Sunday, April 3, 2016

Jennifer Waltrip

Autism Light #449 is Jennifer Waltrip.



Jennifer "Jennie" Waltrip served for 17 years as a bright light in the special education field for Frederick (Maryland) County Public Schools and was a Family Trainer for the Maryland Autism Waiver Program. Jennifer Waltrip was born on July 20, 1969 and passed away from a brain aneurysm on January 20, 2016, at the age of 46. Jennifer is survived by her husband Bryan Christopher Waltrip and 9 year old twin children: Finn Larson and Isabel Bear. Her obituary is listed at Legacy.com. Jennifer Waltrip will be placed on the Autism Light Memorial Roll today.

Education: Jennifer Waltrip received the following education.

Teaching Career: Jennifer Waltrip's teaching career included the following.
  • Frederick County Public Schools, Teacher Specialist, Secondary Specialized Programs
  • Caroll Manor Elementary, Challenges Program
  • Ivymount School

In addition, she served as a Family Trainer for the Maryland Autism Waiver. The Maryland Autism Waiver is a program of the Maryland State Department of Education that provides intensive services both in home and school for eligible children with autism regardless of family income.

For more information on Jennifer Waltrip read these online articles.


The autism community was blessed to have a dedicated special education teacher Jennifer Waltrip in Frederick, Maryland and her absence will be felt. It is hoped that her example will inspire others to enter a career in special education teaching.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Marion Bruce

Autism Light #448 is Marion Bruce.




Marion Bruce was a pioneer in bringing autism awareness to New Zealand and improving the situations of autism families and their loved ones by effectively starting the organization presently called Autism New Zealand. Her youngest son Andrew has autism. Marion Bruce was born on June 26, 1925 in Christchurch, New Zealand, and passed away on February 25, 2016 in Wellington, New Zealand, at the age of 90.   Marion was predeceased by her husband Dr. Lyell Bruce. She is survived by her children: Evan, Alison, Mary, and Andrew.  Her obituary is listed at the New Zealand Herald. Marion Bruce holds the distinction of being the first person from New Zealand to be featured at Autism Light. She will be placed on the Autism Light Memorial Roll today.

Autism Mother: When Marion Bruce was placed in the role of being an Autism Mother, there was little known about autism in New Zealand. It was written of her that, "Marion Bruce spent her life trying to make a better world for her autistic son. In doing so, she helped scores of other autistic children and their families (Access, Hillary Stace, March 31, 2016)."

Autism New Zealand: Marion Bruce was effectively the founder of what is now Autism New Zealand, an organization she was a lifelong member of. It was her passionate efforts that helped convince the Intellectually Handicapped Children's Association in New Zealand to recognize autism in New Zealand and set up an autism sub-committee in 1969. This group later became the Autistic Association and then became what it is today known as Autism New Zealand. Visit the Autism New Zealand Website to learn more about their ongoing work.

Tribute from Phillipa Barker: Philippa Barker is the former national secretary of Autism New Zealand. He wrote these words about Marion Bruce's important contribution to autism in New Zealand.
She was the go-to person for information and advice on autism in New Zealand when no-one knew anything about it, when there were no resources or facilities. In the UK there were schools for autistic children but not here.
She lobbied for facilities and to have autism recognised as a condition. She travelled abroad to conferences, often at her own expense, to learn about the condition and brought back information to parents here (As quoted in Access, Hillary Stace, March 31, 2016).  
Conversation with Autism Pioneer: Marion Bruce is mentioned in Adam Feinstein's important work called A History of Autism: Conversations with the Pioneers. Adam Feinstein was Autism Light #347.

Education: Marion Bruce earned her BA in languages from the University of New Zealand in 1947.

Queen's Service Order:  Marion Bruce was awarded the prestigious Queen's Service Order in 1986 for services to the community.  Her volunteer efforts included serving as an advisor to Mana Parents Centre.

For more information on Marion Bruce read the tribute article to her in Access on March 31, 2016 by Hillary Stace. This profile at Autism Light is indebted to their understanding of Marion Bruce's life and background.

