review, which was difficult for me because I sometimes have trouble expressing my opinions. My first two grades were borderline, but I worked harder on my final and last two tests and managed to get an A in the class. To keep challenging myself, I also took a college-level precalculus class that is also dual credit. As you can see, even with all the earlier interventions to help me with my schooling, having autism still can mean I have to overcome several roadblocks. However, I feel like I have learned how to effectively advocate for myself and think I can successfully complete a college degree.

I’m going to conclude this essay by describing how my life shaped what I aspire to be. In my youth, I would gaze out the window of our old car watching the congested traffic, and this would upset me, as I had – and still have – little tolerance for sitting in a vehicle for long periods of time. To be honest, where I’m from has some of the worst congestion in the nation, and it will only get worse as time goes by. The city always needs someone to help them, and there is a shortage of able- bodied people that can work for our transportation needs. Even in the fifteen years we’ve lived here, the traffic has only worsened over time. That’s why I feel like I want to be a traffic engineer, as I can help combat the problem.

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

Kerry Magro, a professional speaker and best-selling author who is also on the autism spectrum 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 sending him an inquiry here.

We’d also appreciate if you could start a Facebook Fundraiser to support our nonprofit’s scholarship fund! You can learn more about how you can do just that here