Matt Doren’s Story
My name is Matthew Doren, and I have autism. Autism may seem like a disability to some people, and in some ways, it is, but if given the proper help, autistic people can unlock their full potential.
In fact, in many ways, our uniqueness makes us stand out with special skills.
My story begins in late 2006. I was eight years old and had just started third grade.
Although I had not yet been diagnosed, my parents, teachers, and I already realized that I was having problems.
Paying attention in class and not really understanding a lot of material that was being taught was difficult.
A lot of the simplest things confused me about why they were important and how to get my work done.
My mother spent hours after school with me, reading the materials and helping me write my essays.
She hired a few of my teachers from time to time to tutor me, including my second-grade teacher, with whom I was close.
I was also lucky that school knew to put me in smaller reading groups with other kids like me, some of whom remain my closest friends to this day. These smaller reading groups would continue until High School.
I was fifteen when I discovered that I was autistic. Though I was becoming a lot more independent with my work, other problems began to arise. I had social issues and was having trouble connecting with my peers.
That started to affect me more by the time I was in my junior year. At that point, I reached my lowest emotional state. Although most people liked me, I often had trouble fitting in because I felt too different from them.
The workload was a lot and would often get out-of-hand for me. Due to this, things were getting difficult for me and my family. I was so depressed that I barely got through that year.
As I was getting ready to graduate, I felt unsure about what I wanted to do. Luckily, my parents believed I should go to college.
I got some great scholarships to some schools that I thought were interesting. Despite that, I still wasn’t sure because High School was hard for me, and I didn’t think I could handle any more work. Despite my worries, I decided to go.
When it was time for me to decide which college attend, I narrowed it down to two, Western New England University and Suffolk University.
Although I preferred Suffolk, I chose Western New England because they had a program specifically for people with autism.
I had a good experience my first year, as the program was helpful, and I had a girlfriend. My dad, pictured here with me, and my mom, have been my constant supporters and advocates for many years. I’m so grateful to have them in my life.
I took a reduced course load and had not yet declared a major. Then, the following year got hard again. I broke up with my girlfriend the previous summer and wasn’t making friends in school.
Then halfway through the year, the dean running the autism program left and the program was discontinued. That was when I decided it was time to change schools.
Despite the problematic final semester at Western New England, I was able to transfer to Suffolk.
So, in my junior year of college, I started studying at Suffolk.
This time, I believed that I chose the right crowd, and it was much better.
I was already making great friends and finally decided to major in sports marketing.
With that finally settled in my mind, I felt I was on my way. It helped that I was in the middle of Downtown Boston, right near all my favorite sports teams.
At Suffolk, the disability service program was even better than the one in Western New England. I made up additional classes and got straight A’s in my final semester.
I graduated with honors, even during the COVID lockdown, due to wonderful support I got from my family and friends.
Despite graduating with honors, I am struggling to find a job that fits my dreams. I am determined to be in sports marketing. My concern is that my perceived disability has been holding me back. I am firmly committed to get over that. I have already proven to myself that I can excel in the proper environment. So, I’m retraining my mind to use the word “ability”, instead of “disability”.
For the past eight years, I have been working at a grocery store. Truthfully, I recognize that I am underemployed like so many other individuals with autism.
I get along with my all my co-workers, and I am an excellent and respected employee, but I am not working in the profession of my dreams.
I am working with a coach to find a job that fits my interest.
My coach helped me write this post on LinkedIn.
I was amazed to find 69,506 people liked, loved, and supported my post.
There have been 2,366 comments and I now have 4,524 followers. I am busy speaking with many individuals and companies and believe I will find the right fit.
It’s important to me that I find work with a company that understands my autism and is willing to work with me so I can excel in my work and add my own special talents.
Now, with many followers, I am going to help others who are like me find jobs as well by posting and promoting them and advocating for autism inclusion.
As an enabled human being, I am ready to show the world what I can really do to lead others in finding their abilities and making them the centerpiece of my offering.
This story is only the beginning, and I am going to update it regularly. My current experiences are heartwarming and have shown me that both autistic and neurotypical individuals are supportive and kind. I want to share my progress as time passes and work for autism inclusion for everyone.