Sunday, November 25, 2018

Tristram Smith

Autism Light #468 is Tristram Smith.

Tristram H. Smith, Ph.D., BCBA, was a leader in the field of evidence-based research as a treatment for autism. He had been serving at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) since 2000 and at the time of his passing was the URMC's Haggerty-Friedman Professor in Developmental/Behavioral Pediatric Research. He was born on April 9, 1961, and passed away on August 8, 2018, at the age of 57, from a heart attack. He is survived by his wife Jennifer Katz and two children, Jonah Smith and Madeleine Katz. His funeral service was held on August 10, 2018, at the Anthony Funeral Chapel in Brighton, New York (Read more at Anthony Funeral Chapel Obituary for Tristram Smith). Tristram Smith will be placed on the Autism Light Memorial Roll today.

Alison Singer, president of the Autism Science Foundation, said of Tristram Smith, "For autism families, he was a hero. His research was groundbreaking, of course, but he also pushed for increased access to autism services and lobbied for legislative changes. It's unusual to see scientists also act as advocates, but Tris went far beyond what most clinician-researchers do (As quoted by University of Rochester Medical Center News, August 8, 2018).

Other Tributes: The Association for Science in Autism Treatment published several noteworthy tributes to Tristram Smith after his untimely death. You can read them in the article Tributes to Dr. Tristram Smith.

In April 2018, the Autism Partnership Foundation gave Tristram Smith the Lifetime Achievement Award. Here is the video of the presentation of the award.

Author: Tristram Smith published the book Making Inclusion Work for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders: An Evidence-Based Guide in 2011. It is available on

Tristram Smith passed away just days after giving this presentation at the UC Davis Mind Institute on August 3, 2018.

We remember Tristram Smith for his efforts to advance the field of evidence-based research for autism treatment. It is our hope that his life and research will be a foundation to inspire others to enter the field of autism research to continue the advancements for future generations. Our thoughts are with the family he leaves behind.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Trey Kruse

Autism Light #467 is Trey Kruse.

Trey Kruse lives in Stillwater, Minnesota and is a Junior at Stillwater High School. Trey is a member of the National Honor Society, plays football and is captain of the Stillwater High School wrestling team. Trey Kruse is an Autism Light because of a friendship he has with Adam Potter, who has autism. That friendship has made a tremendous difference in Adam's life.

The two first met when they were classmates in 2nd grade at Stonebridge Elementary School. The friendship between Trey Kruse and Adam Potter has taken different turns as the pair advanced through middle school and high school, and became involved in many separate activities in high school. But their friendship has survived the test of time and has especially impacted Adam by giving him an added strength to face the world each day, knowing that he always has that one good and true friend.

Lisa Potter said about her son Adam and Trey, "We've had many, many people come into Adam's life and all of a sudden they never come back. But Trey is the one who's stayed true (Quoted by Boyd Huppert, KARE 11, November 5, 2018)."

Watch this video from KARE 11 in Minneapolis for a moving look at the friendship between Trey and Adam.

Here is what was posted recently on Twitter about their friendship.

Lisa Potter said about her son Adam and Trey, "Every day he's (Adam's) trying to navigate this foreign language and trying to figure out what we mean. Trey is that bright light that reminds him everything's going to be OK (Quoted by Boyd Huppert, KARE 11, November 5, 2018)."

Special thanks to Trey Kruse for being an Autism Light and being a good, long-time friend of Adam Potter. Trey and Adam's friendship is a shining example of how a relationship between a student with autism and their neurotypical peer can be life-changing. May their friendship continue to remain steadfast through the unknown future.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Travis Rudolph

Autism Light #466 is Travis Rudolph.

Travis Rudolph is a wide receiver in the National Football League, who has played for the New York Giants since 2017. He was born on September 15, 1995, and is from West Palm Beach, Florida. He played for the Florida State University football team in college. Travis Rudolph is an Autism Light because in August 2016, he was visiting Montford Middle School in Tallahassee with other Florida State players and at lunch he sat next to Bo Paske, a student with autism who was eating by himself. Travis Rudolph will be added to the Autism Light Sports page today.

Travis Rudolph
The encounter Travis Rudolph had with Bo Paske prompted the boys mother Leah Paske to write on Facebook, "I'm not sure what exactly made this incredibly kind man share a lunch table with my son, but I'm happy to say that it will not soon be forgotten. This is one day I didn't have to worry if my sweet boy ate lunch alone, because he sat across from someone who is a hero in many eyes. Travis Rudolph thank you so much, you made this momma exceedingly happy, and have made us fans for life! (, Jared Shanker, FSU WR makes 'fans for life' by eating with autistic student. August 31, 2016)."

Florida State: Travis Rudolph played for Florida State University football from 2014-2016. His college statistics are listed by Fox Sports.

NFL: 2018 is Travis Rudolph's second season in the NFL as a wide receiver for the New York Giants. He is 6'0" and 190 lbs. Travis Rudolph's NFL stats are on ESPN.

Below is the news story that CBS This Morning produced in 2016 about Travis Rudolph and Bo Paske. The photo of the two eating lunch together went viral on social media. 

Below is the original heartfelt post on Facebook that Leah Paske posted about how happy she was that her son was eating lunch with Travis Rudolph. After the picture went viral many students wanted to eat lunch with Bo Paske in the subsequent days of the school year.

Wikipedia: To find out more about Travis Rudolph visit the Travis Rudolph Wikipedia Page.

Twitter: You can follow Travis Rudolph on Twitter @TravisRudolph5 to keep up with him on social media.

Special thanks to Travis Rudolph for being an Autism Light and giving special attention and time for a boy with autism named Bo Paske. His example is an inspiration almost two years after his meeting with Bo Paske. We hope that Travis Rudolph's sensitive and caring actions will inspire other star athletes to spend time with children who have special needs. We wish Travis Rudolph all the best in his career in the NFL.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo Credit for picture of Travis Rudolph: By Jeffrey Beall - Own work, CC BY 4.0, Link

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.