Special thanks to Marion Bruce for her leadership to shine a light for autism in New Zealand. The autism community is grateful for her life and work. May the memory of her passion for autism inspire others to give of themselves to make a difference for those who need a voice.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Benji the Labrador

Autism Light #447 is Benji the Labrador.


Benji is a Labrador dog who lives in Aberdeen, Scotland in the United Kingdom. Benji is a therapy dog for a 7 year old boy with autism named Declan McInnes-Pirie. Benji is an Autism Light for the positive impact he has on Declan's life as he stays by his side as a faithful dog.

Declan's mother Phionna was encouraged to try a dog for her son after she read the book A Friend Like Henry written by Nualah Gardner, who was Autism Light #58 Henry is another dog who from Scotland who made a difference for a child with autism.

Phionna McInnes-Pirie says this about the light Benji has shined in her son Declan's life.
Benji has been wonderful, he has really had his personality tested with Declan and he has risen to the challenge every time. Never have I seen such loyalty, patience and compassion. 
There has been many a happy tear shed in this house. You read about it, sure, but until you see it happen with your own child - well that's some experience.
It's worth everything we put ourselves through. Getting Benji was the best thing we could have done (STVNews, Victoria Pease, Boy's Best Friend: Autistic 7 year-olds bond with Labrador Benji, March 19, 2016).
Two specific areas where Benji has helped Declan with his some of the effects of his autism are preventing him from running away and providing pressure therapy. A harness and handle keeps Benji and Declan together in public and offers a barrier to his wandering. Benji is able to provide pressure therapy by placing his dog paw or leg on Declan, which helps decrease his anxiety.

Benji is in the process of being trained by Assistance Dogs International (ADI) and when completed he will be able to go more places with Declan and become an official autism therapy dog. For more information about Benji the Labrador read the article on STVNews by Victoria Pease (Boy's Best Friend: Autistic 7 year-olds bond with Labrador Benji, March 19, 2016)

Benji will be added to the Autism Light Animal Page today. Benji is a fine example of a dog who is making a difference through his therapeutic and loving relationship with a young person with autism. We wish Benji and Declan the best in the future.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

David Kot

Autism Light #446 is David Kot.


David Kot is a comic book script writer who founded Face Value Comics, a non-profit which raises autism awareness and featured the world's first comic book hero with autism. David lives in York, Pennsylvania with his wife Angie and four children. In addition to his own clinical diagnosis as an adult with Asperger's, his young step-daughter also has autism. David Kot is an Autism Light for his influential efforts to raise autism awareness through his comic book enterprise and as a self-advocate.

The following is a video where David Kot explains how Face Value Comics is intentional about raising autism awareness.



Face Value Comics: David Kot and Angela Kot created Face Value Comics, which was legally incorporated as a non-profit organization in 2011 and is presently a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization. According to their website, "Autism at Face Value practises 'comic awareness' and employs the use of comic books and educational toys to publicly demystify Autism Spectrum Disorders (Autism at Face Value - About Us)."

Some of the accomplishments of Face Value Comics include:
  • Introducing the character "Michael" who is the first comic book super hero with autism.
  • Having a third party medical journal review their work for their therapeutic value to children.
  • Advising the Dover Area School District on new special needs curriculum based on our use of facial feature recognition helps us maintain our non-profit status.
David Kot says,
"Comic book author and pop-icon Stan Lee wrote Spiderman when he was 40 years old. I debuted Face Value Comics #1 a year earlier than my role-model. Since this time, we have been on the nation’s largest news network, reviewed in a medical journal, and outsold some popular titles. Our comic has been nominated and won two international awards for Children’s Literature (Ireland, Canada) and enshrined in the National History of Disability History in New York. We have international print and distribution for our comics. Additionally, we hold the copyright on our work, and are proud to give kids heroes like themselves. In the future, we have many great plans."
His plans for Face Value Comics in the future include:
  • Developing public school special needs curriculum with the Dover Area School District for a net surplus, insulated against legislative budget cuts, and without levying a single dime to the typical taxpayer;
  • Sensory-friendly action figures of our heroes, with flexible pieces (i.e. silk cape or wool cape), designed to calm children who play while they play;
  • Printing comic books with 3D features, like raised facial expressions to literally feel emotions, which also opens comic books to the low/no-vision community;
  • Visiting the U.S. Congressional Autism Caucus by (Mike Doyle’s) invitation;
  • Continued issues of comics, including special guest artists and authors;
  • Advocating and teaching young people and adults about living with autism; and
  • Finishing my doctoral research as my health and time allows.
Copyright 2016 - Face Value Comics
Author: To date David Kot has published three comic books labeled Face Value Comics #1, #2, and #3. Face Value Comics #4 is in the production phase.

