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Posts Tagged ‘Autism in College’

Call Me Kerry and Never Rain Man

January 3, 2012 8 comments

This guest post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro. Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a graduate student at Seton Hall University, and is actively involved with our college program. Autism Speaks U is an initiative designed to support college students in their awareness, advocacy and fundraising efforts.

Do you know that I was once called Rain Man by a college peer? Wow. When I look back at the reason why anyone would say something like that I think of some of the stereotypes of autism. Some think people with autism lack social interaction and others think people with autism are good at math. In the 1988 movie Rain Man, Actor Dustin Hoffman plays a character that is autistic and shows he’s good with numbers but also lacks some communication skills. Because of the popularity of this movie and mainly because autism was still very unknown during the release of the movie it became, for better or for worse, a characterization of what autism could be.

But you know what the problem is here? I’m autistic and I’m nothing like Rain Man. I’m now an adult great with verbal communication, I’m not as good in math and the differences keep piling up. You see, autism is very broad. No one diagnosis is the same and therefore when we think of Rain Man we must think of Rain Man as ONLY Rain Man. He is one symbol of the countless symbols of real people out there that have autism. I think that’s what makes our autism community great. We all are unique in our own way and we all have the opportunity to have our “voices” heard. Sometimes that voice is not a verbal one, sometimes it is heard through our art or music or some other skill or talent we have or simply a smile at our family members. Each and every individual with autism is a new and unique symbol of what autism is today and will be for our future.

So in keeping with the future…

To those who are reading…

Don’t call me Rain Man. Call me Kerry.

Don’t think I’m bad at verbal communication, because in fact in my own way I’m great at communication and I’m getting a Master’s Degree in Strategic Communication to boot.

Don’t think I’ll be ready to help when it comes to numbers, because all I’m going to do is pass you a calculator.

AND, most importantly, just look at me as me. I’m Kerry and there is only one of me. Just like there is only one of you. Let’s embrace the fact that there will only be one Kerry Magro, just like there will only be one Rain Man. We write our own stories based on the biography of life which we are all living through right now. Let’s make sure the chapters we’re writing are good ones, by living it just the way we are.

So please call me Kerry the next time you see me, because that is someone who I  was always meant to be.

I just started a new video blog called “My Autism My Voice,” and this is one of the topics I discuss. Click here for more information. This is one of my Autism Speaks U related blog posts. If you would like to contact me directly about questions/comments related to this post I can be reached at kerry.magro@autismspeaks.org or through my Facebook page here.

The Power of a Positive Attitude

December 12, 2011 2 comments

This guest post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro. Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a graduate student at Seton Hall University, and is actively involved with our college program. Autism Speaks U is an initiative designed to support college students in their awareness, advocacy and fundraising efforts.

One of the greatest lessons I ever learned in college was the ability to lead through, “The Power of a Positive Attitude.” When I was growing up it was always difficult for me to commit to things, always hard for me to get to that next level. A big part of that was based on my attitude. I didn’t know it back then but I was blind from how my attitude was leading the direction of my life. I struggled so much back when I was a kid it was always tough for me to focus on what was needed to overcome those obstacles.

College did change me though. It made me understand the need to take my attitude that indeed dramatically changed in high school to another level again. This happened when I started to realize there’s a solution to everything. Indeed, some of these solutions are ever changing as our society evolves and gains more knowledge but like what my mom would always tell me, “there are no problems, just solutions.” This helped me tremendously. Whether it was was getting accommodations for classes or even finding a way for an individual with autism such as myself to get a masters degree in strategic communication, the solution was there for me to find.

For all those reading what I hope you take from this is that even though there is a great deal of uncertainty out there involving autism that you understand we must continue to push positivity in everything we do. There are answers out there to help our loved ones succeed, autistic or not. Getting down on ourselves will help no one in our pursuits for a better tomorrow. Our community is in desperate need of this. I know this might be harder for some but for those individuals I ask that you make an effort to lose yourself in your passions to make a difference for yourself and the lives of others.

Tell yourself, there are ways to improve my life. There are ways to help my loved ones. Make these your mantra. We spend so much time sometimes saying what we don’t have, what services we can’t find, what diagnosis’s we can’t get, that we don’t appreciate what we have today. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Live your life with no more problems but instead strive to find the solutions. And if you can, do it with a smile. It can make a world of difference. It did for me.

This is one of my Autism Speaks U related blog posts. If you would like to contact me directly about questions/comments related to this post I can be reached at kerry.magro@autismspeaks.org or through my Facebook Page here.

11 Questions Students on the Spectrum Can Ask their College

October 31, 2011 1 comment

This guest post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro. Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a graduate student at Seton Hall University, and is actively involved with our college program. Autism Speaks U is an initiative designed to support college students in their awareness, advocacy and fundraising efforts.

Below are 11 questions students on the autism spectrum can ask their college/university.

1. As a college student affected by autism, what is one of the main things I need to know?

A big difference between college and high school is that in high school you generally have a structured plan for your accommodations called an “Individualized Education Program.” However, in college that no longer exists, meaning you must advocate to your Disability Support Group on campus to receive your own accommodations

2. What are some accommodations I can receive in my classes?

Individuals on the spectrum receive accommodations only if they register with their Disability Support Group. They will then receive accommodations based on their needs. This can include extended time on tests, tape recorders for classes, individual note takers, etc.

3. Do I have to pay for accommodations?

Under The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, colleges are required to provide all learning disabled individuals with “reasonable accommodations.” However, you should check the guidelines in regards to what is and what is not available on your campus.

4. Will faculty or fellow students be informed that I am on the autism spectrum?

Faculty members are not allowed to disclose any information about a student to others without consent from the student. However, students must register as a “disabled student” to receive accommodations – meaning your disability support group would be aware you have a disability. It is then up to you to inform your instructors.

5.  Is on-campus living for me?

Accommodations can also factor into your living arrangements on campus which will give you opportunities for a safer environment, like a single room. Ask if your resident assistant will be made aware of your living situation, since he/she can be of help in an emergency.

6. Will tutoring be available for my courses?

Most colleges provide tutoring for all students, but it is important to learn about those services early on to see if it is available and if you need additional support.

7. Are there any restrictions on how many courses I can take?

Some disability support groups require you take less courses in your first few semesters of college to make for an easier transition.

8. Is there a club on campus that raises awareness about autism and provides social opportunities for students affected by autism?

Autism Speaks college program, Autism Speaks U, works with students across the county to start chapters that raise awareness and funds. Some also establish mentoring programs for students and youth on the autism spectrum. To see if a chapter exists on your campus, visit www.AutismSpeaks.org/U.

9. Will my professors have any previous training in educating individuals affected by autism?

There is no requirement at most college for professors to have education in teaching individuals with learning disabilities. You should be prepared to advocate for yourself when a situation deems itself appropriate to do so.

10. Will I be treated differently by fellow students because I have autism?

Like in any other situation where you are around people, there is the possibility of a lack of awareness on their part in dealing with people with learning disabilities. Therefore, spreading awareness is crucial for you and others affected by autism.

11. Is there anything on campus that focuses on post-college plans for individuals affected by autism?

Many colleges have a career program/center that focuses on helping you network with outside companies. You can also look under the Americans with Disabilities Act for information about job accommodations and workshops.

If you are interested in raising awareness on your college campus visit www.AutismSpeaks.org/U.

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