Friday, September 30, 2011

Robert Menendez

Autism Light #54 is Robert Menendez.

The Honorable Robert "Bob" Menendez serves as a member of the United States Senate, representing the state of New Jersey. He has served in the Senate since 2006. Sen. Robert Menendez is an Autism Light because he has taken up the cause of autism on critical occasions in his relatively short career in the United States Senate.

The 57 year old U.S. Senator was born in New York City to Cuban immigrants and has a passion for helping those with autism. Sen. Menendez repeatedly shares two primary reasons for his relentless advocacy for autism in the United States Government.
  1. New Jersey, the state he represents, has the highest rate of autism in the whole United States at a rate of 1 in 94 children (Source).
  2. Sen Menendez feels there needs to be help for families touched by autism, "so that their child or loved one can fulfill their God given capabilities."  
Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011: Sen. Robert Menendez was a co-sponsor of the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act in the U.S. Senate.  When the bill encountered some resistance in the Senate, he struck a deal to help assure passage (Source). This reauthorizes the Combating Autism Act of 2006 for an additional 3 years and will provide federal funds for research, training, detection, and service centers for autism.  Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks, said, "Autism Speaks thanks Senator Menendez who led the bill across the finish line." President Barack Obama signed this legislation on September 30, 2011.  Emily P. Walker, the Washington Correspondent for MedPage Today has written a summary of key points of the legislation.

Here is a video of Sen. Menendez advocating in the U.S. Senate for the passage of the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act.

Other Legislation: Sen. Bob Menendez has been a key sponsor of several other legislative attempts to help the cause of autism.
Here is Sen. Menendez speaking to a group with Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism. In 2010 he was designated the honorary co-chair of Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism.

Here are some news stories or blog posts about Sen. Robert Menendez and autism.

Other Links: For more information on Sen. Robert Menendez visit these Websites.
Social Media:  You can follow Sen. Robert Menendez on the following social media.

Thanks to Sen. Robert "Bob" Menendez for shining a light to help make the world better for citizens with autism. His leadership in the United States Senate for autism has been critical during important pieces of legislation.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism. 

This Autism Light post went into syndication on Autisable.
    Photo Information: The above photo of Robert Menendez is in public domain and Wikipedia Commons because it is the official public photo of a United States governmental official.

    Thursday, September 29, 2011

    Nathan Christensen

    Autism Light #53 is Nathan Christensen.

    Nathan Christensen is a 17 year old from South Jordan, Utah.  Nathan Christensen has autism and didn't speak until age 7, but autism didn't stop him from rising to great heights in the Boy Scouts of America's scouting program. Nathan Christensen is an Autism Light for his outstanding achievements in the Boy Scouts of America scouting program.

    Nathan Christensen recently earned the Eagle Scout Award. According to the Boy Scouts of America Fact Sheet, only 5% of boy scouts earned the Eagle Scout Award in 2010. However, Nathan didn't stop at the requirements for an Eagle Scout. In addition to being an Eagle Scout which requires earning 21 merit badges, Nathan Christensen added 111 more and earned all of the 132 merit badges available by the Boy Scouts of America.

    Here is the news story published at CNN about Nathan Christensen's accomplishment of earning all Boy Scouts of America merit badges.

    Nathan says he would rather be defined for this outstanding and rare accomplishment in the Boy Scouts of America than for having autism. His remarkable efforts, in taking on every challenge available to him by the Boy Scouts of America, are more than thousands of neuro-typical boys could accomplish in their days in scouts (including the one writing this post). Any boy achieving this exceptional feat in the Boy Scouts of America would distinguish themselves above their peers and should receive public recognition for it.  In fact, in 2008, Fox News shared an AP report on Shawn Goldsmith, a neuro-typical young man from New York, achieving the same feat as Nathan Christensen (Source). For more information on Nathan's accomplishments read the article on him at

    Nathan Christensen is a role model and hero to all boys, especially those with autism, who may doubt their ability to finish just the 21 merit badges necessary to achieve Eagle Scout. Something tells me that the adults and young men in the Boy Scouts of America won't soon forget this accomplishment from someone with autism. We expect to continue to hear outstanding things about Nathan Christensen in the future.

    The Boy Scouts of America can be a good program for some boys with autism. It is possible for boys with autism to grow through their involvement in this program. For those considering this activity for boys on the autism spectrum there are two helpful resources I have discovered.
    1. Autism and Boy Scouts is a content rich website on issues facing parents who are deciding about Boy Scouts for their sons with autism.
    2. Elizabeth M. Johnson has written a helpful article for Scouting Magazine called Boys with Autism Can Thrive in Scouting-With Help.
    Thank you Nathan Christensen for showing the world that autism does not have to limit a person from merit in either the Boy Scouts or in life.

    Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism. 

