Monday, July 25, 2016

Matthew and Courtney Oakes

Autism Lights #451 are Matthew and Courtney Oakes. 


Matthew (Matt) and Courtney Oakes are the parents of two children: Molly and Liam. Their 6 year old son Liam has autism. Matthew and Courtney Oakes are Autism Lights for their efforts to raise awareness of autism family life as parents, bloggers, and members of their community. Their blog is called 808 [the adventures].

Matthew Oakes: Matthew Oakes is an associate professor at Rock Valley College in Rockford, Illinois. In 2015, Matthew Oakes earned his Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Rhetoric and Composition from the University of Illinois at Chicago (Source: Matt Oakes' LinkedIn Page).

Courtney Oakes: Courtney Oakes serves as the Parents Talk Autism Manager for Easter Seals of Metropolitan Chicago and is a Medical Advocate for Rockford Sexual Assault Counseling, Inc. (Source: Courtney Oakes' LinkedIn Page).

The following is a recent Twitter message from Courtney Oakes introducing an inspiring blog post.




The Fatherhood Project: The following video highlights Matt Oakes and his life as an autism father and was produced in 2014 as part of The Fatherhood Project. The Fatherhood Project was produced by Corbyn Tyson and was part of the SoulPancacke Youtube series about what it means to be a father.



Bloggers: Matthew and Courtney Oakes have a Word Press blog called 808 [the adventures]. Matthew Oakes wrote a guest blog for Autism Speaks called 5 Things Every Autism Dad Should Know.

Social Media: You can follow Matt and Courtney Oakes at the following social media areas.
Special thanks to Matthew (Matt) and Courtney Oakes for being Autism Lights both in their vocations in Rockford, Illinois and to the larger autism community, as they tell their story as autism parents in a blog and video. The autism community, and especially autism parents, are encouraged as the Oakes' family shine their light for autism.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Darius Brown

Autism Light #450 is Darius Brown. 



Darius Brown is an 11 year old author who has autism. He is mainstreamed in the fifth grade at Skyline Elementary School in Suitland, Maryland, which is in the Washington DC Metropolitan area. Darius Brown is an Autism Light for the example he set for other children who have autism by writing a published book, when he was just 10 years old, called Darius Hates Vegetables.

School: Darius Brown has been mainstreamed in his public elementary school since kindergarten and he is now considered on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum. His mother Wendy Brown wrote the following summary about some of the services that have helped her son over the years with his autism.
Darius Brown
Throughout grade school Darius received a lot of speech therapy services due to his inability to speak. The services taught DJ sign language to sign the words he couldn't speak and other methods to communicate while in school and at home. He also received adaptive physical education services that helped with his motor skills. These services included swimming, roller skating and other activities to help develop his low muscle tone. Now he can participate in a lot of physical activities more aggressively because he can use his muscles and be big and strong. Even though loud noises and other sensory issues are still a challenge for Darius we deal with them a bit at a time and develop coping strategies for each issue (Wendy Brown, March 31, 2016, Email to Autism Light).

Darius Hates Vegetables: Darius Brown writes his books from true events he experiences as a boy growing up, and his first published book is about a boy who enjoys cookies more than vegetables.

An 8 year old named Ryan said this about Darius' book, "I enjoyed Darius Hates Vegetables! It was catchy and a good story. The artwork was beautiful. I don't like vegetables either, but I might try them now (I Am Darius Brown Testimonials)."




Darius' mother Wendy Brown wrote to Autism Light, "Darius uses writing as a way to cope with good and bad things that he's encountered while in school trying to make new friends or other challenges faced at home especially when it comes to sharing his trains with his little brother. Nonetheless, we feel other children/adults on the spectrum will enjoy his stories all the same and realize we are all the same."

Website: You can order the book Darius Hates Vegetables online through his website and also learn more about Darius from his website.

Media: To learn more about Darius Brown read the following media.


Special thanks to Darius Brown for being an Autism Light and being a published author at age 10. Darius Brown is one of the many examples of students with autism doing extraordinary achievements. Hopefully his example will be an encouragement to to other aspiring writers with autism. We wish Darius all the best and hope he will continue to learn and grow in his life.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photos: The photos in this post were used with permission of Wendy Brown.

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.