This guest post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro. Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a rising senior at Seton Hall University, majoring in Sports Management. He started the club Student Disability Awareness on campus to help spread awareness and raise funds for those affected by autism. Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities.
Ever since I was aware that I was on the spectrum I’ve always had difficulty over hearing people use certain words in their every day conversations. I’m bringing this up, since I have recently been in a situation where one of my peers used the word “autism” in a derogatory fashion about one of my friends who was not on the spectrum. As someone who has been advocating for those on the spectrum for several years now I have always tried to pick my battles wisely. Sometimes though it’s not that simple; you have to say enough is enough and take a stand on something, no matter the costs.
My friend said during this conversation, “Why is she not speaking tonight, it’s like she has autism or something.” As soon as this was said, I was angry. Angry that someone would use autism in that context and also how someone would use the word knowing that I was on the spectrum. This was not the first time I had heard the word autism being used like this, but I knew this was the last time I wanted to hear it. Instead of getting angry and verbally lashing out, I am taking the time to educate people about the hurtfulness some words can have on certain individuals.
With this I had an idea. Over a year ago I took a pledge to stop using the word “retarded” via the Spread the Word to End The Word Campaign through the website r-word.org. With permission, our Autism Speaks U Chapter at Seton Hall will also be doing a similar project in relation to World Autism Awareness Day on April 2nd. Today however I would like to make a pledge via the Autism Speaks Blog in regards to autism. With this, I am also making a pledge to put myself out there to say what is on my mind more and to be more open to people in general. Over the past couple of years I have learned that there is a tremendous opportunity for myself to do some good for many families and individuals on the spectrum.
I encourage others to make a pledge, regardless if you are on the spectrum or not because the bottom line is you can make a difference and it all starts off with awareness. Here’s my pledge:
I, Kerry Magro, make the pledge to not use the word autism in a derogatory fashion due to the harmful effects it has on certain individuals. I will also make my voice heard and educate others who want to learn and/or are unaware about autism. As an individual on the spectrum, I hereby take it as my duty to stand up and protect my fellow brothers and sisters in the autistic community as we progress forward within our disability movement. “Nothing About Us Without Us.”- James Charlton
(Would you be willing to make a pledge? Feel free to post your own pledges in the comment section below. Thank You.)