Overcoming Adversity: My Journey with ASD Through High School

This guest post is by Andrew Longa, a young man who is diagnosed with autism and is attending Iona University. Longa 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.

The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? As I reflect on my journey from middle school to high school and the challenges I faced, I cannot help but appreciate how far I have come. The first two years of middle school were some of my happiest years. Despite being diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety, I had formed a good group of friends and enjoyed my classmates and teachers. Everything was going well until I started getting bullied at the end of 7th grade. Like most bullies, he picked on people that were different. I was confronted by an obstacle originating from my OCD challenge. OCD presented itself with behaviors a bully could easily target. Fortunately, with the help and support of my family, therapy, and my school support system, I was able to stand up to the bully. Because of
my strength and willingness to not be intimidated, the school was able to document his actions and he was suspended from school. The bully situation was small in comparison to what came next…COVID 19. During my 8th grade, the pandemic took hold and my life dramatically changed. COVID 19 was hard for everyone, but particularly hard for someone like me who suffered from OCD and anxiety. My 8th grade year was damaged as I lost contact with my friends, connections with my teachers, and our field trip and graduation were cancelled. I struggled to remain positive, but again, with support and skills acquired from my family and therapy, I was able to complete middle school with excellent grades setting a foundation for high school.

COVID 19 carried into freshman year and remained a struggle for me. We were forced into a virtual hybrid learning model. This year was probably my most difficult. Transitioning from middle school to high school is challenging enough, but combined with COVID, I found it to be particularly complex. I put in a lot of effort to uphold a positive mindset during my freshman year. Relying on my support system and applying my skills in strength, mental toughness, and Applied Behavioral Analysis, I managed to not only maintain my grades but also successfully navigate through the challenges of my first year.

During my sophomore year, a video game called “OMORI” played a pivotal role in reshaping my outlook on life. To summarize, the game is about this boy named Sunny, who became isolated after something traumatic happened in his life resulting in a severe anxiety disorder. I really related to this character and how he overcame his obstacles. This game also made me seriously consider going into computer programming and game development. Identifying with the main character’s struggles with anxiety allowed me to confront and address my own mental health issues. Despite the challenges of sophomore year, I began connecting with people online who shared similar interests, building a supportive community. Taking on the role of co-director for an “OMORI” modification project was a huge deal for me, diving deep into the game development and
computer programing environment.

Moving on to junior year, there were more wins on the board, like hitting a 1100 on the SAT and maintaining a solid 3.4 GPA. This added to the positive momentum of my academic journey.

My senior year saw a significant boost in my social life. Joining winter track and various clubs helped me build some real friendships, paving the way for a fulfilling and successful senior year. Looking forward, I am committed to chasing my dream job in computer programming and keeping my social life fulfilling. Sure, there might be hurdles, but you can bet I have become accustomed to obstacles and will continue to overcome whatever confronts me in my future. My journey, though marked by adversity, has been a testament to my personal growth and the building of meaningful connections. The challenges have fueled my determination to embrace the future with optimism and perseverance.

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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