    This Autism Light post went into syndication at Autisable

    Wednesday, September 28, 2011

    Dr. Stephen Edelson

    Autism Light #52 is Dr. Stephen Edelson.

    Stephen M. Edelson, Ph.D.
    Dr. Stephen M. Edelson lives in San Diego, California and serves as the Director of the Autism Research Institute.  Dr. Stephen Edelson is an Autism Light because he has dedicated over 30 years of his life to autism research, and has a trademark for connecting the dots so the latest and cutting edge research results make a true difference for the lives of people with autism.

    Work with Dr. Bernard Rimland:  Dr. Stephen Edelson partnered with the late Dr. Bernard Rimland for 20 years and succeeded him as the Executive Director of the Autism Research Institute in 2006. These two giants in the world of autism co-edited the book Recovering the Autistic Child. You may order this and other books through the Bookstore at the Autism Research Institute's Website. However, we have a special opportunity to all readers of this blog. Dr. Edelson is giving away a complimentary copy of this book on our blog. See the post at this link for all the details of this giveaway which starts today and goes for the next two weeks, leading up to the Autism Research Institute's Fall Conference.

    Education: Dr. Stephen M. Edelson earned his Doctorate in Experimental Psychology at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and had Dr. Douglas Medin as a mentor. His research has focused on these four areas in particular.
    • Biomedical
    • Behavioral
    • Sensory
    • Cognition
    Other Roles: Here are a few of Dr. Stephen Edelson's additional roles in service to autism.
    Some Practical Conclusions:  I asked Dr. Steve Edelson to share a few practical things for the autims community that could make life better for those who have autism and those that love someone with autism. Here is a summary of that advice.
    1. Environmental toxins and autism.  Research supports a direct correlation between environmental toxins and autism. Dr. Edelson recommends Stuart Freedenfeld's free video from the 2011 Conference in Atlanta, "The Role of Environmental Toxins in the ASD Epidemic".   
    2. Absorption of food for those with autism. Problems in this area can cause people with autism to be prone to have gastrointestinal problems. Dr. Edelson writes, "There are many changes that might be made, such as eating organic foods, avoiding preservatives, food colorings and artificial flavorings, and trying restricted diets."  
    3. Sleep problems for those with autism.  Dr. Edelson says, "There are several safe and natural remedies that might be effective in improving sleep, such as melatonin and 5-HTP, and there are behavioral techniques parents can employ.  Dr. Edelson recommends a free workshop addressing sleep at the upcoming ARI Conference in LasVegas on October 13.    
    4. Training methods.  Dr. Edelson writes, "In many cases, the more stimulation provided to a person on the autism spectrum, especially when young, the better prognosis. This includes education, social skills training, occupational therapy including sensory integration, and more."
    5. Behavior problems.  Dr. Edelson writes, "I am often asked for advice on treating severe behavior problems. Effective interventions include teaching better communication skills and engaging in vigorous exercise."
    Global Autism Alliance:  Dr. Stephen Edelson continues to seek global partnerships in working with autism research. Here is a video of Dr. Edelson introducing the Global Autism Alliance.

    Autism Research Institute (ARI): The following are some key facts that ARI provides about their organization.
    • It is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization focused on conducting and sponsoring research aimed at improving the quality of life for today's generation of children and adults with autism spectrum disorders. 
    • It is the oldest autism research organization in the world with a data bank of over 40,000 case histories from more than 60 countries.
    • ARI promotes the understanding of autism via conferences and research, but does not endorse or reject specific treatments or professional services.
    Autism Research Institute Conferences:  The Autism Research Institute holds semi-annual conferences (on a Spring/Fall schedule).  The next one will be held in LasVegas on October 13-16, 2011. Following that there is one in the New York and New Jersey area on April 26-29, 2012. An ARI Conference provides the invaluable opportunity for the diverse members of the international autism community to learn about the latest research and its practical application and implications from world renowned professionals in various areas of autism work.  The Fall, 2011 conference will include Lisa Ackerman, James B. Adams, Melissa Olive, Vicki Kobliner, and Kenneth Bock and many others.  Lisa Ackerman was the featured Autism Light in this blog for August 31, 2011.

    The following is Dr. Stephen Edelson talking about a previous Autism Research Institute conference that was held in Atlanta, Georgia in the Spring of 2011.

    Social Media/Twitter: The following are two ways to follow Dr. Edelson, Autism Research Institute, or the ARI Conference on Twitter.
    Special thanks to Dr. Stephen Edelson for your tireless efforts to illuminate a brighter world of possibilities for those with autism.  

    Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

    Photo: Photos in this post used with permission of Dr. Stephen Edelson.

    Note: There is a Stephen B. Edelson, M.D., who practices in Atlanta, Georgia and also works with children with autism.  The two Stephen Edelson's are not related to one another. 

    This Autism Light post went into syndication at Autisable

    Recovering Autistic Children (Give Away)

    Update:  This give away is closed. Erin Mast is the winner of the book. 

