Saturday, December 31, 2011

Emily Lopez

Autism Light #118 is Emily Lopez.

Emily Lopez is an 11 year old from Los Angeles, California. Emily's brother Tony has autism and in his honor she founded and operates a fundraising effort known as Lemonade 4 Autism. Emily Lopez is an Autism Light because of her work in fundraising for autism charities and raising awareness for autism.

Here is a YouTube video of Emily Lopez, when she was 9 years old, explaining why she started Lemonade 4 Autism.

Emily Lopez operates Lemonade stands around California to benefit autism charities. One of the charities that is very close to Emily's heart is the HollyRod Foundation. The founders of the HollyRod Foundation are Rodney and Holly Robinson Peete who were Autism Lights #100.

For more information on Emily Lopez and Lemonade4Autism visit their official website at this link. If you are an organization working with autism and would like to be considered for assistance by Lemonade 4 Autism then please email Carrie Lopez at

United States of Autism: Emily Lopez and her family will be featured in the upcoming movie called United States of Autism that is due to be released in 2012. The Executive Producer of United States of Autism is Richard Everts who was Autism Light #29.

Blog Featuring Emily Lopez: Emily Lopez was featured as the Wednesday's Woman on January 28, 2011 by the My Hats Mommy Blog.

Social Media: You can follow Lemonade 4 Autism on the following social media areas.
Special thanks to Emily Lopez for making a difference for autism. Here's hoping you have an amazing future in helping the autism community. If you liked this post you may wish to read other Autism Light posts about siblings of people with autism. They have the label of sibling on them. 

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The photo in this post was taken from the Lemonade4Autism Facebook page and is used with permission of Carrie Lopez.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Smita Awasthi

Autism Light #117 is Smita Awasthi.

Smita Awasthi is from New Mumbai, India. Smita Awasthi is the first Board Certified Behavioral Analyst in India. Smita Awasthi is an Autism Light because of her advocacy to bring ABA treatment to people with autism to the country of India.

Smita Awasthi is a pioneer of ABA in India. She has been an advocate for ABA in India and also is involved in providing training opportunities for those wishing to start ABA in India. According to the Behavior Momentum website, "She is a Full Member of the Association of Behavior Analysis U.S.A." and she is "A peer reviewer on the editorial board of the Mexican Journal of Behavior Analysis."

Smita Awasthi is currently a PhD student at Queen's University in Belfast. She is studying for her PhD in Applied Behavior Analysis.

ABA India: Smita Awasthi is the founder and President of ABA India. ABA India is dedicated to advancing the science and practice of ABA in various areas of Indian society. The ABA India website is at

Behavior Momentum: Smita Awasthi is also the Chairman and Chief Consultant for Behavior Momentum in India. Behavior Momentum is located in Bengaluru, which is also known as Bengalore, India. Behavior Momentum advances ABA treatment through three locations in India, including Bengaluru, Kolkata, and Delhi. To find out more about Smita Awasthi's biography visit this website at Behavior

QUART Conference: Smita Awasthi was the keynote speaker at the QUART Conference in November, 2011. The QUART Conference focuses on current research related to autism and is hosted by Queens University.  The QUART Conference describes Smita Awasthi as "an internationally recognized autism expert, therapist, and staff trainer."

Social Media: You can connect with Smita Awasthi and her work at the following social media areas.
Special thanks to Smita Awasthi for being an Autism Light through dedication to the area of ABA in India. For more information on the treatment of ABA therapy at Autism Light you may wish to read the Spotlight Feature that was done on ABA.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The photo in this post is used with the permission of Behavior Momentum.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Susan Levine

Autism Light #116 is Susan Levine.  

Levine is from Newburyport, Massachusetts. Besides being the mother of two neurotypical young boys, she is a music therapist and a musician. Susan Levine is an Autism Light because of how she helps children with autism through music therapy and continues to bless autism through her Musicians for a Cause song called So It Goes.

Musician: Susan Levine's biography on YouTube says, "Susan Levine has been many things -- a graduate of Harvard, a waitress, an actress, a mother, and a music therapist -- but she has always been a musician (Source)."

Eric Gerber, Singer-Songwriter from Kerrville, Texas said, "Susan writes compelling songs. She writes with a sense of honesty, humor and playfulness that is just infectious, and sings in a voice that will have you begging for more (Source)."

Susan Levine has published two albums: Scatter (2001) and Atlas (2007). Susan Levine's autism song So It Goes was a single written at the request of Dave Bastien the head of the Musicians for a Cause project of The lyrics are available at Here is a video of Susan Levine's autism awareness song called So It Goes.

