Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Mikey Brannigan

Autism Light #472 is Mikey Brannigan.

Michael “Mikey” Brannigan is a 23 year old runner from Huntington, New York  He is the first American with autism to win the gold in the 1500 meter race of the Paralympics. He is also the first runner with autism to competitively break four minutes in the mile. His goal is to compete in the 2024 Olympics in Tokyo. Mikey Brannigan is an Autism Light because he serves as an inspiration for others with autism as he achieves greatness in running and grows through his challenges in life.

Mikey Brannigan was diagnosed with autism at age 2. His parents Edie and Kevin Brannigan took him to a running club for kids with special needs called “Rolling Thunder”. He excelled in the club under the training of coach Steve Cuomo.

Mikey Brannigan graduated in 2015 from Northport High School in Huntington, New York. He was one of the top track athletes in the country in 2015 and received letters of interest from colleges throughout the United States. However, because of his learning disability he could not meet the academic requirements of the NCAA and did not attend college.The following is a biographical video of Mikey Brannigan from when he was awarded the High School Athlete of the. Month by Sports Illustrated.

When asked if his autism makes him a better runner, Mikey Brannigan said that it makes him “a better person.” Today Sonja Robinson coaches Mikey Brannigan and keeps him going toward his goal of qualifying for the 2024 Olympic in Tokyo (For more information see “Coach Sonja Robinson Keeps Mikey Brannigan On Track”). Mikey practices at the New York Athletic Club, who sponsors some of his travel expenses for events. The following is a video of the NBC news story about Mikey Brannigan winning the Gold Medal for the Paralympics in 2016. 

For more information on Mikey Brannigan read these stories and blog posts about his achievements.

Wikipedia: To find out more about Mikey Brannigan visit the Mikey Brannigan Wikipedia Page.

Social Media: You can follow Mikey Brannigan on the following social media areas. 

Special thanks to Mikey Brannigan for being an Autism Light. He serves as an inspiration to many families with autism and demonstrates how running can potentially help those with special needs to shine. We wish Mikey best of luck in training for the Olympics. We expect to hear great things from Mikey Brannigan in the years to come.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Nicole Webster

Autism Light #471 is Nicole Webster.

Nicole Webster is from Midland, Michigan. Her daughter Lillie has autism and a congenital disorder called 1p36 deletion syndrome. A single autism mother, who herself has brain cancer, Nicole Webster is an Autism Light for being an outstanding and courageous parent who has helped thousands of people hold onto kindness.

Nicole Webster became famous in January 2018, when she and her daughter Lillie’s interactions were observed on a Detroit-bound airplane flight by a teacher Rebecca Somers. Lillie had a stuffed bear called ‘Kindness’ and in order to calm her on the stressful plane ride Nicole kept telling her daughter to ‘hold onto Kindness’. The simple beauty of that message was passed on over social media by Rebecca Sommer. It became a viral post shared over 200,000 times in January 2018, and it made #holdontokindness a popular twitter hashtag at the time.

This is an excerpt of what Rebecca Somers expressed on Facebook about her encounter with Nicole Webster,
I talked with the mom coming up the ramp off the plane and told her what a great job she’s doing with her daughter. She made several remarks, and I told her I knew it had to be tiring, but thanked her for being consistent (the teacher part of me came out). She then told me the little girl was going to have surgery on her legs to correct them. But then she also told me how she (the mom) is battling brain cancer and how exhausting her treatments are. My heart sank. I assured her that she would be in my continual thoughts and prayers and how she and her daughter taught everyone a lesson today: ‘Hold on to Kindness, you never know what another person is going through.’”
Nicole Webster’s story was passed on through Facebook and YouTube


 Here are some news articles and blogs on Nicole Webster and Lillie.

Special thanks to Nicole Webster for being an Autism Light. Her dedication and creative engagement as a single mother is extraordinary as she shines her light in the midst of her own journey with brain cancer. We wish Nicole all the best along with hope and healing from her cancer. May others come into Nicole and Lillie’s life to lend a helping hand to this special family. May we all hold onto Kindness in these difficult times and realize how others are going through more than we could ever imagine.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

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.