Autism awareness focus of spring assemblies

Autism awareness focus of spring assemblies

Award-winning national speaker and best-selling author Dr. Kerry Magro visited Thayer this spring to discuss autism and neurodiversity with Middle School and Upper School audiences. He urged greater understanding of the challenges of autism, a condition that affects 70 million people worldwide, but emphasized that life is more about the things one can do than the things one can’t. 

Dr. Kerry Magro addressed
Middle School students in 
Thompson Hall

“Don’t let any one thing in your life define who you are,” said Magro, who was completely non-speaking at age 2 and diagnosed with autism at age 4. Told by some that he’d never complete high school, Magro earned a degree in sports management from Seton Hall University before obtaining a master’s degree and then a doctorate. He has spent the past 13 years as a public speaker urging greater inclusion of those with autism, which he described as one of the fastest developmental disabilities in the nation. He now serves as a consultant for the Netflix show Love on the Spectrum

Autism, said Magro, is a social and communication disorder with a broad range of symptoms; those symptoms, in turn, have a broad range of support needs. A one-size-fits-all approach simply does not work. 

“If I leave you guys with anything today,” said Magro during his May 7 visit, “it’s that when we talk about the topic of autism and disability, you really realize that it’s a spectrum. If you’ve met one individual who has a disability, you’ve met just that one individual with a disability.” 

Magro echoed Dr. Temple Grandin’s expression of “different … not less” when it comes to individuals with neurodivergent conditions. “People with disabilities can do amazing things,” he told the crowd. 

That said, Magro pointed out that since autism can make social interaction and communication difficult, those with autism are often the target of bullying, which he called an epidemic in the United States. 

“If you see a situation [of bullying], speak up,” said Magro. He noted that when a peer uses the seven-word sentence “What you are doing is not okay,” the bullying act is twice as likely to stop as compared to when it’s said by an authority figure such as a teacher. 

As a general rule, Magro told students, making decisions based on kindness is a great place to begin the inclusion process. 

“Being a little understanding can really go a long way,” he said.

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