Family

This man's open letter to bullies went viral. Now he has even more to say.

Kerry Magro wants to teach us 4 things about autism and bullying.

This man's open letter to bullies went viral. Now he has even more to say.

A few days before the beginning of October (which we should note is Bullying Prevention Month), Kerry Magro published a letter on his blog.

Soon after that, Magro's letter went viral on Reddit.


Magro has autism and he addressed his former bullies head-on in that letter.

He wrote:

"When I was in public school, I used to be bullied by people like you. You would see me in the corner, usually trying to keep to myself and wonder why I was there. Other times you would see me having issues reading out loud in class and snicker while I tried to pronounce different words.

You'd take my inability to understand sarcasm as a way to get me in trouble. Worst of all, you'd make me feel like an outsider when more than anything I wanted to fit in."

He also addressed others who bully people with special needs.

Magro may look like the picture-perfect professional today. He has a college degree, he founded a nonprofit, and he has a successful career as a public speaker, author, and consultant.

Magro, seen here speaking about living with autism in front of a large group. Photo via Kerry Magro, used with permission.

But his whole point is that autism doesn't look like any one thing. He challenges autism stereotypes every day. In his open letter, Magro has a few lessons to teach us all — not just the people who harass people with special needs.

Here's what we can learn.

1. Words have power.

In his letter, Magro wrote:

"Words can hurt people. Whether you understand the impact that you have, please try to put yourself in the shoes of the people you harass. If you did, you'd know that I struggled as a kid, and many people do at times … not only those with special needs but anyone who may not be classified as ... 'normal.'"

According to a study by the National Institute of Mental Health, victims of bullying are five times more likely to develop a depressive disorder, 14 times more likely to have a panic disorder, and 10 times more likely to have suicidal thoughts.

"I can tell you from experience that it's harmful to have those feelings bottled up when it's happening directly to you," Magro told me.

2. We should all be speaking up for each other.

"Some people can't stand up for themselves due to their different limitations when a bully attacks them," Magro wrote in his letter.

When Magro was younger, bullies would pick on him because he had communication delays, which also made it harder for him to speak up and let an adult know what was going on.

It's so important for kids (and adults) who see bullying to say something if they see something. Photo via iStock.

"Studies have shown that more than half of bullying situations stop when a peer intervenes," Magro told me. “That means educating our kids as much as ourselves about the harmful effects that bullying can have."

3. It's important to treat people with special needs like ... people.

Let's have an honest moment here: It's not enough to refrain from bullying a person with special needs. To be better advocates, we also shouldn't treat autism or any other diagnosis as a "one-size-fits-all" condition.

"It's important for people to understand that if you've met one individual with autism you've met one individual with autism," Magro said.

Two common statements that Magro hates hearing? "You don't look like you have autism" and "You have autism? I would have never known."

"When you interact with someone with autism, look beyond the diagnosis. I've always told people that 'autism doesn't define me' and 'I define autism,'" he added.

4. Accept people with special needs for who they are.

Magro wrote:

I wanted to share this letter with you today in the hopes that if you ever read it, that you will think again before you bully someone who may seem a little bit different than you are.
You may not know this, but 1 in 5 Americans today has a disability. I hope you can learn compassion.

Tolerance, respect, and compassion are key for building a community in which everyone, including people with special needs, can thrive.

"Bullying today is one of the most critical and sensitive topics our loved ones have to face," Magro told me. "Let's be ready for [the bullies] with unconditional love, awareness, and acceptance along the way."

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less