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Posts Tagged ‘Autism Speaks college students’

17 Wishes from an Adult with Autism

July 18, 2011 33 comments

This guest post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro. Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a recent graduate of Seton Hall University. 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.

If I had to make a list, this is what I would wish for the Autism Community…

1. I wish that acceptance was easier to come by.

2. I wish that loving one another was always on our mind.

3. I wish that an “early diagnosis” remains a high priority.

4. I wish that people would stop calling autism a disease.

5. I wish that communication becomes easier for everyone with autism. We are trying.

6. I wish that we find more treatments to enhance the lives of people with autism.

7. I wish that insurance for autism gets passed in all 50 states.

8. I wish that the government would understand the need for services for the autistic in schools.

9. I wish that autistic individuals can one day live their lives independently.

10. I wish that I was capable of helping more.

11. I wish that people would stop using the words “socially awkward” and “retard” in a negative way.

12. I wish we raise awareness for all with disabilities. Those of us living with a disability are doing our very best.

13. I wish for those who are or love someone who is on the spectrum that you know that we are moving forward every single day.

14. I wish that all of our voices can be heard.

15. I wish everyone will follow the words of one of my favorite performers of all time, Michael Jackson who sang in his song called, “Man in the Mirror”, If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.

16. I wish you all knew me when I was 4, when I was diagnosed with autism. For a long time I was lost. Scared of myself and what I was capable of. I never thought I would be where I am today… but I did it. I graduated from Seton Hall University this past May and will be going to Graduate School for Strategic Communications in the fall to boot. So for my final wish:

17. I wish for you all to always live life with hope. I wish that your days are filled with hope for a better tomorrow, and for today no matter how dark life gets sometimes that you realize you’re never alone. I wish this for you…

* I encourage everyone in the Autism Community to remember that we must come together as a true community to put our best foot forward. I know we all have a lot of wishes out there so let’s avoid distractions and focus on progress so we can all, “Make a Difference”. You can also find this article in the SFGate here.

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 Fan Page here.

10 Things I Have Learned About Autism

June 27, 2011 25 comments

This guest post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro. Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a recent graduate of Seton Hall University. 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.

Quite recently I took the liberty of making a list of some of the things I have learned about autism through reflection. I then narrowed it down to 10 of my quotes that I feel best express  my understanding of the subject. They are as follows:

  1. Autism can’t define me, only I can define autism.
  2. Give advice to others in the autistic community through your own experiences.
  3. If someone calls you “awkward,” just know that it means you’re “unique” and a lot better than “ordinary”.
  4. I’m great at several things and broken in none.
  5. Ignorance is all around us but awareness is around the corner if we want it to be.
  6. Feeling sorry for myself will get me nowhere.
  7. We need to stop labeling and instead integrate, “people with people” in our communities who have different needs.
  8. Inclusion in schools will never mean I’m secluded from an education.
  9. Autism is not a disease, rather a disability that every day I strive to become an A-bility.
  10. Communication never takes a vacation.

As someone diagnosed with Autism at a very early age, I know the, “conversation” doesn’t end here. What are your thoughts on this list? Feel free to comment below!

Completing the World’s Largest Jigsaw Puzzle for Autism Speaks!

This blog post was written by Kathy Reilly for her daughter Kaitlin, who is a junior at Northern Highlands Regional High School in Allendale, New Jersey. 

On April 15, 2011, Kaitlin Reilly launched her “Every Piece Counts” project in which she is completing the “World’s Largest Jigsaw Puzzle” (24,000 pieces and 70 sq. ft.), entitled “LIFE” to raise $24,000 for Autism Speaks. Kaitlin holds the titles of  “Youngest in the World to Complete Solo”, “The Youngest in the World Solo after Mixing All the Puzzle Pieces Prior to Assembling” and “First to Complete in New Jersey, USA”

Since the launch, Kaitlin and her project have been featured in numerous newspapers across the county and have raised over $3,000 for Autism Speaks.  To read about the project and to see the progress of the puzzle, visit www.everypiececounts.com. Kaitlin has set-up a camera that takes a photograph of her working on the puzzle every minute and at the end there will be a short video of her completing the entire 24,000 piece puzzle. Check out the “teaser’ video below!

