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Finding my own unique path after my autism diagnosis

This guest blog post is by Michael Goodroe. Michael works full time as a data processor and serves as a motivational speaker. He wrote "What Autism Gave Me" to provide hope to others facing the challenges.

 
I have an unexpected story of hope to share. As a young child, it was obvious to everyone that something was wrong with me. At four years old, I was unable to answer simple questions or follow simple commands. I lacked basic motor skills. Testing revealed a diagnosis of autism with a low IQ and significant motor problems. Experts insisted that leading an independent life would be impossible and school was not an option.
 
At the time, autism was not prevalent. It is estimated that autism was 1 in 2000 children. The internet did not exist so any meaningful information came from library searches. I have two hard-working parents that dedicated an infinite amount of energy to finding ways to help me overcome challenges.  
 
My testing results and diagnosis closed many doors. Hoping that a school for children with learning disabilities would accept me, applications were made to every school in the Atlanta GA area. Even before meeting me, rejection letters flew back in the mailbox. Finally, a very small school for severe behavioral problems accepted me. Frightening for my parents, a child was being restrained in the entry of the very small school as they entered. Even though there was a negative first impression, this school was the right place for me to be.    
 
To strengthen my brain connection and motor functions, there was only one karate program that would accept me. Again, a victory that someone opened the door to give me an opportunity. For 25 years, I have attended this same karate. Recently, I was awarded a 3rd degree black belt. 
For both school and karate, it was never obvious I would have a positive story to tell. My development challenges were severe and progress was not always obvious. One small goal at a time was the focus. With time, I improved in so many ways. It required a lot of work but it was worth the effort.   
My testing scores were too low for college, but I had one talent that emerged. I was able to sing classical music and was accepted to college through an exception granted when someone does meet minimum entry criteria. I completed my BA in History which is another story of how I managed to accomplish this. While working as a data processor, I also completed a MBA degree. I have been surrounded by support and encouraged to keep trying no matter how many times I failed. My developmental progress was not always obvious, but I found my own unique path.

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.