Sunday, February 24, 2013

Vana Thiero

Autism Light #261 is Vana Thiero.

Vana Thiero is a film producer and single mother of two boys who have autism, Carter and Bakary. She lives in Los Angeles, California. Vana Thiero is developing a documentary series of 5 parts called My Thiero Boys to show what real everyday life with autism is like in her family. Vana Thiero is an Autism Light for her dedication as a mother and autism advocate, and for the constructive impact her films on autism can make towards greater autism awareness in society.

Education: Vana Thiero earned her BFA and her MA in Communications from Western Michigan University.

Film Experience: In 1987 she partnered with producer Jim Heyden to produce commercials and instructional music videos. Vana Thiero worked for CNN from 1994-2002, and won an Emmy for their "9/11 coverage." She also produced the documentary "Low Riders the Real Story" and edited for "Inside Edition" and BET's "Comic View".

The following is a KCAL9 News story that featured Vana Thiero and her autism awareness efforts.

Faith-Based Inspiration: Vana Thiero has received blessings from her families faith based involvement with In His Presence Church. The church is featured in the My Thiero Boys video series.

Sears Family Pediatric: Dr. Robert W. Sears provided some of his insight in the My Thiero Boys project.

Autism Quote: Vana Thiero gave this word via Autism Light to encourage people to be autism advocates.
Advocate! The future of autism depends on an expanded consciousness regarding how, we as a global society, plan to care for ASD individuals when parents are no longer around. Get loud get creative. Educate others regarding how they may employ our children and let's be confident to teach our children how to earn an income doing what they do best. Push the kids to succeed the same as we do with our typical kids. Expect Success!!!
Here is the trailer to the first video in the My Thiero Boys film series.

Vana Thiero writes on her website about the mission of the My Thiero Boys documentary to reach the broad autism community. 
The mission of "My Thiero Boys" is to create awareness regarding the needs, behaviors, and lifestyle inherant in the autism culture to better equip the world, helping all who view the film(s) understand and learn how to include the autism culture into society both socially and professionally. The autism culture is made up of children and adults who are diagnosed with autism as well as relatives, friends, educators, therapists, medical professionals, attorneys, politicians, advocates, neighbors, etc: those whose daily lives are impacted by autism (Source).
Contact: For more information on the My Thiero Boys documentary email

Social Media: You can follow My Theiro Boys and Vana Thiero at the following social media pages.
Special thanks to Van Thiero for making a documentary that can share with the world what autism is like. Van Thiero is shining her light for autism as a mother and a film maker. 

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

The photos in this post were used with the permission of Van Thiero

Friday, February 22, 2013

Kate Winslet

Autism Light #260 is Kate Winslet.

Kate Winslet is an Actress and Singer from England. Kate Winslet found her passion for autism charity work in 2009, when she was asked to narrate the English version of the Icelandic book A Mother's Courage: Talking Back to Autism (A.K.A. The Sunshine Boy), which is about a mother who raises a nonverbal autistic child, that learns to communicate with a letter board. This experience would lead Kate Winslet to form the autism charity called the Golden Hat Foundation. Kate Winslet is the mother of two children, Mia and Joe, neither one of whom have autism. Kate Winslet is an Autism Light for her creation of the Golden Hat Foundation as a charity for autism.

Acting Career: Kate Winslet earned acclaim for her roles in the movies Sense and Sensibility (1995) and Titanic (1997). She was the youngest person to receive 6 Academy Award nominations. Kate Winslet earned the Academy Award for Best Actress in The Reader in 2008. 

Here is an ABC News video explaining Kate Winslet's Golden Hat Foundation.

The Golden Hat:  The Golden Hat: Talking Back to Autism was published in March, 2012. The book features photos of 100 celebrities and famous people wearing a golden hat for autism. Each celebrity is then asked to state the first thing they would say if they could talk and previously had not been able to talk (like those with autism). Celebrities featured in the book include George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio, Angelina Jolie, Oprah, Sting, Kobe Bryant, Julia Roberts, Meryl Strepp, Ben Stiller and dozens of other stars. You can purchase the book through The Golden Hat Foundation Store for $29.95 with all proceeds to benefit the autism foundation.
Kate Winslett is joined in writing the book by Margret Ericsdottir and her son Keli Thorsteinsson (A.K.A. Kelli Ericsdottir). Margret and Keli inspired Kate Winslet to write the book by their documentary A Mother's Courage: Talking Back to Autism. The name for the book was inspired by a poem that Keli Thorsteinsson wrote at age 12 called The Magic Hat. It goes like this. 