In addition to working hard on the puzzle, Kaitlin is actively getting the community involved. She organized a “Dress Down Day” at a local school where the teachers and staffed donated $5.00 to wear casual clothing for a day. Kaitlin is also teaming up with Moe’s Southwest Grill in Mahwah, NJ,  to host a dine-in night and benefit concert. Some of NJ’s local bands and high school rockers will be playing on Saturday, June 12th from 5 – 9 p.m. Moe’s will be donating 10% of the proceeds from the entire day to Autism Speaks, directly benefiting Kaitlin’s project. If you are in the area, please be sure to stop by!

Kaitlin would love your support of her project, by making a donation and sharing it with family and friends. Feel free to “LIKE” the project on Facebook, since she’s trying to get 24,000 people to “LIKE” the page. She also needs a good home for the puzzle when it is completed, so please email her if you have any ideas/suggestions at evrypiececounts@gmail.com.

Please help Kaitlin’s efforts by reaching her goal of $24,000 and donate at http://bit.ly/jz0DQw.

If you’re a high school or college student that would like to get involved with our organization, visit the Autism Speaks U website for information. 

My Voice

June 1, 2011 2 comments

This guest post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro. Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a recent graduate of Seton Hall University. 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.

Almost a month ago I had the opportunity to speak at an Autism Awareness Event co-sponsored by the Mayor of Jersey City, Jeremiah Healy, the Jersey City Council and the Jersey City Public Schools.  I was honored as the keynote speaker of the event to talk about my experience with autism. I also received a proclamation from Jersey City, which is the second largest city in New Jersey and my hometown for my work on the subject.

While this was a wonderful honor, the best part of the event was the relationships I made with the parents who approached me afterwards. At the end of the day, this is the reason why I speak. To network but also to help consult for individuals with loved ones on the spectrum. In our community, we can only go as far as we are willing to help one another. There’s so much we have learned on the subject but there’s still a long way to go. Communication between all parties can never be excluded from the conversation. As I said in my speech that day, “Early Intervention is the Key,” however, communication is a close second.

Below you can find the video of my speech at that event. In it I share “My Voice” on the subject of autism and what it truly means to me. Feel free to comment below.

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.

This One’s For You

May 19, 2011 28 comments

This guest post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro. Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a recent graduate of Seton Hall University. 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.

Yesterday was my graduation from Seton Hall University. As this has been one of the most emotional and happiest days of my life I have taken some time to reflect on my journey and get my thoughts down on paper. Many people told me that my road towards a good education was going to be rough. The word “impossible” was a word that I learned very early on in regards to people’s opinions about whether or not I could get to college let alone graduate from college. Now I just have to say…

Kerry at graduation wearing the Autism Speaks pin, along with the 15 honor chords he collected at college.

To the physician who told me when I was 6 that I would be lucky to get to high school, this one’s for you.

For the Special Education teachers who would look down at me like I was broken, this one’s for you.

For the years of being taunted and bullied by kids, saying I can’t and wouldn’t achieve greatness, this one’s for you.

For the people who helped me through physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy till I was 14, this one’s for you.

For my parents, friends and relatives, who see me as an individual first who is/was never broken, this one’s for you.

For those teachers who said I could do it, this one’s for you.

For the countless other individuals out there who are autistic or love someone who is autistic, this one’s for you.

For the people who say you can’t do something even though you can this one’s for you.

For the people at Autism Speaks who have given me the chance to express my “voice” and help others through the Autism Speaks Blog for over a year now, this one’s for you.

At the end of the day our influences in our lives send us on our path, either good or bad. When I was 4 I was diagnosed on the spectrum. Now 18 years later I’m a college graduate who will be going to graduate school for a Master of Arts in Strategic Communication and Leadership. For all those people, again, the good and the bad, thank you. You’ve made me who I am today and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

…This one’s for you.

*On a side note, I wanted to add that I will be starting a scholarship program for individuals on the spectrum who are pursuing a post secondary program later this year. As a student, I know there is a lack of scholarship funding in this area and know even the smallest amount helps. Thanks for reading and remember to keep pushing everyday! We can all make a difference!*

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.

