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LIVE Facebook Q&A for College Students on Light It Up Blue!

February 13, 2012 2 comments

The Autism Speaks U team will be hosting a LIVE Facebook Q&A for college students, on Light It Up Blue and Autism Awareness Month this Thursday, February 16 at 5pm EST/2pm PST. 

RSVP at http://on.fb.me/rsvpfeb or join the chat directly at http://on.fb.me/febchat.

Our team will discuss how to get started and ways to get your campus to Light It Up Blue. Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to share ideas with other students from across the country.

We look forward to chatting with you!

To see how you can get involved with the program, visit www.AutismSpeaks.org/U.

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.

Get College Students Involved with Autism Speaks U!

November 28, 2011 5 comments

Are you a college student? Do you want to raise awareness about autism while gaining volunteer hours and experience for your resume? If so, join our team at Autism Speaks U to recruit students on your campus to host events benefiting our cause and to start a collegiate chapter. Become a Campus Ambassador at any college! You do not have to be close to an Autism Speaks office. It requires a time commitment of 3-5 hours per week for 3 months during the school year.

Watch our video below and click here for more information.

Autism Speaks U is a program designed to support college students in their awareness, advocacy and fundraising efforts. If you are interested in raising awareness on your college campus, visit www.AutismSpeaks.org/U.

11 Myths About Autism

November 21, 2011 24 comments

You’ve probably heard lots of thoughts and ideas about autism, but we want to make sure you know what is true and what is false. Our Family Services and Science department put together 11 myths about autism to help put an end to any misconceptions. All of these are great for students to share with their classmates. If you’re in college, get involved with Autism Speaks U, a program that supports college students in their awareness, advocacy and fundraising efforts.

1. Myth: People with autism don’t want friends.

Truth: If someone in your class has autism, they probably struggle with social skills, which may make it difficult to interact with peers. They might seem shy or unfriendly, but that’s just because he or she is unable communicate their desire for relationships the same way you do.

2. Myth: People with autism can’t feel or express any emotion—happy or sad.

Truth: Autism doesn’t make an individual unable to feel the emotions you feel, it just makes the person communicate emotions (and perceive your expressions) in different ways.

3. Myth: People with autism can’t understand the emotions of others.

Truth: Autism often affects an individual’s ability to understand unspoken interpersonal communication, so someone with autism might not detect sadness based solely on one’s body language or sarcasm in one’s tone of voice. But, when emotions are communicated more directly, people with autism are much more likely to feel empathy and compassion for others.

4. Myth: People with autism are intellectually disabled.

Truth: Often times, autism brings with it just as many exceptional abilities as limitations. Many people with autism have normal to high IQs and some may excel at math, music or another pursuit.

5. People with autism are just like Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man.

Truth: Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning its characteristics vary significantly from person to person. Knowing one person with autism means just that—knowing one person with autism. His or her capabilities and limitations are no indication of the capabilities and limitations of another person with autism.

6. Myth: People who display qualities that may be typical of a person with autism are just odd and will grow out of it.

Truth: Autism stems from biological conditions that affect brain development and, for many individuals, is a lifelong condition.

7. Myth: People with autism will have autism forever.

Truth: Recent research has shown that children with autism can make enough improvement after intensive early intervention to “test out” of the autism diagnosis. This is more evidence for the importance of addressing autism when the first signs appear.

8. Myth: Autism is just a brain disorder.

Truth: Research has shown that many people with autism also have gastro-intestinal disorders, food sensitivities, and many allergies.

9.  Myth: Autism is caused by bad parenting.

Truth: In the 1950s, a theory called the “refrigerator mother hypothesis” arose suggesting that autism was caused by mothers who lacked emotional warmth. This has long been disproved.

10. Myth: The prevalence of autism has been steadily increasing for the last 40 years.

Truth: The rate of autism has increased by 600% in the last 20 years. In 1975, an estimated 1 in 1,500 had autism. In 2009, an estimated 1 in 110 had an autism spectrum disorder.