Susan Levine spent time listening to a group of parents from the Autism Society of New Hampshire in order to obtain ideas for writing this song. Susan drew upon the perspective of parents and experiences from her work with children with autism in her music therapy to write this song. Susan Levine described her song this way to Autism Light.
I think we all have kids and have these dreams and goals and plans for everything they might be and what their life will be like. We want our kids to succeed, be free of pain, be happy. We dream of this idyllic world for us and them. The reality is, however, that things get hard, "nothing's perfect", and sometimes it's just putting one foot in front of the other. For parents of kids on the spectrum, there are of course the additional challenges. Trying to see things through your child's eyes; trying to gauge what they are thinking, feeling, wanting; wanting desperately to know and to understand. What I loved about parents I met at the autism sessions was how much they appreciated their children, and the way they saw their children's way of thinking/seeing things as amazing and interesting and even funny (Susan Levine).
Music Therapist: Susan Levine is also a music therapist and a developmental specialist. She works at Pentucket Area Early Intervention in West Newbury, Massachusetts. Susan Levine says her organization offers "home-based early intervention services for children birth to 3 and their families in 9 different towns on the North Shore of Massachusetts."  Susan Levine works with children who have a variety of special needs but the majority of her clients have a history with the autism spectrum.

Susan Levine explained music therapy in an email to Autism Light on 12/13/2011 in this way.
Music therapy is extremely effective with many people on the autism spectrum. It seems to be a form of communication and expression that many people on the spectrum intuitively therapy is a whole-brain/whole sensory/whole person approach to therapy. Neurologically, the different elements of music (rhythm, tempo, pitch, melody) are processed in different locations in the brain. During music play, neurons are constantly activating and building connnections (Susan Levine).
Susan Levine's music therapy style includes involving the parents in sessions with their children. For more information on music therapy, Susan Levine recommends the following website links.
To learn more about Susan Levine visit her website at Special thanks to Susan Levine for sharing her wonderful voice through a song that will make a difference for autism awareness. Susan's song is bringing awareness to autism every time it is played.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The photo in this post was used with the permission of Susan Levine.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Lives Lost to Autism

Autism Light #115 is the Blog called Lives Lost to Autism.

The blog Lives Lost to Autism was started in 2010 and over the years several people have published content on the blog. Lives Lost to Autism blog is an Autism Light because they are keeping records to help the world remember and learn from the unfortunate events related to unnatural deaths of those with autism. The blog can be found at

The tag line on the blog Lives Lost to Autism is "For many, autism can be deadly." The blog lists its purpose as, "This site tells the story of the precious lives cut short by autism." They also note that, "Due to the difficult nature of the subject matter, and out of respect for the lost and their families, commenting has been disabled."

Although the blog started in 2010, they have entered retrospectively data as far back as 2002. If you would like to report on a story that may be fitting for this blog then you can email the managers of the blog at

Lives Lost to Autism has been added to the Autism Light Memorial Roll in hopes that people will take time to remember those with autism whose lives have been cut off. Special thanks to this blog for helping us to remember tragedies so we can help prevent them.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The photo used in this post is in the Public Domain.

This Autism Light post went into syndication in Zanga on both the Autisable site and at the Health Kicker.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

Autism Light would like to wish a very Merry Christmas to all those in worldwide autism community who find their encouragement, strength, and hope in Jesus Christ, and who celebrate His birth today. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Julia Degler-Whitmore

Autism Light Classic
Updated on July 17, 2020

Autism Light #114 is Julia Degler-Whitmore

Julia Degler-Whitmore is from Mattoon, Illinois. Her son Jacob Isaac Boyd has autism. She also has a daughter Jackie Boyd. Julia is a singer/songwriter, entertainer, motivational speaker, actor, and storyteller. Recently she became the Development Director for The Land Connection.  Julia draws upon her Christian faith in her writings, prayers, and encouragement to the autism community, which includes a Christian Anthem called I Am the Child You Love. Julia Degler-Whitmore is an Autism Light because of her passion and expertise to bring music and movement to the autism community.

Julia and Jacob

I Am the Child You Love: Julia Degler-Whitmore wrote an autism awareness song in 2003 called I Am the Child You Love. Julia wrote it following her son Jacob's diagnosis with autism. Jacob, now a young adult, has made wonderful strides since Julia was named an Autism Light in 2011. You can read about his activities in a news article published on July 27, 2019. Though Jacob struggles with communication, Julia believes the lyrics are Jacob's message to the world. In this song she reflects on how Jesus Christ, whose birth is celebrated by Christians around the world this weekend, is important in the life of her son Jacob. You can listen to this song on Spotify. Below is a video on the song. 


Julia shared these thoughts with Autism Light about this song that has become a Christian Anthem: 
The song gave me hope and still does to this day. Jesus' birth changed everything. Jacob's birth changed me. Being his parent has given me new light and perspective that is beyond precious. I thank God every day that He loved me enough to give his son Jesus to me and that he would choose me as Jacob's mother (Julia Degler-Whitmore).
Development Coordinator: Since May 2020, Julia Degler-Whitmore has served as the Development Coordinator at The Land Connection. Julia wrote a blog post recently called, "It's a New Season" at the Land Connection. She shares about her life and interests in this personal blog post. 