Parents Thankful for Rutgers University’s Buddy Program

This blog post is written by is Christine Bakter, a parent who’s son is on the autism spectrum and participates in Rutgers University’s BrosUniteD (BUD) program. Theta Delta Chi Fraternity, in collaboration with Autism Speaks, developed BrosUniteD to provide teenage boys with autism an opportunity to be mentored by college students and to give them the opportunity to experience positive relationships and the bonds on brotherhood.

When I became involved with Autism Speaks, my purpose was to improve the future for my son Alex, who has autism.  Through my involvement, I quickly learned that the autism community contains some of the most passionate, determined and hopeful visionaries on Earth.   The majority of our community is comprised of the people you would expect:  people with autism and their families, friends, teachers, and therapists.  We are autism’s conscripts – drafted advocates who understand the day to day challenges that our loved ones with autism face and the urgency of the message we carry.

I hold a special place in my heart for the unexpected members of our community that cross my path – the people who hear our message and support us without a personal stake in the outcome.  We see throngs of these people on Walk Day, raising funds for desperately needed research, family services and advocacy.

I recently found a whole college fraternity full of such unexpected members in the BrosUniteD (BUD) program, founded by Matt Cortland of the Rutgers University chapter of Theta Delta Chi.  Not content to only raise money for the Central New Jersey Walk, Matt and his frat brothers took their commitment to a higher level.  For seven weeks this past winter, the brothers gave their free time to serve as mentors – they refer to themselves as Big Bros – to several teenage boys with autism, including my son.   Alex has overcome many of the communication challenges associated with autism but remains socially awkward.  He craves social connection, but his approach can be confusing to his peers who don’t understand his disability.  For this reason, BrosUniteD seemed like it could be beneficial because it would give him a safe and accepting environment to build those connections.

I witnessed tremendous growth in Alex as the program progressed.  Usually content to pass hours in front of his computer by himself, I was barraged with constant questioning about the next BrosUniteD activity.  Alex had never been so eager to participate in any program I had arranged for him; he couldn’t stop talking about it at school.  I also didn’t expect the manner in which Alex suddenly wanted to emulate his Big Bros.  Never caring about the clothes I selected for him, he was suddenly asking for specific items: skinny jeans and track pants and a Rutgers sweatshirt, “like the fraternity guys wear.”  It may seem like such a small thing to marvel over – I realize that most parents worry that their teenager will go along with the crowd too easily, but as the parent of a teenager with autism, the fact that Alex was concerned with something so “typical” was cause for celebration!

I wasn’t the only parent witnessing such positive changes – my observations were echoed by other parents, some of whom had sons with more severe forms of autism.  We agreed that our sons were just happy to be in the company of their Big Bros.  It was proof positive to me that young men with autism are not so different from their typically developing counterparts.  They want to be “regular guys” doing “regular guy stuff.”  A program like BrosUniteD serves as a structured bridge connecting both groups of guys.  All of the guys – with autism and without- seemed to benefit from the connections that were made through the BUD program, as evidenced by the willingness of graduating Big Bros to stay in touch with their Little Bros, or attend events with their Little Bros outside of the program.

I remarked to one parent at the program’s conclusion:  “Do you think these college kids have any idea how important this program is?  How could they possibly understand, not being parents themselves?”

I can say with certainty that someone else understood the importance of the work being done by Theta Delta Chi.  On April 21, we gathered at Rutgers once again for a very special BrosUniteD activity.  Mrs. Mary Pat Christie, the First Lady of New Jersey, was present to honor Matt Cortland and his co-coordinator, Alex Lewis, with the New Jersey Hero Award for the outstanding work being done on behalf of young men with autism through the BrosUniteD program.  The New Jersey Hero award is designed to showcase the everyday contributions of New Jersey citizens that make our state a better place.

Thank you Matt, Alex and all of the “Big Bros” at Theta Delta Chi – the First Lady confirmed what the parents of the program participants already knew – you are heroes to our sons in every sense of the word.

To access the article about Rutgers Students Recognized as New Jersey Heroes by First Lady Mary Pat Christie, click here.

If you’re a college student that would like to get involved and/or start a buddy/mentoring program for kids affected by autism, visit the Autism Speaks U website for information. 

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The Mean Things People Say

April 25, 2011 60 comments

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.

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