Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Lois Blackwell

Autism Light #415 is Lois Blackwell.



Lois Judevine Blackwell was a pioneer in autism treatment in St. Louis Missouri and founded the Judevine Center for Autism. Lois Blackwell was born on September 17, 1927, and passed away on March 17, 2015, at the age of 87. She had been diagnosed with cancer a week earlier. She is survived by three children: Kathy Blackwell, Mark (Valerie) Blackwell and Rebecca Blackwell. The funeral service for Lois Blackwell was held on March 21, 2015, at the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Frontenac, Missouri. Internment followed at Oak Hill Cemetery in Kirkwood, Missouri. Lois Blackwell will be placed on the Autism Light Memorial Roll today.

Education: Lois Blackwell started working as a secretary in the Sociology Department of Washington University in St. Louis in the 1960's. She taught herself all she could on the newly discovered condition of autism so she could help in the small autism clinic the department had. In 1967 she became the Assistant Director in the Social Exchange Laboratory at Washington University. When she retired in 2004, Washington University awarded her an honorary degree for her lifetime work.

Judevine Center for Autism:  Lois Blackwell founded the Judevine Center for Autism in 1970 after a grant at the university's lab expired.
When the grant for the university's lab ran out out in 1970, Mrs. Blackwell and the parents of the children weren't ready to give up. They started the first program for treatment of autism in St. Louis. They stood in streets with donation cans to raise money from passing motorists. Mrs. Blackwell developed the training for parents, teachers, and professionals (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 20, 2015, Michael D. Sorkin).

Lois Blackwell, who was divorced, didn't want her name on the center, but parents decided to call it Judevine, which was her maiden name.  Lois wrote the curriculum used at the Judevine clinics. They did not use drugs in treatment but used a pioneer version of what we know as ABA therapy by giving rewards to reinforce positive behaviors.

"The Mission of the Judevine Center for Autism is to make a real difference in the quality of life for children and adults with autism, and their families, wherever they may live (Judevine Center Website)."  You can learn more about the ongoing autism services and training offered at the clinics that the Judevine Center for Autism has around the State of Missouri on their website at judevine.org.

Residential Treatment: Lois Blackwell is the founder of the first residential treatment center for autistic people in St. Louis. She established this groundbreaking program in the former St. Margaret of Scotland Catholic Church near the Missouri Botanical Garden  (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 20, 2015, Michael D. Sorkin).

Social Media: You can follow the Judevine Center on the following social media areas:


Philosophy of Education: Michael Sorkin wrote in her obituary, "Mrs. Blackwell viewed her mission as destroying the idea that autistic children cannot learn and are incapable of education (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 20, 2015, Michael D. Sorkin)."

Obituaries: You may read more information about Lois Blackwell in these obituaries.


Special thanks to Lois Blackwell for her pioneer work to improve the lives of those with autism in St. Louis. Her work lives on in the Judevine Center for Autism and in the children she worked with who are now adults. The autism community truly lost a treasure. May her life prove to be an example to others who follow her in Missouri and around the world.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Arizona Lights


The State of Arizona is the home of 9 Autism Lights in 8 posts. The Arizona group includes 4 people with autism, 2 autism fathers, a dog, and a sports team, and autism researchers.

 Arizona Autism Lights

  1. Dr. James Adams is an Autism Father and an autism researcher from Phoenix, Arizona.
  2. The Arizona Diamondbacks are a Major League Baseball Team from Phoenix, Arizona. 
  3. John Dalen has autism and known as God's Baker. He is from Phoenix, Arizona.
  4. Danielle Jacobs and her dog Sampson live in Tempe, Arizona. Danielle has autism.
  5. Jerry Newport has autism and is an author and speaker who lives in the desert in Arizona. 
  6. Dr. Daniel Openden is an autism researcher from Phoenix, Arizona. 
  7. Jim St. Leger is an Autism Father from Phoenix, Arizona.  
  8. Alex Swigart (1998-2011) was from Bisbee Junction, Arizona. He lost his life in a house fire but was able to help save his family. He is on the Autism Light Memorial Roll. 
    You may reach all these posts by searching the blog through the "Arizona" Label.