The boy had a golden hat.
The hat was magical. It could talk.
The boy did not have any voice. He had autism.
His hat was always with him.
His hat was lost one day.
Now he had no way of telling them his stories.
His mom and dad became sad.
They taught him spelling on a letterboard.
It was hard. 
end (Source).

The Golden Hat Foundation: Kate Winslet founded the Golden Hat Foundation in 2010 and Margret Ericsdottir serves as the present Director of the Foundation. The foundation is based in Austin, Texas. 

The Golden Hat Foundation lists this as their mission on their website:
The Golden Hat Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating barriers for people with autism around the world, and creating an environment that holds these individuals as intellectually capable. The mission of the Golden Hat Foundation is the establishment of innovative campuses that offer people with autism the opportunity to learn to communicate, receive an education, job training and enjoy recreational activities, all within a supportive network. When given a suitable education and the means to communicate effectively, people with autism can truly realize their dreams (Source).
Visit for more information on the Golden Hat Foundation.

Quote on Autism: Kate Winslet told Celebrity Baby Scoop in an interview that the biggest misunderstanding about children with autism are, "That they are not capable of understanding anything, that they are completely locked in their own worlds and aren't paying attention to anything around them or that they are disinterested. Even those closest to them sometimes believe that. And so often that proves not to be the case (Source)."

Other Articles: The following online materials have been written about Kate Winslet and her autism work.
Social Media: You can follow The Golden Hat Foundation and Kate Winslet at these social media areas.

You can read more information about Kate Winslet on her Wikipedia page here

Special thanks to Kate Winslet for being an Autism Light. We look forward to hearing about the exciting growth of the Golden Hat Foundation to help the autism community and of course to future movies starring Kate Winslet. 

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

The photo of Kate Winslet is in the Creative Commons of Wikipedia and was taken by Andrea Riffon. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

George W. Bush

Autism Light #259 is George W. Bush.

On this President's Day 2013, we are honoring a former U.S. President who recognized the growing implications autism had for the United States in the 21st Century and as President signed landmark single disease legislation that dedicated historic federal resources toward research, education, and awareness to fight the autism epidemic.

George W. Bush was born on July 6, 1946, and was the 43rd President of the United States, serving from 2001-2009. George W. Bush makes his home in Crawford, Texas and was also formerly the Governor of the State of Texas. On December 19, 2006, then President George W. Bush signed into law the landmark Combating Autism Act. George W. Bush is an Autism Light for signing into law the Combating Autism Act in 2006 that provided the foundation for funding for autism research, prevention, and treatment in the United States.

Education and Family: George W. Bush graduated from Yale University and Harvard Business School. George W. Bush is married to Laura Welch and the couple has two fraternal twin daughters, Jenna Pierce Bush and Barbara Hagar. 

Meets Autistic Hero Jason McElwain: In 2006, George W. Bush met with amazing autistic basketball hero Jason McElwin, who was Autism Light #150. George W. Bush said he watched the footage of Jason McElwain's amazing performance of scoring 20 points in 4 minutes on television and added, "I wept, just like a lot of other people did. It's just one of those stories that touched a lot of people's heart (Source)." Here is more from a news story on that meeting.

Combating Autism Act:  On December 19, 2006, George W. Bush signed the Combating Autism Act (UPI photo at this link). George W. Bush made the following statement about signing the legislation into law. 
For the millions of Americans whose lives are affected by autism, today is a day of hope. The Combating Autism Act of 2006 will increase public awareness about this disorder and provide enhanced federal support for autism research and treatment. By creating a national education program for doctors and the public about autism, this legislation will help more people recognize the symptoms of autism. This will lead to early identification and intervention, which is critical for children with autism. I am proud to sign this bill into law and confident that it will serve as an important foundation for our Nation's efforts to find a cure for autism --George W. Bush 12/19/2006 (Source).
You can read more about the provisions of the Combating Autism Act of 2006 at an archived White House webpage or at the Library of Congress' online database on the legislation. The Combating Autism Act of 2006 had four major categories of initiatives (Source).
  1. The Act Authorizes Research Under NIH to Address The Entire Scope of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
  2. The Act Authorizes Regional Centers Of Excellence for Autism Spectrum Disorder Research and Epidemiology.
  3. The Act Authorizes Activities To Increase Public Awareness Of Autism, Improve The Ability of Health Care Providers To Use Evidence-Based Interventions, And Increase Early Screening For Autism. 
  4. The Act Calls on The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) To Enhance Information Sharing. 
This landmark autism legislation had the support of Bob and Suzanne Wright who were Autism Lights #177 (Source). In this 2006 interview Bob and Suzanne Wright discuss the benefits of this legislation to the autism community.

