To graduate from college, get a scholarship from the National Speaker’s Association, to earn a master’s degree in strategic communication and leadership, author five books, coordinate social media for a global organization and be a sought-after motivational speaker and documentary producer by age 26 would be a feat for anyone. For a child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, it’s an astonishing accomplishment. Kerry Magro has done that and spoke about his experience with NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams.
Williams: Kerry Magro, thank you for being here. What an honor to meet you.
Magro: Glad to be here.
Williams: I remember a time when people just simply didn’t discuss autism. What has the focus on it done for the community?
Magro: Well, since I was diagnosed, I was diagnosed originally in 1992 and the numbers of autism back then were one in every 1,000. Since then, it’s increased over 100 percent so we’re definitely getting more awareness out there and it’s been so helpful to our community.
Williams: We read a lot about children with autism and how parents can help. What about adults? We’ve seen very little about that.
Magro: Children with autism will grow up to be adults with autism. We have to be ready for them with supports. As a kid I didn’t have any role models who were adults on the autism spectrum because of that focus on children. What we’re hoping to do today is just make people understand that autism is a lifelong disorder and we need to be ready for them with supports along the way.
Williams: What are the challenges unique to adults with autism?
Magro: The challenges today are employment opportunities. So many people who I know who have autism have so many unique and amazing strengths. Yet, a lot of the times employers are not looking at those unique strengths. So employment’s one big one. Post secondary, another huge one, how to get these kids the accommodations needed to succeed in school. Finally, housing. Housing and getting them into assisted living facilities or just anything to help them live an independent life.
Williams: What are the particular difficulties with college or grad school?
Magro: College was actually one of my biggest dreams growing up and I never thought I would get into college. That’s why my parents helped me apply to 15 different schools. I got accepted to all 15 based on their love and support of me. It showed me that great things were possible. But once I got to college, some of the things I really needed to focus on were self advocacy and gained scholarship aid and accommodations…
Williams: Which you’ve really done. And now you share that with other people. What about things like your love life?
Magro: Yes, I was in my first relationship when I was 18 years old. And I didn’t know how to talk to girls. I was like, how do you go about that?
Williams: Which makes you not different than any 18-year-old boy. Go on.
Magro: Exactly, so it was definitely a hard transition trying to find love and for people to understand my quirks. But once I got into my first relationship, I learned right away what my own abilities were and who I was looking for to have a relationship with.
Williams: What can young adults learn from your success?
Magro: I hope that when people, just that I’m all over social media and every single person can find me via all my social media channels, but what I hope they understand is that I never assumed this was going to be my life, speaking with you today, because I was not verbal until I was two and a half. For a long time my parents were worried if I was even going to be able to have a conversation like this today.
Williams: This is a spectrum and there are some people who are very high on the spectrum and some people who are really inordinately challenged by it. Where does the research stand? Is there a cure?
Magro: There’s today no medical detection or cure for autism. One of the things that I constantly tell people is that autism is a lifelong disorder. Our number one universal goal for our kids should be to give them the supports needed to progress across our lifespan. Early intervention is our key for these kids. If we could get them diagnosed at a very early age because you can detect autism as early as 18 months today. That’s huge for our community so learn early signs of autism. Go to websites like autismspeaks.org to learn more and just try and to give them support as they grow.
Williams: Kerry Magro, thank for being here.
Magro: Any time.