Saturday, June 2, 2018

Rochel Groner

Autism Light #465 is Rochel Groner.


Rochel Groner and her husband Rabbi Bentzion Groner are Chabad emissaries in Charlotte, North Carolina. She is 34 years old and is the co-director with her husband of  Friendship Circle and ZABS Place, organizations that provide innovative programming and employ young adults with special needs in Charlotte, North Carolina. Rochel Groner is an Autism Light for her daily work with individuals with autism and especially for her actions on July 14, 2017, to comfort a boy with autism during a meltdown while on board an 8 hour transatlantic flight.



On July 14, 2017, Rochel Groner (and Rabbi Bentzion Groner) were on a airplane flight headed home to the United States after taking a group of youth on a birthright trip to Israel. On this flight a boy with autism was having a meltdown on the plane. Rochel Groner used her experience, talents and compassion to help calm the boy for two hours until he was completely over his meltdown and ready to return to his mother.

Rochel Groner applied sensory pressure by holding the boy and found some creative games to play with him in the middle of the flight. She told the Jerusalem Telegraphic Agency (JTA) that after he calmed down, "It was beautiful to see. It was incredible, the transformation. Whatever had been bothering him wasn't bothering him, he was in a better place (Jerusalem Telegraphic Agency, Josefin Dolsten, July 17, 2017)."

Rabbi Bentzion Groner said of his wife, "While most of the passengers watched in awe little did they know that for Rochel this is her life (Jerusalem Telegraphic Agency, Josefin Dolsten, July 17, 2017)."

Below is the Facebook post that Rabbi Bentzion Groner posted about this incident. The post went viral and has received almost 7,000 likes over the first year since it was written.



Friendship Circle: Rochel Groner is the co-director of Friendship Circle. The Friendship Circle website describes its mission as that of "fostering enduring and meaningful friendships between those with special needs, our "Special Friends", and typically-developing teens, our "Teen Friends", in the Greater Charlotte Jewish Community."

ZABS Place: Rochel Groner is also the co-director of ZABS Place. The ZABS Place website describes its work in this way:
ZABS Place is an upscale thrift boutique & employment training center for young adults with special needs run by the Friendship Circle of Charlotte. We have chosen a resale shop as our employment medium because it mirrors our goal of revealing hidden potential (ZABS Place Website, Retrieved on May 31, 2018).
Social Media: You can follow the work of Rochel Groner on the following social media sites.

Special thanks to Rochel Groner for being an Autism Light. Her compassionate and skilled intervention to help a boy with autism in the middle of his mid-flight meltdown on July 14, 2017, is an example to all. In addition, her work at Friendship Circle and ZABS Place is making a tremendous difference to young people with special needs and autism. We wish her all the best in her service that is transformed and inspired by her Chabad Jewish faith. Rochel Groner is shining a light as she lives her faith and serves humanitarian needs such as autism.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Ruth C. Sullivan

Autism Light #155 is Ruth C. Sullivan.



Dr. Ruth C. Sullivan is an autism mother from Huntington, West Virginia. She and her husband William had 7 children, including a son Joseph who has autism. Ruth and her son Joseph have remained in Huntington to this day because of the important services that are in place for him that don't cross state lines. Born in 1924, Ruth is an autism pioneer who has spent over half of her long lifetime as an advocate and community organizer for autism needs. She was one of the founders of the Autism Society of America and served as its first President in 1965. Ruth C. Sullivan is an Autism Light because of her devotion as an autism mother and her dedication to help other families with autism.

Education: Ruth Sullivan earned her doctorate in psychology from Ohio University in 1984 in psychology, speech, and hearing science and special education. She also has degrees in public health nursing and public health administration.

The following is a video where Ruth Sullivan shares her experiences with receiving her son's autism diagnosis and her dreams for autism services and research.


Autism Society of America: Ruth Sullivan was one of the founders of the Autism Society of America (formerly called National Society for Autistic Children) and served as its first President in 1965. The Autism Society of America is the oldest grass roots organization in the autism community (Wikipedia: Autism Society of America). She continues to be an honorary board member of the organization.

Ruth Sullivan made key contributions to this 2009 video by the Autism Society of America called The Future of Autism.


Autism Services Center: Ruth Sullivan founded the Autism Services Center in Huntington, West Virginia in 1979 as a nonprofit behavioral health center. It serves Cabell, Wayne, Lincoln, Mason and Putnam counties in the state of West Virginia. She retired from the organization in 2007, at the age of 83 (Hilary Groutage, Herald-Dispatch, October 30, 2007).

West Virginia Autism Training Center: Ruth Sullivan helped form the West Virginia Autism Training Center at Marshall University in Huntington. It has been her dream that every major university would one day have their own autism training center.

