Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Nathan Young

Autism Light #369 is Nathan Young.

Nathan Young is a 33 year old autism self-advocate from Fortuna, California, which is in western-central Humboldt County. In 2006 he founded the non-profit Autism Candles to raise autism awareness and to create opportunity for individuals with autism, and other developmental disabilities. What started as a local effort has expanded to a national outreach for autism. Nathan Young is an Autism Light because of his dedication to raise autism awareness and to provide employment opportunities for those with autism. His passion and energy to make a difference combined with his personal journey with autism helps him shine a light for autism. 

Autism Candles employs several people with autism who help make the actual candles. Workers hours change based on sales. It is the goal of Autism Candles to make homemade and personal candles rather than being a candle making factory. You can purchase candles through Amazon or on the Autism Candles Website

Nathan Young told Autism Light that, "The candle making project originated from the desire to show the world that people with autism, and other developmental disabilities, wanted to and could work. The goal was to get the attention of as many people in the area as possible."

These four goals are listed on the Autism Candles Website include:

  • Foster Autism Awareness
  • Promote Inclusion
  • Assist advocacy efforts on social media and traditional news sources
  • Assist advocacy efforts on social media and traditional news sources
  • Provide for the candle making needs of the autism community

Writer: Nathan Young wrote an article called Stuck in Transition that was featured on the Autism Speaks Webpage on May 7, 2012.

Advice to those with Autism:  Nathan Young encourages others with autism to guard their health. He writes, "Taking care of yourself is the first priority. Depending on the individual, accepting that help is needed to have a healthy life is important. Changing the world begins with being healthy."

Advice to Parents of Children with Autism: Nathan Young has the following advice to parents in relationship to how they can empower their children to make a difference in the world.
Take charge of change. The idealism and the expectations that people in society will treat persons with developmental disabilities fairly is not enough. Encouraging individuals to be self-advocates, that their dreams matter, and promoting inclusion where you live, with the help of self-advocates is important. Many people may mean well, it’s just that they aren’t aware of what issues are really there. It’s important to make as many allies as possible, and to turn things around to the positive as often as possible, even when people make obvious social mistakes. Opportunity for lasting change exists around every corner (Nathan Young).
Autism Awareness Strategy: Nathan Young shared his detailed autism awareness strategy with Autism Light.
I am hyper-focused on the strategies of societal change for inclusion, by using logically sound strategies, and trying to be more successful with the participation of national organizations and other self-advocates, families, disability professionals and allies within the general public. That is, to create a more feasible success pathway by using the communities within specific regions and nationally to spread awareness, which provokes measurable progress.

The national inclusion platform I wish to encourage organizations to work together for, is something I call <Area> Includes. Essentially it is a way for towns/cities within county regions to incite progress for inclusive opportunity. For agencies and nonprofits which serve individuals with developmental disabilities, including autism, to serve out their missions with the help of local and national awareness. Regions may compete with one another, measures can take place and, for instance, agencies which facilitate inclusive training, such as job coaching, can qualify local businesses for sponsoring job hours for participants. This further can be empowered through local chambers of commerce and other business organizations which can work with a regional <Area> Includes to spotlight groups who participate, and who eventually directly hire individuals who have been trained through sponsorships with area businesses. Nationally, further propagation of this model may further tailor its goals, and perception within popular culture. As a nation we must work together, on many levels, to better ensure inclusion and hope (Nathan Young).

Other Blogs: The following are additional perspectives on Autism Candles from other blogs.
Social Media: You can follow Nathan Young's work at Autism Candles at the following popular social media pages.
Goals: Nathan Young described to Autism Light his goals for self-advocacy in this way.
I want national autism and developmental disability organizations, and I want our legislators to listen. I think there is a great need to focus on inclusion, so that mainstream media cannot ignore it; I want the community to be a part of pop culture, and through that awareness to improve inclusion, that is, improve personal treatment and health care and to inspire hope. People just don’t realize how common poverty, for example, is in the developmental disability community, but if we put our minds together and fight for it in strategic ways, we will see real change (Nathan Young).
Nathan Young has taken the perspective that to accomplish great things it starts with believing in people. He says, "I believe success for inclusive change begins with a mentality that most people may mean well, and would help with these necessary changes if provided the opportunity in positive ways."

Special thanks to Nathan Young for raising autism awareness. In a sense the candles his company creates are symbolic of the light being brought to the autism community through awareness and opportunities. Nathan Young is a fine representative of many self-advocates in the autism community and we wish him all the best in his efforts to make a difference for autism now and in the future. As an autism father and blogger I hope to meet other adult self-advocates like Nathan Young in the future because they encourage me about the future my young son faces.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photos: The images in this post were used with permission of Nathan Young.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

John Mikkiah Thompson

Autism Light #181 is John Mikkiah Thompson.
A Backlight Encore!
Original Post: April 8, 2012

On this Third Sunday of Advent we wanted to revisit the story of a Christian young man with autism who we first featured on Autism Light back on Easter Sunday, 2012.