    The map of Arizona is attributed to By TUBS [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

    Monday, June 22, 2015

    Danielle Jacobs and Samson

    Autism Lights #414 are Danielle Jacobs and Sampson. 



    Danielle Jacobs and her dog Sampson are intertwined in this story, so it is fitting that they are both named an Autism Light together. Danielle Jacobs is 24 years and has the form of autism known as Asperger's. Sampson is her 4 year old rottweiler that she acquired from HALO Animal Rescue in Phoenix. Danielle Jacobs and her dog Sampson are Autism Lights because Danielle opened herself up by sharing a video of her experience on YouTube where Sampson as a true canine hero comforts her and alerts her to self harm.

    The following is the video that Danielle Jacobs shared of Sampson comforting her during a meltdown. It has received over 5 million views on YouTube and was  one of the Top Ten Videos in all of YouTube for the week of June 2, 2015.


    Danielle Jacobs wrote this description to the above video that she uploaded to YouTube. "This is what having aspergers is like. Please no negative comments this really happened and it's not easy to open myself and share what it's like on a daily basis. This is what's considered a meltdown. Yes Samson is alerting. I trained him to alert to depressive episodes and self harm not both but he alerted. It appears the response is late but it's actually supposed to be as I'm coming out of the meltdown as I tend to have a panic attack after."

    Danielle Jacobs told Buzzfeed News that after she got Sampson she "immediately began training him for service work for Asperger's syndrome, PTSD, TBI, and anxiety disorder. He alerts to meltdowns, anger, depressive episodes, flashbacks and nightmares, stimming, provides balance and counterbalance, and alerts to panic attacks (Buzzfeed News, June 16, 2015, Alan White, An Autistic Woman Has Bravely Shared a Video of Her Dog Comforting Her)."

    Sampson has successfully passed his CGC (Canine Good Citizen) and CGCA (Canine Community) tests and PAT (Public Access Test) (Buzzfeed News, June 16, 2015, Alan White, An Autistic Woman Has Bravely Shared a Video of Her Dog Comforting Her).

    Susan Dunne wrote an opinion piece for the Autism Daily Newscast about Sampson being a hero. She describes Sampson's critical role as an autism therapy dog as follows:
    Sampson typifies what makes animals so special - he does not intervene with reasoning (pointless at this stage anyway), with pleading or restraint, nor does he ignore it and walk away. He persists, he stays with his owner, lets her know that he is not giving up on her even though she may at this point have given up on herself. He is there for her, bringing a safe warm presence into a broken place. He reaches across the despair and hurt but doesn't try to control it. He is in there with her for as long as it takes and he wins her round as she accepts his presence and reaches out to hug him (Autism Daily Newscast, June 17, 2015, Susan Dunne, Opinion: Self-harm Video Shows Heroism of a Dog).

    You can read more about Danielle Jacobs and Samson at these online stories.

    Social Media: Danielle Jacobs is increasing autism awareness through the videos on her personal experiences that she has uploaded to her YouTube Channel.

    Special thanks to Danielle Jacobs for having the courage to share this video so that millions can learn about autism and the role a therapy dog can have. Danielle Jacobs is representative of the many people with autism that are trying to raises awareness of their condition. Sampson is likewise a fine dog to represent the many therapy animals who are unsung heroes.

    Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

    4th Year Anniversary of Autism Light

    Four years ago today I wrote the first Autism Light post after I read the story of Carly Fleischmann and wanted to remember the details of her miraculous communication breakthrough. In the ensuing years this blog has honored the story of 413 diverse heroes to the world of autism. There are representatives from every state in the United States and 25 other countries beyond the USA. I want to thank everyone who has been so kind to let their story be told and for all the faithful readers. The statistics of your views reveals that we are on pace to reach 500,000 all-time page views in the next 30 days. I have truly met so many wonderful friends in these four years and learned so much.

    This song about Autism Heroes has become dear and near to Autism Light.


    If you like Autism Light, check out these other autism blogs I created after Autism Light.
    Thank you for reading as we start our fifth year of blogging at Autism Light.  I always welcome emails from anyone in the autism community with ideas about autims heroes. Contact me at the email address of autismlight@gmail.com.

    Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

    Sunday, June 21, 2015

    Chad Kleis

    Autism Light #413 is Chad Kleis. 