Ordering Information: You can order print copies of comics by Autism Face Value at their page on Indyplanet. Digital copies, including a pay-what-you-want price option on Issue #1, are available at Drive Thru Comics.

Education: David Kot has the following educational background.

David Kot
  • Since 2006 he has been studying at Capella University. He has earned a Master of Science in Human Services (Psychology) and did his graduate research in Self-funding community clinics to include self-injurious clients, in respect to billing, coding, and clinical interventions. 
  • David Kot is expected to earn his Doctor of Philosophy, Psychology in 2016 from Capella University. His PhD research focus has been Autism and multicultural, nonverbal communication strategies that promote compassion and empathy. 
Blogger: David Kot writes a blog as part of his advocacy on his website. The following two articles are representative of some of the content.
#WeAut2Vote Campaign: David Kot has been working hard to advocate for making voting accessible to people with autism in the Winter and Spring of 2016. He has solicited the support of ALL Pennsylvania senators and support is growing throughout the United States. His advocacy includes helping individuals with autism to:
  1. Register to Vote
  2. Identify their Local Polling Place
  3. Use Absentee Ballots When Their Disability Prevents Typical Voting Inclusion.
The York Dispatch wrote an article on David Kot's efforts to get out the autstic vote (Greg Gross, The York Dispatch, March 28, 2016).

Encouragement to those with Asperger's: David Kot offered these words of encouragement to others with Asperger's.
"In a world run by neurotypical people (i.e.: people without autism), some comforting words by George Bernard Shaw and the Kennedy family: 'You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?’' By this, I encourage people living with autism to remember how we brought you a comic book hero with autism, not industry giants like DC or Marvel (Disney) Comics. I am just a guy living in a small town with a dream, limited resources, but with great supports who love and value me as much as any work I have done or may yet do (David Kot)."
David Kot provided this summary of his autism advocacy and his appreciation for people who assist him in shining his light for autism.
"In summary, I hope any other person – with or without autism – may look to what I have done and replicate something similar, for their own advocacy on any number of deeply-concerning social topics that get bypassed by mass media monopolies, and for the benefit of younger readers in the future. One may say that writing a comic book has launched autism advocacy through national news coverage, educational reform based on science with economical responsibility, address of congressional representatives, and review in a legitimate medical journal. Yes- a comic book paved the way. I think about our success as one average guy’s science-fiction story (equally heavy in both parts ‘science’ and ‘fiction’) that makes people believe in fantastic opportunities – in equality - like those events described. I could not have done any of these things without so many long evenings with my wife, Angela, and our artist, Sky Owens. He patiently taught me how to write for comic books, and his thirty years’ experience in the comic book industry shows on the static page. Angela listened to my writings, and offered many great changes from her views as a mother and wife living with autism. She also has a very active imagination! Overall, I am just a man. However, I also have great supports and people who love me. I never thought our comic book would be published in a medical journal before my own doctoral defense. We must never stop believing we deserve good things for ourselves or our children, who need our collective best (David Kot)."

Social Media: You can follow Face Value Comics at the following social media areas.
Media: You can read more about David Kot's autism advocacy in the following media features. 
Special thanks to David Kot for being an Autism Light through his amazing talent in comic book script. Face Value Comics is an independent company that can offer hope and encouragement to the autism community as well as educate others about this growing group of people in our society. We wish David continued success in his endeavors as a self-advocate and his role as an autism father.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.




The photo of David Kot was used with permission of David Kot. Comic book images are copyright by Autism at Face Value (2016).