    Autism Light is giving away the book Recovering Autistic Children to one lucky person.

    Dr. Stephen M. Edelson has graciously offered to give away a copy of the book he and Dr. Bernard Rimlund edited, called Recovering Autistic Children, to one of our Autism Light Blog readers. The giveaway is running from September 28 through October 11, 2011, with winner to be announced on October 13, 2011, the same day as the start of the Autism Research Institute's Fall Conference in LasVegas, Nevada.

    To Enter:   
    Win this Book
    • Send an email to with the nomination (s) of an Autism Light.
    • You will receive one entry in the drawing for each Autism Light nomination you make. 
    • Please state who you are nominating and a few words about who they are, unless they are a public figure who needs no introduction.
    • Feel free to nominate someone not well-known in the public sphere (i.e. your spouse or local hero).
    • You may nominate a person, an organization, or a resource who is a hero in and for the autism community. 
    • You may make up to 10 Autism Light nominations and receive up to 10 entries in the giveaway.  
    • You may make multiple nominations in the same email or submit them at various times during the the giveaway period (September 28-October 11.) 
    • Please do not nominate someone already featured in the Autism Light Index, as they do not qualify for an entry.
    To Win:  
    • A random drawing (picked by a 6 year old with autism) will be held from all entries received by October 11, 2011 at 11:59pm EST to the email of
    • Winner will receive a free copy of the book Recovering Autistic Children.   
    • In addition, to receiving the book the winner that was drawn may have their nomination for an Autism Light featured in an upcoming blog post. 
    Thank you for participating in the first Autism Light Giveaway.  

    Tuesday, September 27, 2011

    Curtis Maybin

    Autism Light #51 is Curtis Maybin.  

    Curtis Maybin is a software developer and senior systems analyst for QLogic Corporation. He lives in Mission Viejo, California and is the father of two children who have autism. Curtis Maybin is an Autism Light because besides being an autism parent, he is responsible for Autism News Wire--one of the top autism news websites on the Internet.

    Curtis Maybin is the founder and editor of the Autism News Wire. The mission of the site is to foster global awareness about autism. The Autism News Wire has special sections on Gluten Free, Research, IPad, and various geographical locations around the world. Curtis told me that he has about 2,000 people getting his weekly newsletter and Autism News Wire gets about 5,000 unique hits each month originating from 77 different countries.

    Curtis Maybin's role as a father of sons with autism has motivated him to do what he does through his Website. He told me that he started his Autism News Wire website two years ago as he was considering how to help his son, who has autism, and who is now 8 years old.  A practical resource that Curtis Maybin recommends for parents is called Parenting Journals. Here is a picture of his two sons.

    I asked Curtis Maybin what he considered the top news stories he has found across his wire and this is what he provided along with the links to read them.

    1. Connor Musk, who has Asperger's Syndrome, helped save a life of a 4 year old at a swimming pool
    2. Parents are finding answers to questions about autism on Facebook
    3. High School Football Team Gives Opponent With Autism a Thrilling Touchdown
    Connor Musk was designated an Autism Light on August 3, 2011, based on the amazing news story above that Curtis Maybin referenced.

    Social Media: Follow Curtis Maybin or Autism News Wire on the following social media.
    Thank you Curtis Maybin for being an Autism Light. Your dissemination of diverse news on autism is making a difference in educating and motivating the the autism community, including our global family of parents, grandparents, siblings, autistic individuals, professionals, and all those interested in autism. 

    Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

    Photo: Photos in this post used with permission of Curtis Maybin.

    This Autism Light post went into syndication on Autisable.

    Monday, September 26, 2011

    Dr. Daniel Openden

    Autism Light #50 is Dr. Daniel Openden.

    Dr. Daniel Openden
    Dr. Daniel Openden is Vice President and Clinical Services Director for the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) in Phoenix, Arizona.  Dr. Daniel Openden has received his Ph.D. in Special Education, Disability and Risk Studies from the University of California and was mentored by Drs. Robert and Lynn Koegel. Dr. Daniel Openden is an Autism Light because of his important role as a leading autism researcher and clinical services director who has focused on early intervention strategies and the role of parents in educating children with autism.

    In addition to his work at SARRC, Dr. Daniel Openden has the following special roles in autism research.
    He is also a founding Board Member of the Council for Autism Services.

    • In June, 2011, Dr. Daniel Openden received the Phoenix Business Journals Forty Under Forty Award.
    • In 2004, Dr. Openden received the CalABA Julie Vargas Award for original  research with his study, "A Systematic Desensitization Paradigm to Treat Hypersensitivity to Auditory Stimuli in Children with Autism in Family Contexts."  

    Speaker: Dr. Openden is also a frequent speaker at autism conferences and events.