John Mikkiah Thompson will turn 21 years old this week and is from Shelbyville, Indiana. He has autism and did not speak until he was age 8, but he is making a tremendous difference in this world through his Christian music that spreads the message of his personal Christian faith. John Mikkiah Thompson is an Autism Light for the awareness he brings to autism when he shares his outstanding musical talent and gifts of faith.

If you hear John Mikkiah Thompson sing it is clear that there is a lot of heart behind his words. The reason for this may be because the music came to this young man with autism before he had any words. And he credits this victory to the act of the God he praises and adores through his music.

John's father Grant Thompson said to Autism Light, "By the time John was 8 years old he could listen to just about anything and play it the same day. This is what the Lord used to "unlock" John Mikkiah Thompson's tongue. When he holds that Mic in his hand or sits down behind the piano, a Miracle takes place right before your eyes EVERY SINGLE TIME. All of the autism disappears and you would never, ever known that it even existed."

The following is a video of John Mikkiah Thompson singing his song "I Believe" on YouTube.

John's song, You Made Me Who I Am was written by his father Grant Thompson and a version of him singing this is below.

Past Awards: Dann Veldkamp of The Center Grover Community Newspaper describes John's experience on the stage this way, "Once John Mikkiah's talent was recognized his career started to take off. In 2010, he won the 'Shelby Idol" contest and swept multiple categories in the Franklin Fall Talent Contest. He appeared at the 2010 Indiana State Fair and formed the National Anthem at the opening of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May, 2011 (Source)."
At the Strand Theater: The following is a video of John singing at the Strand in Shelby, Indiana. He is introduced with the master of ceremonies reading a letter from his family that tells a story of how autism, music, and faith have been a part of John Mikkiah Thompson's life.

Not Giving Up: Like each of us in our own way, John Mikkiah Thompson continues to work at areas he can grow in his life and he is involved in ABA therapy for his autism. John offered the following advice for people with autism about finding success in life: Never Give Up and the Lord Will Help You!

Social Media: You can follow the work of John Mikkiah Thompson at the following social media:
Praise Band:  When not on the road performing, John Mikkiah Thompson is in the Praise Band at his church in Indiana, the Word of Life Fellowship.

Booking Information: John Mikkiah Thompson enjoys singing and sharing his songs of praise to his Lord whenever possible. If you would like information on scheduling John Mikkiah Thompson to sing at your church or event, please email him at crimsoniu1@embarqmail.com.

Special thanks to John Mikkiah Thompson for singing the songs of praise and blessing churches and community groups with his talent. We expect to continue to hear great things about his music in the future and how it is a blessing to thousands of people.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The photo in this post is used with permission of John Mikkiah Thompson.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

My Autistic Muslim Child

Autism Light #368 is the My Autistic Muslim Child Blog.

The blog My Autistic Muslim Child was started in February, 2010, and is written by an autism mother from Orlando, Florida whose son Amin has autism. My Autistic Muslim Child is an Autism Light because it is uniquely supporting autism families in the Muslim community through the encouragement it provides on the blog. The blog can be found at myautisticmuslimchild.com and the counter on the website indicates about 720,000 visitors as of the date of this post.

Spiritual Encouragement: There is a label on the right side of the blog that emphasizes the hope the blog tries to bring to other parents in the Muslim faith that says, "Never Give up Hope of Allah's mercy." That heading is followed by a quote from the Quran 12:87, "Certainly no one despairs of Allah's mercy, except the people who disbelieve."

The creator of the blog describes her purpose for the blog in this manner,
I realized that I needed to do something to show my fellow Muslim parents that autism is part of our lives, and that we should accept Allah's decree, and move forward. We continue to make du'a for him to outgrow this condition, and we have the greatest of hope and trust in Allah that He will continue to show us amazing things from this amazing child who is special in so many ways (My Autistic Muslim Child, About).
The tag line on the blog My Autistic Muslim Child is "A Site for Learning, Sharing and Support for Muslim Families." The helpfulness of this blog is in no way limited to the Muslim community, although the passion to help that faith community is clear. The blogger provides varied posts that range from research to inspirational encouragement. For example, the post Reishi Mushroom for Amin conveys in a personal way how the medical condition PANDAS impacts a boy with autism and some alternative medical treatments to help with this. In addition, the Mother's Day 2014 post serves as an anthem of encouragement to honor the diverse world of autism mothers.

The blog My Autistic Muslim Child is a blessing to the autism community, specifically for how it shines a light on the journey families in the Muslim community travel. While the blog is specifically of value to Muslim families desiring to learn, grow, and share the bond of community, those outside the Muslim faith can certainly read the blog to learn about the Muslim faith, varying aspects of autism, and the art of being a devoted autism mother.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Lorna Wing

Autism Light #367 is Dr. Lorna Wing.

