How I’ve Learned to Succeed with Autism

This guest post is by Jacob Cheatham, a young man who is diagnosed with Aspergers and plans to attend San Diego State University. Jacob 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.

I displayed autistic behaviors at an early age and my parents suspected there was something behind my behavior, but I was not diagnosed with autism due to functioning well. My first memory of autism involved other children agitating me and me becoming frustrated in kindergarten. The theme of social struggles continued into elementary school as children began bullying me and as a result, I developed low self-esteem and social anxiety which was related to my comorbid diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). I was diagnosed with OCD at the age of 10.

At the start of middle school, I possessed high social anxiety and it worsened during middle school as the bullying and teasing continued. This further exacerbated my self-doubts and social anxiety and by the end of middle school, I was so anxious that I barely interacted with anyone outside of my friends and family. At this time, OCD fears became debilitating as anxiety caused by it spiked in intensity and as a result, I entered a treatment program for the OCD. After three months of treatment, the ODC improved and I traveled back home, but relapsed after refusing to continue therapy. This time I entered an OCD treatment program that worked on the OCD fears and my social anxiety, which the mental health professionals assumed to be connected to the OCD. With the therapy I received, I developed basic social skills and a small amount of self-confidence. I went back to school after my social anxiety and OCD improved but relapsed with the OCD and somewhat with the social anxiety after several months. I then entered another treatment program and at this treatment program, mental health professionals diagnosed me with autism due to my social anxiety, social deficits, and difficulty maintaining progress with OCD. This diagnosis changed my self-concept as I got an explanation for my lifelong social struggles and why the OCD was difficult to treat.

I stayed in treatment for the next year and a half as I made and lost OCD progress, but improved on the social anxiety and my social deficits. I eventually entered a residential boarding school due to needing to finish high school and an environment with the structure necessary to keep my anxiety stable. At the residential boarding school, students bullied me for displaying socially awkward behaviors and having autism and as a result, the social anxiety worsened, but I improved my social skills. I graduated from high school in the summer of 2020 and due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I moved into a group home where I was isolated for several months. The lockdown atrophied my social skills as I was cutoff from social contact, but during the lockdown, I started college.

I attended Grossmont College for the Fall 2021 semester as it had in person classes. During the Spring 2022 semester, I chose to major in psychology as I desired to help other people with autism in my career and during the Summer of 2022, I became a front desk worker in the disability office of Grossmont College. I grew my social skills in this position as I interacted with other students and formed friendships with my coworkers. I held this position until I transferred to San Diego State University (SDSU) with a 4.0 GPA and an associate degree in psychology for the Fall 2023 semester. My first semester at SDSU was eventful as I maintained a 4.0 GPA, expanded my social network by joining different clubs and forming a friendship with another student, improved my social skills by talking with other students, and confronted my social anxiety through therapy. I started the Spring 2024 semester in January of this year and I have continued to improve my social skills, make career progress, and challenge my social anxiety by becoming acquaintances with classmates, actively participating in the SDSU psychology club, joining two honor societies, and looking for opportunities for me to push my social comfort zone and interact with other students.

Right now, I am student worker in the Accessibility Technology Center at SDSU, am maintaining a 4.0 GPA, was recently chosen to be the SDSU Psychology Club CSSC representative, and am looking for master’s programs where I can get a Marriage and Family Therapy degree after I graduate in the Spring of 2025. I plan to continue to improving my social skills at SDSU during the Fall 2024 and Spring 2025 semesters by getting a job which involves social interaction and helping people with disabilities, actively engaging with other officers in the SDSU Psychology Club, and going to the office hours of professors. During the Fall 2024 and Spring 2025 semesters, I plan to apply to different Marriage and Family Therapy programs and choose one of the programs I am accepted into. After I graduate in the Spring of 2025, I plan to become a registered behavioral technician that provides therapy to children with autism and work towards my MFT degree. At the MFT program, I plan to improve my social skills through the training I receive. Once I get my MFT degree, I plan to have a private practice where I provide affordable treatment to people with autism and to become part of a larger organization that advocates for people with autism so I can share my unique story and help people with autism receive the treatment and resources they need to thrive.

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 (

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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