This guest post is from Kerry Magro, an award-winning autism advocate diagnosed at age 4. Now 24, he is a graduate student in Strategic Communications and Leadership at Seton Hall University. Kerry is also the co-host of Autism Radio: Hope Saves The Day, a columnist for Autism After 16, a life coach, a motivational speaker, a youth delegate for The United Nations and the writer behind the blog My Autism My Voice. He has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle, and served as an advisor on the movie Joyful Noise starring Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton. Last summer, he received the 2011 Outstanding Individual with Autism Award from the Autism Society of America. I asked him if he could share thoughts to inspire parents of kids with special needs. What he had to say:
My name is Kerry and I was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), a form of autism, when I was 4. As a kid, I had sensory integration problems, motor deficiencies, speech delays, and social awkwardness. I could not even begin to tell you the stories of how aggressive I was. Lashing out was my communication and it led to emotional issues for years for me.
Over time though things did progress. The anger of not knowing the world and how to express myself became a place of understanding. For a long time I thought the reason why I was able to get to where I was today was because of my therapies (I had physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy from 6 to 18). Another factor I thought contributed to this was because of my parents love for me. Above all though what really set me a part and made me begin to not only see life differently but also understand the world so much more was a positive attitude. Once I stopped beating myself up for not being the best talker, the best writer, or even the best looking guy, I began to focus on who Kerry was today and what he did well.
I can’t tell you exactly when I started to think in this mentality but when it hit me I was on a different path than I once was. Over thinking about what I didn’t have turned into self-reflecting on what I did have. I began looking at positives such as my great memory for sports. I began looking at my love for movies and turning that into an acting career (which would then begin my role as a national motivational speaker today). Having this attitude led to me graduating grade school, high school, college and now fulfilling my dreams of getting a masters degree in Strategic Communication and Leadership to become an advocate for the future generation of Kerry Magros out there.
For those readers out there, especially those parents who are reading this, what I hope you take out of this is that the power of a positive attitude can do wonders for not only your life but also the lives of your kids.
I hope everyone remembers that….
• Autistic people are gifted
• Autistic people can surprise you
• Autistic people can focus on certain interests for long periods of time
• Autistic people are passionate
• Autistic people are non-judgmental
• Autistic people are honest
• Autistic people are rarely boring
• Autistic people are special
• Autistic people are logical
• Autistic people are loyal
• Autistic people are interesting
• Autistic people are wonderful
• Autistic people are diverse
• Autistic people are imaginative
• Autistic people are unique, and as Temple Grandin says, “Different but not less”
• Autistic people, no matter where they are on the spectrum and regardless of how many traits listed above they may or may not have, are just "people." People with weaknesses but also strengths, destined for their own greatness in the way they see fit. I hope we can all cherish these facts because if we can, our autism community would be even more phenomenal than it already is.