Lorna Wing was born on October 7, 1928 and passed away on June 6, 2014. She was a psychiatrist and autism mother in the United Kingdom. After learning that her daughter Susie had autism she focused the research she did in her long medical career on improving autism. One would be hard pressed to find a psychiatrist who has done so much for autism in the United Kingdom over the last half of the 20th Century. Dr. Lorna Wing is an Autism Light for her outstanding achievements to shine a light for autism, which included being an author, introducing the term "Asperger's Syndrome", and being one of the founders of the National Autistic Society in the United Kingdom. Lorna Wing will be placed on the Autism Light Memorial Roll today.

Lorna Wing passed away due to complications of Alzheimer's. She was preceded in death by her daughter Susie in 2009 and her husband John in 2010.  You can read her obituary at the New York Times and at The UK Telegraph. A special tribute to Lorna Wing was held at the National Autistic Society meeting on November 22, 2014.

It was her daughter Susie's diagnosis of autism in the late 1950's that led Lorna Wing to focus on children with autism in her profession. She said,
When Susie was diagnosed there was no support for parents and children. We felt so suddenly and unexpectedly different to everyone else. Now there is a lot out there, and there are lots of good books. The huge change that has happened is the general recognition that autism exists (Lorna Wing, Autism: a mother's labour of love, May 24, 2011).

Here is a video of an interview done with Dr. Lorna Wing.

Author: Lorna Wing's most influential publication might have been her paper she published in 1981 called Asperger syndrome: a clinical account. It was in this work that she introduced the term Asperger's syndrome to refer to a specific group of people on the autism spectrum. Dr. Lorna Wing is also the author of numerous other books on autism. You can check out her page on Amazon for the list of her works that are still available. Books she authored include the following:
Twitter: Kevin Healey said this about Lorna Wing on Twitter.

National Autistic Society: Lorna Wing was part of a group that started the National Autistic Society in 1962. The National Autistic Society is the leading United Kingdom charity for people with autism and they "provide information, support and pioneering services, and campaign for a better world for people with autism (National Autistic Society Website)."  Lorna Wing served a vital role over the years as an autism consultant to the National Autistic Society's Lorna Wing Centre for Autism, which plays an important role in diagnosing autism.

Wikipedia: To learn more about Lorna Wing visit her Wikipedia page.

The autism community in the United Kingdom and around the world owes a debt of gratitude for the lifetime achievements of Dr. Lorna Wing. It is hoped that in her memory others will rise up to further the work of autism to a new generation.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Pope Francis

Autism Light #366 is Pope Francis.

Photo of Pope Francis

Pope Francis was born with the name Jorge Mario Bergoglio on December 17, 1936 in Argentina and he is the current head of the Catholic Church, holding the title of the Bishop of Rome. He has developed a reputation as a leader who genuinely cares about those who are less fortunate and have special needs. Pope Francis is an Autism Light for his outreach to those with autism in his role as the faith leader of over 1.2 billion worldwide members of the Catholic Church. Under his leadership the Vatican's health care office held the Catholic Church's first ever global gathering on autism on November 20-22, 2014. As part of this conference Pope Francis spoke about autism and met directly with persons with autism and their parents and doctors.

Michele Arbogast, a mother of a child with autism who works for Autism Speaks in New York, said about Pope Francis, "Pope Francis has changed the dynamics. He reaches out to those in need. Words from the Holy Father will reach the smallest villages, touch hearts, change minds and help people to volunteer and help other families (Religion News, November 21, 2014)."

Here is a video of Pope Francis speaking at the International Conference of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers which had as its theme this year, "The Person with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Animating Hope".  Pope Francis spoke to participants at the Persons with Autism Conference on Saturday, November 22, 2014.

The medical conference on autism sponsored by the Catholic Church that Pope Francis spoke at is said by organizers to be "the biggest medical conference of its kind on autism, gathering more than 650 experts from 57 countries (ABC News, November 18, 2014)." Thanks to technology the Pope's words will be heard throughout world and reach people around the world, having an especially influential impact on those who are part of the Catholic Church.

The Rev. P. Augusto Chenci of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers said that the reason Pope Francis spoke directly to those with autism at the conference was to "help break the isolation, and in many cases the stigma, that surrounds people affected by autism spectrum disorders (ABC News, November 18, 2014)."

The following are just two examples of some testimonies that were shared on Twitter about the positive impact Pope Francis is having in the lives of those with autism and their families.

Social Media: You can follow Pope Francis on the following social media.
Special thanks to Pope Francis for all he is doing to raise awareness of autism in the Catholic Church around the world. His respectful treatment of individuals with autism is shining a light that those with autism can find a home in a faith community.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The photo of Pope Francis is from Wikipedia Commons.