    • He spoke at the 2011 National Autism Conference and the program at the 2011 National Autism Conference listed his research interests as, "parent education, professional development, positive behavior supports, early intervention, inclusion, and dissemination of service delivery models for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders."  
    • In 2010 Dr. Openden gave a presentation in South Carolina and wrote a news article on that speech.
    • In 2009, he was the keynote at the OAR Conference.  

    Research Area: The majority of Dr. Openden's work has focused on parent training.  He explained to me the importance of this strategic partnership with parent education in this way:
    I think it is important to recognize that parents can be effectively trained to deliver high quality intervention (in my work, Pivotal Response Treatment [PRT]) and make a positive impact on their child's symptoms. Parents are often our most committed group of people, and when provided with good training in evidence-based interventions, likely increase the intensity of treatment and improve outcomes. (Daniel Openden)
    Dr. Daniel Openden shared with me that in his opinion two particular professional studies by others have had the most impact on autism research.  These two are:
    Behavior Imaging Solutions: The following is the video of Dr. Openden explaining how they use Behavior Imaging Solutions at SAARC to help with early intervention strategies. Behavior Imaging Solutions is a system where parents upload video of children being taught to their Internet site and then trained therapists can access them and offer guidance on the intervention strategies being employed to improve specific behaviors with a specific child.

    Social Media:  Follow Dr. Daniel Openden on the following social media.
    Thanks to Dr. Daniel Openden for being an Autism Light. The research and work that he is doing to improve the lives of those with autism is making a difference in Arizona and beyond.  

    Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

    Photo: Photo in this post used with permission of Daniel Openden.

    This post went into syndication on Autisable

    Sunday, September 25, 2011

    Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts

    Autism Light #49 is the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.

    The Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts is an Autism Light because they have demonstrated a commitment and compassion for autism by creating a faith based program for people with autism called A Special Grace. This program is an excellent demonstration of inclusion for those people with autism in Massachusetts who want to participate in religion through the Episcopal Church.

    Services: A Special Grace is a religious program for people with autism and it is sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.  The program is hosted currently in the Epiphany Episcopal Church in Walpole, Massachusetts. On the first Sunday of every month at 2:00pm EST they hold a service and offer the Eucharist for those on the Autism spectrum and their families. These services take place at the Epiphany Episcopal Church in Walpole, Massachusetts located at 62 Front Street in Walpole, MA (directions are available at a link on their website).  Some of the features of the service outlined on this page of their website include:
    Transition Inclusion: A Special Grace also has a program to help people with autism to be integrated (mainstreamed) into the congregation.
    • They train volunteers to assist families with mainstreaming people with autism into the congregation.
    • They help adapt some of the materials for the better understanding of people with autism.
    • They train clergy on how to minister to the unique needs of people with autism. 
    Resources: Clergy involved in A Special Grace are available to offer workshops at the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts Congregational Resource Days (including one coming up October 1, 2011).  Some of the resources are listed on their website.  A Rhythm of Grace also offers a quarterly newsletter on their ministry.  The most recent one is online. To find out more about A Special Grace visit their webiste at

    Curriculum: A Special Grace uses a curriculum of the same name available from Church Publishing.  Audrey Scanlan and Linda Snyder are the author of this faith based resource for ministering to people with autism.

    Social Media: To follow A Special Grace via social media Like Rhythms of Grace on Facebook.

    If you know of other religious groups or clergy that are doing special things for people with autism please let us know and we will consider them for future recognition.  Email:

    Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

    This Autism Light post was mentioned in the CANadda Daily on September 26, 2011.
    This Autism Light post went into syndication at Autisable.

    Saturday, September 24, 2011

    Frank Nappi

    Autism Light #48 is Frank Nappi.

    Frank Nappi is a high school English teacher in Long Island, New York in the Oceanside School District. Frank Nappi is also an author who has written a unique fictional series where the main character is a baseball player who has Aspergers. Frank Nappi is an Autism Light because of the increased awareness of autism that will come from his fiction writing and a current movie based on the first book in the series.

    Author: Frank Nappi has written several fictional books. To order his books or find out more details on each book go to the book section of his website. His most recent writing is a unique sports fiction series where the main character is a fantastic pitcher who has Aspergers. The series includes The Legend of Mickey Tussler with the sequel Sophomore Campaign scheduled to be released in April, 2012. In addition, there is a third book in this series that Frank Nappi is in the process of writing.

    Reviews: The following are some positive reviews that have been written about this series.
    Movie:  Here is the trailer for the movie, "A Mile in His Shoes", which is based on Frank Nappi's book The Legend of Mickey Tussler.  The movie will feature a main character with Aspergers. This movie premiered on GMC TV on Sunday, September 25, 2011 at 7pm and 9pm and is currently available for rental in video stores.

    People who like sports fiction and also have an interest in characters with autism will fall in love with Frank Nappi's series.  The author's new offerings are anticipated with excitement by readers of the series.

