Embracing Neurodiversity: My ASD Journey in Community College

This guest post is by Alan X. Alvarez, a young man who is diagnosed with autism and plans to attend Sam Houston State University. Alan is applying for the Spring 2024 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. Autistics on Autism: Stories You Need to Hear About What Helped Them While Growing Up and Pursuing Their Dreams, our nonprofit’s new book, was released on March 29, 2022, on Amazon here for our community to enjoy featuring the stories of 100 autistic adults.

Transitioning to community college marked a significant milestone in my journey as an individual with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Diagnosed at a young age with Persuasive Developmental Disorder– not otherwise specified, I am considered high-functioning, and able to communicate clearly when my thoughts are organized. However, the challenges presented by ASD, including sensory sensitivities and difficulties in social interaction, continue to shape my experiences, especially during my first year in community college.

Social interaction has always been a formidable obstacle for me. Unlike my peers, I struggle to connect with individuals my age, finding solace instead in the company of adults or younger individuals. The complexities of group dynamics and unspoken social cues leave me feeling isolated and misunderstood. Despite my efforts, forming lasting friendships has proven elusive, leading to feelings of worthlessness and invisibility. The question of “why can’t I?” echoes in my mind, a constant reminder of the barriers to social connection imposed by ASD.

Navigating the bustling college environment exacerbates my sensory sensitivities, particularly in crowded spaces and noisy surroundings. Large crowds and unfamiliar noises trigger anxiety, making it challenging to focus and engage in academic activities. However, I have learned to adapt and find enjoyment in activities such as going to the movies, especially animated films, and pursuing my passion for art through drawing.

The transition to college brought both apprehension and excitement. While the prospect of independence and diverse coursework excited me, I was also daunted by the unfamiliarity of the academic environment. However, with the support of accommodations and guidance from counselors, I embraced the challenge, determined to succeed despite the hurdles posed by ASD.

Accommodations such as taking tests alone were available, but I chose not to utilize them, opting to complete tests alongside my classmates. Additionally, the counselor helped me create a schedule of activities for each subject, providing structure and support to navigate the demands of college coursework.

In the words of Dr. Kerry Margo, “Autism can’t define me, I define autism.” As I embarked on the journey of adulthood, I refused to be confined by preconceived notions of what it means to be autistic. Instead, I embraced my neurodiversity as a source of strength and resilience, challenging societal barriers with unwavering determination.

My first year in community college served to me as a testament to the resilience and adaptability inherent in individuals with ASD. Through perseverance and self-acceptance, I navigated the complexities of social interaction and sensory sensitivities, emerging stronger and more resilient. As I continue to define my narrative, I am reminded that autism is not a limitation but a unique perspective that enriches the fabric of humanity.

I know some people have worse conditions than I do. The main goal of this essay, other than to compete for a scholarship, is to remind them that they are not alone. I understand their pain, and I understand that it may feel like they’re all alone. I know it feels like nobody understands what they’re going through. For many years, I thought I was the only one who understood what I was going through. Sometimes I still consider that. I feel like I’m defined by my autism. Now, I know that I’m not alone. I know some people go through similar trials that I go through. I also know that who I am is not defined by my autism.

The entomological roots of the term “autism,” stemming from Greek origins, elucidate its profound meaning: “a state of being oneself.” This definition profoundly encapsulates the intricate essence of living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Individuals with ASD often find solace in their own world, navigating their unique realities with a distinct perspective.

Indeed, ASD can manifest as a predisposition towards introspection and self-reliance, making it challenging to perceive the world through the eyes of others. This inherent tendency towards self-absorption, however, does not stem from indifference but rather from the natural inclination to remain within the bounds of one’s own thoughts and experiences.
Personally, I have discovered a talent for crafting intricate stories and scenarios within the confines of my mind. This imaginative ability not only serves as a source of entertainment but also offers a glimpse into the rich inner world that individuals with ASD often inhabit. Through storytelling, I find a means of expression and creativity that resonates deeply with my innate disposition.

In conclusion, my journey as an autistic individual has been characterized by both adversity and triumph. As I continue to navigate the challenges of college and beyond, I am committed to embracing my neurodiversity and advocating for greater understanding and acceptance within society.

Follow my journey on Facebook, my Facebook Fan Page, Tiktok, Youtube & Instagram.

What happens to children with autism, when they become adults? | Kerry Magro | TEDxMorristown (youtube.com)

My name is Kerry Magro, a professional speaker and best-selling author who is also on the autism spectrum. I started the nonprofit KFM Making a Difference in 2011 to help students with autism receive scholarship aid to pursue 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.

Autistics on Autism: Stories You Need to Hear About What Helped Them While Growing Up and Pursuing Their Dreams was released on March 29, 2022 on Amazon here for our community to enjoy featuring the stories of 100 autistic adults. 100% of the proceeds from this book will go back to our nonprofit to support initiatives like our autism scholarship program. In addition, this autistic adult’s essay you just read will be featured in a future volume of this book as we plan on making this into a series of books on autistic adults.


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