Rain Man Movie: Ruth Sullivan served as an autism consultant to the 1988 movie Rain Man, starring Dustin Hoffman. Her son Joseph was one of the individuals with autism that Dustin Hoffman studied in order to improve his role in the movie.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA):  Ruth Sullivan was one of the lobbyists for Public Law No. 94-142, which became a United States law in 1975 and since 1990 has been called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA. It became the landmark law that guaranteed handicapped children with autism and other disabilities had the right to receive a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). The ramifications of this law continue to this day to be felt in important rights that parents and their children have when working with diverse public school systems around the country.

Temple Grandin: Ruth Sullivan was the first person to invite Temple Grandin (Autism Light #38) to speak in public about her autism. She also wrote the forward to Temple Grandin's book The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism and Asperger's (2008)

Wikipedia: Visit the Ruth C. Sullivan Wikipedia page for more information on this Autism Light.

Special thanks to Dr. Ruth Sullivan for being an Autism Light. Her faithfulness as a mother and advocate has sent rays of hope for autism across the United States. May the example that Ruth Sullivan has provided inspire other mothers to carry forth the light to meet a new generation of autism needs.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Special Note: Ruth Sullivan is the new Autism Light #155 replacing the numbered spot on the blog left vacant after the removal of Dr. Hans Asperger.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Inspiration and Dreams

Alan Stokes and Jonathan at the Cadillac, Michigan YMCA on Dec. 9, 2017.

I haven't talk personally much about my son Jonathan on this blog, because the style has always been to tell the story of diverse autism heroes from around the world rather than our family situation. But he has always been a part of this. I started this blog in June 2011, almost 7 years ago. Writing these profiles of positive heroes has strengthened my heart from the early days of receiving the autism diagnosis to dealing with a teenager with autism. He is the reason I started the Autism Light blog and he is the reason I keep it going. As he has grown older the new releases on the blog have at times been few and far between. This blog takes a backseat to my priority to care for him and spend time with him.

One of the ways we are able to spend time together is by going to YMCA's around our state on weekends. A story has been written about this and it was featured in our local paper. See article by Judy Putnam, Lansing State Journal, April 28, 2018. Now that many new people have been introduced to Jonathan through this article, it seems fitting to share a dream I have for Jonathan and this blog.


I have a dream that one day Jonathan will progress to be able to help me maintain this blog by suggesting subjects, doing some of the writing and indexing of content, and determining the evolving style of it. I hope that one day he will tell his own story in his own words on this blog, and part of me is saving that part for him, as I continue to focus on profiles of others who have their own journey with autism. I'm recording that dream here, because when it happens I want to show him that I prayed for it and believed in it long before the dream ever seemed possible. 

Don't compare yourself to others. Write up your own dreams for your situation. Make sure your dreams are big enough to make you smile if they come true, and that you are big enough to smile if your dreams don't come true.

Dr. Stephen Shore said, "If you've met one person with autism you've met one person with autism (Art of Autism Quotes)." Whether you regularly follow Autism Light or just happened to stumble across some past content here through a search engine, I encourage you to always keep in mind that everyone with autism is different, just like people without autism. Some of these profiles of autism heroes may trigger an idea to apply to your life and others may seem to be meant for someone else. Learn to love helping others reach their dreams and you may find your own have come true.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Statement on Dr. Hans Asperger

Autism Light honored Dr. Hans Asperger as Autism Light #155 on February 25, 2012. Over 6,000 people read his post between 2012 and 2018. Autism Light seeks to be a stop on the Internet that is uplifting and respectful to all people of diverse backgrounds in the autism community.

Evidence of Dr. Asperger's cooperation with the Nazis that resulted in numerous disabled children being needlessly euthanized were not known in 2012 (See Guy Walters: How DID Dr. Asperger hide his past as a CHILD-KILLING monster for so long?, Daily Mail, April 19, 2018). While Dr. Hans Asperger did some good for autism during his time on this earth, as evidence by his original naming as an Autism Light, the uncovering of his horrific conduct rises to the level where he is no longer fit to be named alongside other autism heroes, including disabled children with autism and members of the Jewish community.

Today we are removing the post on Dr. Hans Asperger at Autism Light and removing it from all index pages on the blog, including the Memorial Roll. Our next post at Autism Light will be  a replacement subject for Autism Light #155.

My personal opinion is that the label Asperger's Syndrome (established to honor Dr. Hans Asperger posthumously), and which has been applied to high-functioning people with autism, should be eliminated and changed in light of this news about his conduct. However, I will leave that up to the group of people who have high-functioning autism to come forward with an appropriate name change.