The following is a photo that was shared recently on Julia's Facebook page about autism.

Articles in the News: There have been several articles about Julia Degler-Whitmore appear in news stories.
First Christian Church: Julia Degler-Whitmore has served as the Chancel Choir Director at the First Christian Church in Mattoon, Illinois from 2016-2017.

Children of Destiny: Children of Destiny is a Christian support network for autism that has been especially helpful to Julia’s family in their journey with autism. As an appreciation Julia Degler-Whitmore has donated some proceeds from her song in the past to Children of Destiny. Children of Destiny can be found at One of the services of Children of Destiny includes an email list people can subscribe to in which they will receive daily prayers of interest to Christian families experiencing autism.

Pepsi Refresh Grant Challenge: In 2012 Julia Degler-Whitmore won a Pepsi Refresh Grant Arts & Music Award to assist the special needs community with arts and music. If allowed for training with The Miracle Project in Los Angeles. Performances were held in the community from 2013-2016.

DRAGONFLIES:  Julia Degler-Whitmore is the Founder and Former Director of Dragonflies. Dragonflies uses the techniques of Autism Movement Therapy that were founded by Joanne Lara. They are located in the Dance Life Center. Julia explains her work like this: "In our DRAGONFLIES Autism Music Therapy classes we wake up the brain by using music and movement exercises with counts and patterns."

Below is a brief video of Julia using ABC movement therapy with her son Jacob.

Social Media: You can interact with Julia Degler-Whitmore and her work at the following social media areas. Special thanks to Julia Degler-Whitmore for being an Autism Light by sharing her music and movement talents with those impacted by autism. She is a role model to mothers who are relying on their faith to carry on in the challenging moments of autism.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The photos in this post were used with permission of Julia Degler-Whitmore. Note: In some older online information you will find her under the former name of Julia Boyd and it refers to the same individual. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Joe Hill

Autism Light #113 is Joe Hill.

Joe Hill is from Chesapeake, Virginia. He is the father of two boys with autism. Joe Hill is an Autism Light because he created an iPad app called Aeir Talk to help his sons and other people with autism with speech.

The following YouTube video features Joe Hill telling his story about how his dream came true at the launch of the Aeir Talk App on November 12, 2011.

Joe Hill's sons Deacon and Gunner both have autism. Joe Hill founded a company called Aeir BioLogic and spent a year working to develop Aeir Talk in order to his boys communicate better and also to provide a resource for others with autism. The official Aeir Talk website is at Aeir Talk is a speech pathology app that utilizes flash cards that the person with autism can press to aid with communication. The Aeir Talk website says this about its features, "Parents can create an unlimited amount of cards, customize them with their recorded voice and pictures they take."

The following is a local news story from the Chesapeake, Virginia area reporting on Joe Hill's creation of the Aeir Talk App.

Aeir Talk can be purchased from iTunes for $19.99. For more information read the article on Joe Hill and Aeir Talk at this website.

Social Media:  Aeir Talk and Joe Hill can be followed at the following social media areas.
Special thanks to Joe Hill for being an Autism Light. If you like this post you may also like the other posts with the label iPad on them.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Luis Viera and Jorge Santeiro

Autism Lights #112 are Luis Viera and Jorge Santeiro.

Luis Viera and Jorge Santeiro are attorneys from the Tampa Bay, Florida area. Jorge’s son has autism. In an effort to help those with autism they created a foundation this year called the Lawyers Autism Awareness Foundation. Luis Viera and Jorge Santeiro are Autism Lights because of their labor of love to create this foundation and help bring light to the lives of children and families struggling with autism.

Luis Viera serves as an attorney at Ogden, Sullivan & O'Connor, PAJorge Santeiro serves as an attorney at Kubicki Drapper, PA. His biography at their firm is at this link. Luis Viera and Jorge Santeiro founded the Lawyers Autism Awareness Foundation in February, 2011.

One of the key events of the Lawyers Autism Awareness Foundation has been a Sensory Friendly Santa event that was held on December 17, 2011. Here is a news story done prior to the Sensory Friendly Santa event that the Lawyers Autism Awareness Foundation put together. Luis Viera and Jorge Santeiro are both interviewed for this news story.

For more information on the Lawyers Autism Awareness Foundation visit their website at

2nd Annual Sensory Santa Event: The 2nd Sensory Santa event willl be held on December 8, 2012 at the Chester H. Ferguson Law Center, 1610 North Tampa Street in Tampa Bay, Florida. For more information on the event please visit their website.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photos: Photos in this post were used with the permission of the Lawyers Autism Awareness Foundation.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Lawrence Wang

Autism Light #111  is Lawrence Wang.
Lawrence Wang
Lawrence Wang is from San Jose, California. He is in his early 20's. He has autism and is a skilled musical artist. Lawrence Wang is an Autism Light because he has an amazing gift of playing the saxophone without having had the years of practice that is required by some people.

