Thursday, August 20, 2015

Harold Doherty

Autism Light #427 is Harold L. Doherty.

Harold L. Doherty is an attorney and autism father from Fredericton, New Brunswick in Canada. He is an autism advocate who is also a blogger and prolific user of social media. His son Conor has autism. Harold Doherty is an Autism Light for the dedication he has an autism father and for using his expertise as a Canadian attorney to help fight for autism services in Canada, especially that medicare will cover ABA therapy to help those who are most severely impacted by autism.

Harold Doherty with his son Conor
Autism Father: Harold Doherty has two sons and his 19 year old son Conor is severely impacted by autism. Harold began his autism advocacy in 1999 when Conor was 3 years old. Harold Doherty says, "My interest in autism, and my engagement in autism advocacy, began with my son Conor's Autism Disorder diagnosis and the need to do something (Organized Wisdom-Autism Reality in NB)."

Harold Doherty wrote the following Autism Pledge to his son Conor. It reveals the scope of his dedication and is found on his blog.
Today I Pledge to continue; I Pledge to continue to fight for the availability of effective autism treatments; I Pledge to continue to fight for real education for autistic children; I Pledge to continue to fight for decent residential care for autistic adults; I Pledge to continue to fight for a cure for autism; I pledge to continue finding joy in my son but not in the autism disorder that restricts his life; Today, and everyday, I Pledge to continue to hope for a better life for Conor and others with autism through accommodation, care, respect, treatment, and some day a cure; Today, and everyday, I Pledge to continue to fight for the best possible life for Conor, my son with autistic disorder (Facing Autism in New Brunswick Blog).

Attorney: Harold Doherty's primary area of practice as a lawyer in Canada has been in the field of labour and employment law. He has also had extensive involvement working with some First Nation’s (Indian Bands) in the province of New Brunswick where he lives and practices.

Medicare for Autism Now!: Harold Doherty is a member of the Board of Directors of Medicare for Autism Now!. He advocates for ABA treatment for autism disorder coverage under medicare legislation in Canada. Harold is advocating for inclusion of evidence based autism treatment and ABA, under the Canada Health Act. He will be an advocate for autism coverage under medicare in the current federal election in Canada.

The following is a 2012 interview featuring Harold Doherty in a series called Medicare's Orphans.

Facing Autism in New Brunswick Blog: Harold Doherty started his blog Facing Autism in New Brunswick in 2006 to spread his autism advocacy. Since it's beginning his blog has had almost 1.3 million page views. His blog includes both news and opinions related to his autism advocacy in Canada as well as personal updates on Conor and his journey as an autism father. 

If you wish to read Harold Doherty's blog, the following are two selected posts on his blog that Harold Doherty recommends people read.

You may also find some of Harold Doherty's blog posts in syndication and tagged on the Autism Speaks Blog.

ABA Advocate: Harold believes in the proven effectiveness of ABA therapy to make a difference for autism. His efforts as an autism advocate have it's start when he "began to realize the seriousness of his [son Connor's] autism disorder, that ABA treatment could be helpful and that ABA based early intervention for autism disorder was not generally available where I live (Harold Doherty via an email to Autism Light, August 3, 2015)."

Care and Treatment for Adults with Autism: Harold Doherty has been an autism advocate as his son has grown from a toddler to an adult. His current priority is to advocate for better services for adults with autism. He writes the following about the urgency of this part of his efforts.
My most important effort right now is working on adult autism care and treatment and for that reason met with the provincial Minister of Social Development for the province of New Brunswick. Establishment of a decent, modern adult autism care and treatment is the biggest challenge I have faced and both me and my son are getting older. Time is growing short (Harold Doherty via an email to Autism Light, August 3, 2015).

Questioning Neurodiversity Message: Autism is a spectrum that represents people who have extraordinary abilities as well as exceptional disabilities. The great chasm of differences in the intellectual and developmental capacity of individuals with autism can lead to profound differences in autism messaging from their advocates. Harold Doherty has personal experiences with the serious difficulties facing individuals with low functioning autism both in his family and in his community work. He has raised an alarm about the unintended consequences of the neurodiversity message having the potential to demotivate government from providing critical autism treatment services. He writes the following about neurodiversity.
I believe that neurodiversity is a major obstacle to improving lives of those with autism disorders including my son. The mainstream media has a tendency to grab the feel good stories about those persons with high functioning autism or Aspergers who have very impressive accomplishments. The severe end of the spectrum tends to be ignored by the media and generally lost to public consciousness until a serious tragedy results as in the Avonte Oquendo case and other cases of wandering leading to death (Harold Doherty via an email to Autism Light, August 3, 2015).
Photographer: Harold Doherty's principle hobby is outdoor photography that he combines with his love of walking. He writes, "I am fortunate to live in a city called the green city with a very natural environment and wildlife in the middle of, and throughout, the city. I have always loved being outdoors and in nature and I combine the two for exercise and relaxation (Harold Doherty via an email to Autism Light, August 3, 2015)." The following is a photo he took on his walk that he posted on Twitter.

