Monday, April 30, 2012

Thomas Russell

Autism Light #191 is Thomas Russell. 

Thomas Russell is from Laurel, Montana. He is a 23 year old artist who has autism. When asked what it is like living with autism, Thomas replied, "It's not that different than living everyday normal life (Source)."  Thomas Russell is an Autism Light for his excellence as an artist with autism.

Thomas Russell graduated from Laurell High School. He is the son of Charles and Brenda Russell. He works in his family lawn care business and part-time at Subway. However, his true love and gift lies in being an artist.

Here is a sample of one of the amazing pieces of artwork that Thomas Russell did. This portrayal of the Autism Awareness ribbon will be sold to raise support for autism awareness and will continue to raise awareness when it is displayed by the eventual owner. It will also be added to the Autism Light Art Page.

Thomas Russell gave this advice to kids with autism, "Don't let anyone stop you from following your dreams."

Thomas Russell is very blessed to have his siblings Alex and Tara Russell and Anna Meadows in his life. Thomas's life motivated his sister Anna Meadows to become a special education teacher and she currently works with elementary students. Anna Meadows did a video project called "The Heart of Autism" for one her graduate classes on her brother's life that can be viewed on this link of his Facebook page.

Perhaps the best way to understand someone is to ask their mother. Thomas' mother Brenda Russell said, "Thomas is one of the coolest people I've ever met. He has an awareness--almost like an extra sense. He's the most compassionate kid I know. He will do whatever he can to help anybody (Source)."

To view Thomas Russell's work online you can visit his website at or his Facebook page. There was also an article done recently by The Laurel Outlook about his work called Living with Autism.

Special thanks to Thomas Russell for being an Autism Light. He truly has a gift to communicate through his art. We expect to hear great things in the future about his artwork.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The photos in this post were used with permission of Thomas Russell and his sister Anna Meadows.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Kathy Medina

Autism Light #190 is Kathy Medina.

Kathy Medina is from Clovis, California. She and her husband Glenn have three children, including a son with autism named Zack. Kathy was a Life Insurance Agent for 15 years with American United Life, and left that position in order to be able to home school her son Zack. She is the author of the book Finding God in Autism and has developed a fantastic website that compliments the book and offers around the clock spiritual encouragement to families living with autism. Kathy Medina is an Autism Light because of the lives that she has touched with spiritual encouragement in the face of autism through her writing and website.

Author: Kathy Medina is the author of the book Finding God in Autism. The book includes Biblical resources to help parents raise their child with autism that the author gathered in her study and in conversations with clergy. You can find an outline of the book on the front page of the website

You can purchase the book at her website for $9.99 plus shipping.  Group discounts are available. Kathy mentions on her website that 50% of the people who purchase the book later purchase an extra copy for a friend.

Prayer Book: Kathy Medina also has a 63 page E-Book available called Livin on a Prayer. For information on its content and ordering it visit her website.

Education: Kathy Medina is a graduate of Fresno Pacific Bible College (now Fresno Pacific University).

Website: Kathy Medina's website has rich resources focused on themes of her book. It has diverse spiritual resources that will encourage families with autism or any special needs with faith-based questions.

Home Schooling: Kathy Medina is devoted to assuring her son Zack has a good education. She started out by using curriculum from the Lovaas Institute. She has used  RDI (Relationship Development Intervention) curriculum since 2005 and is very pleased with the results for her son. For those considering home schooling, Kathy Medina advises people to consider if it meets their unique situation. Kathy says, "Home schooling has worked well for us. I can't recommend it to everyone. It is a great sacrifice."
Kathy and her son Zack
Diverse Treatments: Kathy Medina has tried several treatments in the past with her son, including the gluten free/casein free diet, specific carbohydrate diet, occupational therapy, speech therapy, supplements, IV Secretin, ABA, Son-Rise Program, hyperbaric oxygen chamber,  cranio-sacral therapy, AIT, Sensory Learning Institute, saunas, clay baths, and chelation. Kathy Medina told Autism Light, "We are still on the road to recovering Zack using the Body Ecology Diet, vital sounds listening therapy, the MMS protocol, supplements, horse therapy and RDI."

