Friday, May 10, 2019

Brian Schnelle

Autism Light #470 is Brian Schnelle.

Brian Schnelle is a 31 year old man from the Old Hickory area of Nashville, Tennessee, who has autism. Brian spent 12 years as a student at Trevecca Nazarene University, and in May 2019 graduated with honors with a bachelor's degree in sports management. Brian Schnelle is an Autism Light because his perseverance in college serves as an inspiration to other autism families.

Annual Award Established at Trevecca: "Brian's perseverance inspired the administrators and teachers in the Department of Exercise and Sports Science to establish an annual award in his honor. Brian was the first recipient of the Brian Schnelle Perseverance Award (Tennessean, Jessica Bliss, May 10, 2019)."

The following is a video about Brian Schnelle's experience in college and his graduation. 

Brian's parents Jeff and Jane Schnelle were his foster parents when he was 1, and formally adopted him when he was 3. At age 7 he was diagnosed with autism. Despite needing the ongoing care of his parents to this day in many elements of his life, Brian loves to study. Jeff Schnelle attended almost every day of college with his son, because Brian lived at home and couldn't drive himself to school. Brian's dad would sit in the back of the classes he was taking.

Jeff Schnelle said this word of encouragement for autism parents. "There's a lot of people who are struggling with a loved one on the spectrum, and they're not sure what's going to happen next or how they are going to cope. You do learn to live day-by-day, you don't look too far into the future...There are days when you are not sure you're going to get through it. When you're not seeing the progress you want to see. But then you look back and you think, 'Wow, this is remarkable. he's done so much (As quoted by Jessica Bliss, Trevecca student with autism graduates after 12 years, Tennessean, May 10, 2019)."
Brian received support in college at Trevecca's Center for Leadership, Service and Calling, where he independently took all his tests in a comfortable environment. His accommodations included giving a few weeks advance notice on the due date of papers from his professors so that he could write a small amount each day toward the paper. While he received supports, Brian had to do all his own work toward his degree, which meant to be successful he had to work at it for 12 years and concentrate on completing a few classes each year toward his program.

For more information on Brian Schnelle please see the following articles:
Special thanks to Brian Schnelle for being an Autism Light. His experience in college inspires other students with autism. We wish Brian Schnelle all the best in the next chapter of his life and hope he inspires other young people to go to college, even if it takes more than the traditional 4 years to complete their goal. 

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Xena Hickey

Autism Light #469 is Xena Hickey, The Warrior Puppy.

Xena the Warrior Puppy is a Pitbull dog who lives in Johns Creek, Georgia. Xena was a severely abused rescue dog adopted from the Dekalb Animal Services, who over the past 6 years has been a therapy dog for a now 14 year old boy with autism named Jonny Hickey. Xena is an Autism Light for having a positive impact in improving Jonny's journey with autism. Xena won the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Dog of the Year Award in 2013. Xena and Jonny have their own 501c3 non-profit and over the past six years have been raising awareness for autism and the prevention of animal cruelty.

The following video tells the story of Xena and Jonny Hickey and was featured when Xena won the prestigious ASPCA Dog of the Year Award in 2013.

Xena arrived at the Dekalb Animal Services on September 25, 2012 and after months of physical rehabilitation was able to join Jonny's family on February 11, 2013, and officially adopted on March 25, 2013. Linda Hickey stated, "We've spent thousands of dollars on therapy, and I just said to myself that is the best therapy, standing, four-legs, in my family room (As quoted by, June 14, 2017)."

This video was made by Jonny to promote April as Autism Awareness Month and the prevention of Animal Cruelty Month.

Although this story was born six years ago, it is remarkable the difference Xena continues to make in Jonny's life and for others as they raise awareness of autism and animal cruelty. There next publicized event is a "Spread the Words" 5K Fun Run/Walk on October 29, 2019, to benefit the Special Needs Community and Animal Rescue.

If you wish to keep tabs on Xena visit her website at Xena the Warrior Puppy and check out her social media pages below. 

Xena will be added to the Autism Light Animal Page today. Xena is an inspiring example of a rescue dog who is making a difference in the life and development of a young person with autism. We wish Jonny and Xena all the best in the future.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

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.