By Maverick L. Crawford III
Maverick talks candidly about being diagnosed with an intellectual disability and autism. His is an inspirational story of rising above his abuse and homelessness to find his personal strength and triumph.
I remembered how awkward I appeared to be compared to my other siblings. My behavior, starting at six months, was repetitive and restricted. Every day I would hide from everyone and not play with my siblings. Doors as they opened and closed were fascinating to me. I would stack my toys that were rectangles in a specific order as high as possible. When my mother or siblings touched or found me somewhere in the house, I would have a temper tantrum. I would suck my ring finger all day as it provided a sense of comfort.
Early in my life, I could not understand social interaction (and tried to avoid it), nonverbal communication and never maintained eye contact. My mother did not fully understand what was going with me and relied on doctors and professionals to deal with my issues.
I was born with a tongue-tie, an abnormally thick line that connected my tongue to the bottom of my mouth. Because of this issue, I had trouble keeping food down, which caused me to become sick. After years of pain, I had tongue clip surgery at the age of three. Later, I was diagnosed with a severe speech impediment, intellectual disability and autism.
Going to school was a nightmare.
I was always bullied until I graduated from high school. The bullying consisted of teasing, physical and verbal attacks from students, some relatives, and teachers. I was placed in special education because my mental condition was considered too severe for a general class setting.
My first-grade teacher always reminded me in front of the whole class how stupid and useless I was. She’d yell at me and say such horrible things.
“Maverick since you have autism, you will never amount to anything, graduate from high school, and will be institutionalized.”
Classmates would automatically accuse me of doing anything wrong and my teacher would punish me. The punishment consisted of yelling, grabbing my ears and pull me to her desk or the office.
My positive mentor turned into physical abuser.
At age 16, I was sent to live with a half-brother on my father’s side. He was given temporary custody of me and promised me a better life. After a few years of being a positive mentor to me and an effective male influence, my autism and difficulties lead to his punishment and abuse.
I was beaten with a blunt object in close range, and then he had me lie across my bed naked and beat me like a runaway slave. Other times, he would punch me in my face, a violent blow that sent me to the ground.
Every time I received a beating, I struggled to breathe, my heart stopped, my body twitched, lose consciousness and fall to the floor. My whole life would pass through like a movie, my eyes would close, and I thought I was dead. Then I’d wake up lying on the floor.
He came into my class and shamed me in public in front of my peers and teachers about how pathetic I was. At age 19, I decided to leave, and he became upset. I was beaten severely and thrown out the hotel, on my head. He yelled at me and said,
“You’re worthless, I don’t care what happens to you, you can be dead for all I care.”
I planned to commit suicide.
I had a few unsuccessful attempts at suicide after I left him. At one of the homeless shelters I stayed at, I rapped my bed sheets around my neck and attached it up to a wall, trying to hang myself. I began to get dizzy, and my circulation started to decline, but the bed sheet could not hold my six-foot three body.
Contemplating suicide continued in my mind because I felt that there was no purpose for me to live. All I had was a white shirt and blue shorts and slept outside in the cold weather with nothing but a mat and a bath towel to keep me warm.
I found the support I needed to triumph.
Before Haven for Hope, I slept out on bus stops, hid in small areas in the central library downtown, slept in the grass, on the ground or in remote locations so that I would not be bothered by anyone. I would wake up with pink eye, ear infections and other problems due to sleeping outside. Going to school was a challenge because I had to carry my belongings everywhere I went because there were no lockers.
After everything I went through, I still managed to get my education. I finished and graduated from St. Philips College with an associate’s degree and 3.7 GPA. My college teachers and staff provided me comfort and support through my journey as a person with autism and abuse survivor.
Now, I’m a senior at the University of Texas at San Antonio with a 3.5 GPA expecting to graduate in May of 2018 with a Bachelors of Arts in Criminal Justice, Public Administration and a minor in Civic Engagement.
I will not allow the past to stop me from pursuing my goals.
Autism has been my number one component to my success in school. I remain humble in spirit and stick to my primary objective of trying my best daily by taking small steps. I want to help, support and inspire others on the autism spectrum to not give up or lose hope no matter what they are going through.
Keep pushing, keep striving, keep persevering to the end and there will be a greater reward. Always be proud of your autism because you are unique and special in your way, no matter what any doctor, parent, students, siblings or anybody tells you.
Read Maverick’s article “How I Overcome Obstacles with ASD and Steps” on Aspergers 101
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