Lawrence Wang is considered by many to be a musical savant for his abilities with the saxophone. His gift at the saxophone was discovered when Lawrence Wang was already 19 years old. When he was younger he would cover his ears and was agitated at music. After a brief and limited training he quickly began playing the saxophone with an exceptional skill.

Lawrence Wang has been featured on The Friends of Children with Special Needs (FCSN) were very helpful in cultivating his talent. Ms. Judy Lam and Mr. Tony Bolivar have been his mentors.

Lawrence Wang's mother Anna Wang says this about her son's talents: "Don't ever give up on your children. You've got to open them up to possibilities. We so often write them off. It doesn't do our children justice. God has gifts for everyone." (Source)

Here is Lawrence Wang playing "The Moon Represents My Heart" on his saxophone.

Here is Lawrence Wang playing "Have Yourself a Merry Christmas" on his saxophone.

Special thanks to Lawrence Wang for sharing his gift of playing the saxophone. Your playing is truly beautiful. We look forward to hearing great things about you as your talent is shared with the world.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The picture in this post was used with the permission of Anna Wang. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Gateways: Access to Jewish Education

Autism Light #110 is Gateways: Access to Jewish Education.

Gateways: Access to Jewish Education is an organization located in Boston, Massachusetts.  It was created in 2006 when Etgar L'Noar and The Jewish Special Education Collaborative merged to work together in service to Jewish children with disabilities, including autism. Gateways: Access to Jewish Education is an Autism Light because they are providing important opportunities for Jewish children with autism to learn their faith and traditions. 

It is noteworthy that Gateways was named one of the top 50 most innovative Jewish nonprofits in the United States. In the Fall of 2010 they received a grant from the Slingshot Fund. The following is a musical video students at Gatways submited to about why it is great to be Jewish and live in Boston. It won 2nd place. 

Arlene Remz is the Executive Director of Gateways: Access to Jewish Education. According to their website their mission is, "to ensure that Jewish children with a full range of learning styles, abilities and challenges succeed academically, socially, and spiritually to their fullest potential." For more information on Gateways: Access to Jewish Education visit their website at

The following is the story of a boy named Ethan who was in the Gateways program. This presentation is when Ethan had his Bar-Mitzvah.

Social Media: You can follow Gateways: Access to Jewish Education at the following social media areas.
Special thanks to Gateways: Access to Jewish Education for being a light for Jewish children with autism to work out their faith. Mazel tov!

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The logo with this post is used with the permission of Gateways: Access to Jewish Education.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Patrick Elliott

Autism Light #109 is Dr. Patrick Elliott.

Dr. Patrick Elliott is from the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area. Dr. Patrick Elliot is an accomplished physician and a parent of twin sons who both have autism. Dr. Patrick Elliott is an Autism Light because he has been a mentor to parents and physicians on the biomedical treatment of autism and has been dedicated to making the hyperbaric treatment option available to more families in the Philadelphia area.

Dr. Patrick Elliot is an osteopathic surgeon who performs general and vascular surgery at the Crozer Chester Medical Center in Upland, Pennsylvania. He also served previously in the United States Army as a Commander and surgeon, having provided medical care near overseas military engagements.

Dr. Patrick Elliott was inspired to look for alternative treatments because his twin sons have autism.  Dr. Patrick Elliott said, "I always say that I got into alternative medicine with our children because there was no alternative (Source)."

Maiken Scott wrote an article on Dr. Patrick Elliott and his biomedical treatment with autism. In the Why News Article he says: "Convinced that hyperbaric oxygen treatments, or H-BOT for short, helped his sons tremendously, Elliott decided to pursue this approach professionally.  He says it is no replacement for behavioral therapies such as Applied Behavioral Analysis and speech therapy, but makes an effective addition (Source)."

Besides being a surgeon, Dr. Patrick Elliot is also the Medical Director for the Hyperbaric Therapy USA - Center of Excellence in Newton Square, Pennsylvania near Philadelphia. There is an office of Hyperbaric Therapy USA on Stanten Island, New York as well.

Hyperbaric Therapy: According to the website of Hyperbaric Therapy USA, "Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is a cutting edge medical treatment that delivers 100% oxygen to a person within a pressurized chamber, aiding in the recovery from a wide range of conditions, injuries, and illnesses." More information on HBOT is available at a Wikipedia page on the subject.

In 2011 the Hyperbaric Therapy USA - Center of Excellence opened an Autism Treatment Center to help treat autism. In addition to Hyperbaric Therapy, Dr. Elliott recommends a biomedical protocal that includes a gluten and casein free diet, glutathione, and B vitamins.

Because of therapy and biomedical treatment Dr. Elliott's sons are improving and one of his sons even proclaimed to his Dad that he didn't have autism anymore and is currently mainstreamed in school. Age of Autism featured Dr. Elliott's family in one of their recovery stories (Link Source).