    Social Media:  You can follow Frank Nappi at the following social media or Websites.
    Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

    Photo: Photo in this post used with permission of Frank Nappi.

    This post went into syndication on Autisable.

    Friday, September 23, 2011

    Phillip Demio

    Autism Light #47 is Dr. Phillip Demio.

    Dr. Phillip C. Demio is a biomedical doctor who serves as the Medical Director at the Whole Health and Wellness Centers in Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, but his influence is also felt nationally through his leadership of the American Medical Autism Board. Dr. Phillip Demio and his wife Joy have a son named Daniel who has autism. Dr. Phillip Demio is an Autism Light because his biomedical treatments for autism are helping improve the quality of life for his patients and he is a leading physician treating patients with autism.

    American Medical Autism Board: Dr. Phillip Demio is the founder, Executive Director and Chair of the American Medical Autism Board(AMAB). According to it's website, the AMAB is the "first organization to board certify physicians for autism treatment."

    US Autism and Asperger Association: Dr. Phillip Demio serves on the Scientific Advisory Board of the US Autism and Asperger Association (Source). In 2012 he received the Chairman Award of the US Autism and Asperger Association.

    National Presentations:  Dr. Phillip Demio gives presentations at national organizations and meetings. The following is a portion of a presentation Dr. Phillp Demio gave called "Redefining Autism".

    Practice:  Dr. Phillip Demio has been a physician for over 20 years.  He operates two clinics.  One is in the Cleveland, Ohio area and the other is in the Columbus, Ohio area. Information on his practice is available at his website at  Here is a news story that has been done in the past on Dr. Demio's work with autism patients.

    Treatments used by Dr. Phillip Demio address comprehensive needs of patients and include;
    • Brain
    • Gastrointestinal
    • Immune system
    • Metabolic/hormonal
    • Detoxification/chelation
    • Supplements
    • Compounding pharmacist
    • Special diets and nutrition
    His practice also uses other cutting edge treatments such as a hyperbaric medicine.

    Autism One Award: Dr. Phillip Demio received the Most Inspirational Doctor Award at Autism One's First Annual Gala & Awards Ceremonies in Chicago in May, 2011.  This is the highest award for a medical doctor. When receiving the award Dr. Phillip Demio said, "The patients and the families have the hardest job and greatest challenges. It is a privilege for me to be the physician helping them on their biomedical journey."

    A more detailed biography of Dr. Phillip Demio is available at his Website.

    Thank you Dr. Phillip Demio for being an Autism Light. His biomedical interventions are helping some individuals with autism.

    Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism. 

    This post went into syndication on Autisable.

    Thursday, September 22, 2011

    Brian Herritt

    Autism Light #46 is Brian Herritt.

    Brian Herritt and his son Brian
    Brian Herritt is a police officer with the Palomar College Police Department in San Diego County, California.  His son Brian has autism. Besides being a police officer, Brian works for Autism Risk and Safety Management and keeps a busy schedule as a consultant/presenter for autism conferences and local groups related to either law enforcement and the autism community. His expertise as a presenter is how to improve relationships and build understanding between law enforcement and the autism community.

    Morgan Cook wrote an article about Brian and said, "As an officer at the Palomar College Police department and the father of a severely autistic 8-year-old boy, Herritt has a special interest in filling what he sees as a significant gap in law enforcement training (Read Full Article)."

    Brian Herritt trains fellow officers on autism awareness and how to relate to the unique needs of people with autism in the course of their jobs.  He also trains parents and people with autism about how to relate to law enforcement. Brian explains his training like this.
    Not only do I go to cops and say this is what parents go through, I want to tell parents what cops go through. We are called in law enforcement, when people don't know what to do, and we are supposed to have an answer. The problem with autism is that cops don't know what to do (Read Full Article).
    More information on the autism training that Brian provides can be found in the following online articles.
    To contact Autism Risk & Safety Management with questions about one of Brian Herritt's presentations you can use one of the following contacts.

    Brian Herritt is an Autism Light because of his leadership in providing helpful training to police officers, parents, and people with autism.  Thank you Brian Herritt.

    Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism. 

    Photo: Photo in this post used with permission of Brian Herritt.

    This post went into syndication on Autisable.

    Wednesday, September 21, 2011

    Brian Rubin

    Autism Light #45 is Brian Rubin.

    Brian Rubin
    Brian Rubin is an estate planning attorney who lives and practices law in Illinois. He is also a father of a child with autism. Brian Rubin is an Autism Light because of his passionate advocacy for autism, and his concentrated dedication as an attorney to help educate and represent families of special needs children with estate planning.