11. Myth: Therapies for people with autism are covered by insurance.

Truth:  Most insurance companies exclude autism from the coverage plan and only half of the 50 states currently require coverage for treatments of autism spectrum disorders.

If you’re interested in raising awareness in college, visit www.AutismSpeaks.org/U.

This Is Why I Speak

November 14, 2011 18 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.

“My 5 year old son was just diagnosed with PDD-NOS and has no speech. Will he ever be able to speak?” 

Kerry Magro at age 4.

While the young mother stood before me in tears, I felt trapped; trapped because I couldn’t tell her that everything was going to be alright.

When I look back at my life, that 6 year old boy, going into first grade with so much anger, and so many emotions, it was almost too much. I knew back then I was mad. I was lashing out because I didn’t know how to communicate in an appropriate manner. That was almost 16 years ago. I was that 6 year old again. What would it take for her son to be able to speak one day? Would he be as lucky as me?

So, I surprised myself. I hugged her. I hugged this complete stranger for what probably ended up being 5 minutes. No words were said. I could only hear her sobbing and I almost joined her several times. I knew I couldn’t answer her question, but by telling her about my journey, I could give her hope.

I reflected back to the journey that I had had led me to where I am today. The therapies, the special need classrooms, the accommodations, the hate, the ignorance, the awareness, the drama, the acceptance, the struggle, the tears, the heartache, the strength, the friends, my mom, my dad, and above all else the love that has made my journey worth every second.After we hugged I told her my story. I told her about that 6 year old boy and how he became who I was today. 15 minutes later tears of uncertainty had become tears of hope for not only her but for her son.

This is why I speak. Each time I share my story I pray that I’m making an impact on a parent, a family, a friend, etc. for the future of the autism movement. I may not be a scientist, or an expert in the field, I just know what it’s like to grow up–and thrive with autism. So, if you have autism, especially those young adults out there who are trying to spread awareness at the college level or beyond, tell your story.

It’s time for all of us to listen.

*I shared this story with my friend Laura Shumaker on her official website here as well. Thanks Everyone!*

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.

Autism Speaks U Spotlight: Virginia Tech Chapter President

October 24, 2011 2 comments

This guest post is by Kaitlyn Whiton, a senior at Virginia Tech. She is the president of her school’s Autism Speaks U chapter and is working to create a long lasting legacy on campus! Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities.

Autism was a word that most people had never heard of 20 years ago, when my younger brother, Freddy, was diagnosed. I cannot count how many times my friends would ask me why Freddy would hit himself, not talk to anyone, or only repeat the same lines from the same movies. By the age of 10, autism had already had a huge impact on my life and I knew I wanted to continue to help others, like my brother, grow to their fullest potential. Starting a chapter of Autism Speaks U at Virginia Tech was a perfect opportunity to not only give back, but also inspire others to be involved with a wonderful organization.

Kaitlyn (far right) with her brother Freddy (left) and her father Fred (center).

Even though this is only Autism Speaks U Virginia Tech’s second semester on Hokie stomping ground, we have already made an impact in our community. Last semester we raffled off a football signed by coach, Frank Beamer and a  basketball signed by coach, Seth Greenberg. This semester, our big fundraising event is going to be an awareness night at Hokie House, a local restaurant and bar, on Friday, November 4. During the event we are going to be raffling off themed baskets as an extra way to raise money.

Autism Speaks U Virginia Tech, unfortunately has a number of seniors who will be graduating in the spring. Luckily, we have found motivating and inspiring individuals who will continue the mission of Autism Speaks U in the Virginia Tech community. Our old executive board will help train the new executive board throughout the rest of the current semester and will be here to advise the new officers during the spring semester.

My dream would be to come back to Virginia Tech and attend a fundraiser executed by our predecessors. My goal this year is to inspire, motivate and educate the newest members of the executive board so that our organization continues for many years to come.

Members of Autism Speaks U Virginia Tech at their 2011 club fair.

For more information about Autism Speaks U at Virginia Tech, contact the chapter president, Kaitlyn Whiton, at kait6573@vt.edu.

