Monday, March 26, 2018

Sense-Ability School

Autism Light #462 is Sense-Ability School for Autism.



Sense-Ability School for Autism is the first and at this time only private school in the State of Montana dedicated to educating people with autism. The school was started in September 2017 by founders Sharon Altschwager and Rita Rowe-Watson. It is a 501 (c)(3) organization and is located at 1220 17th Street South in Great Falls, Montana. Sense-Ability School is an Autism Light because of their groundbreaking educational program that will help a cohort of students in Montana with autism and also serve as an example for other future schools.

Below is a news story on the beginning of Sense-Ability School.



At the founding of the school tuition was set at $21,000 a year. The school has been organizing regular fundraisers with the goal to provide a scholarship fund to help families with tuition costs. There will be a lead teacher for each group of 4 students and behavioral assistants that work with each student individually throughout the day (KRTV.Com, July 22, 2017). Patty Goodmundson, a licensed clinical counselor and educator for 29 years will serve as the school's first teacher. The school follows the Montana State Curriculum with academics in the morning and life skills in the afternoon, including art, drama, and equine therapy.

It is hoped that students with autism will be able to return to a public school after receiving a few years of help at Sense-Ability School. Rita Rowe who serves as the Vice President of the school said, "Public education system has provided a great service for most children with autism. However, they're are some that their needs just aren't being met, and our goal is to fill in that gap and get those kids ready and back into public school (As quoted by KRTV.Com, July 22, 2017)."

Social Media: You can follow Sense-Ability on social media by liking the Sense-Ability Facebook page. Below is an example of a recent post they shared about their leadership of a support group for parents.



Vision for Future: Sense-Ability has a vision for helping the community as the school evolves in the future. Sarah Dettmer of the Great Falls Tribune reported that Sharon Altschwager, "would like to expand Sense-Ability's offerings to include a one-stop center for people on the spectrum to find resources, counseling, and therapy. But until then, she said her focus is on providing social and emotional support to special needs children (Sarah Dettmer, Great Falls Tribune, October 31, 2017)."

Special thanks to the Sense-Ability School for Autism for being an Autism Light through their specific vision to serve the educational needs of some individuals with autism in Montana. We wish the school great success in the years ahead and hope that it will serve as an example for other autism educational initiatives in other areas of Montana and throughout the United States.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Nancy Herndon Cale

Autism Light #461 is Nancy Herndon Cale.




Nancy Herndon Cale served as an advocate in the autism community for the past two decades, motivated by her personal relationship to autism as a grandmother. Her grandson Wynn Johnson has autism. She was born on January 5, 1944, in Atlanta and passed away on August 11, 2017, at the age of 73. Nancy was the co-founder of Unlocking Autism and had worked for over a decade as a counselor at the hotline call center for Autism Research Institute. She is survived by three children, Todd Hale, Shannon Johnson and Branndan VanEgmond, and four grandchildren. Her memorial service was held on August 13, 2017 at the Peachtree City Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Sharpsburg, Georgia (Read more at Dignity Memorial). Nancy Herndon Cale will be placed on the Autism Light Memorial Roll today.

The following is a photo tribute to Nancy Cale from her daughter Shannon Johnson's YouTube Channel.




Unlocking Autism: Nancy Herndon Cale co-founded Unlocking Autism in 1998 with Shelley Hendrix Reynolds, in honor of her grandson, Wynn. In her role at Unlocking Autism, "Nancy fielded many thousands of calls and emails from families in need in the U.S. and around the world (Read more at National Vaccine Information Center, August 14, 2017)." She earned a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for her work in Unlocking Autism that involved fostering state and local governmental partnerships to help meet the needs of the autism community (Read more at Dignity Memorial Obituary).

Autism Research Institute: In her work at the Autism Research Institute, Nancy Herndon Cale answered calls at their hotline and served as an administrative assistant for conference planning.

Nancy Cale once said this about how the call center brought added purpose to her life:
I am humbled each and every day by the depth of the needs and concerns of those who call searching for help for their loved ones with autism. I am happy knowing the generous heart of our community makes it possible to assure new parents, parents facing new struggles, and adults looking for help. Bless you all who take time to reach out to others as we work to make life better for those who ask for our help (Read more at Autism Research Institute: Remembering Nancy Cale).
Nancy was indeed so dedicated to the work of the autism hotline call center, she continued to answer phone calls for Autism Research Institute up until the very day she was admitted to the hospital in August 2017 (Read more at Dignity Memorial Obituary).

We remember Nancy Herndon Cale for her efforts to counsel and provide community resources for families that struggle with autism. Her legacy is that of an autism grandmother who determined to do what she could to shine a light for autism. Her grandson Wynn Johnson can be very proud of his grandmother. His autism diagnosis spurred Nancy Herndon Cale to begin the great work she did. May Nancy Herndon Cale's example as an autism grandmother encourage others to make a difference for autism.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Montana Lights


The State of Montana is the home of 3 Autism Lights. The Montana group includes two individuals with autism and a school for autism.

Montana Autism Lights

  • Alexis Wineman has autism and she was Miss Montana in 2012, making her the first winner with autism in the history of the Miss America pageant. She is from Cut Bank, Montana
  • Thomas Russell is an artist who has autism. He is from Laurel, Montana
  • Sense-Ability School for Autism was founded in September 2017 and is the first private school for autism in the State of Montana. It is located in Great Falls, Montana. 

