Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) both refer to a complex group of brain development disorders that affect about 1 in 59 children today. Characteristics of this disorder include difficulties in communication (both verbal and non-verbal), understanding social cues, and repetitive or erratic behaviors [1].

ASD has no cure but can be diagnosed in children as young as 2, however, most children on the autism spectrum end up being diagnosed after they turn 4. The effects of ASD is usually felt not just by the patient themselves but also by their friends, family, and relatives. Most people would think that having the cards stacked against you would make you give up hope.

Maybe not!
This is the story of Kerry Magro, 28, a best-selling author, award-winning disability advocate, and non-profit founder who is also on the autism spectrum. He is a well-known advocate and role model in the disabled community, has bagged his doctorate degree from Seton Hall University and was recently featured in a list of 18 Inspiring Stories of People on the Autism Spectrum published by CBS News.

It is obvious that he has refused to allow his disability to define whom he could become. On his personal website, Kerry writes: “Autism can’t define me… I define autism! Autism doesn’t come with an instruction guide. It comes with a family who will never give up.” He has had to overcome numerous obstacles to come as far as he has, for a child who was non-verbal at two and a half years and diagnosed with autism at the age of 4 [2].

Inspiring graduation speech
In a blog post which reads like his doctorate graduation speech, Kerry dedicated his new achievement to his teachers, parents, friends, and relatives, just as you would expect. But in an unexpected twist, he also had a few choice words for: “the people who say you can’t do something even though you can.” [3].

In his inspirational post, Kerry wrote that this group included: the physician who told him that he would be lucky to get to high school when he was 6; his Special Education teachers who looked down at him “like I was broken”; and those who had taunted and bullied him as a result of his condition.

Kerry also took the time to dedicate his degree to those who helped him through physical therapy till he was 14, the teachers who motivated him to push on, and the people who gave him the chance to help others and lend his “voice” [4]. He also acknowledged everyone who is on the autism spectrum and their loved ones.

A message for us all

His final message reads:

“At the end of the day, our influences in our lives send us on our path, either good or bad. When I was 4 I was diagnosed on the spectrum. Now 27 years later I’m a college graduate who also received a Master’s Degree and just recently graduated to become a Doctor from New Jersey City University. For all those people, again, the good and the bad, thank you. You’ve made me who I am today and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

…This one’s for you.” [3].

You can read the full blog post here.

References:

  1. Inspiring stories of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder“, Stepping Stones. August, 2016.
  2. Kerry Magro. Website.
  3. Graduating From College with Autism: This One’s For You“, Kerry Magro.
  4. I just graduated with my doctorate and I have autism“, Autism Speaks. May, 2019.
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