GO BLUE for Autism Speaks U Photo Winners

October 19, 2011 3 comments

College students from across the country have submitted amazing pictures for our GO BLUE for Autism Speaks U Facebook photo contest! Winners were chosen by the number of Facebook “likes,” comments and creativity (how “blue” you could go!). Thank you to everyone who participated in this fun awareness campaign! The winners are as follows:

First Place: University of California, Irvine

First place wins a $200 grant for their next Autism Speaks U event


Second Place: Appalachian State University

Second place wins a $100 grant for their next Autism Speaks U event


 Third Place: University of California, Berkeley

Third Place wins a $50 grant for their next Autism Speaks U event


Honorable Mentions: Each winner receives a $25 grant for their next Autism Speaks U event

Case Western Reserve University: Best Use of a Human Puzzle Piece

Elmira College: Best Use of Decorations

Northwestern University: Best Action Shot

Rider University: Best Homemade Banner

Southeast Missouri State University: Best Use of Hand Signs & Face Paint

Stonehill College: Best Group Shot

Texas A&M: Best Pose

To view all Go BLUE photos click here. Autism Speaks U will email photo winners about prize details.

Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities. If you are interested in raising awareness on your college campus, visit www.AutismSpeaks.org/U.

Autism Speaks U Spotlight: Cornell University Chapter President

October 18, 2011 1 comment

This guest post is by Cynthia Vella, a junior at Cornell University. She is an Industrial and Labor Relations major as well as the founder and president of her school’s Autism Speaks U chapter! Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities.

As President and Founder of Autism Speaks U at Cornell University, I feel strongly attached to the goals and values of our newly established club. With an uncle who is autistic, I have heard the struggles my mother and her family went through years ago.

Because of this, I decided Cornell needed to spread awareness about autism to it’s own students. Gathering a few friends and meeting two more great board members along the way, the Autism Speaks U Cornell board has really come together to raise money and especially awareness around campus. Our university organizations have even reached out to help us promote our cause through various student organizations like Greek sororities, fraternities and Hillel. In our second semester on campus, we have expanded our club’s initiatives and are planning a Dance-a-Thon called Dance Now for Autism Speaks U, which we hope will have a huge impact on Cornell.

Members of Autism Speaks U Cornell University tabling to raise awareness.

While last semester was extremely successful, from earning funds through bake sales and through Greek life and Hillel events, this semester, the Autism Speaks U Cornell board has much planned to increase our presence on campus. While bake sales are always easy and fun fundraisers, we plan on holding our first annual Dance-a-Thon on October 22nd in one of our basketball courts with pre-sale tickets, refreshments, cookies, blue decorations, and giveaway t-shirts.

We are currently marketing the event around both the campus and Ithaca community through our school newspaper, media site, flyers and posters. We are also tabling at local dining halls and main libraries where there is a large traffic of students and faculty passing through. We want to reach out to different clubs such as A Cappella and dance groups.

Additionally, one of our board members, Conor Callahan, has teamed up with the Racker Center located in nearby Ithaca for our members to interact with local children affected by autism. We are excited to have this opportunity and plan to start doing smaller events like slumber parties in the spring semester. As our club continues expanding with almost 30 new members this fall, we have more and more great ideas to make the club more successful in our endeavors. New leaders stand out and our board welcomes more students to help raise funds and awareness. We are extremely excited to collaborate with our new members to make a difference in our community.

For more information about Autism Speaks U at Cornell University, contact the chapter president Cynthia Vella at autismspeaksucornell@gmail.com.

What Autism Means to Me: Natalie Davis

October 3, 2011 13 comments

This guest post is by Natalie Davis, a senior at St. Olaf College in Minnesota majoring in chemistry. Natalie serves as Miss Minnesota 2011 and has adopted autism awareness as her pageant’s service platform.  

As I am sure is the case for most people who are touched by autism, I have always seen my disposition as the sibling of someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), as both a blessing and a curse. When I was a child, I knew my brother Trevor was different. He spent hours silently lining up toy cars into perfect rows instead of playing with other kids. He didn’t speak until he was 3, and he couldn’t produce a full sentence until he was 7. Trevor seemed to be in his own little world, but he and I were connected.