You may reach all these posts by searching the blog through the "Montana" Label.


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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Caddie the Dog

Autism Light #460 is Caddie the Dog.


Caddie is a Labrador Retriever/Golden Retriever mix dog who lives in Newquay in Cornwall in the United Kingdom. Caddie is a therapy dog for a 13 year old boy with autism named Joel Sayer. Caddie is an Autism Light for having a positive impact in improving Joel's journey with autism. In 2017, Caddie was a finalist in the Crufts hero dog competition by Eukanuba.

The following is the YouTube video made about Joel and Caddie in the Eukanuba Friends for Life hero dog competition in 2017.



Caddie helps Joel with a variety of everyday tasks and provides an anchor for his day to day experiences that can sometimes be frightening to a teenager with autism. Joel's mother Janet said about the intervention skills of Caddie that, "When Joel can't cope, he paces around, but Caddie will nudge him, Joel will start stroking him and he'll come back into our world (As quoted by Emma Cox, RadioTimes.com, March 8, 2018)."

Dogs for Good: Through the sharing of their amazing life story Joel and Caddie are encouraging people throughout the United Kingdom to support the charity Dogs for Good. Their efforts have raised over 32,000 pounds to enable other individuals with autism to obtain a therapy dog like Caddie. Joel said, "Fundraising is great, especially when it's for someone who helped you. It's the best way of saying thank you (As quoted by Emma Cox, RadioTimes.com, March 8, 2018)."

Caddie will be added to the Autism Light Animal Page today. Caddie is a fine example of a dog who is making a difference through a therapeutic and loving relationship with a young person with autism. We wish Joel and Caddie the best in the future.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Mike Iaconelli

Autism Light #459 is Mike Iaconelli.



Mike Iaconelli is a professional bass fisherman (BASS Elite Series angler), television personality, and podcast show host from Pittsgrove Township, New Jersey. He was born on June 17, 1972. He and his wife Becky have four children. Mike Iaconelli, whose nickname is Ike, is an Autism Light because of his concern to raise awareness for autism. He becomes the first professional fisherman to appear on Autism Light. His name will be placed today on the Autism Light Sports Page, along with other athletes that have been recognized through the years.

In November 2009, Mike Iaconelli cut off his famous beard and he sold it on eBay with the proceeds going to the New England Center for Children, a school for autism in Southborough, Massachusetts. See Ike Auctions Off His Lucky Beard on eBay for Autism Charity for more information on this charitable news.

The following is a YouTube video where Mike Iaconelli explains about his lucky beard helping an auction charity.


Fishin' with a Mission: The auction Mike Iaconelli did to benefit autism was utilized to further the efforts of the Fishin' with a Mission decal program that is led by Eli Delany. More information on this autism awareness initiative of Fishin' with a Mission is at www.mylittlebuddysboat.com.

Television Show: In 2017, Mike Iaconelli started the Going Ike television series on the Pursuit Channel.

Wikipedia: Visit the Michael Iaconelli Wikipedia Page for more information on this Autism Light.

Social Media: For more information on Michael Iaconelli, follow him at these social media channels.
Special thanks to Michael Iaconelli for helping the New England Center for Children and for raising awareness for autism. Hopefully this action will encourage other celebrities to help relieve some of the financial needs that autism agencies have.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Jason Hague

Autism Light #458 is Jason Hague.



Jason Hague is an autism father, husband, Christian pastor, storyteller, and writer. Jason and his wife Sara have five children, including a 12 year old son Jackson who has autism. Jason is an Associate Pastor at Christ's Church, an independent, non-denominational Christian church in Junction City, Oregon. Jason Hague is an Autism Light for raising autism awareness through his personal sharing of his life online from the honest heart of an autism father.

The following is a poem Jason wrote for his son Jackson which he recites in this video on his YouTube Channel. The version of this video on Facebook went viral and has received 3 million views and counting.


Blogger: One of the best ways to get to know Jason Hague and his life as an autism father in an up close way is to read through his blog posts located at www.jasonhague.com. He wrote a special post on February 6, 2018, called "A Letter to My Autistic Son on His 12th Birthday".  The blog also has letters Jason wrote to Jackson at his various birthdays over the years when he was a growing child.

Jason Hague's blog reveals his emotions as a father that captures the feelings that many autism fathers experience like in this paragraph:
"I often feel the old tug of despair on my sleeve, and the temptation to let it wash over me like it use to: Jack's anguish; his future; our lack of connection. It still gets the best of me from time to time. But on this occasion, the sadness didn't win. It couldn't win. Not after what happened the day before." [Jason Hague, "Let this Carry You", April 26, 2017]
Author: Jason Hague has written a book that will be available in October 2018, about his journey as an autism father for the last five years. It is called Aching Joy: Following God Through the Land of Unanswered Prayer. The subtitle underscores how important faith is in Jason's life, especially in coping with autism.

Social Media: For more information on Jason Hague, follow him at these social media channels.

Special thanks to Jason Hague for being an Autism Light. His storytelling and sharing about autism from the perspective of a father and Christian is a valuable contribution to the autism community. It takes these diverse stories in society to provide living resources to help our world understand more about autism and learn to accept the individuals living with it. We wish Jason Hague all the best in his journey as an autism father and look forward to reading about his blessed family in his blog and writings in the months and years to come.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.