In an article on Dr. Elliott written by Patti Mengers of the DelCo Times, Dr. Elliott says, "None of these alternative interventions are cure-alls for autism. There is no magic bullet, but I have found that many of these interventions help many children, including my own. My children improved significantly, more than they would with just behavioral and speech therapy (Source)."

Conference Speaker: Dr. Patrick Elliott is a presenter at autism conferences. He has been involved especially in the American Medical Autism Board conferences.

Special thanks to Dr. Patrick Elliott for helping people with autism. Your knowledge on biomedical treatment options is a treasured light to the autism community.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Derek Paravicini

Autism Light #108 is Derek Paravicini.

Derek Paravicini
Derek Paravicini is a young adult in this early 30's who is both blind and has autism. He is from Surry, England. Derek Paravicini is a savant with an exceptional musical skill. Derek Paravicini is an Autism Light because of the way he represents people with autism by using his exceptional and extraordinary skill to bring positive light to all who are blessed to hear his music.

Derek Paravicini was born 3 1/2 months premature and suffered severe trauma in birth that left with him severe disabilities. The oxygen therapy required to save his life at birth caused him to be blind and he also is on the autism spectrum. His twin sister died in the birth. At the age of 2 he began to exhibit a natural (and unnatural) ability to play music.  It has been determined that he has a rare ability of absolute perfect pitch.
The following is a 60 Minutes report on Derek Paravicini that was done by Lesley Stahl. 


The following is the trailer from The Musical Genius that featured the remarkable ability of Derek Paravicini. 

Award: Derek Paravicini received an award for his charitable work from the late Princess Diana (Source).

Biography: Derek Paravicini's official biography is called In the Key of Genius and was written by Dr. Adam Ockelford. An excerpt of the book can be read at this link. Dr. Adam Ockelford is a professor at the University of Roehampton in London and he has been a lifelong mentor to Derek Paravicini. 

Music: Here is Derek Paravicini playing a Christmas melody. A wide variety of his music is available on his YouTube Channel. You can also purchase his CD called Echoes of the Sounds to Be from CD Baby

Social Media: You can follow Derek Paravicini on the following social media.
For Other Information about Derek Paravicini check these websites:
Special thanks to Derek Paravicini for sharing your wonderful gift of music with the world. You are an inspiration to many people with autism who look up to your exceptional skill and you are entertaining thousands around the world.  To keep up with Derek Paravicini you may also wish to visit his official website at

If you found this story interesting you may wish to read the post on Christopher Duffley who was Autism Light #62 and also is a blind and autistic person with musical ability.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: This photo was obtained from WikipediaPermission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document (photo used in this post) under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled GNU Free Documentation License.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Jane Hsu

Autism Light #107 is Jane Hsu.

Jane Hsu is a special education teacher in New York City. Jane Hsu is an Autism Light because she is the founder of a website tool to help children with autism find friends and improve social skills.

Jane Hsu has been working directly with special needs children for 14 years and has spent the last five years teaching in New York City. She was inspired to create a website tool to help link special needs children up with playdates, because of her personal dedication to go beyond the classroom to help her students with autism. Because of the Internet this website tool is now able to reach children beyond New York City and into far corners of the world.

The website that Jane Hsu founded is called Special Playdate and can be found at Special Playdate lists as their mission on their website: "Every child deserves to have a friend! Special Playdate connects parents with other parents seeking playdate opportunities for their children with or without special needs."

Jamie Pagliaro the Co-Creator of Rethink Autism said, "This is a brillantly executed website, addressing a fundamental need for children with special needs and their families. Parents will immediately get a good feeling when they visit the site and sign up to join (Source)."

Special Playdate has several features that parents of children with autism will like.
  1. The price is right for the tight finances of autism parents as it is free to join. 
  2. It is a secure system that safeguards personal information and allows private messaging.
  3. It will be dynamic, as Jane Hsu has plans to expand the resources on the website.
For more information about Special Playdate and Jane Hsu read these inspiring articles written by the Autism Support Network.
Social Media: You can follow the work of Special Play Date at the following social media areas. Jane Hsu provides suggestions for activities to do on a play date on her Facebook page.
Special thanks to Jane Hsu for being an Autism Light and taking the initiative to create such a useful tool. This website has the potential to be the difference between friendship or loneliness, joy or discouragement, and community or isolation for many children with autism.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The photo in this post was used with permission of Jane Hsu.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Karen Jackson

Autism Light #106 is Karen Jackson.

Gray Puryear, Vice-President with Karen Jackson, President (Faith Inclusion Network)
Karen Jackson is from Norfolk, Virginia. She is a band director for a private K-8 school and is the mother of three children, including a daughter Samantha who has autism. Karen Jackson is also the Founder and Director of the Faith Inclusion Network. Karen Jackson is an Autism Light because of her leadership of the Faith Inclusion Network and her advocacy for faith opportunities for autistic people.

