This guest post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro. Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a rising senior at Seton Hall University, majoring in Sports Management. He started an Autism Speaks U Chapter: Student Disability Awareness on campus to help spread awareness and raise funds for those affected by autism. Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities.
As a college student, I can definitely tell you that I go through my own long list of challenges. As someone with pervasive development disorder- not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), a form of autism, those challenges have seemed a bit longer and harder to deal with in comparison to my peers. I’ve always been that individual who, when I see a problem, I wanted it fixed. Not that all problems can be fixed, but if I was in a situation where I know I could change something, I would be the person who did something about it. Recently I have seen myself go through a great deal of struggles both in friendships and work-related incidents because of my difficulty in not seeing the views of others from their perspective. My “Blind Side” as I’ve called it, has put me in some of the most difficult struggles throughout my college experience.
Many people have different names for this theory such as “Mind Blindness” and “Tunnel Vision.” Overall it can be defined as the difficulty of being unaware of what others are thinking. Basically, not understanding the perspective of someone else, not being able to put yourself in their shoes, not being empathetic. This has led some of my peers to believe that I’m self centered, that regardless of what I’m doing, it’s about me and everyone else has to live with it. I can remember from a self evaluation during my junior year by one of my faculty advisors, I was called out for being “disrespectful to others feelings” and “not a team player.” Sophomore year my Resident Director where I was a Resident Assistant called me out “for being stuck” and for “wanting to do things in the same manner.” On the other hand these experiences glaringly pointed out, that although I have raised the awareness on my campus of what autism is, and put a face on what a student with autism looks like, many people haven’t a clue of what it entails or how it manifests or affects students. I’ve never used my disability as a scapegoat for whatever tendencies I have or may go through but what do you do? Follow my own advice? Autism is never a disability unless you let it become one. I take criticism as an indication of what I could work on to become stronger as a person, but in this situation I’ve never felt so blind.
I can’t see where I’m going and I keep going through walls, regardless if I go left, regardless if I go right, regardless if I just go straight down the middle, that wall is hitting me as hard as I’m hitting it. The problem with hitting these walls is that even when you pick yourself up, you still have to go through the pain for making those first few mistakes. Now, if you hit enough of these walls, why would you even consider going through the same pain regardless of how sweet it would be to break through them.
I may be blind for a little while longer, but I won’t back down despite the limitations. They told Michael Jordan he couldn’t fly and he did. They told Jackie Robinson he would never play major league baseball and he did. Although these seem like extreme examples, we all need those to inspire us to be the best we can be. To help myself moving forward I have mainly asked my peers to communicate. I’m a very detailed oriented person so whenever I get feedback, I like to write it down and take time to reflect on what it truly means and how I can go about a positive outcome. Frankly, regardless if I have a blind side, everyone has those “blind spots,” which if no one ever gave them advice on they may never grow. I’m far from perfect but I’m more than less because I’m here, doing what I need to do to better myself and hopefully through these blogs, helping others as well.