Natalie and her brother, Trevor

Even though Trevor couldn’t speak, I always knew what he needed. I was constantly on high alert regarding his emotions and any environmental factors that might upset him. For as long as I can remember, I have been his helper and protector. When kids bullied him, I quickly tried to explain, “He’s special ed.,” hoping they would have mercy. When he threw tantrums because he didn’t want to do his schoolwork, I slyly suggested a game of “tutor” instead. I helped him cover his ears when the sound of a fire truck was too much for him to bear.

Things have always been harder for Trevor. I went to a prestigious private school; Trevor was in public school in special education. I was invited to countless birthday parties; Trevor wasn’t invited to any. I was the star. I was the pageant queen, singer, athlete, and brilliant student. I seemed to have it all, but I had a brother who struggled.

Growing up with a brother who has ASD has not been easy. But when things get tough, my parents remind me to count my blessings. Despite his challenges, Trevor graduated from high school in the top 50% of his class, and he is currently a part-time student at St. Cloud State University. He plays piano, he is an excellent public speaker, and he is an Eagle Scout. His dream is to become a best-selling children’s book author. Just because Trevor is different does not mean that he is less. Yes, he faces challenges that most individuals never have to face, but the fact that he has continually overcome many those challenges makes Trevor extraordinary.

Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities.If you are interested in raising awareness on your college campus visit www.AutismSpeaks.org/U.

Autism Speaks U Spotlight: UC Berkeley Chapter President

September 26, 2011 2 comments

This guest post is by Caroline McCloskey, a sophomore at UC Berkeley. She is the president and founder of her school’s Autism Speaks U chapter and is a true ambassador for our cause! Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities.

Helping those with autism has always held a place in my heart. My older brother Joey was diagnosed with autism at a very young age, and has always been my big “little brother.” Joey has a considerably severe case of autism and is often misunderstood because he has difficulty communicating with others. He lives in the world of a six-year old and still watches Disney movies (his favorite being Peter Pan), Sesame Street and Winnie the Pooh.  One of the truly amazing things about my brother is his ability to complete a 500-piece puzzle in twenty minutes – something I would never be able to do. He will never fail to impress me with his unique gift and now that I’ve gone to college and live 6000 miles away from home, I miss him dearly.

Caroline hikes to the big Campanile to raise autism awareness.

Coming to the University of California, Berkeley was by far the best decision I have ever made. As soon as I got here I knew that I wanted to get involved on campus, so I looked into various student organizations and tried to find one that promoted autism awareness or raised money for scientific research. No such club or organization existed. I thought to myself: of all the hundreds of student organizations that Berkeley has to offer, how is it that not a single one addresses the problem of autism, something that affects 1 in 110 people?

Consequently, some friends and I took the initiative and our chapter of Autism Speaks U at Berkeley was officially founded on March 9th2011. Now we have over 30 active members and have begun to establish a firm presence on campus as of this academic year. The UC Berkeley community has been very supportive of our efforts and during Autism Awareness Month this year we held an awareness campaign and small-scale fundraiser in the Unit 2 Residence Halls. Our biggest achievement so far has been lighting up the Campanile blue on Autism Awareness Day, which we hope to do again in April 2012.

Campanile Lit Up Blue.

Right now we are in the process of planning a benefit concert to be held on November 19, of this year. We are also trying to establish a mentoring program with the Berkeley Unified School District, where members of our chapter would volunteer with children and young adults on the spectrum. Furthermore, we are in the early phases of planning a large-scale walk event on UC Berkeley’s campus, which will be held on April 72012, during Autism Awareness Month.

This year we have a very strong team of officers who are all contributing incredible amounts of time and effort to our cause. It means so much to me that my friends have been so supportive of what I am so passionate about, and I honestly appreciate their help and support more than they will ever know. I know that this year we’re going to go far and it’s all because of them: thank you, guys.

To get involved with Autism Speaks U and/or the UC Berkeley collegiate chapter, contact autismspeaksu@autismspeaks.org.  

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