Church Life: Zack Medina attends Sunday School and the class at their church uses a curriculum from the organization Joni and Friends. Joni and Friends will help any church set up special classes for special needs students. 

Encouragement:  Kathy Medina offered this friendly advice to parents of children with autism.
I talk to many parents who are overwhelmed and discouraged by what they think is the future. I have found it to be much more productive to not look to far into the future but to focus on the present. I focus on what my child can do. I am grateful what he has overcome. I have found that if you do not control your thoughts your fears will be magnified.
Kathy Medina believes that parents need support in dealing with autism and that they can find that on a spiritual level.
I see many parents exhausting themselves trying to help their children. None of us were designed to go this road alone. Each of us can get God's favor. But to get God's favor, we must do our part and seek a relationship with Him.We need to ask our Almighty God for wisdom, direction and strength. If we seek God we will gain character, endurance, patience, wisdom and know unconditional love. We will become the people that God wants us to become. 
Special thanks to Kathy Medina for being an Autism Light and helping people with faith questions related to autism. For more information on Kathy Medina visit her biography on her website.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photos: The photos in this post were used with permission of Kathy Medina.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Gwen Rhodes

Autism Light #188 is Gwen Rhodes.

Gwen Rhodes is the principal at the Gonic School in Rochester, New Hampshire.  On Wednesday, January 25, 2012, a 10 year old student of hers named Andrew Brown had wandered away from the school into the nearby Cocheco River. Andrew Brown also has autism. Gwen Rhodes jumped into the icy Cocheco River to save Andrew Brown. Gwen Rhodes is an Autism Light for having the quick thinking to save a student with autism in an icy river, even though it meant putting herself at risk.

Gwen Rhodes was reluctant to be labeled a hero.  She said, "This is just something that was a circumstance and you did what you needed to do when the circumstance happened, but what we do every day is what makes people that work in schools heroes (Source)."

Gwen Rhodes may not want to be labled a hero but she is one to Andrew's father Chris Brown, who said, "She’s a hero to me and I’ve always said she’s like a second mom (Source)."

The following is a news story from the event done by WBZ-TV in Boston.

For more information on this heroic story view these online articles.
Special thanks to Gwen Rhodes for being an Autism Light for a student that had wandered into harms way. Thankfully we won't know what may have happened if Gwen Rhodes hadn't dived into the icy river after Andrew Brown. As the first school principal to be an Autism Light, Gwen Rhodes is representative of administrators who are diligent in their task of protecting children, especially those with autism and special needs.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Ban Ki-Moon

Autism Light #187 is Ban Ki-Moon. 

Ban Ki-Moon was born on June 13, 1944 and is from South Korea. Ban Ki-Moon has served as the Secretary-General of the United Nations since 2007. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon is an Autism Light because of his efforts to use his position to lead the United Nations to further awareness of autism around the world through it's member countries.

April 2 was adopted by the United Nations as World Autism Day in 2007.  On April 2, 2012, Ban Ki-Moon gave this year's message as Secretary-General. The complete message is at this link. In the message Ban Ki-Moon said,
The annual observance of World Autism Awareness Day is meant to spur such action and draw attention to the unacceptable discrimination, abuse and isolation experienced by people with autism and their loved ones.  As highlighted by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, people with autism are equal citizens who should enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms (Source). 
The following is a video of a speech Ban Ki-Moon gave in 2010 for Autism Awareness month. In his speech he talks about working with Autism Speaks.

UN Autism Stamps: On April 2, 2012 the United Nations released six autism awareness postage stamps and two special envelopes designed by artists with autism. The artists were recognized in a April 2 ceremony led by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon (Source). A press release on the stamps shares the inspiring autism stories of all the artists who designed the stamps.

Other Information: Additional online articles about Secretary-General Ki-Moon's advocacy for autism can be found here.
You can read more about UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on his Wikipedia page.