Social Media: You can follow Harold Doherty on the following social media areas.
Special thanks to Harold Doherty for being an Autism Light. His dedication and tenacity as an autism advocate is a strength of source for those severely impacted by autism who may not necessarily be able to speak for themselves. We wish Harold Doherty all the best in his role as an autism father and community advocate in New Brunswick, Canada.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photos: The photos in the post were used with permission of Harold L. Doherty and are in the "Buddies Forever" section of his blog's main page.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Ranveer Singh Saini

Autism Light #426 is Ranveer Singh Saini.

Ranveer Singh Saini is a 14 year old with autism from the city of Gurgaon in India. Ranveer competed in golf in the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles and became the first one from India to win a Gold Medal in the World Games. Ranveer Singh Saini is an Autism Light for the way in which his skill in golf inspires others with autism and for the pride he has brought to the country of India by being their first citizen to win a gold medal in the Special Olympics World Games.
Ranveer began golfing at age 9. Because of his condition of having autism the dynamics of being successful while playing in a formal golf outing (that has many potential distractions around the course) has been a growing experience for him over the years. He has had therapy and special schedules geared toward the skills necessary to compete, so he could showcase his athletic talent. His coach Anitya Chand said:
While he adapted to the game, I took time to understand his special needs and devise different training techniques for him. He is quite an extraordinary child who thinks of golf merely as a game. Instead of getting bogged down by technicalities, he focuses on simply hitting the ball towards the hole. That's how he gradually became consistent with his swings and now he hits ball really well (Hole in One, Indian Express, May 12, 2013).
The following is a news story on Ranveer's golfing when he was 12 years of age.

2015 World Games - Special Olympics: Ranveer won a gold medal in the GF Golf-Level 2 Alternate Shot Team Play event on July 31, 2015, and in doing so became the first one from India to win a gold medal in the history of the World Games. 21 nations participated in the event in 2015. "Ranveer and his partner Monica Jajoo were nine shots clear of joint second-placed teams from Hong Kong (Tsz Leung Chung/Ka Kit Lam) and Nippon (Takefumi Hiyoshi/Tadatoshi Sakai) (Golfer Ranveer Singh Saini Bags Gold in Special Olympics World Games, NDTV Sports, August 1, 2015)."

The following is a news story from India Progressing about Ranveer Singh Saini's accomplishment of winning the Special Olympics Gold for India.

In response to the achievement, Ranveer's father said, "To all parents of special children, just don't give up, special children are self-sustaining (Golfer Ranveer Singh Saini Bags Gold in Special Olympics World Games, NDTV Sports, August 1, 2015)."

Asia Pacific Special Olympics Golf Masters - 2013: At the age of 12, Ranveer won two gold medals at the Asia Pacific Special Olympics Golf Maters in April, 2013 that was held in Macau.  He won a gold medal in the individual category and a gold medal in the team category. He also won a trophy in the skills competition (Hole in One, Indian Express, May 12, 2013). Ranveer's achievement also made it to the Limca Book of Records, which is the Indian equivalent to the Guiness Book of World Records.

Website: Visit Ranveer's official website at to learn about his past and future success.

If you would like to read more on Ranveer Singh Saini the following online stories feature his inspirational accomplishment.
Special thanks to Ranveer Singh Saini for being an Autism Light. We applaud Ranveer, and indeed his parents and coaches over the years, for this achievement in golf of winning the first Special Olympics Gold Medal from India. This feat has brought autism awareness to India and serves as an inspiration to many that people with autism can potentially do amazing things in the sport of golf.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Tyler Gianchetta

Autism Light #425 is Tyler Gianchetta.

Tyler Gianchetta is an 18 year old who has autism from Huntington, New York. He is currently an honor's college student at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. Tyler Gianchetta is an Autism Light because he pulled his unresponsive mother from a burning car in Long Island, New York on July 15, 2015 and saved her life.

Susan Gianchetta blacked out while driving in West Hills, New York on July 15, 2015. The car she was driving then hit a tree. Her son Tyler was riding in the passenger side and he broke his hand but managed to pull his mother out of the vehicle to safety just a minute before flames engulfed the car. The following is a news story about Tyler rescuing his mother.

Tyler has said this about the incident: "I say don't call me a hero, I'm not a hero yet until I know she's OK (Autistic Son Saves Mother from Burning Car on Long Island, CBS New York, July 16, 2015)."

Still Tyler's dad Michael Gianchetta is certain his wife wouldn't have survived the accident without the quick thinking of his son. Michael Gianchetta said, "He's [Tyler] a hero and he is a special kid (Autistic Son Saves Mother from Burning Car on Long Island, CBS New York, July 16, 2015)."

You can read more information on Tyler Gianchetta's rescue of his mother in these online stories.

Special thanks to Tyler Gianchetta for being an Autism Light. His quick thinking in the midst of an emergency where his own hand was broken saved his mother's life. Tyler Gianchetta is representative of the many people with autism who are everyday heroes as they live their lives in tune to how they can help others.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Gavin Joseph

Autism Light #424 is Gavin Joseph.

