Roanoke, VA (PRWEB) June 20, 2012
Autism is currently a topic of much discussion. Since the Centers for Disease Control released a report estimating that 1 in 88 children in the Unites States is on the autism spectrum, focus has turned to what some people are calling an “epidemic.” For 24-year-old Kerry Magro, however, autism isn’t news. It’s part and parcel of who he is, for good and bad. And it’s a condition about which he’s committed to educating the public.
Magro is the newest hire at Autism After 16, a website dedicated to providing information and analysis of adult autism issues. A graduate student in Strategic Communications and Leadership at Seton Hall University, Magro has already made a name for himself as a writer and public speaker. His credits include blogging for the advocacy organization Autism Speaks, co-hosting a radio show, as well as authoring a personal blog. He is also in the process of finishing a book entitled “College on the Spectrum: A Guide to Surviving College with A Disability,” and is launching a nonprofit enterprise to engage in community awareness and advocacy.
Diagnosed at age 4, Magro spent much of his childhood and school years figuring out his specific learning needs and coming to terms with what it means to have autism. “My parents never officially told me,” Magro says about learning that he is autistic. “I started asking my mom when I was in the 5th grade what my ‘initials’ were. By then I was in a school where everyone took medications and had a label [like ADD or ADHD]. Later the word ‘autistic’ was thrown around. On graduating high school and entering college I began to become firmly grounded in my diagnosis and what it meant.”
As a child, Magro struggled with speech and language delays, sensory challenges and motor skill issues. His skills strengthened through a combination of interventions, including occupational, physical, and speech therapy, sensory integration, and social skills development training. In addition, he was enrolled in inclusive activities such as bowling and soccer.
In spite of supports, Magro’s journey wasn’t an easy one. “My school years were quite challenging,” he says. ”There was a lot of trial and error in regards to trying to find the right fit. In my first four years of grammar school, I went to three different public schools. At the beginning of 5th grade my parents had had enough of our public school system’s lack of services, which led to me moving out of district. This made it very difficult to maintain friendships.”
Academically,Magro faced difficulties with reading and writing. And in spite of how far he’s come, some tasks are still harder than others. “I still have a great deal of difficulty comprehending some stuff I read along with situations that I’m in. My ‘blind side’ as I tend to call it, gives me problems seeing a situation from someone else’s point of view. It’s funny when I get asked this question because when I was a kid, communication in general was one of my greatest difficulties and now is one of my greater strengths. Another thing I still struggle with in school and work is eye contact. I always feel an intense amount of pressure being in conversations for a long period of time while at the same trying to be attentive. It’s something I’ve worked on over the years (with methods such as looking at someone’s forehead) but still don’t feel comfortable with.”
Magro decided he wanted to write for Autism After 16 after hearing about the website from other autistic adults and he contacted the editor. "Autism After 16 is committed to hiring adults with autism,” says editor Merope Pavlides. “I had read Kerry’s blogs and was thrilled to have him join our team.” Currently 50 percent of Autism After 16’s contributors are on the autism spectrum.
Disclosing that he has autism has been a big part of Magro's advocacy efforts. "It was one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made in my life," he says. "Confidence comes from being able to be ok within your own skin and the ability to be who you are no matter what. In addition, disclosing gave me the ability to get the services needed to be the best me I could be. It’s something any individual with a disability will have to go through at some point in their lives."