Special thanks to Ban Ki-Moon for leading the United Nations to take such a clear stand on the need to end discrimination against people with autism. These efforts are raising autism awareness in the international communities that follow the leadership of the United Nations. Ban Ki-Moon becomes the first Autism Light from South Korea.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The photo in this post is in Creative Commons of Wikipedia. It is attributed to Gobierno de Chile.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Charles Colson

Autism Light #186 is Charles Colson.

Charles "Chuck" Colson was born on October 16, 1931, in Boston, Massachusetts. He died on April 21, 2012, from complications of a brain hemorrhage. Some people have heard of him as a Special Counsel from 1969-1973 for U.S. President Richard Nixon. Others were introduced to Colson for his role the last 36 years as a leader and prolific author in evangelical Christianity and the founder of the organization Prison Fellowship. But not everyone may know that Charles Colson, the towering figure that he was, was brought to his knees in order to communicate with his now 20 year old grandson Max who has autism.

It was with vigor and enthusiasm that Charles Colson approached being a grandparent of a child with autism for the last years of his life. Colson has helped the autism community by talking publicly about how his faith was impacted by having a grandson with autism, especially as he witnessed the love of his daughter Emily raising Max as a single parent. Charles Colson is being named an Autism Light for the contributions he has made to autism awareness as a grandfather and as a leader in the faith-based community. Charles Colson was placed on the Autism Light Memorial Roll and this post updated, as he passed away the same day he was named an Autism Light.

Christianity: Charles Colson converted to Christianity in 1973. He served his prison sentence for his role in Watergate, and out of that experience he founded the organization Prison Fellowship in 1976. Prison Fellowship is the world's largest organization for prisoners in over 100 countries. Much of his writings are available for reading at the Colson Center website.

Awards: Charles Colson has received numerous awards. Two awards Colson received were the Others Award from The Salvation Army in 1990 and the Presidential Citizens Medal by President George W. Bush in 2008.

Author: Chuck Colson is a prolific author or co-author of over a dozen books about his life, faith and views of society from 1976 to 2011. His first book Born Again was published in 1976 and his most recent The Sky is Not Falling was published in 2011. The book Dancing with Max that he co-wrote with his daughter Emily is of a personal nature like Born Again. You can read more about Charles Colson's books and awards at his Wikipedia page.

Biographer Jonathan Aitken in his book Charles Colson: A Life Redeemed said about Colson:
With infinite patience and constant attention he has built a close and good relationship with his autistic grandson, Max. This private achievement has required more effort and more love than many of Colson's public achivements (Source). 
Jonathan Aitken also concludes that, "Colson communicates well with all his grandchildren, even though he is in some ways closest to Max as both a father figure and a grandfather (Source)."

Dancing With Max: Charles Colson wrote the introduction and epilogue to his daughter Emily Colson's book called Dancing with Max that was published in August, 2010.  Emily Colson raised Max as a single parent, making Charles Colson a father figure as well as grandfather to Max. One of the highlights of Charles Colson's family and ministerial life includes being given the opportunity to baptize his Grandson Max, who made a profession of the Christian faith. The following is Colson's weekly segment called 2 Minute Warning from September, 2010 where he discusses the book Dancing with Max. 

Although Charles Colson is a leader in the Christian world who has wrote dozens of books and spoke to millions of people around the world about his faith, he said that he continues to learn new things about God by witnessing the unselfish love demonstrated by his daughter Emily toward her child with autism. Here are two favorite quotes from Charles Colson directed toward parents of children with special needs.
  • "Watching Emily, and other parents of children with special needs, has taught me what it means to love in the biblical sense of the word agape (Source)." 
  • "Being the parent of an autistic child, or any child with special needs, requires a level of commitment and dedication that is impossible to understand unless you've been there (Source)." 
Here are some additional online information on Charles Colson's discussion of autism.

Social Media: You can interact with Charles Colson, his family, and work on his Facebook page.

Funeral: For updates on services for Charles Colson's check the Official Updates from Prison Fellowship.

Special thanks to Charles Colson for caring about autism and being a wonderful grandfather to Max. Your efforts are an example to the multitude of grandparents of people with autism, especially those that share your Christian faith.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photos: The photos in this post were used with permission of the administrator of the official Charles Colson Facebook page

Monday, April 16, 2012

David Myatt

Autism Light #185 is David Myatt.

