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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.

My Name is Kerry and I have PDD-NOS

March 7, 2011 36 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.

My name is Kerry and I have Pervasive Developmental Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified.

This means I have autism.

This does not mean I am autism.

This means I see the world sometimes in a different light.

This does not mean I’m in the dark.

This means from time to time I may have a difficulty expressing my emotions.

This does not mean I don’t feel.

This means when I communicate, I do it with a style that is my own.

This does not mean I don’t have a voice.

This means I may have sensitivity when it comes to a certain feel or touch.

This means sounds can sometimes make me feel uneasy.

This does not mean I’m deaf or hard of hearing.

This means I can often focus on certain interests for a long period of time.

This does not mean those are my only interests.

This means that I’m the only person in my family to have this.

This does not mean I’m alone.

This means I may have 500 other symptoms/capabilities that are different than yours.

This does not mean I’m any less of a person than you are.

My name is Kerry, and regardless of what PDD-NOS means or doesn’t mean, autism can’t define me, I define autism. I can only hope those individuals, regardless of being autistic or not can define their lives and their journeys in the way they see it.

*I wrote this about 6 months ago with my eyes closed and with an open heart. I believe we all need something; a symbol in some cases, to remind us of who we are and what we are striving to be. This is one article that has helped me immensely.  I plan on sharing this article with my school for World Autism Awareness Day along with an Autism Society of America Conference this Summer. You can also find this article here. Thank you.*

Starting an Autism Speaks U Chapter: The Essentials

November 8, 2010 1 comment

Autism Speaks UThis 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 an Autism Speaks U Chapter: 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.

Starting a new student organization in college can take a lot of time and dedication. Each school has a unique set of requirements and there sometimes isn’t a structure of how to go about starting a chapter, which can cause complications to arise.

However, this is what separates Autism Speaks U from many other college organizations. With help from Autism Speaks U (both their website and staff), we are given the tools to form and create an Autism Speaks U Chapter to spread autism awareness along with fundraising for Autism Speaks.

As a note, before you even consider starting a chapter on campus be sure to review the Autism Speaks U Chapter Guidebook. This gives a detailed description on how to start and maintain an Autism Speaks U chapter. Students will also need to download the 8 Steps to Starting an Autism Speaks U chapter (visit www.AutismSpeaks.org/U and click on “Official Chapters” and select the teal “Start a Chapter” button). It is required that all 8 steps be completed before applying to become an Autism Speaks U chapter. 

What I have below is the process I have been going through, and what I will be expecting at my university in the upcoming months. Remember that every school’s requirements are different, so check with your student affairs office before you begin this process.

In a previous post I discussed my student disability awareness group at Seton Hall University (SHU) and how we merged with Autism Speaks U. With October behind us, the paperwork to make Autism Speaks U a certified organization in the spring is now in the works. The process at SHU involves submitting an application to first gain “provisional status” and then after a 6 month preliminary period, we are acknowledged as a certified student organization. The application for provisional is pretty simple at my university and involves the following:

Name of Organization: Autism Speaks U Seton Hall University

Contact Person: Kerry Magro

Contact Email/Contact Phone: Kerry’s Contact Information

500 Word statement of your proposed organization: Autism Speaks U has a great mission statement that you can expand and customize to fit your chapter’s mission.

Three or more potential members: Create a sign-up sheet and look to your fellow students for help in promoting your chapter. You can walk around campus, have a table in the quad or ask different department heads to send an email on your behalf to their listserv of students.

A list of proposed activities your organization plans to do: Review the events on the Autism Speaks U website to get started and log into the site to access the event templates that provide step-by-step instructions.

A list of programs your organization plans to sponsor: Log into the Autism Speaks U site to review the event templates. They are extremely helpful, along with the Autism Speaks U staff who can help you brainstorm ideas.

A letter of approval by an advisor: Obtaining a faculty advisor can be challenging, but this person can serve as an official school contact for your chapter. He/she can help to promote your events, and/or allow you to make a brief announcement at the beginning or end of his/her classes. All of this will help you to promote your chapter and get more students involved!

After the application is submitted, SHU students are required to sit in front of a student organization council that listens to a presentation about the proposed organization. If everything goes well, you will then gain provisional status.

The next semester students go through the “provisional status” period. During this time, you will apply what you put in your chapter presentation or constitution into real events and programming on campus. The most important things to focus on during this time, especially starting off are:

  • Make sure you understand your school’s policies and procedures for student organizations.
  • Work on structure! Form a constitution where your group can have a backdrop of what they should abide by for each semester. Decide on convenient meeting times for both the chapter board and general meetings; consider starting off small when it comes to commitment (i.e. one board meeting and one chapter meeting a month).
  • Utilize social media. Post all of your events on the Autism Speaks U website and promote your efforts on the Autism Speaks U Facebook page. You can event create an Autism Speaks U Facebook and Twitter Pages for your chapter and add all of your friends.
  • Network, Network, Network! Make sure that students and faculty know about your chapter and get them both involved (especially the education and psychology department and the disability support office).

Autism Speaks U has chapters all across the country. They range from the University of Michigan, George Washington University, Saint Mary’s College, University of San Francisco, Miami University in Ohio, Indiana State University, Northwestern University and more! Many college students today have no idea what autism is or how prevalent it is. This is why creating an Autism Speaks U chapter is so critical in helping to make a difference in spreading the word about autism. If you are a college student reading this or know someone who may have interest in starting a chapter please forward this information along. You can also contact Sarah Caminker, the Autism Speaks U Community Manager, at sarah.caminker@autismspeaks.org 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. Thanks everyone!)

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