Karen Jackson founded the Faith Inclusion Network in 2008. Karen Jackson and her family go to Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Norfolk, Virginia, where she serves as a Parish Advocate. The board of directors of the Faith Inclusion Network represent a variety of different faith communities. Karen was inspired to start the Faith Inclusion Network (FIN) by her daughter Samantha who has autism and continues to strive to successfully work out her faith as a teenager in the Catholic Church. The hope since FIN's conception is to bring together experienced people and inclusive churches to help families integrate their disabled members into a faith community of their choice.

As the President and Founder of the Faith Inclusion Network, Karen Jackson is instrumental in helping to develop and accomplish the mission and goals of the 501c3 organization. The Faith Inclusion Network provides support for people with disabilities to be integrated into faith communities in the South Hamptons Road, Virginia area. According to their website, their mission is "helping faith communities to develop inclusive ministries for people with disabilities and helping families affected by disability to find welcoming and accessible places to worship in South Hampton Roads, Virginia."

The Faith Inclusion Network (FIN) website has several helpful sections. There are sections about FIN's mission and history, resources, a listing of participating faith communities divided by geographical area, and stories. One of the practical resources featured on the website is a link to a detailed publication on faith based ministry with disabled persons called Dimensions of Faith. For more information on the Faith Inclusion Network and the resources they provide visit their website at

One of Karen Jackson's stories of a time when her autistic daughter Samantha taught her about God was featured on a blog at Beliefnet written by Amy Julia Becker. In the story Karen Jackson explains how an occasion when Samantha said sincerely and clearly that "God is Great" taught her a valuable spiritual lesson. She says this about that incident:
But then I got a wonderful little moment from God, a few well chosen words from my daughter who speaks so seldom. I had to agree. God is great. And I realized once again that I am blessed to be a part of Samantha's world and blessed to be reminded of some of the simplest lessons. God is great and God is good. And I thank God for the many blessings in my life...especially for the one wrapped up in the special package of my beautiful daughter Samantha (Source).
Special thanks to Karen Jackson for helping diverse faith communities to be inviting to people with autism. Perhaps this type of network will be duplicated in other parts of the Nation and World. If you are interested in discussing the Faith Inclusion Network with Karen Jackson email her at

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The photos in this post are used with permission of Karen Jackson of Faith Inclusion Network.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Jim Calhoun

Autism Light #105 is Jim Calhoun.

Jim Calhoun is the former Men's Head Basketball Coach for the University of Connecticut who retired in September, 2012. He lives in Connecticut and has two grandchildren with autism. Jim Calhoun is an Autism Light because he has become a spokesperson for autism awareness.

Jim Calhoun has over 850 wins in college basketball. In 2005 he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. On April 4, 2011 he won his third National Championship as a coach with the University of Connecticut. The others came in 1999 and 2004. This third championship puts him in a group with only four other coaches in history who have accomplished this feat.

Jim Calhoun's granddaughter Reese and grandson Sam have autism. In honor of his two special needs grandchildren he has in recent years become a spokesperson for autism awareness. He won the 2010 Distinguished Public Service Award from the Connecticut Bar Association (Source).

The following is the video where Jim Calhoun is speaking at the Connecticut state capital for Autism Awareness Day in 2008.

Jim Calhoun wears an autism awareness lapel pin every day to help him advocate.  Jim Calhoun said regarding the pin, "Everybody asks me what the pin is for, and they get half an hour. If they don't like it they get an hour (Source)."

Jim Calhoun began raising awareness for autism research through Autism Speaks in 2006. In 2011 he produced the following Public Service Announcement for Walk Now for Autism Speaks.

Some online articles on Jim Calhoun's activism for autism can be found a these links.
Social Media: You can follow Jim Calhoun a the following social media areas.
For more information on Jim Calhoun visit his official website at

Special thanks to Jim Calhoun for spreading autism awareness and being a light for autism. He has continued to fight for autism despite himself having cancer in both 2003 and 2008 as well as another undisclosed health problem in 2010.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The photo in the post is in the Public Domain and was obtained from Wikipedia.

This Autism Light post went into syndication on Autisable

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Mindy Dawson

Autism Light #104 is Mindy Dawson.

Mindy Dawson is from Capon Bridge, West Virginia. Her son Joshua has autism. Mindy Dawson is an Autism Light because she is the organizer of a Sensitive Santa event for children with autism at the Apple Blossom Mall in Winchester, West Virginia.

Mindy Dawson first organized a Sensitive Santa Event last year so her son Joshua and other children in her community, who have sensory issues associated with autism, would have an opportunity to visit Santa at a special event apart from the loud crowds and lights. The event is managed by all volunteers who have a heart for helping children with autism in the Christmas season.

