In early March, I had the opportunity to interview Kerry Magro, the keynote speaker at The Autism Conference, sponsored by Commonwealth Autism in Richmond, Virginia.
What struck me about Magro when I met him was how personable, warm, and friendly he comes across. He speaks passionately about anti-bullying and has compassion for all individuals. He began his talk saying, “This topic [bullying] is very dear to my heart because of my journey of autism and being diagnosed at 4 ½ years old. I was actually completely nonverbal until the age of 2 ½ years of age.”
Kerry was very direct in his message that bullying needs to end now! And after his talk, I sat with him in the hotel lobby of where the conference was held. He explained to me how his parents pushed him to where he is today as an international speaker, advocate, and bestselling author. Magro said his parents would hone-in on his extreme interests as an early child to get the desirable behavior or outcome. The reason for his continued success come from a very altruistic grounding. In his words, “This is why I do what I do. I do it to meet people such as yourself, to get to meet some of the amazing advocates. People who have passion for their children, their students, their family members. I get to see people who have gone through similar stories of what I went through. Being able to be there for them every step of the way with resources or to get to share my personal experiences in hopes that one day being able to impact the lives of someone else. It feels like a dream come true.”
Magro became an advocate when he was in his undergraduate work at Seton Hall University. He stood up in his class and talked to them about what it is like to have autism. Not knowing what to expect, the class stood up and gave him a standing ovation. It made him realize this is something he wanted to do full time. He started speaking locally in New Jersey and did so throughout college. After he graduated, he received a scholarship from the National Speakers Association to become a professionally certified speaker and got to travel around the country speaking. It not only gave him the opportunity to talk about autism, but also led to “more personal passions” such as bully prevention, inclusion, storytelling, and innovations.
And in the spirit of Project: Just Like You, I had to find out what he enjoys doing in his spare time! “I love going to museums, and a general interest in seeing state capitals,” he said. Magro finds himself to be a very touristy person and exploring the town. And he has a love of “R&B hip hop and oldie music.” He got into the hobby through music therapy. He found something soothing about music when he felt sensory overload.
As for his future plans? Magro explained that he is writing his first children’s book, (it’s under wraps for the time being) and will continue speaking. He also works with businesses and health care providers to hire for special needs communities. Magro has a very specific passion for this. “Most people, especially consumers today, want to buy products from companies that hire people from diverse backgrounds. Not only different nationalities and those who come from different cultures, but also with a wide range of special needs and disabilities as well.” He started with American Express two years ago for Autism Awareness month and as soon as the YouTube video went up, according to Magro, it “spurred a movement to other businesses that you need to do this. We have spoken with J.P. Morgan, we are speaking with Wyndham Destinations Networks for a second time and Bank of America.” Magro continues, “We are hoping to make this something where we can talk to every business about making a positive impact and there are a lot of opportunities to make this available.”
Molly McMunn Korte is the founder and Executive Director of Project: Just Like You, a Virginia-based Non-profit company. She keeps herself busy with her 3 children, her youngest having Autism Spectrum Disorder. Korte is a frequent guest speaker, blog writer, and makes frequent media appearances to spread her passion: raising awareness on what people have in common. Doing so inspires inclusivity and helps make this world a better place for everyone.