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This guest post is by Logan Coy O’Brien, a young man on the autism spectrum who was accepted into the University of Central Missouri’s THRIVE Program. Logan 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.

Running on the autism spectrum has taught me many things, things I would like to share with you so you can better understand why I may act the way I do….who I am, and who I strive to be.

I’ve sure had to overcome social difficulties. I don’t always understand certain nonverbal cues, sometimes I know I make others feel uncomfortable, and for sure I have moments when I don’t know when to stop communicating. My technique in getting through the uphill battles is my humor and laid-back personality.

Sometimes I miss some subtle cues; inferences and things like that. Just like in a race when you accidentally pass the “turn here” sign…it can create rather disappointing results. It makes for a hard time interacting, knowing when to ask for help, and/or negotiating issues with others. Sometimes, I might not understand the social situations I’m in, I misinterpret people often, and when people use metaphors I sometimes can take it literally. I don’t try to make life awkward….but imagine not understanding how to start small talk…..it can be a challenge not just “knowing” the unwritten rules of communication. First-time marathon runners can relate. A little bit past the halfway point experts say runners of a marathon are tempted to give up because of their legs being in pain.

It’s true, sometimes I don’t realize I’m making others feel uncomfortable, causing even more social difficulties! Sometimes the way I escape this uncomfortable social situation is by saying, “I’m just kidding.” I kind of make a joke of it all and exit the room quickly. Despite all of this, I am easy to like and pretty laid back. I think my friends know me and like me. But being in a friendship with me means pushing through difficulties in communication, and staying with me in this race.

My friends accept everything about me. I mean, there may be times when I don’t know when to stop talking about a topic I love, like gaming. I mainly have a hard time trying to keep a topic of conversation alive (which other people might not find as interesting as I do). Talking too much, for example, or people asking too many questions can lead me to have anxiety. Often, I want to finish a point I’m trying to make, but can not get the words out of my mouth. It’s like getting to that halfway point of the 26.2 race and not being able to make those legs work to finish strong. One time I told my family that our dog, “Max” accidentally kissed me. It seemed like the world stopped for a minute as my family reacted. This is an example of being too honest, and not recognizing that I should have kept that tidbit to myself.

I’ve always been a “rules follower”. I find myself constantly telling people not to use swear words at school. I say, “Stop swearing.” Then, the next day I say it again. The following day after that, I tell them again. This can very much annoy people, so I’ve learned not to use that technique as often anymore. Another example of a strict adherence to the rules and reporting the behavior of others, is when I saw someone in the bathroom at school one time doing something they weren’t suppose to be doing. I immediately reported this incident and the faculty member was very interested.

Prior to COVID-19 I have also noticed that those with autism (such as myself) struggle with interpersonal boundaries. Breaking physical boundaries can mean you’re standing too close to someone. Breaking emotional boundaries can mean talking about something your friend may not want to talk about. When training for a marathon they say you need to build your weekly mileage over time to prevent injuries. For me, the more time I practice social engagement the more comfortable I’ve become. Knowing how to be socially appropriate is a skill that needs to be practiced upon within the Autistic community, and therefore the average person needs to have a little bit more patience, because we all don’t learn at the same speed. It’s like the long run. If you do a run every 7 to 10 days they say your body can adjust gradually. No one said it was ever going to be easy. But practicing communication with friends and family can make all the difference, or even getting a part-time job at the local ballpark. That’s what I did to stretch before the next “run”. I also think the average person could talk to their friends about how to be patient with Autsitic children and adults alike. Spreading the word will help create a better environment for people like me.

“I dare you to train for a marathon and have it not change your life”. -Susan Sidoriak

“A marathon is hundreds of miles. The finish is the last 26.2”. -Unknown

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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.