    Parent: Brian Rubin is a parent of a 30 year old son named Mitchell Rubin who has autism. After Mitchell was diagnosed with autism, Brian decided to use his profession to help secure a better future for those with autism. Brian states on his Website the following.
    Since 1981, with Mitchell's birth, Brian's practice became dedicated to appropriate "Special Needs Future Planning" (SNFP) for his fellow Illinois parents and families of children and adults with special needs.
    Law Practice: Brian Rubin began practicing law in 1976 and in 2001 he founded The Law Offices of Brian Rubin & Associates. The Law Offices of Brian Rubin & Associates limits its work to helping families with developmental disabilities (such as autism) complete estate planning.  Brian writes on his Website,
    My law firm's practice is limited to serving my fellow families of children with special needs...not concentrated, but limited. That is all we do.
    Presenter: Brian Rubin gives regular public presentations which he calls Heart to Heart Family Educational Group Presentations.  He also frequently speaks at state and national conferences on autism.
    Board Membership: Brian Rubin's influence is felt publically through the numerous state and national boards he serves on related to human services and autism. His past and present work with dozens of diverse agencies are outlined in a section of his Website called "Who is Brian?". Brian Rubin has been appointed by several Governors of Illinois to serve on state boards related to human services and special needs and serves on on several boards of national organizations including the following:
    Social Media: You can find Brian Rubin at the following social media.
    Thanks to Brian Rubin for being an Autism Light in the often confusing world of special needs estate planning. 

    Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism. 

    Photo: Photo in this post used with permission of Brian Rubin.


    Tuesday, September 20, 2011

    Goldie Lauffenburger

    Autism Light #44 is Goldie Lauffenburger.

    Goldie is a Bansenjs mixed rescue dog who resides in Oklahoma. She is also companion to Joy Lauffenburger a high school senior with autism. The two have been together since Joy was 9. Goldie is an Autism Light because her companionship has aided Joy in being successful in life by improving her communication and engagement with others. This is the first time that Autism Light has designated an animal for it's award and it is felt that Goldie is deserving of the honor.

    Joy and Goldie met 9 years ago when Joy was trapped in severe side-effects of her autism and Goldie was down to her last days at the Bansenjs Rescue and Transport. Goldie was soon going to have to be put to sleep unless a home for her was found. Goldie found a home with the Lauffenburger's and she is now a certified therapy and service dog. What has transpired over the years between Joy and Goldie was autism light to Joy.

    Joy has benefited from her relationship with Goldie in many ways. Her communication, emotions, and self-confidence have bloomed since she found Goldie. Joy takes Goldie to presentations she makes at Bansenjs Rescue and Transport (BRAT) seminars, something that once seemed unimaginable. Although dogs from the generally aloof Bansenjs breed are not normally pegged for the task of helping someone with autism to open up, this relationship has been a success story.

    Liz Newton, President of the Bansenjs Rescue and Transport and a worker at a school for severely handicapped children said, "Joy was reluctant to speak. Goldie would accept whatever she said. That became very comforting for her."  For more information on the impact that Goldie has had on Joy see the article by William Hageman that appeared in the Chicago Tribune on June 11, 2011.

    Here is a video designed to showcase the work of Goldie's former home, the Bansenjs Rescue and Transport (BRAT).

    In 2009 Goldie was inducted into the Oklahoma Veterinary Animal Hall of Fame under the category for Companion. Goldie's nominating veterinarian Dr. Paul Davis wrote:
    Joy says, "Goldie has healed me." Goldie's unconditional relationship with Joy helped to open up feelings of empathy and love. 
    Joy says, Goldie helps me talk to strangers about my autism, she helps when I am in a bad place, and when I am scared or nervous.

    Goldie and Joy's story is also featured on the following other websites or blogs.

    Special thanks to Goldie Lauffenburger for being an Autism Light. Joy give Goldie a hug for us.

    Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism. 

    Photo: Photo in this post used with permission of Oklahoma Veterinary Medical Association.

    Special Note: If you enjoyed this post you may like the other Autism Light posts with the label Animal.

    This post went into syndication on Autisable.

    Monday, September 19, 2011

    Gianna Hitsos

    Autism Light Classic
    Updated on December 30, 2013.

    Autism Light #43 is Gianna Hitsos.

    Photo of Gianna HitsosGianna Hitsos is an 18 year old from Groton, Massachusetts, who has autism and is a senior at Groton-Dunstable Regional High School. Gianna has a gift for singing and acting. Gianna Hitsos is an Autism Light for her efforts to raise autism awareness through her singing and volunteerism.

    Gianna Hitsos said, "My ultimate goal is to become the first autistic actress on Broadway or sing in the Metropolitan Opera. (Lowell Sun Online, Autistic and Achieving. She's Proof, 4/18/2013 )."

    College Application Process: Gianna Hitsos is in the process of waiting for responses to her college applications and she as written a two part series on this life experience for Autism Speaks that you can read at these links.

    Here is a video of Gianna explaining her goal to raise autism awareness.

