Inspirational story of autism
Former Maroon managing editor Michael McClure reflects on how being diagnosed with autism

Michael McClure’s story is touching and relatable to other people on the spectrum, and he shares this with others through his own personal experience. He hopes that his writing will serve as a positive step towards increasing visibility and humanizing the label of being on the spectrum, which has long been stigmatized.

He recounts pushing away from the “weird kid” label so that he could at least have some peace from the bullying he faced in middle school and avoid it in high school. In order to fit in with others, he learned how to hold conversations in a way that pleased them.

Michael McClure Autism Diagnosis

And let’s keep in mind that this was before he even knew he was on the spectrum, let alone the family members. In his own words, he wonders, “If my teachers, parents, and classmates knew I was Autistic when I refused to eat fruits and vegetables and immediately spit them out, would they have let it go?” He questions whether anyone would have punished his bullies during his experience with bullying.

He then recounts his college years, hoping to start a new chapter and leave the coping mechanisms behind. His passion for journalism and writing led him to the managing editor position at Maroon, where he excelled due to his dedication to the copy desk and was elected leader of the school’s chapter for the Society of Professional Journalists.

And although he has found success and a sense of belonging in this position, Michael McClure never, as he puts it, “never felt quite at home” in the social environment of college. In fact, looking back, he realises that while he may have found a community in his passion and interests, he still felt like an outsider compared to the ‘normal’ activities of his peers.  He recalls how people would gather to eat together at the cafeteria or socialize by watching movies or making small talk at events like Promontory Point.

Michael McClure felt alienated

As much as he tried to fit in and participate, he couldn’t shake off the feeling of being an ‘other’ in these situations. The turning point in his life was when he learned that he could be both a “weird kid” and a leader.  He also discovered how to turn his autism into a positive attribute by connecting with like-minded motorsport enthusiasts from various corners of the globe. Many of them were also on the spectrum, and they became his support system through all the challenges and triumphs he faced at UChicago, in personal relationships, and in pursuit of his journalism career both on and off campus. 

Michael McClure is happy to have found a place in college where he didn’t feel like the odd one out.  As he says in his writing, “people are not inherently evil, they just need guidance.”

He has also called out the harmful effects of movies and TV shows that stereotype individuals on the spectrum, such as Raymond Babbitt and Sheldon Cooper. He believes that these narrow representations fail to capture the true diversity among people with autism. Overall, McClure also praises the incredible talents, courage, and kindness of his peers, who also happen to be on the autism spectrum, and feels honored to call them his friends.

Treatment and care

Autism awareness is gaining more attention and understanding. According to the CDC, projections show that 1 in 36 children in the US have been diagnosed with Autism, making it a prevalent issue. In Illinois alone, there are approximately 7000 students living with this condition.

For quality and personalized treatment, one can seek the services of Illinois Autism Center, a leading treatment center in the state.