My name is Marcus C. and I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when I was five.
Growing up, I experienced the typical high-functional autism life: Inability to fit in, bullying, and a lack of social awareness. My parents noticed this and placed me in a community class at Doncrest Public School in grade two. However, the class wasn’t right for me because the students there were low functioning to the point where signs of me experiencing retrogression were visible by the end of the year. I was pulled out of that class and put back into the mainstream public school program, at Bayview Hill Elementary School.
In grade 6, I passed the gifted test and moved to gifted classes at another school, Silver Stream Public School, where the classes were much more difficult. I did not regret it as I would find myself bored with how simple and tedious the homework was back in Bayview Hill and I would just read novels until I was caught by the teacher. At one point, I also tried to start a small bake shop during English class with my friend, but the teacher found out and ripped apart my plans (which were written on a piece of paper) and threw them in the recycling bin.
Even though I was older, finding friends was still a major challenge. I found common topics to talk about in video games (which is how I made my first few friends in my new school). The people at Silver Stream were much more accepting than the people at Bayview Hill so I befriended them a lot easier.
In grade seven, I decided to finally take action on my diagnosis. I was given an assignment in which I had to identify a social injustice and think of solutions. I procrastinated as usual and on the last day, I asked my mom for help. She told me about stigma against people with autism like me and told me to make a presentation on that. I listened to her and presented that in front of the class. I received one of the highest grades I’ve ever gotten on an assignment.
Inspired and willing to go further, I talked to the principal of the school and asked her if there was any way in which I could talk to other people about my experiences with autism. I also told a few other people about this idea, one of which was my friend’s mother, who also had a son on the spectrum. She supported my idea and found someone from Autism Ontario, Jamie, to help me out on my journey.
I exchanged emails with Jamie and my principal and vice principal. Eventually, a small speech turned into a full-fledged assembly on April 2, 2016. The format was simple: Jamie would present his part about what autism did, then I would step in with a carefully prepared 15-minute speech about how I grew up with autism. Back then, I actually had an extreme fear of presenting and I could barely present a 5-minute presentation in front of a 25-person classroom, much less a vulnerable 15-minute speech in front of some 300 students. I was terrified during the assembly, but I still continued to speak.
I do not remember the details, but I received a standing ovation from teachers and students. I was surprised because I never got a standing ovation before. I felt inspired by this and contacted Bayview Hill and asked if I could do the same assembly there because I believed the students there needed to understand the most. They accepted. When I was on stage, I recognized a lot of the students in the audience. They were my old classmates. I kept speaking until my speech was over but there was no standing ovation this time. I still felt content and fulfilled with what I did.
I started investing in stocks in around grade 8 to build up my financial resources. My Asperger’s Syndrome focused my interests on technology, so I invested in tech stocks. I did tons of research on technology and I invested in innovative companies. I ended up making around 25% year over year.
In grade nine, I entered high school. It was a giant school and there were so many new people to meet. I noticed my social skills, which is a weakness for many people on the spectrum, were improving every single day. My extroverted nature (I’m an ENFP) enabled me to have the desire to talk to more people. My interests were also made known as I became the opinion leader when it came to building computers, and I was also called out by the teacher for attempting to invest in bitcoin in grade 9 science class. On the side, I learned how to do parkour and acrobatic movements such as backflips.
In grade 10, I became known as the “backflip kid”. It was because I did backflips all the time, even in socially inappropriate situations. I saw people attempting to talk to me as an opportunity to practice and improve my social skills. I continued looking into my interests and improving my abilities.
In grade 11, I continued what I started. And I started more things too. I created York Region’s first parkour club which was a huge challenge. In addition to writing a 30-page club startup proposal and finding club executives, I was also rejected by over 60 potential teacher supervisors. However, I believe my persistence (which is a trait that many people with Asperger’s share) kept me going. I also co-founded a non-profit organization called Uplifting Autism which is a youth organization dedicated to bridging the gap between people with autism and neurotypical individuals. And that’s where I am right now.
This is (a small part of) my story. I hope it inspires other people to attempt to make a difference in their community.
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