This year's Sensitive Santa Event will be held on Sunday, December 11, 2011 from 9-10am at the Apple Blossom Mall in Winchester, West Virginia before the mall opens for regular hours. The Apple Blossom Mall is located at 1850 Apple Blossom Drive, Winchester, West Virginia 22601. Anyone may bring a child with autism at this time to meet Santa. The mall event website is asking people to enter the building for this special event through the doors at the mall food court, since the mall will not be open for regular shopping.

For more information on the Sensitive Santa Event contact Mindy Dawson at 540-931-8662 or email

Jessica Wiant wrote an excellent article on Mindy Dawson's passion for this event that is found on the Website.

Special thanks to Mindy Dawson for taking the leadership to bring a Sensitive Santa to Apple Blossom Mall.  Wouldn't it be great if there were one of these events in hundreds of cities across the world by next year.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

The Photo of Santa in this post is in the Public Domain.

This Autism Light post went into syndication at Autisable.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Danny Dimm

Autism Light #103 is Danny Dimm

Danny Dimm was a logger from Lillooet, British Columbia. He was the father of a five year old boy named Timber who has autism. Danny Dimm was born on February 25, 1958 and died in a logging accident on October 3, 2011 at the age of 53. Danny Dimm is being made an Autism Light posthumously for the various efforts he made during his life to be the best father possible to his son. His tragically shortened life is a reminder that autism fathers should treasure every day as a gift because there are no guarantees about the future. Danny Dimm is also being added posthumously today to the Autism Light Memorial Roll.

Danny Dimm's online death notice is available at this link. The memorial website for Danny Dimm describes him as "a man of simple directness, with a huge gentle heart" and says "the motivation for his life became his beloved son, Timber (age 5) (Source)."

In an interview with CFJC News prior to his death, Danny Dimm said that he wanted to give his son, "every opportunity that I can. Every kid is special to their parent. Timber has some huge gifts and if I do it right he can make a major contribution to the world someday because his intellect is giant."

Update: Three months after Danny Dimm's death, Wendy Frazier wrote an update on what happened to Danny Dimm's son for the Lillooet News.

Social Media:  You can visit the Memorial Page on Facebook called Remembering Danny Dimm to show your support for the memory of Danny Dimm.

Danny Dimm put forth a heroes effort to help his son receive an appropriate education for his autism at a time in his formative years when it was needed. Some of his challenges were like many autism fathers face and some were unique to his family, but as we remember Danny Dimm it is his love for his son that universally applies to other autism fathers and inspired his personal choices he made to help Timber. May Danny Dimm R.I.P. and may his example of fatherhood inspire others.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo Image Source is the Remembering Danny Dimm Facebook Page

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Elf Butler Modaff

Autism Light #102 is Elf Butler Modaff.

Elf Butler Modaff is a black lab dog who lives with the Butler Modaff family in La Crescent, Minnesota. Elf is an Autism Light because he is a trained autism service dog who is helping protect a boy named Caden who has autism. His specific mission is to keep Caden from wandering off on his own and to find him if he does wander.

Elf was trained by 4 Paws for Ability in Ohio. 4 Paws for Ability trains dogs to help with special needs and has a special program for autism assistance dogs. Elf has a special second buckle on his collar that can be attached to something Caden has with him such as a backpack. Elf has been trained to sit or lay down if necessary to keep Caden from wandering off on his own. Should Caden go missing Elf is also trained as a search and rescue dog to specifically track Caden.

The following is a news story on Elf done by (News 8) in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.

For more information on black lab dogs like Elf visit the Wikipedia page for Labrador Retrievers. Special thanks to Elf and all the autism service dogs who are making a difference around the world. If you liked this post you may like to read about other Autism Lights with the label "Animal".

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The photo in this post of Elf was used with permission of Jennifer Butler Modaff.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Natasha Campbell-McBride

Autism Light #101 is Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride.

Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride is a physician from Cambridge, England in the United Kingdom. She was born in Russia and has a son with autism. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride is an Autism Light because of her devotion to treating patients with autism and her development of the groundbreaking GAPS protocol.

Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride began her career as a medical doctor in Russia and initially served as a neurosurgeon. She then moved to the United Kingdom to practice medicine. She has the Master of Medical Sciences in Neurology and the Master of Medical Sciences in Human Nutrition. This is a applicable combination for the help she brings to autism treatment.

Origin of GAPS: Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride was led to research alternative medicine for possible causes of autism when her firstborn son developed autism and she did not find any answers in the medical community. As a result of her research findings, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride developed GAPS which stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome. She believes her son was helped tremendously through treating his GAPS and she explains that he is able to live a typical and healthy life today. The following is a video where Dr. Nathasha Campbell-McBride explains the importance of GAPS in an interview for the Mind Foundation.

GAPS Protocol: According to Dr. Campbell-McBride's website, "Thousands of people around the world follow the highly successful GAPS Nutritional Protocol to help themselves and their families." The Full GAPS Diet is available online. Food Supplements and Detoxification is also part of the program.

