This guest post is by Adin Boyer a young man on the autism spectrum who was accepted into California Institute of the Arts. Adin 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!).

My name is Adin. I am 17 years old, and I am a musician. I am a classical pianist and vocalist, a singer-songwriter, and a composer. In a few months, I will be attending college at California Institute of the Arts, where I hope to get closer to my dream of becoming a professional musician! I am also a kid who just so happens to be autistic.

Throughout elementary school, I used to play alone at recess, pace back and forth, and recite things from movies, songs or TV cartoons, over and over. Why did I do that? One reason is because I was stuck in my imagination. I was safe playing in my own mind. I didn’t do anything with other kids, and my parents wondered when was I going to learn how to do that? Also, it was really hard for me to deal with loud noises, like fire alarms or popping balloons. Those made (and still make) me feel like I am a shaking volcano, ready to erupt and cry and scream. I also had lots of trouble working on projects or classwork in groups. It was really overwhelming to me, and it made my head feel like it was about to explode into a million pieces.

Over the years, I’ve become better at dealing with these tough things, but for me, the hardest thing about having autism is knowing that I live in a world where there are people who just don’t understand me, or don’t even at least try to understand me. At times, I feel like an outcast, and that is not a good feeling.

How did I strengthen my social skills? The short answer is working really hard with 15 years of therapy.

But the long answer, for me, is having people in my life who love and accept me for who I am, and who always support me every step of the way, and motivate me to work hard to be successful in life. These people don’t see my disability as something bad, but rather, a superpower. However, when I look at the world and see that there are still autistic people who are not successful because they don’t have the support of the people around them like I do, this makes me quite sad. I used to be bullied all the time when I was in elementary school for how I saw the world. People called me the “r”-word. It’s a very bad word. Although I am not getting bullied any more, other autistic teenagers and grown-ups have been bullied their whole lives, not only by the kids at their school, but by teachers, family members, and strangers. I hope to help change that.

I recently spoke to a group of elementary school students for Autism Awareness month and this is what I told them:

“Autism comes in all shapes and sizes, and to me, that is what makes autistic people beautiful, and deserving of your friendship. Isn’t it cool to know someone whose brain works a little differently than yours? Everybody has different personalities and struggles, especially autistic people, and that is something that I believe is so awesome about the world.”

What’s it like to be autistic? The short answer is, I don’t know. How I see the world is all I’ve ever known. But I will say that throughout elementary school, where I attended from kindergarten to sixth grade, there were always questions sitting in the back of my head. Why was I always surrounded by adults? What does the “r-word” mean, and why do so many kids call me that? Why do I laugh when nobody else is, and not laugh when everyone else is? Why can’t anyone else immediately identify the pitch of a sound? Why do I have to go to speech every week? Why did I not make a close friend until third grade? Why did he stop being my friend? Why does nobody pass the basketball to me? Why am I so bad at talking to people? Why are people so mean to me? Why do I never see anyone else my age having screaming meltdowns? Why do I cry every time I hear a fire alarm or a popping balloon? Why do I have to have a daily communication log that tells my parents about my day? Why do I have a ring full of index cards that reminds me how to speak to people properly? Why is everything that seems so easy for everyone else so hard for me?

But I wouldn’t have it any other way, for I’ve given myself the mindset that struggles make me stronger.

It was not until about 10th grade that I realized it was okay that I was autistic. That’s when I started an Autism Awareness Club at my school. Had I figured that out earlier, I would have started the club earlier. I would have shared the fact that I have autism with more people earlier. I would have started educating others about autism earlier. I would have started my volunteering at the center for autism services (where I myself had received therapy) earlier. I would have started advocating for others with autism earlier. I would have reached out to the people I reached out to later, earlier.

Through my knowledge of it being okay to be autistic, I have learned the meaning of making other people’s lives better. Because, in truth, what has made my life so much easier and so much better, is the amazing loving people I’m surrounded by.

-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