Home LifestyleCareer Dr. Kerry Magro On Being a Non-Profit Founder + Living with Autism

Dr. Kerry Magro On Being a Non-Profit Founder + Living with Autism

by Arielle Witter
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Running a nonprofit is no small feat. In fact, it’s quite a big accomplishment. Now, take that achievement and pair it with being an award-winning professional speaker, an author, and a consultant for an HBO series — and you’ll have Dr. Kerry Magro. For Kerry, wearing all of these different hats is simply a normal day in his life. Having been diagnosed with autism at age four, he has overcome a multitude of obstacles in order to become the person we know today. We were lucky enough to chat with Kerry last year in 2020 to learn more about his story, some of the toughest challenges he’s faced to date, and how he’s raising awareness for autism one day at a time.

kerry margo

Tell us about yourself. 

I am an award-winning professional speaker, best-selling author, and autism consultant to the HBO series Mrs. Fletcher that aired last fall.  I was diagnosed with autism at the age of four and considered by experts to be on the severe end of the autism spectrum. Today as an adult, I’ve overcome many of these obstacles. 

I started professionally speaking nine years ago via the National Speakers Association and have spoken at over 900 events since. In addition to that, I’m the CEO + president of KFM Making A Difference, a nonprofit organization that hosts inclusion events and has provided 68 scholarships for students with autism for college. 

In my spare time, I host a Facebook page called A Special Community that now has 195,000 Facebook followers and I do on-camera interviews highlighting people who have been impacted by a diagnosis to breaking down barriers in our community. My videos have been watched over 25 million times. 

My best-selling books Defining Autism From The HeartAutism and Falling in Love, and I Will Light It Up Blue! have all reached Amazon Best-Seller Lists for Special Needs Parenting. For my efforts, I have been featured in major media and worked with amazing brands including The Today ShowCBS NewsInside EditionUpworthy, and Huffington Post, among others. I am based in Hoboken, New Jersey.

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Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Jersey City, New Jersey, and just moved to Hoboken a few years ago!

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Who were the people in your life that really inspired you?

My parents have inspired me so much. Growing up I played ‘Disability Celebrity Bingo’ in a social skills class and learned individuals like Michael Jordan had ADD and Leonardo Dicaprio had Dyslexia, so I looked up to them as well. When I was a kid there weren’t a lot of stories of successful adults with autism.

How has having autism pushed you forward in your career?

Sharing my story opened doors to work with major media and some incredible brands. I appreciate the opportunity to be a self-advocate as well.

What inspired you to start KFM Making a Difference?

One area students with autism I was working with had challenges in was standardized testing. Most colleges, when they give out scholarship aid, focus on SAT scores and GPAs. For this reason, I wanted to help students with autism with a scholarship program to help them pursue post-secondary education. That started me on my way to receive 501-c-3 status so I could receive donations from people around the country who want to support individuals in our autism community.

What was one of the most challenging obstacles you’ve had to overcome in your career {or life} so far?

Sensory issues. All five of my senses are dialed to 11. Even though it’s much better than it used to be, I still have challenges in this area.

What has been the highlight in your life so far?

I would say getting my EdD from New Jersey City University {NJCU} was a huge moment. Experts would tell my parents when I was younger that due to the severity of my autism diagnosis at the time that I would be lucky to graduate from high school. The first time someone called me “Dr. Kerry Magro” at a speaking event felt very surreal. 

kerry margo books

What inspired you to write your books?

There was content from experts in the field on autism, but very few first-person perspectives of actual people on the autism spectrum. I decided I wanted to write to make a difference for the kids I work with but also to educate our society on autism.

What got you into professional speaking?

Growing up a theater kid, I’ve always enjoyed being on a stage. Theater therapy helped me growing up and when I started getting my first few local speaking events, the energy was electric. [It] made me pursue my master’s in strategic communications, which helped me work on effective presentation skills, and the rest was history.

What is it like working for the series Mrs. Fletcher?

Incredible. We see so many characters focused on those who have savant syndrome, have full-time jobs, etc, but what about those with autism who are limited. I got to consult on the show while it was filming in Brooklyn and it was absolutely incredible. This show looks at a child with autism that has nonverbal autism.

What do you hope for in the future of autism research? 

More of a focus on autism support. I know so many children and adults who receive the bare minimum when it comes to having the support to help them thrive. While research is important, there are individuals today who need our support and we can never forget that.

kerry margo speaker

What is your biggest source of inspiration? 

Whenever a group reaches out to me and wants me to speak in their area, I feel truly inspired because it makes me feel like my work on trying to break down barriers for those with special needs is truly making a difference. My family is also a huge inspiration because when I was considered on the severe end of the autism spectrum, I saw the motivation they had to see me succeed. I now try to mirror that same motivation to achieve my goals.

What’s a typical day look like for you? 

When I’m not in my home office in Hoboken, I’m typically traveling for a speaking event {I tend to travel out of state three to four times a month}, consulting for a business and/or entertainment-related project, or mentoring someone with special needs. 

Tell us about another business in the area you admire.

Tough question! There’s not just one, but all the schools and businesses that truly embrace diversity have my respect and admiration.

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What is your favorite restaurant in the area?

 Amelia’s Bistro in Jersey City.

What is your favorite shop in the area?

Jos. A Bank in Hoboken for custom suits for sure.

What do you love most about the area?

It truly feels like a family. Growing up in Jersey City and now living in Hoboken, I’ve always been a Hudson County guy. 

What is your favorite thing to do in Hudson County? 

Probably being near the water either for a run or just to hangout.

How long have you lived in the area?

I lived in Jersey City until [the age of] 28 and have lived in Hoboken for the past four years.

What is your favorite outdoor place to spend time in the area?

Pier 13! I love having that view of the NY skyline while having a drink on a weekend with friends.

What is your favorite place to work out in Hudson County? 

I worked out at Base forever before moving to Hoboken and having our Shipyard gym. Can’t go wrong with either place. I also love playing basketball at Hamilton Park.

Where do you go out with friends in the area? 

Urban CoalHouse for the pizza. City Bistro during the spring/summer for the rooftop. Hudson Tavern for Sunday football. Also, shout out to Abbey’s Pub and The Barge in Jersey City.

What is something you think needs to come to the area?

I might have a bias here but I’d love to see a bowling alley in Hoboken. As a frequent bowler, I think that would be a great venue spot as well {similar to Brooklyn Bowl}.

Is there anything else you’d like to share? 

I’m always looking to collaborate with people from Hudson County for our video series, groups that need a speaker, etc. Contact me anytime at [email protected].

Keep up with Kerry on Facebook here and here, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, on his website, or via email at [email protected].

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