Author:  Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride is the author of two books related to her work.
  1. In 2004 she wrote the book Gut and Psychology Syndrome. An Second edition of the book was published in 2010. Gut and Psychology Syndrome is available on at this link.  
  2. In 2007 she wrote the book Put Your Heart in Your Mouth which is available at this website
Dr. Joseph Mercola Interview: Here is Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride being interviewed by Dr. Joseph Mercola about her interesting background, the GAPS protocol, and her theory on the "epidemic" of autism cases. This is part one of the interview and the entire interview is available online at the Archives.

Websites: There are some very helpful Websites that explain the GAPS Diet and the work of Dr. Campbell-McBride.

Social Media: You can follow Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride at the following social media areas.
Special thanks to Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride for bringing light to the concept that gut problems may be related to autism. You are making a difference.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

This post went into syndication on Autisable.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Rodney and Holly Robinson Peete

Autism Light Classic
Updated on May 17, 2015. 

Autism Lights #100 are Rodney and Holly Robinson Peete.

Rodney and Holly Robinson Peete are from Los Angeles, California. Rodney Peete was born on March 16, 1966 and Holly Robinson Peete was born on September 18, 1964. They married in 1995 and are parents of four children, Ryan Elizabeth Peete and son Rodney Peete, Jr (twins born in 1997), son Robinson James Peete (born in 2002), and son Roman Peete (born in 2005). Their son Rodney (R.J.) has autism. Rodney and Holly are Autism Lights because of their autism advocacy through being authors, speakers, philanthropists and operators of a foundation for autism called the HollyRod Foundation. 

Rodney Peete's Career: Rodney Peete was a star football player for the University of Southern California leading them to the 1988 and 1989 Rose Bowls. He won the Johnny Unitas Award in 1989. Although he was drafted also as a 3rd Baseman by Major League Baseball teams, Rodney Peete chose to play football and he went on to play 16 years in the National Football League from 1989-2005. His career stats are at the Pro Football Reference Website. Rodney Peete played on the Carolina Panthers 2003 team that played in Super Bowl  XXXVIII. Rodney Peete is now a broadcaster.

Holly Robinson Peete's Career: Holly graduated from Sarah Lawrence College. She has had roles as an actress in the following shows.
One of Holly Robinson Peete's most inspirational interview's on The Talk about autism was when she interviewed Carly Fleischmann who was Autism Light #1. That interview is available on Carly Fleischmann's Autism Light post.

For Peete's Sake: It was announced in May, 2015, that Holly Robinson Peete and Rodney Peete and will soon have their own show on Oprah Winfrey's OWN Network. It has a working title called For Peete's Sake. It will be a documentary on their family life of juggling dual careers with raising four children (RealityTea, May 8, 2015).

The HollyRod Foundation: The HollyRod Foundation was founded in 1997. It helps provide services for people who are impacted by either Parkison's Disease or Autism. Holly Robinson Peete's father was Matt Robinson who played the original Gordon on the children's TV show Sesame Street. Mr. Robinson developed Parkinson's Disease in his 40's and in his honor The HollyRod Foundation was established originally to provide help for those with Parkinson's to obtain services.

After Rodney (R.J.) Peete was diagnosed with autism, Holly and Rod decided that the foundation would also begin reaching out for autism under the HollyRod4Kids name. More information on the HollyRod Foundation is available at their website at One of the future plans for the HolyRod Foundation is the construction of the HollyRod4Kids Compassionate Care Center for Autism in Los Angeles. Current programs of the HollyRod Foundation include the Gift of Voice, RJ's Place, and the My Brother Charlie Family Fun Day.

Holly Robinson Peete wrote a song called Come Into My World that she sings with her son Rodney in the following video.

Authors:  Both of the Peete's are authors in their own right. Holly Robinson Peete wrote My Brother Charlie with her daughter Ryan, which helps neurotypical children understand about autistic kids. Rodney Peete wrote Not My Boy!  to share his story with his son who has autism. The following video is Rodney and Holly Robinson Peete discussing their life with a child with autism and the books they wrote.

Holly Robinson on Autism: Holly Robinson Peete said this about her son that provides a good look at her passion and perspective on autism. "My son w/autism has an AMAZING brain [and] can tell you any fact about NBA, MLB even NHL! We need to embrace these children in society-god's gifts. We need to change ourselves as a society to accept children w/autism and special needs for who they are (Black Celebrity, August 4, 2009)."

Holly Robinson also says this on her foundation's website, "I wouldn't change my son for the world but I would change the world for my son."

Social Media:  You can follow Rodney, Holly, and the HollyRod Foundation at the following social media areas.
Wikipedia: You can also find out more about Rodney and Holy at their Wikipedia pages.
Special thanks to Rodney and Holly Robinson Peete for being dedicated autism parents and amazing autism advocates. You are amazing heroes for the cause of all the autism community. The autism family is blessed to have your dedication and hard work lighting the way for improving situations for those with autism.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.