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Perspectives of a Neurodiverse College Student: "How A Disability Changed My Life"

Happy Autism & Neurodiversity Awareness and Acceptance Month!

Fight or flight. It is a primal physiological reaction that triggers our mind and bodies to either attack or retreat. Every person deals with this daily in various situations, but for someone like myself diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, it is amplified in ways that are almost incomprehensible.

I am different, and I accept that. My amygdala, the part of my brain that controls emotions, registers social interactions as danger, which causes my body to go into panic mode often. Throughout my entire childhood, I experienced social anxiety that only worsened as I progressed through my teenage years. I had a hard time forming close, lasting friendships. I felt overwhelmed in large crowds and small groups alike. I felt alone because I was alone.

For three years in middle school, I sat by myself at lunch. I struggled to find a sense of

the cliche concept of normalcy. However, one day I decided to run for Class President. I was

shocked when I won by a landslide. Apparently others liked me more than I knew. I was told that it was my ability to listen to the struggles of others that secured me that position. This gave me the boost of confidence I needed to recognize that while it may be difficult, I have the power to embrace the discomfort and inch towards resolution.

In high school I continued to face my fears, push myself and try new things. During my

ninth grade year I joined the Archery Team. Being a part of this club went beyond learning the intricacies and discipline of the sport itself, it provided a foundation of self worth and a sense of acceptance. It gave me hope that I was in fact capable of making connections and worthy of interaction. In turn, I forced myself to be more social, but still something was off. My parents were worried, but the doctors just brushed their concerns aside. It was not until my sophomore year when I took a psychology class that I began to notice parallels between my brain and that of a person diagnosed with Autism. I started to research this topic, and my parents and I pushed for more expansive testing. Then at the age of seventeen, I was officially diagnosed. While it is not easy to be told that your brain functioning is abnormal, it brought clarity and in return relief.

It has been a long road of self discovery and perseverance, but I am determined to continue to grow and feel empowered each and every day. I am currently a team member at our local Chick-fil-A, which has only solidified my belief in my leadership potential and served as a reminder to myself and others that I am capable of so much more than my diagnosis. My newfound sense of self awareness will lead me into the next phase of my life with a greater determination and confidence. I plan to pursue a degree in Psychology and Neuroscience, and I want to be at the forefront of Autism and other neurological research. Today, Autism has no cure and little is known about its cause. I plan to change this. My journey with Asperger’s has cemented my desire to not only find answers and treatment but to provide guidance and hope to others navigating through this complex medical maze of the autistic mind. It has been a long road, but I now wholeheartedly believe in the words of Dr. Kerry Magro: “Autism can’t define me, only I can define autism.”

-USC College Student with Autism

College Admissions Essay



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