With the end of April, comes the end of Autism Awareness month. At Seton Hall, Autism Speaks club celebrated the month by co-sponsoring an event that brought Kerry Magro, a SHU alum who is on the autism spectrum, to campus on April 21.
Magro was completely nonverbal until he was two-and-a-half years old and is now a social media coordinator at Autism Speaks, certified public speaker for the National Speakers Association, author of three books, film consultant and one of the only people with autism today to host their own cable TV show.
Kristin Youngberg, the president of the Autism Speaks club at SHU, started the club last year with additional education students.
“Our goal is to advocate for, fundraise and raise awareness about autism spectrum disorders,” she said.
Youngberg said that Magro’s story is very inspiring and it makes her proud to see a SHU alum do amazing things and overcome the obstacles in his childhood.
In fact, a movie that Magro worked on as a film consultant premiered last month on March 25. The movie, “Jane Wants a Boyfriend” is about a girl in her mid-twenties who is on the autism spectrum trying to find love as she reaches adulthood, he said.
Magro was first approached by the director, Will Sullivan after hearing about Magro’s experience with consulting in the film “Joyful Noise.”
For this film, Magro said that he loved working with lead actress Louisa Krause to help make her portrayal of Jane as realistic as possible.
“I did a great deal of self-reflection based on my own experiences trying to find love on the autism spectrum to help her,” he said. “The main problem that many actors have is stereotyping autism as a ‘one-size fits all disorder.’ If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism but so many people out there still think of every person with autism like they are ‘Rain Man.’”
If he could only have given Krause one piece of advice, he would have told her to create her own Jane.
“Don’t try to mimic someone else’s behavior,” he said. “That’s the most important thing. What Louisa did right as Jane was showing some of the main characteristics of autism with things such as having difficulties with social interaction and also showing a passion for key interests.”
This topic is of importance to Magro especially because while he was assisting Krause, he had also just finished writing his book, “Autism and Falling in Love” that shared how he went about trying to find a relationship on the autism spectrum.
Magro’s main advice for anyone on the autism spectrum trying to find love is to believe that great things are possible for you.
“Understand you have what it takes to be in a relationship,” he said. “Just go out there and try to find someone who loves you for you.”
After wrapping the film, Magro said his favorite part about being a consultant on this film was that it would help educate many people.
“So many people see autism as a child disorder, but in reality it’s a lifelong disorder,” he added. “That means we need to focus as much on children’s needs as we do on adult’s needs.”
Just a few short years ago Magro was attending college at SHU and finding his place in the world.
“SHU taught me how to self-advocate for my needs,” he said. “That was probably the biggest lesson I learned that helped me for this film. Without putting myself out there, something that SHU helped me with, I would never have gotten involved with this film or my word today as an author and speaker.”
Angela Millman, the Director of Disability Support Services (DSS), said that Seton Hall does not have a large number of students with Autism spectrum disorders registered with DSS.
“Many students on the spectrum do not need any academic accommodations, so they may not have a reason to disclose to DSS,” she said. “We would encourage students with or without disabilities to utilize the many resources available on campus. We are always willing to meet with students and help connect them to the right support system.”
“Jane Wants a Boyfriend” tries to teach college students who are on the autism spectrum to find someone who accepts you for exactly who you are, Magro said.
“Don’t try to be someone you aren’t,” he said. “Embrace and understand your quirks and then look for someone who will love those things about you every day.”
Magro said this story is important to tell because children with autism will become adults with autism and we have to be ready for them.
“This story is important to continue the conversation about that transition to adulthood for people with autism,” he said. “Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability in the United States, meaning the more attention we can give to it, whether it be in the media or in the entertainment industry, the better off our community will be.”
He added, “We need people to become aware of autism and accepting of the people with autism in our communities, like me.”
Rebecca White can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.