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Posts Tagged ‘Seton Hall University’

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.

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.

Be Who You Are

September 12, 2011 4 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. 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.

Have you ever had that day when someone calls you or one of your loved ones awkward, odd, or weird? I think I’ve been called all of those words every year since I was nine. What do these words even mean now anyways? I think the easiest way of thinking of this in today’s society is someone who is away from the “norm.” That one person who does something that doesn’t seem “right.” Society has set us up with a standard that is set for us to judge without reason.

This standard has hurt people with autism for decades. When I was diagnosed with autism at age 4, I would soon have some tendencies that would be far different than the established norm. I was going to have a hard time with eye contact, some difficulty with my motor skills and also would have a hard time speaking in front of crowds. None of this makes me any less of a person as the next. I don’t want the pity that some grant for having a disorder either. I just want to know that at the end of the day I’ll be allowed to be me with no judgment, no questions asked.

That’s why when I write this blog I encourage everyone reading, to lead by example by taking action. If we let ourselves and our loved ones be who they are proudly, we defy and ignore the criticisms of others and hopefully lead to a better, more aware world; autism and all. As a college graduate with autism, does this mean I may have some difficult times from others ahead? You bet. It sure beats the alternative though of not being who I want and was meant to be, and that someone is me.

*What things have people said about who you are you that make you different from the norm? 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 or through my Facebook Page here.

Kerry Magro to Host LIVE Facebook Chat

August 8, 2011 6 comments

Kerry Magro will be here on Thursday, August 11 at 3pm EDT to host a LIVE Facebook Chat. Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a recent graduate of Seton Hall University and active member in our college program, Autism Speaks U. He started the club Student Disability Awareness on campus to help spread awareness and raise funds for those affected by autism. Please join us as Kerry shares with us what it is like to live with autism.

To join the chat, visit our Facebook Tab!

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 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.

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.*

The Blind Side

November 16, 2010 7 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 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.

As a college student, I can definitely tell you that I go through my own long list of challenges. As someone with pervasive development disorder- not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), a form of autism, those challenges have seemed a bit longer and harder to deal with in comparison to my peers. I’ve always been that individual who, when I see a problem, I wanted it fixed. Not that all problems can be fixed, but if I was in a situation where I know I could change something, I would be the person who did something about it. Recently I have seen myself go through a great deal of struggles both in friendships and work-related incidents because of my difficulty in not seeing the views of others from their perspective. My “Blind Side” as I’ve called it, has put me in some of the most difficult struggles throughout my college experience.

Many people have different names for this theory such as “Mind Blindness” and “Tunnel Vision.” Overall it can be defined as the difficulty of being unaware of what others are thinking. Basically, not understanding the perspective of someone else, not being able to put yourself in their shoes, not being empathetic.  This has led some of my peers to believe that I’m self centered, that regardless of what I’m doing, it’s about me and everyone else has to live with it. I can remember from a self evaluation during my junior year by one of my faculty advisors, I was called out for being “disrespectful to others feelings” and “not a team player.”  Sophomore year my Resident Director where I was a Resident Assistant called me out “for being stuck” and for “wanting to do things in the same manner.” On the other hand these experiences glaringly pointed out, that although I have raised the awareness on my campus of what autism is, and put a face on what a student with autism looks like, many people haven’t a clue of what it entails or how it manifests or affects students. I’ve never used my disability as a scapegoat for whatever tendencies I have or may go through but what do you do?  Follow my own advice? Autism is never a disability unless you let it become one. I take criticism as an indication of what I could work on to become stronger as a person, but in this situation I’ve never felt so blind.

I can’t see where I’m going and I keep going through walls, regardless if I go left, regardless if I go right, regardless if I just go straight down the middle, that wall is hitting me as hard as I’m hitting it. The problem with hitting these walls is that even when you pick yourself up, you still have to go through the pain for making those first few mistakes. Now, if you hit enough of these walls, why would you even consider going through the same pain regardless of how sweet it would be to break through them.

I may be blind for a little while longer, but I won’t back down despite the limitations. They told Michael Jordan he couldn’t fly and he did. They told Jackie Robinson he would never play major league baseball and he did. Although these seem like extreme examples, we all need those to inspire us to be the best we can be. To help myself moving forward I have mainly asked my peers to communicate. I’m a very detailed oriented person so whenever I get feedback, I like to write it down and take time to reflect on what it truly means and how I can go about a positive outcome. Frankly, regardless if I have a blind side, everyone has those “blind spots,” which if no one ever gave them advice on they may never grow. I’m far from perfect but I’m more than less because I’m here, doing what I need to do to better myself and hopefully through these blogs, helping others as well.

(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.)

Who To Tell About Being Autistic?

October 18, 2010 20 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 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.

I can’t help but take this blog post personally, because I think now more than ever I have questioned telling other individuals about being autistic. In one of my previous posts, I talked about how I came out about being autistic during my freshman year of college almost 4 years ago. In high school, I had no worries at all about being autistic because no one was there to judge; everyone had a disability and I was with people I could relate to.

“Autism can’t define you, only you can define autism.” That’s what I said. And while it’s true, I still fight for my rights to be treated  just like everyone else. I wish this could be described as a fairy tale ending; you see someone against all odds prevail in the end; however, the road blocks along the way have been staggering. The example below will hopefully summarize my point….

I had recently been seeing an individual at my university, who had no idea that I was autistic. This wasn’t because I was holding back, merely something that had never come up. She didn’t know that I was autistic and we were doing great. Then something happened, something that I really didn’t understand till just today.

A few weeks back I appeared on Caucus NJ, on a segment called “Breakthroughs in Autism,” with Steve Adubato. On the air I discussed my life growing up with autism. As any person who ever is on TV would tell you, it’s a very exciting time. Once the episode aired I was telling my friends, my parents, pretty much anyone in an ears length of me. However, one person who saw the show happened to be the girl that I had been seeing. As soon as she saw the clip, things had changed dramatically. Every time we met our conversations would become more distant and less frequent and finally, what ended up being great turned into something of pity.

“I think we should see other people.”

“Uh…..Why?”

“I think you should be around people more like yourself.”

“What does that mean?”

“You know, people who are more like you.”

“People more like me?”

“Yes.”

“Enlighten me please.”

“You know…people who know who you are.”

“And what people would those be?

(pause)

“Well?”

“I’m so sorry…”

I could tell you that it wasn’t about having autism, but it would be a lie. I could tell you that I went back to my apartment, cried and asked what I did to deserve this. But, honestly, I’ve been there before and will certainly be there again. My best friend freshman year even called me out on it, “Why didn’t you tell me you were autistic? Aren’t we friends?” On the other side of this dilemma, I have been called out about not being autistic enough. “He functions so well, he couldn’t have autism.” I’ve been associated with several autism organizations that have considered me, “misdiagnosed” because I didn’t show enough, “autistic tendencies” and therefore “not autistic.” Autism can’t define you, but apparently others can definitely define you as autistic.

So I guess the answer to this topic “who to tell about being autistic?” really comes down to how secure you are about being who you are. You don’t have to go up to every new person you see and say, “Hi, I’m ____ and I have autism,” but if you do feel like mentioning it, don’t be afraid. I don’t want to come off as insensitive in this post to those who I know don’t have a choice on whether or not to tell people about being autistic when its apparent to some. My advice stays the same, security in yourself as an individual is the best way to approach life and build your confidence. Everyone is unique in their own way. The people who I mentioned in my post have been ignorant and the only way to defeat ignorance is by awareness. Be proud of who you are. As a matter of fact, love who you are. Everything happens for a reason and if you ever need a hand, please know that you are not alone.

(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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