The following is an article that was written in the Fall, 2015 edition of the K-Stater magazine. The article was written by Sarah Rajewski. I have printed it here in its entirety because I thought it was a great motivational story.
Zach Zaborny'12, Fargo, North Dakota, knew he wanted to attend Kansas State University with one drive past the entrance gate--even before walking on campus.
"I immediately said right then and there, 'OK, I'm going to school here," Zaborny said.
Three years after graduation, Zaborny now speaks of his K-State experiences at conferences around the United States, and he plans to speak on other continents this year. In his presentation Education of an Aspie, Zaborny shares a glimpse of college life as a student with Asperger's syndrome.
At 8, Zaborny was diagnosed with Asperger's, which falls on the autism spectrum. With this, Zaborny said he has problems understanding sarcasm and unwritten social rules and a tendency to hyperfocus.
Born prematurely at 26 weeks, Zaborny spent his first six months in the hospital and needed tubes to survive for the next few years.
Zaborny said his parents encouraged him to attend college "It was never really an option that I wasn't going to go to college," he said.
In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that one in every 68 children has an autism spectrum disorder, growing from one in 88 in 2012. With increases in autism's prevalence, Zaborny said starting the conversation about a teen's life after high school is important, which he does through speaking and a blog, The ZEZ Connection.
"Now parents have the diagnosis, and they go, 'OK, what's going to happen to my kid?" Zaborny said. "Are they going to be able to live independently?"
Zaborny's message that college is possible comes with tips he learned firsthand, such as disclosing Asperger's to roommates and professors.
Zaborny plans to take this message to the 2015 Asia Pacific Autism Conference in September in Australia, which he signed up for on a whim.
"I'm just starting out," he said. "I don't have a lot of experience in my speaking. I'm just Zach, up in Fargo. Are they really going to pick me?"
Once he learned in April that he had been selected, he set up a GoFundMe page to cover the travel and conference fees and raised more than $4,000. Whatever he doesn't need for Australia, he plans to use for other travels as an autism advocate.
"To be as independent as I am...and as versatile as I've been with different things, I think it gives people hope," Zaborny said.
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