Other Sources: You can read more about George W. Bush's biography at the following sites:

On this President's Day we say thank you to former President George W. Bush for being an Autism Light and giving hope and help to autism families when he signed the Combating Autism Act in 2006.  The Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (CARA) of 2011 was signed by George W. Bush's successor Barack Obama, and the foundation started by George W. Bush signing the original 2006 law continues to help with the ongoing autism research, prevention, and treatment to this day.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

The photo of George W. Bush is in the Public Domain.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Rob Gorski

Autism Light #258 is Rob Gorski.

Rob Gorski is a 33 year old autism father from Canton, Ohio. Rob has 3 sons who have autism. You can read about his family on the About page of his blog called Lost and Tired. In June, 2010, Rob Gorski created the Lost and Tired blog to share his families story of living with autism and to raise autism awareness. With it's over 12 million hits on the blog in 2011, The Lost and Tired blog is unquestionably one of the top blogs written by an autism father. Rob Gorski is an Autism Light for his faithfulness as a father of 3 children with autism and for giving the encouragement to the autism community as a writer and blogger via his inspirational Lost and Tired blog. 

Rob Gorski is married to Lizzie and his 3 sons are Gavin, age 12; Elliott, age 6; Emmett John, age 3. In addition to having autism, each of his children have other health issues that the family works through daily.  What makes The Lost and Tired blog so relevant to those in the autism community is that Rob shares his family's daily experiences from the accomplishments to the struggles.

The Lost and Tired Blog: In 2011, over 12 and a half million hits were received by the Lost and Tired blog (Source). Rob Gorski's most popular blog post was called 10 Things My Autistic Kids Wished You Knew. The post has garnered over 12,000 likes. In 2012, Lost and Tired made the Top 30 Autism Blogs for Parents by It also made the Top 10 Autism Blogs by Skinny Scoop in 2012.

Rob Gorski writes this about his blog:
My name is Rob Gorski and I started this blog in June of 2010 as a means of sharing my family's real life journey raising 3 boys on the #Autism Spectrum. It's important for people to understand what Autism can really be like and the impact it has on the family. We aren't a TV show and there are no actors. This is our struggle, our journey...and it's all true. I am "Lost and Tired" and this is "My Reality #Autism" (Source).

Other Web Achievements: Here are some other accomplishments of Rob Gorski's writing.
Social Media: You can follow Rob Gorski and the Lost and Tired blog at the following social media pages:

Special thanks to Rob Gorski for being an Autism Light. The writing that Rob Gorski does via the Lost and Tired blog is a critical part of the autism blogging community that is raising awareness for autism through the written words. Autism Light is honored to add Lost and Tired to our blog page today, where you can find a list of all blogs and bloggers previously featured at Autism Light.  

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

The photo in this post is used with permission of Rob Gorski.

Friday, February 1, 2013


Autism Light #257 is Ethan.


Ethan is a 6 year old boy from Midland City, Alabama who has the form of autism called Asperger's syndrome. Midland City, Alabama is a small town of about 2,000 people, located in Dale County. Ethan was kidnapped off his school bus on January 29, 2013, and was held in an underground bunker until his safe rescue on February 4, 2013. Ethan is an Autism Light for his bravery during this ordeal and for how his plight helped raise awareness of autism in the media.

Autism Diagnosis: During the hostage standoff police said, Ethan "suffers from Asperger's syndrome and ADHD, and, so far, they have been delivering his medication through the 4-inch wide air pipe. (Source)."

Prayer Vigils:
  • Wednesday, January 30, 2013 a prayer vigil was held for Ethan's safe return in the town square and involving several of the churches in Midland City, Alabama (Source).  
  • Friday, February 1, 2013, the community where Ethan lives held a prayer vigil for his safe return (Source).

Ethan's Friends: Ethan's friends said that he is a "great kid. He is a lot of fun (Source)."

Other News: For more information on this story read a New York Times article called Small Town in Alabama Confronts Boy's Kidnapping.

Social Media: During the hostage standoff concerned people took to social media to express their hope for a resolution, including these sites.
  • On Twitter the hashtag #RescueEthan was used. There is also a Twitter Account called @RescueEthan that has been created to support Ethan. Following Ethan's rescue people started using the hashtag #EthansHome.
  • On Facebook the group called Prayers for Hostage Ethan in Midland City, Alabama was created. Note: This page is only for united prayer for Ethan. 

There have been many inspirational and kind tweets on Twitter for Ethan. Here are two from teenagers who live in Dale County, Alabama near the scene of the tragedy.

Special thanks to Ethan for his courage during this ordeal. Autism Light will update this post as more information becomes available.  We join Ethan's community and family in rejoicing in a happy resolution to this tragedy and that now Ethan is reunited with his family.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

The map of Dale County, Alabama is in the Wikipedia Commons and attributed to Arkyan.