Kerry Magro dishes on organization, his start on the autism self-advocacy journey, high school advice and more in this interview, conducted via email by 11 year-old Alexander Ownby.
Alex: When did you first learn about your diagnosis?
Kerry: I learned first about my diagnosis when I was about 11-12 but wouldn’t really understand what autism meant in terms of my overall development till years later. I knew since I was 5 I was “Special” but didn’t know much more than that.
How did it make you feel?
Uncertain. For most of my time in Special Need classrooms I knew no one else with autism as most of the kids were under different learning disabilities such as Dyslexia, ADD and ADHD. As I got older though I understood more and more about autism. It was a really hard feeling to grasp overall.
What were your biggest challenges in middle school, if you remember? How did you overcome those challenges?
Transitioning was probably the biggest. After 4th grade I transferred to an out of district school for individuals with learning disabilities where I came in not knowing anyone. I was able to overcome most of those challenges though by getting more involved in theater along with other interests. I’ve always found it easier to face challenges by being able to surround yourself with passions you have for yourself.
Did you have problems with organization? If so, how did you get organized?
YES! Absolutely. Lots of problems with organization growing up. One of the main things was I usually didn’t like to organize because it meant sometimes having to think about several things at once. Things like organizing my room, doing my homework, going to different classes etc. was always hard for me. Once I was able to get into a routine I didn’t want to leave that. To this day I can say I still deal with some organization difficulties but one of the ways I was able to progress was having a supportive family who were full of planners. Made me have role-models to shadow what I was doing to see what I was doing right and wrong.
How did you get started with self-advocacy?
My true calling to Self-Advocacy started when I was a College Freshman in 07. It became very obvious to me within the first few weeks of school that autism in college wasn’t a very talked about topic. Because of this I set out to become a self-advocate for individuals with disabilities. It also helped that growing up I was a big Community Service guy which made this transition to helping others in this field easier.
Any advice for high school?
Go in with a plan. Most but not all autistic individuals have the ability to focus on their key interests for long periods of time. I’d recommend putting yourself into groups/extra curricular activities that excite you and than use that excitement to shape your entire school experience. It’s also important to go in knowing what accommodations you may need and taking advantage of all of your IEP meetings by attending them and asking as many questions as you feel are necessary to truly understand the process.
Kerry Magro, 25, is a National Motivational Speaker and Award Winning Autism Self-Advocate. Kerry was diagnosed with PDD-NOS at the age of 4. Today along with speaking frequently around the U.S. about his life on the spectrum also works as a column writer for Autism After 16 and Co-Host of Autism Radio. In 2010 Kerry was chosen to help work on The Motion Picture Joyful Noise starring Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton. Later this year Kerry hopes to receive Non-Profit Status for his business “KFM Making A Difference” while completing work on his first novel. You can contact Kerry for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org visiting him on Facebook here.