When he was only four years old, Kerry Magro was diagnosed with a form of autism called Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified. At the time, autism was just being discovered as a disorder. Kerry’s diagnosis was life-altering, and it was just the beginning of the long journey he has been taking with autism ever since.
“My younger years with autism were definitely tough,” Kerry said. “I tended to be very angry about my situation and why it was happening to me.”
Kerry’s attitude towards his disorder began to change in middle school, after going through years of occupational, physical and speech therapy. As Kerry continued to grow, his dreams and goals continued to grow as well. One of those dreams was attending college – something that is rare for a person with autism.
“At first it was just to prove people wrong, but as I got older I knew it was because I wanted to continue learning and finding myself,” Kerry said.
Kerry attended Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey. He said he had a great four years but still struggled with finding accommodations and a support system at school.
“The number of young adults with autism going to college today is very small and it would have helped to know someone going through a similar situation,” he said.
Eventually, Kerry did find a source of strength to help him make the tough transition through college and into adulthood. Participating in autism-related activities, such as the “Walk Now for Autism” events through Autism Speaks, gave Kerry a new sense of purpose. He became a voice for others with autism and began telling his story to illustrate how difficult and how rewarding a life with autism can be.
“People in the autism community have often told me that we need young adults with autism to take the lead and I decided to become one of those individuals,” he said.
Kerry’s decision to “take the lead” and become a voice for those with autism didn’t stop there. His passion lies in giving back to the community, and that is evident through his various projects dedicated to autism and special needs awareness. One such project, KFM Making a Difference in the Community, helps to build special need housing for individuals with disabilities. The organization has also given Kerry the opportunity to do consulting work for parents with children who have autism.
Kerry’s latest undertaking is a book that he has been working on since beginning college. He hopes that Autism: The College Spectrum will inspire other young adults with autism.
“The book is about my college experience with autism and gives helpful hints to individuals, not only with autism, but learning disabilities in general, a way to enhance their college experience,” Kerry explained.
He hopes to have the book out next spring, but in the meantime, he continues to live life to the fullest and inspire others.
“My best advice would be to just own who you are,” he said. “Remember that no matter the circumstances autism can’t define you but only you can define autism. We are all going to have our difficulties in our lives but we must remain positive and motivated to commit ourselves to forward progress in our autism movement.”
Now it’s your turn! Do you have autism, or have a loved one or friend who has autism? What advice or resources have you found to be helpful?