This guest post is by “Zak” Zachariah Andrew Snow, a young man on the autism spectrum who has been accepted and will be attending Cabrillo College. Zak is applying for the Spring 2019 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 to our scholarship fund 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!).

It’s one thing to be aware of autism, another to understand it; and honestly I don’t blame you if you don’t. To be honest, I’m not even sure I understand it to its full extent. But I can tell you about the ways my disorder has proven to be challenging over the course of my life; it should be worth mentioning that I was diagnosed with a form of high functioning Asperger syndrome only recently. Given the fact that Autism can take on several different forms, this may be differ wildly from what you have or how the disorder impacts you. But in my case, this disorder has for the most part impacted me socially.

Often times I will see autism shown as a puzzle piece, and this is accurate since being on the spectrum in general is very often like trying to piece together one giant puzzle. One of the first examples of this that comes to mind is the fact that I interpret the world in a very literal sense, often not understanding the subtext of what people say and sometimes attaching concrete meanings to certain words. Looking back on it I specifically remember one day when I was around seven years old and had a phrase at the tip of my tongue, my mother told me to spit it out to which I literally obeyed by… well spitting. This was indoors mind you, so I’m fairly certain her first reaction was something along the lines of “What the heck do you think you’re doing!?”. I can’t remember if I was doing this as a joke or not, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some puzzle pieces were missing around that time.

From here on my memories are a bit blurry as to how ASD has revealed itself in the past, but recently in my high school years it has begun to resurface. Often times my decisions lie on what other people tell me to do, given the way ASD works. This does occasionally have its advantages such as when I set my mind of transferring to UCLA having heard about it as a passing suggestion to me from a table at one of my community college’s “college and career nights” after mentioning my interest in screenwriting.

Two years ago my school took its students to experience a budgeting workshop known as Bite Of Reality in which you are assigned a fictional person with a job providing a certain amount of income, a kid, and possibly a wife depending on the individual. The event took place at my community college’s cafeteria with tables set up to represent different financial areas of life, such as groceries, housing, a car, toys for your kid… sounds fun right? Well I think maybe it was fun to some students, but to me it was almost devastating. I was provided with a very low-income job with little to no advice on how to properly budget my money, and even worse: the workshop was very rushed giving you little time to think over your decisions. So given my literal point of view I was very upset after what I experienced. I thought I was actually going to end up like the person I was assigned with not getting the job I wanted, left with very little money to even provide the most basic of expenses and ending up with a kid I didn’t ask for after my wife probably left me.

Shyness is also a piece. Stranger danger was never an issue for me as a child because of this as I had trouble bringing myself to even saying hi to those around me who weren’t family or friends, but in my early stages of adulthood, it’s starting to become troublesome to meet new people as this trait has stuck with me, and made it hard to even maintain proper eye-contact as well. Aside from shyness I also may have panic-attacks on occasion if I get very stressed, which usually happens if I struggle to understand something given my literal point of view, or if someone pushes me to do something, whether it was intentional on their part or not. A situation in which I remember this occurring is when a now former friend of mine took advantage of my offer to grab one or two snacks for a supposedly fun outing to the beach over the summer and instead laid upon me his whole shopping list. Now I was at also getting ready for the outing as well, so with my pre-existing responsibilities, combined with his demands, I could almost feel my stress about to consume me whole.

No one ever told me being on the spectrum would be easy, but thus far I think I’ve done a good job of piecing together the puzzle. All it takes is a bit of discipline, persistence, and a strong will to learn. My mind and eyes are set on the prize of success and all my life I’ve been congratulated for it in multiple areas. I’ve never really been one to accept praise, and have learned to be skeptical of it given the possibility a lot could merely be but flattery. However given the fact that I’ve seen those around me fall where I have risen, I sometimes wonder to myself if some of them actually meant it. But if there’s one thing I know it’s this: If everything was cake… well… it’s my belief that society would lack proper nutrition. And I for one am not about to eat dessert before I’m done with my dinner.

Follow Kerry’s journey on Facebook, his Facebook Fan Page, & Instagram!

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. If you have a referral for someone who many want him to speak please reach out as well! Kerry speaks with schools, businesses, government agencies, colleges, nonprofit organizations, parent groups and other special events on topics ranging from employment, how to succeed in college with a learning disability, internal communication, living with autism, bullying prevention, social media best practices, innovation, presentation best practices and much more!

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