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.
In the past, I’ve blogged about my own experiences and then tips to overall help individuals on the spectrum. For this post, however, I am looking for your thoughts and tips on a subject that I’m not sure there is a clear cut answer to.
Here’s the scenario: quite recently, I was with a group of friends hanging out when a mutual friend who was under the influence of alcohol started to become belligerent. He was clearly upset about something and decided to storm off. After several of our friends were trying to calm him down and make him come back to the group he called me out for being autistic in a negative connotation; like being autistic is a bad thing. He said, “Shut up Kerry, You’re autistic!” For some reason this remark just bounced off me, but after that experience I haven’t forgiven this individual or shared the story of what happened with anyone else.
It’s difficult sometimes to understand why people can be so mean. A few weeks before that situation, I was on my way to an event with a peer when I called, “shotgun” so I could sit in the front side passenger seat. My peer replied, “Sure, Kerry has that DSS hook-up right there.” In context DSS means Disability Support Services at the college I attend and this was in reference to getting accommodations for being registered as a DSS student. So I guess the question I have for those reading is…
“When did you first feel comfortable addressing comments either positive or negative people make about you or a loved one on the spectrum?”
I know this may seem like a very broad question but in my experience as an individual on the spectrum I’ve always had a tough time communicating the issue to others, especially when I was younger. Now at the age of 23 I have spoken at several events about the issue and can go up to anyone and speak my piece in a non-threatening way to make those aware of what’s right from wrong. The first time I can remember ever speaking up for myself was when I was 13. One of my classmates and I were having a conversation about disabilities and I mentioned that I was autistic. Almost instantly he said, “No you’re not, you can talk!” I came back and said, “It’s different for different individuals” and then went for the rest of the class period almost discussing things such as high functioning/low functioning autism, the signs, the causes, etc.
At the end of the day, I know that I’ll fight in most scenarios to make individuals aware not only for myself but so other individuals don’t have to deal with similar cases. As a community here at Autism Speaks, I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Please leave your comments below. Thank you.