“Despite My Struggles with Autism, I’m Now Swimming at the College Level”
This guest post is by Brayden Reeves, a young man on the autism spectrum who has been accepted and will be attending McMurry University where he is majoring in video game design. We are fortunate enough to re-blog this from Kerry Magro’s A Special Community.
My name is Brayden Reeves and three months ago the path to my future changed! I was going to attend a junior college until my dream of swimming for the NCAA came true. The journey has not been an easy one but I never gave up and I’m so glad I didn’t.
I received my autistic diagnosis at the age of four. And because I was not ready for kindergarten my mom had me attend TCU speech clinic and PPCD for 1 year. I attended public school through the fifth grade. However, public school was not a fit for me as they were puzzled on how to help me learn the way I could. My elementary school never challenged me. They dummied down the schoolwork as if I needed it. My friends would get 20 words on a spelling test but they would only give me 10. I knew them all! They had me reading the “The Three Little Pigs” in the 5th grade not having me read to my potential. My mom constantly attended meetings asking them time after time to push me to climb “Mount Everest” and not continue to play in the sandbox.
At the end of my elementary career, my mom, being a social worker began to look for a school for children with learning differences. It was called Hill School. This was a specialized school and was very expensive. She is a single parent who has sacrificed her savings in order for me to get the best education. This school not only offers an outstanding education but also offers sports, drama, music, and technology. I’ve tried many sports. They weren’t physically demanding but were mentally demanding. When you have autism you go through many periods of sensory overload.
Swimming has truly been my life saver. Swimming by far gave me a sense of purpose and was quite calming. There was one drawback with Hill School however. They did not have a swim team. Our school delegation did not offer it. But my mom and I did not give up hope on my dream. I became the “The Lone Swimmer”. My mom contacted the local public high school coach and told him about my situation. For the last four years he has allowed me to practice with his swim team. We also contacted private schools and received their swim meet schedules. My meets consisted of 5 public school meets and 5 private school meets. But I swam under the title of my school, Hill School of Fort Worth. I represented my school proudly. Above all, I love competing in swimming the most. I get up at 4:50 am and swim 2 hours every morning before school even starts. I take my sport very seriously. I continue to work hard so that I can be the best swimmer that I can be. This year was my best year ever. I have beaten many of my records and also competed with 5A schools and won.
One day, a recruiter from McMurry University came to my school and asked if I would like to swim for them. It’s a D3 school and doesn’t offer athletic scholarships but I could not pass this opportunity up. It’s what I wanted to do since I was 7 years old.
Swimming is one of my passions. But I also have another passion that is dear to my heart and that is information technology and helping students with disabilities find their calling. I look forward to the opportunity to improve on technology for video games for those with learning differences. I have thoughts about creating a sort of “starter-kit”. Start at ground zero on letting a person learn basic gaming knowledge geared for decreasing sensory overload. As they improve and can tolerant the game, they move up to the next set. This gives the person with sensory overload the ability to improve at their own pace. There could be many starter kit idea possibilities. They could be based on a child’s interest, hobbies, and their intellectual strengths. These starter kits could even assist therapists, schools, hospitals, clinics, and colleges. In my short 18 years, I have gone through hours and hours of therapy, tutoring and sensory overload. I want to help the generation after me so they don’t have to go through all those struggles. Technology has a way to connect with kids who have disabilities and I want to be part of that bright light.
I encourage students with disabilities to find their passion whether it be movies, comics, a video game, or even a sport. I plan on being the next Michael Phelps while changing the lives of our future superheroes.