    Autism Awareness:  Gianna has had the opportunity to speak for autism awareness while in high school.  She has spoke at Autism Speaks meetings in the Boston area and has sung at Walk Now for Autism Speaks in the New England area.

    Singer: Because of a special program for autistic students, she was able to take voice lessons at the Boston Conservatory while in high school. Boston's NPR published an article on this program. She has also had the opportunity to sing the National Anthem at Boston's Fenway Park in 2013 (YouTube Video at Fenway Park).

    Here is a video of Gianna Hitsos singing "Allerseelen" with piano accompanist David Collins.

    Social Media: You can find Gianna Hitsos at the following Social Media.
    Thank you to Gianna Hitsos for being an Autism Light. We expect to continue hearing great things in the future about Gianna Hitsos as she shares her amazing talent with the world. Her musical success as an individual with autism is a treasure to the autism community.

    Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism. 

    Photo: Photo in this post used with permission of Gianna Hitsos.

    Sunday, September 18, 2011

    B.J. McKelvie

    Autism Light #42 is B.J. McKelvie.

    B.J. McKelvie is from New Brunswick, Canada.  He is a musician and a trailblazer in the Christian faith in Canada to people with autism.  B.J. McKelvie is a clergy, a worship leader, a song writer, and a parent of a child with autism. His son Riley has autism. B.J. McKelvie is an Autism Light for helping write a song labeled as the "Anthem of Autism" and for starting Canada's first church for people with special needs like autism.

    B.J. McKelvie has had a difficult past. When he was 20 years old he tried to commit suicide because of severe depression.  He credits God with giving him a new beginning after the despair of his past. The following is B.J. McKelvie being interviewed on 100 Huntley Street.  In this 20 minute video he discusses his personal problems of his past, his Christian faith, autism, his son Riley, and a popular song on autism that he co-wrote with Cathy Hutch called "I'm in Here".  In the interview Carly Fleischmann, who was the very first Autism Light and part of the inspiration for this series, is mentioned.

    Song Writer:  In 2008, B.J. McKelvie co-wrote the "Anthem of Autism", I'm in Here with Cathy Hutch. Cathy Hutch was an Autism Light on September 1, 2011.  Proceeds from the sales of the song will be used to build the I'm in Here Healing Centers for Autism. B.J. McKelvie has a dream that these centers will be residential treatment centers for autism that will be located around Canada. The following is B.J. McKelvie's YouTube video of the song I'm in Here which has had over 144,000 views. 

    In addition, B.J. McKelvie has written numerous Christian songs often classified as Christian rock and is a music producer. In 2008 he was named on of Canada's Top Ten Christian Artists. His first album released was an album on his faith called Accept Me As I Am. Accept Me As I Am can be heard on YouTube. Several of his songs can be heard on his YouTube ChannelHis discography of 22 songs are listed on his song section of his website.  

    Minister:  B.J. McKelvie founded the Family Circle Church in New Brunswick, Canada. This church is set up to provide a unique faith community that reduces barriers for those with disabilities and special needs, including autism, to worship God.  It is known as Canada's first church for special needs individuals. The following news story is about the establishment of Family Circle Church.

    Social Media:  You can follow B.J. McKelvie on the following social media.
    Thank you B.J. McKelvie for being an Autism Light. For more information on B.J. McKelvie visit his website at

    Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism. 

    This post went into syndication on Autisable.

    Saturday, September 17, 2011

    Lisa Carling

    Autism Light #41 is Lisa Carling.

    Lisa Carling is the Director of Accessibility Programs for the Theatre Development Fund in New York City. She has been instrumental in creating the Autism Theatre Initiative. Lisa Carling is an Autism Light because of the groundbreaking value that this accessibility to theatre will have for individuals with autism. This opportunity may unleash new heights in someone with autism who might otherwise not attend a theatre production.

    October 2, 2011 Showing: The Autism Theatre Initiative held the first ever autism friendly performance in a matinee of "The Lion King" at the Minskoff Theatre in New York City on October 2, 2011.  All tickets were SOLD OUT by early September, which has paved the way for future performances. To facilitate making this production autism friendly some adjustments were made to select sounds in the production and there will be three quiet areas established should children with autism need them. The Autism Theatre Initiative has also created a Social Story book and Resource Guide for this event which is found at the ticket services website for the Autism Theatre Initiative.  Lisa Carling said about evaluating this production,
    "We'll be looking at the dynamics of the audience, seeing if everyone is having a good time. We will want it to be a very welcoming, nonjudgmental environment." (Read Full AP Article)
    2012 Showings: Because of the success of first autism friendly performance ("The Lion King" showing in October, 2011), there has been a commitment to future programs by the Theatre Development Fund and they have announced two performances in 2012. These autism friendly performances will include:
    • "Mary Poppins" on April 29, 2012
    • "The Lion King" on September 30, 2012 
    The following are some media discussions of Lisa Carling's work on this project.
    For more information visit the Theatre Development Fund Website. Thank you Lisa Carling for being an Autism Light.

    Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism. 

    Photo: Photo in this post used with permission of Lisa Carling.

    This original post went into syndication at Autisable.  This Autism Light post was updated on February 10, 2012.

    Friday, September 16, 2011

    Laura Shumaker

    Autism Light #40 is Laura Shumaker.


    Laura Shumaker is a writer, speaker and a autism advocate. She lives in Lafayette, California. She is a mother of three children and her oldest son Matthew has autism. Laura Shumaker is an Autism Light because her writings and advocacy for autism are an inspiration to many.

    Author: In 2008, Laura Shumaker published her book, A Regular Guy: Growing Up with Autism. The book chronicles her families journey of acceptance and love as their son with autism, Matthew, grows up (he is now 25). It also presents a unique perspective of how siblings face having autism in the family. There are some excellent reviews of the book online such as the following:
    The following YouTube video was made to share about the book with family pictures interwoven throughout the presentation.

    On the next YouTube video Laura Shumaker reads an excerpt from her book.

    Blogger: Laura Shumaker writes often on autism related issues at the following places online.
    1. On her home blog at  
    2. As a contributor to the blog
    3. As a special contributor for the San Francisco Chronicle.
    You can also find an interesting interview conducted with her at Autism Wonderland (June, 2011).

    Social Media: To stay informed about Laura Shumaker you can find her at the following social media.
    Special thanks to Laura Shumaker for being an Autism Light.

    Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism. 

    Photo: Photo in this post used with permission of Laura Shumaker.

    This post went into syndication by Autisable.

    Thursday, September 15, 2011

    Roy McDonald

    Autism Light #39 is Roy McDonald.

    The Honorable Roy McDonald represents the 43rd District in the New York State Senate, which encompasses all of Rensselaer County and part of Saratoga County in New York.  He was elected to the New York State Assembly in 2002 and has served in the State Senate since 2008. His two grandsons, Jacob and David, have autism. Roy McDonald is an Autism Light because of his efforts in New York State Government to be a champion for autism awareness. Here is a YouTube video where Sen. McDonald gives a speech at the New York State Senate on Autism.

    Sen. Roy McDonald is the chair of the Mental Health Committee in the New York State Senate and he has been calling for for an Autism Bill of Rights, a Statewide Autism Council and Autism Insurance Legislation in New York. He also created the Saratoga County Autism Council.  According to his website, he sponsored legislation "to guarantee that informational booklets would be given to emergency first responders on persons with autism, so that they would be more adequately prepared to react in those situations."

    Here is a YouTube video featuring one of Roy McDonald's past campaign messages on autism.

    The following are some additional links to information on Roy McDonald:
    Thanks to Roy McDonald for being an Autism Light in the State of New York government.

    Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism. 

    This post went into syndication at Autisable.

    Wednesday, September 14, 2011

    Dr. Temple Grandin

    Autism Light #38 is Dr. Temple Grandin.

    Dr. Temple Grandin is probably the most famous person in the world who has autism. Dr. Temple Grandin is an Autism Light because she is an autism advocate through her speaking and writing, and the development of a movie that was created on her life with autism. She is also renowned in the field of Animal Science and sets an example for what can be accomplished by people with autism.

    The following YouTube video is a personal conversation with Temple Grandin done by Penn State University.
    Animal Science: Temple Grandin has earned her Ph.D in Animal Science from the University of Illinois in 1989. She is currently a professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University. Also, her livestock handling systems are renowned in the industry.  Temple Grandin's Livestock Website is very informative about this part of her life.

    Speaker: Temple Grandin is a prolific speaker at conferences and educational programs. The following is from Temple Grandin giving a presentation on autism at a TED Conference in 2010.
    Author: Temple Grandin has written books both on Autism and Animal Science. The lists of books that Temple Grandin wrote include the following.
    1. The Way I See It
    2. Animals Make Us Human
    3. Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships
    4. Animals in Translation
    5. Developing Talents
    6. Emergence
    7. Thinking in Pictures
    The best place to purchase any of these books is from the Book Section of Temple Grandin's Website.

    Movie: The movie on Temple Grandin was widely acclaimed. Clair Danes played Temple Grandin in this HBO made for television movie that won 7 Emmy Awards in 2010.

    Quote from Temple Grandin:  Dr. Temple Grandin said these insightful quotable thoughts about autism that have made it to the Autism Light Quote Page.
    • "The worse thing you can do is nothing." 
    • "Autism is an extremely variable disorder (Source)."
    • "If I could snap my fingers and be nonautistic, I would not-because then I wouldn't be me. Autism is part of who I am."
    For more information on Temple Grandin visit the following Websites:
    Temple Grandin's contribution to the autism community can not be overstated. She is truly an Autism Light and inspiration to many.

    Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.