This guest post is by Evan a young man on the autism spectrum who has been accepted into University of Texas Austin & Colorado School of Mines. Evan is applying for the Spring 2020 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.
I am not who anyone would call “normal.” “Remind me of your name again, please” is a common phrase heard by people who have known me for years, and “Hi, my name is Evan. What is your name?” is something I have to dig deep to work up the courage to say to new people. But, thankfully I’ve made it through. During high school, I have made a lasting impression on everyone, and it was all thanks to what I would call my “quirks.” Birthed into the world with a diagnosis called “Asperger Syndrome,” I possess certain challenges in social situations, have difficulty reading social cues from others, and transitioning from task to task can sometimes be difficult; however, I excel academically and tend to solve problems and complete tasks with solutions differing from the traditional approach.
I lived the first part of my life unaware of my diagnosis. One day, in fourth grade, I saw a permission slip my mother had signed had listed me as having “Asperger Syndrome.” When I got home from school that day, I asked my mother what that was. That was the day I finally learned that I had Asperger’s, and it was the moment that I decided to take my personal growth into my own hands. I prefer not to call it a “syndrome,” as the advantages and disadvantages it brings is an integral part of who I am. My one goal throughout high school has been to not be treated differently than my peers, and that goal has been achieved, in a way at least. People don’t know me as “Evan, that kid with Asperger’s.” Instead, they know me as “Evan, the one who cracks jokes, aces his classes, and shares the same plights and stresses as everyone else.”
Most of my friends don’t even seem to know that something is “different” about me. As I progress through my daily routine, I have also observed that I might not be the only one with these challenges. Some of my friends also seem to be “on the spectrum” sharing some of the same obstacles I face daily, struggling to socialize with new people or not wanting to be ripped away from their favorite activity so suddenly. Yet, everyone enjoys their company just the same as anyone who would be described as “neurotypical,” as people either look past the “quirks,” or don’t notice them at all. Things aren’t too terrible for me. In fact, I wouldn’t dare call my life “terrible” at all, despite my daily struggles. I’ve overcome these challenges to make friends and excel in all of my classes, though it does test my stress and patience when I have to juggle a plethora of extracurricular activities, including marching band, robotics, academic decathlon, and various other activities.
While my feelings and reactions might bubble a little overboard at times, I have been making a constant effort to contain my reactions within the bounds of a neurotypical person my age. If I do happen to have a “moment”, I try to have it whenever I am away from people, in a private place where nobody can see or hear me sobbing to myself. It takes every last ounce of me to stop the waterworks from ruining my public appearance. No matter what each day brings, each one is a challenge. Whether making sure my friends are laughing with me (and not at me), holding back my emotions whenever something doesn’t go my way, or simply not getting stirred up whenever I am ripped away from something I am enjoying doing, high school has been quite the gauntlet. But, despite these challenges, I am proud to have accomplished much: from being at the top of my class to having a wonderful group of friends to hang out with. I’ve even ventured into the realm of helping others who may be faced with challenges similar to mine, in an effort to try and “give back” to people like me. Recently, I have accepted a job as a counselor at a science and technology camp I myself had attended for several years. While the camp is not specifically for people with learning disabilities, there are still many campers there who share the same challenges I do. I plan on helping them have one of the best summers ever, regardless of whether or not they have a learning disability.
As I progress through life, I will have to learn new social cues and formulate new strategies for dealing with stressful events, and college will bring even more situations where this will be the case. But with much determination (and a little luck), I know I can survive to learn another day. College will also bring me more than just new social situations to learn from. My main reason for going to college is to pursue a degree in the subject I love the most: robotics. Working in the field of robotics is my dream job, and I stand a better chance at making my dreams a reality with a college education. Furthermore, as I said earlier, college will bring lots of new and unexpected social situations that will most likely occur in a real-world job setting, so a college education would help me learn how to navigate those situations and become a more outgoing person.
It’s been around eight years since I first found out about my Asperger’s. Throughout those eight years, I have made a tremendous effort to improve myself, and all of that hard work is paying off. Even though I still have much to learn, looking back on all of my progress feels very rewarding, almost like looking down at how far you’ve climbed up a mountain. Looking upwards at how much you have left to go is pretty dizzying, but looking at the present is the most rewarding feeling of all.
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.