This guest post is by Luke Brassard, a young man on the autism spectrum who was accepted into the University of New Haven. Luke 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.
My name is Luke Brassard and I have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). I also have a slow processing speed and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). My disabilities have impacted me in various ways, but I’ve worked hard to overcome these challenges in my life.
As a young child, I struggled with communication skills. When I could not express myself, I became frustrated and overreacted by throwing tantrums, hiding, or running away. This caused me to become separated from my peers and miss out on opportunities. My limitations in communicating with others proved to be a big obstacle. Over time, I learned step by step how to express my thoughts and feelings. Today, I speak and write effectively in my daily interactions. Occasionally, I still struggle with understanding indirect statements and tones of voice.
Also, due to my learning differences, I complete tasks at a slower rate than my peers. Others may find this sets me back, but I’ve turned this into a valuable skill because I focus more on quality of work which is beneficial for tasks where accuracy is critical. For example, when I come up with song parodies, which I’ll talk about more shortly, I have to think about the song for quite a while. I mull over different combinations of words and rhymes until I find the perfect fit. This process takes a long time to complete, often months, since I do a lot of analyzing and generating of lyrics.
I’m going to tell you a story of a time when I overcame some of the hurdles of my autism and made a difference. I had always seen myself as an ordinary teenager, that is, an ordinary teenager with autism. Just like other teenagers, I like listening to music, watching people perform, and doing backstage tasks. But in 2018, at the Fall Harvest Celebration, I had an experience that changed my perspective of myself from an independent talented teenager to a capable confident talented young man.
Back in my freshman year of high school, I wasn’t a very social or outspoken person, and I thought of myself and my musical talents as being average. That summer, I tried the new and creative activity described above: I wrote, sang, and recorded original song parodies. At the time, I wasn’t sure how I would share my ideas with the world.
That fall, at school, there was a need for people to perform at the annual Fall Harvest Celebration. I reached out to the advisor, sharing my parodies with him and asking what he thought about the idea of me performing one at the event. He said it would be great if I did that. But, I still wasn’t sure about the idea because I had never performed solo in front of that many people before. Then again, it was a great opportunity to share my song with the community. After thinking about it, I decided I was up for the challenge.
When the day of the Fall Harvest Celebration arrived, I was prepared. When it was my turn to perform, the M.C. announced my song, and I walked up onto the stage. I was nervous, standing up there with everyone’s eyes on me. I had never done this before. Was I going to mess it up?
The music started, and I began singing. I tried not to focus on the audience, only on my performance. By the beginning of the first chorus, it was apparent that the audience liked it, in fact, they really liked it. They were cheering and laughing and clapping, and I was only one third of the way into my song. Hearing the audience’s reaction made me more confident performing, and less worried about messing up. When I finished my song, the crowd stood up, cheering and clapping the loudest, showing their great amusement. It felt good.
Afterward, a lot of people came to me with compliments. Due to this, I had the realization that my performance had entertained many people. I thought my song would be just another number in the show, but instead, my song was the biggest hit of the show. Realizing how talented I was encouraged me to continue using my talents. I became more inspired to make and sing more parodies. And in turn, I made and performed more parodies and entertained more people.
Additionally, because of the experience, I became more outspoken and more apt to talk and socialize with people. I have become more willing to try new things. Nowadays, I’ve gotten involved with many new activities, like Masque, the school theatre club. The experience helped me grow and develop as an individual.
It was clear that the MHS 2018 Fall Harvest Celebration changed my perspective of my talents and made me a more talkative, outspoken person. Being quiet before then, I tried out parody writing, then I found an opportunity to present my work to an entire crowd of people. I had never done something like it before, but I took the chance anyway. As a result of this experience, my perspective of my talents changed, along with overcoming aspects of my autism, namely my struggles with communication. Now I can see who I truly am with my gifts and my disability, including as a valuable and creative communicator. I am determined to continue embracing my identity and these skills, as I go into college and my career beyond.
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.