April is Autism Awareness Month. We are profiling different individuals on the autism spectrum to put a spotlight on their gifts, their struggles and their triumphs.
Alex Prizgintas has never been defined by his autism diagnosis. Rather, he defines himself by his passions for music and history.
The Marist College junior was diagnosed with high-functioning autism (formerly known as Asperger’s syndrome) at 3-and-a-half years old, but he has not let that get to him, and was even more grateful to have had a family that supported him every step of the way.
“What is important to note here is that never did my parents deny or shy away from my diagnosis,” he said on Facebook. “They saw it as a tool, albeit a unique and different one, but certainly one worth better understanding and embracing.”
One of his long time passions has been collecting historic milk bottles.
He maintains a collection of around 500 bottles from different eras in American history, especially those from his beloved Hudson Valley. Prizgintas grew up in the Orange County area.
This passion led him to become the youngest president of the Hudson Valley Bottle Club at age 18. Sharing a room at a church with older people, one as old as 90, came naturally for Prizgintas.
“I have trouble identifying social cues such as sarcasm and certain aspects of humor,” he said. “That has always placed me at a level of distrust, I could say, with my fellow peers.”
He stated that to this day, he only has one peer his age whom he considers a trusted friend.
Now at 20, Prizgintas had to scale back on his commitment to the bottle club, but he is fortunate that being a student at Marist has allowed for him to explore his passion for history even further as a history major.
He has made connections with his professors and has been interning at the Hudson Valley River Institute at Marist, where he was able to publish material in its scholarly journal.
“It’s a wonderful institution, and I’m very thankful for how supportive they have been,” he said.
As a longtime cello player, Prizgintas also has a passion for music. On his website, you can find clips of him playing classical and more modern music.
“Music has always been a way for me to escape from areas of stress in any day,” he said. “My middle school years were quite challenging for me, and when I would come home from the day I would either go directly to the piano or cello.”
Looking forward to his senior year next year, Prizgintas seeks to eventually go to graduate school.
Although he commuted from home for most of his college career and has currently been learning remotely due to the pandemic, he feels as though branching out from his native Hudson Valley might be an option.
He is exploring the idea of graduate school, with the possibility of either staying in a dorm or living on his own.
“Now that I’ve had three [years] of college experience, I’ve opened up to the thought of [being on my own],” he said. “I’m exploring options for graduate school currently, and depending on where I go, I’m looking into the public administration area.”
For more information on Alex Prizgintas’s pursuits, visit his website at https://alexprizgintas.com.