Gavin Joseph is a young man who has Asperger's and ADHD. He graduated in 2015 from Wesclin High School in New Baden, Illinois. Gavin was a victim of bullying and physical violence in late June 2015. Gavin Joseph is an Autism Light because he chose to forgive his attackers and instead of pressing charges raise autism awareness.

In late June 2015, Gavin Joseph was tricked by some boys that he thought wanted to be his friends and instead they physically assaulted him to teach him a lesson. The following is a news story on what happened to Gavin Joseph and his decision not to press charges.

Gavin's mother Cortnie Stone explained on her Facebook what happened.
Some kids were talking about how it’s weird that he’s always by himself, attending events alone and watching people, and that it was “creepy” how he wanted to be friends with people he didn’t know. 
Another kid that overheard that conversation decided to take matters into his own hands and become judge and jury, and this is the result of that. He didn’t ask questions, didn’t get to know Gavin, never met him, and didn’t give him a chance to leave. 
He was called to meet someone, surrounded by people he didn’t know, choked, punched, and left laying on the pavement so he would ‘learn his lesson’. 
Gavin is fine. He has mild concussion, a bruised oesophagus, the tip of his nose fractured, and hematoma in his eye, but nothing permanent. 
He did not press charges, but requested their community service be disability related, that they write a paper on Asperger’s, and that they watch a 20 min video statement he taped while their families were present so they could see the damage they did and hear the event from his perspective (The Independent, July 6, 2015).
Sarah Goucha writer at the Huffington Post summed up the noble act that Gavin Joseph did in this way, "A gang of bullies beat up teenager Gavin Joseph, who has autism, for being different. Yet the only thing truly different about him was his response (The Huffington Post, July 7, 2015)."

Gavin Joseph makes history at Autism Light as the subject of the 100th post featured on the blog about someone with autism. Links to the other related posts are referenced on the "Has Autism" page at Autism Light.

Special thanks to Gavin Joseph for being an Autism Light and showing forgiveness toward those that wronged him. In doing so Gavin has not only raised awareness of bullying and autism, but he has shown the true spirit of the autism community as reflected in the desire to improve the world one person at a time. We wish Gavin Joseph all the best in his life.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Jacob Velazquez

Autism Light #423 is Jacob Velazquez.

Jacob Velazquez is 7 years old and has autism. He was born on September 27, 2007 to Willie and Tina Velazquez. Jacob lives in South Florida and has been playing music on the piano since 2011, just before he turned 4. He is considered a piano prodigy with a photographic memory and has been respectfully called "Baby Beethoven", "Little Beethoven" and "Mini Mozart". Jacob Velazquez is an Autism Light for the way in which his talent in playing the piano can entertain others and give hope to others with autism as it spotlights the special gifts that some people with autism have.

Photo of Jacob Velazquez
Jacob Velazquez
Awards: When Jacob was four years old he won the double platinum trophy at a Stage Masters competition in Miami. Jacob was admitted to the prestigious National Musicians Guild by playing ten classical music pieces from memory.  

The following is a video of Jacob Velazquez appearing on an Extraordinary Kids segment of the Steve Harvey show.

In the above video Jacob's mother, Tina, said on the Steve Harvey show, "I believe all children have gifts--with and without autism--it's just up to us to help discover them."

Tina Velazquez described Jacob's development as a musician at age 4 like this.
As he got older his behavior grew even more challenging but I also became even more aware of Jacob's capabilities. One day, shortly after his fourth birthday I heard the song playing from our family piano that my husband was playing the night before...but my husband was at work. I went to look to see who it was and to my surprise it was Jacob! I couldn't believe my eyes! It took us a while but we finally found a piano teacher that would take a 4 year old. His teacher soon became aware of his gift as he was flying through books learning 2-3 songs per week. It was so amazing to watch him. My son whom could never sit still could focus so intently on learning his songs on the piano. It seemed to be an outlet for him, helping him to express his feelings and emotions (Tina Velazquez via Autism Speaks Blog).
Hobbies: Jacob is a huge fan of Taylor Swift and even created a "Taylor" character on his wii just in case she ever comes over to play with him.

Album: Jacob is currently working on what will be his first album. He presently has two singles available for download on his iTunes page. You can also watch his first music video on YouTube based on one of the singles.

The following is a news story that was done by Channel 10 in South Florida on Jacob Velazquez. It is a follow up to an earlier story on Jacob done by Channel 10 News.

Social Media: You can follow Jacob on the following social media areas.
If you want to find out more about Jacob Velazquez visit his official website at

Special thanks to Jacob Velazquez for inspiring the autism community with your accomplishments and entertaining the world with your talent. We hope that your story will encourage others with autism to play piano no matter what their skill level might be. We expect to be hearing much more about Jacob Velazquez in the years to come.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The photo in this post was used with permission of Tina Velazquez.