From Nonverbal Autism to Doctoral Graduate and Speaking for a Living

By Award Winning Speaker Kerry Magro, who is on the autism spectrum

As a kid I never thought that one day I might be an educator. This was mainly due to limitations including being nonverbal till almost 3 and having challenges with communication for several years following that.

Long Term Goals Can Be Hard Throughout Therapy

It was often hard to focus on long-term goals for myself as physical, occupational, speech, music and theater therapy became part of my routine to reach developmental milestones. Years later, now after passing my dissertation defense, I can now say I have an EdD in Educational Technology Leadership from New Jersey City University. With an undergraduate degree in Business Management and a Masters in Strategic Communications and Leadership, most were surprised that my next journey would be pursuing something in education.

Educational Encouragement Started Early with Kindergarten

The truth is having a positive educational experience for most of my adolescence played a pivotal part in why I was able to overcome many of my obstacles. It started with having a phenomenal Kindergarten teacher. I struggle with something called ‘tunnel vision’ where sometimes it’s difficult for me to understand the perspectives of others. My teacher made me understand the perspectives of others by keeping me engaged with other students when it came to educational games and other activities.

One of her best qualities though to me was that she taught through a labor of love that was apparent to me for the entire academic year.

Education Often Isn’t Easy

The next 4 years would be a roller-coaster for me academically. I was moved to 3 different schools during that time period as my parents were trying to find the right for me as I was in a multi-handicapped classroom setting. While teachers meant well in most of these classrooms, I was one of the only students with autism and felt a lack of rapport.

5th Grade: A Special Education Classroom for the First Time

The next transition would be a huge game changer. From 5th grade throughout high school I was in a classroom setting for those with learning disabilities where all teachers had some form of training in Special Education. It also helped that the student-teacher ratio averaged out during those years to be 8:1 (versus 25:1 in my years in public school). Much like my Kindergarten teacher, the educators here truly embraced their students strengthens while helping them work on their challenges.

Several educators of mine became role models to me during that time.

Teachers Then Inspired Me to be a Teacher Now

Reflecting back I believe this was, at least in part, why I decided to become an educator. I hope I can truly do that for future generations on the university level.

This view has made me also look at what the future needs I believe from our teachers.
A trend in the schools seems to look at integrating more students with disabilities into mainstream classrooms. This means teachers will need programs and trainings as to gain vaster knowledge and experience then ever before in our history.

Importance of Understanding Educators Rises Along with Increasing Rates of Autism

This isn’t only a transition on how we look at K-12 but also in the rising rate of developmental disabilities throughout the United States. Autism for example has risen over 100% in the past decade as mentioned by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In addition, the National, Center for Education Statistics indicates that in 2015-16, 6.7 million students from the ages of 3-21 were receiving some form of special education services. Certification for educators and professionals can be extremely useful while building credibility.

For those reading this, especially the families, educators and therapists out there, I hope you realize the impact you can make in the lives of others. By being well informed and considering continuing you’re learning through groups such as IBCCES you can truly make a difference.

This guest article is by IBCCES Board Member Kerry Magro, a professional speaker best-selling author and autism entertainment consultant who is on the autism spectrum.
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