This guest post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro. Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a graduate student at Seton Hall University, and is actively involved with our college program. Autism Speaks U is an initiative designed to support college students in their awareness, advocacy and fundraising efforts.
Do you know that I was once called Rain Man by a college peer? Wow. I was furious. When I look back at the reason why anyone would say something like that I think of some of the stereotypes of autism. Some think people with autism lack social interaction and others think people with autism are good at math.
In the 1988 movie Rain Man, Actor Dustin Hoffman plays a character that is autistic and shows he’s good with numbers but also lacks some communication skills. Because of the popularity of this movie and mainly because autism was still very unknown during the release of the movie it became, for better or for worse, a characterization of what autism could be. But you know what the problem is here? I’m autistic and I’m nothing like Rain Man. I’m now an adult great with verbal communication, I’m not as good in math and the differences keep piling up.
You see, autism is very broad. No one diagnosis is the same and therefore when we think of Rain Man we must think of Rain Man as ONLY Rain Man. He is one symbol of the countless symbols of real people out there that have autism. I think that’s what makes our autism community great. We all are unique in our own way and we all have the opportunity to have our “voices” heard. Sometimes that voice is not a verbal one, sometimes it is heard through our art or music or some other skill or talent we have or simply a smile at our family members. Each and every individual with autism is a new and unique symbol of what autism is today and will be for our future. So in keeping with the future... To those who are reading…
Don’t call me Rain Man. Call me Kerry. Don’t think I’m bad at verbal communication, because in fact in my own way I’m great at communication and I'm getting a Master's Degree in Strategic Communication to boot. Don’t think I’ll be ready to help when it comes to numbers, because all I’m going to do is pass you a calculator. AND, most importantly, just look at me as me. I’m Kerry and there is only one of me. Just like there is only one of you. Let’s embrace the fact that there will only be one Kerry Magro, just like there will only be one Rain Man. We write our own stories based on the biography of life which we are all living through right now.
Let’s make sure the chapters we're writing are good ones, by living it just the way we are. So please call me Kerry the next time you see me, because that is someone who I was always meant to be.