    Photo of Chad Kleis and Family
    Hudson, Chad, Amy, Hunter
    Special Father's Day Honoree.

    Chad Kleis is 40 years old and is an Autism Father from McKinney, Texas. Chad and his wife Amy have a 9 year old son named Hunter and a 7 year old son named Hudson. His son Hunter has autism. Chad Kleis is the Founder and Director of Hunters Autism Specials. Chad Kleis is an ideal Autism Light for this Father's Day, because of how he raises awareness for autism through Hunters Autism Specials, and because he loves his son so much that he orchestrated on social media a fantastic birthday present for his son Hunter, helping him receive almost 10,000 birthday cards from around the world when he turned 9 on March 15, 2015.

    In March of 2015, Chad asked his 400 friends on Facebook to help him wish Hunter a Happy Birthday by sending him cards, since while Hunter is nonverbal he enjoys reading. The message went viral and was shared thousands of times. Hunter received almost 10,000 cards from all over the world, including places as far away as Ireland, the Netherlands, and Hawaii (Dad's Birthday Request for His Son With Autism Goes Viral, WFAA, March 5, 2015).

    The story of Hunter receiving surprise birthday cards from around the world was reported on by ABC, CBS, Yahoo, Dallas Morning News, KISS FM, and the New York Daily News. Here is the news story done by ABC News.



    Chad Kleis shared his love for his son Hunter in the following hope. "The life ahead of him is what scares me. I don't care if he never talks. I wish he did, but I just want to make sure he's happy (Dad's Birthday Request for His Son With Autism Goes Viral, WFAA, March 5, 2015)."

    The Autism Flag by Hunters Autism Specials
    Hunters Autism Specials: Chad Kleis is the Founder and Director of Hunters Autism Specials. The goal of Hunters Autism Specials is to provide "unique products/services for families and businesses in the efforts of becoming more unified society under the Autism umbrella (Hunters Autism Specials Website)." The business offers reviews and resources on autism friendly services and information on potential discounts.  In addition to the services, they designed and offer the full size “U.S.Autism Flag” that you see pictured to the right for  purchase.

    Contact and Social Media: The best way to contact Chad Kleis is at the Contact Us secton of the Hunters Autism Specials Website  or on the Hunters Autism Specials Facebook Page. They would really appreciate your social media support by "liking" their Facebook Page. You can also follow them on Twitter @HASpecials.

    Hobbies: Chad Kleis is originally from Minnesota and cheers on the Minnesota Vikings from Texas. He enjoys being with his family, watching movies, swimming, and jumping on the trampoline.

    Encouragement to other Autism Fathers: Chad Kleis wrote the following perspective in an email to Autism Light on June 19, 2015.
    Everything in this world happens for a reason, we might not know or understand why NOW... But one day, it will all make sense (Chad Kleis).
    Chad also shared this perspective on his son Hunter, "I try to help people understand how Hunter is.The best way to explain it is; Hunter is the CEO of his world, and my wife and I are on the board of directors. We can ONLY make recommendations to the CEO, it will be up to Hunter if he wants to accept or reject those recommendations. We won't force anything on Hunter, that includes people. So, allow him to get to know you at his pace, and you will have a much better chance of being accepted and joining the board..."

    Hunter: Hunter is very blessed to have a caring father and mother on his Board of Directors. His parents have found that ABA and Speech therapy have worked the best with him. They are considering trying Music Therapy too. Hunter has previously been through Horse therapy, but he lost interests in that.

    Future Plans: Chad Kleis is working on a program which will connect families with autism to other families that want to connect, and provide OUTSIDE love and affection (Even if it's from a distance) so that others might experience something similar to what Hunter did when he received those thousands of Birthday cards.

    Chad is also working on getting Hunters Autism Specials from places all over the world. In addition, he would like to long term establish a self-funded insurance program to cover ALL related needs regarding Autism services in order to reduce the stress, hassle, and red tape that autism families frequently experience related to relationships with insurance companies.

    We wish Chad Kleis and all autism fathers a very Happy Father's Day. May Chad's work continue to inspire his family and the autism community around the world to grow and live a more fuller life.

    Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

    Photos: The photos in this post were used with permission of Chad Kleis.