David Myatt is from Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, United Kingdom. This is about 100 miles North West of London, 25 miles south of Birmingham and 10 miles east of Stratford upon Avon. David formed the Halo Driving School in Leamington Spa in November, 2011. David Myatt has Asperger's and one of the specialties of his business is teaching individuals with autism how to drive a motor vehicle. David Myatt is an Autism Light for being the visionary behind a program that can help people with autism gain greater independence through driving independently. 

Prior to starting his Halo Driving School (Leamington Spa), David Myatt worked as a Print Production Manager at Cranfield University. David describes the challenges he faced of being on the Autism Spectrum and learning to be a driving instructor this way:
The training was painful and near impossible for me at first, it wasn't until I was introduced to a trainer who is also on the spectrum that I really began to truly understand what was required of me as an instructor. I think this experience made me realise just how difficult a task learning to drive could be for some young people, and led me to specialise in teaching others on the spectrum. 
While neuro-typical individuals can benefit from the Halo Driving School also, there is a niche for autism under David Myatt's leadership.You can find information on Halo Driving School, enrollment, contact, and fees a their website at

Because of the specialization in training people with autism Halo Driving School and David Myatt receive referrals from a variety of autism organizations, including the National Autistic Society, Warwickshire County Council Service Directory, and the support groups "Special People" and "Autism West Midlands" based in Birmingham.

David Myatt offers this advice for people with autism that are seeking to learn to drive.
Many driving instructors here in the UK use "one size fits all" training systems for their pupils, the only variable being the speed at which the training is delivered. Clearly this can cause problems for many pupils on the spectrum, who often require the transfer of the necessary skills presented in a way that they can easily relate to. Try to find an instructor who has specific experience of teaching pupils on the spectrum, and get feedback from those pupils if possible. Specialist training is easier to come by now for instructors, one course of training in particular is "Revolutions" developed by Julia Malkin MBE which aims to give instructors a good understanding of the issues people with autism face when learning to drive.
Social Media: You can follow Halo Driving School (Leamington Spa) on Facebook.

David Myatt finds his work at Halo Driving School to be very rewarding and satisfying. He described his experience this way:
I think the most rewarding part of my work comes from finding a tailored learning path that works for each individual pupil, developing their skills, and then seeing them progress towards becoming a safe, confident, independent driver. So much is said about the struggles and difficulties people on the spectrum face, so seeing them show what they CAN achieve, with the right help and support, never fails to give me a buzz.
Special thanks to David Myatt for helping individuals with autism learn to drive. Although we know that each individual must put forth their own effort to achieve this goal in their life, it is truly a blessing that people with autism can turn to someone who can relate to their struggles as they learn this skill.

Other Articles: For other online articles on David Myatt consult these news stories.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photos: The photos in this post were used with permission of David Myatt.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Arizona Diamondbacks

Autism Light #184 is the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Arizona Diamondbacks are a Major League Baseball team based in Phoenix, Arizona. They were an expansion team that had their first season in 1998. During their 14 years as a team they have been very supportive of community charities through their Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation. One of the beneficiaries of their funding has been the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center. The Arizona Diamondbacks  are Autism Light for their assistance with Arizona autism programs as well as their hosting of an annual Autism Awareness game.

The Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation's top grant each year is called the Grand Slam Award. The Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SAARC) was the first ever recipient of the Grand Slam Award and in 2010 they became the first organization to win the Arizona Diamondbacks Grand Slam Award a second time. The 2010 grant is used for the SARRCs Good Deeds program for teenagers. The following video explains what the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center did with their grant.

The Arizona Diamondbacks or D-Backs as they are sometimes referred to won the World Series in 2001. Playing in just their fourth season, they hold the record as the fastest expansion team to win a World Series.  Kirk Gibson is the current manager of the team.

On April 20, 2012 the Arizona Diamondbacks will host their 5th Annual Autism Awareness Game. The event is sponsored by Autism Speaks, Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center, and the Arizona Diamondbacks. For information on purchasing a ticket to this special game visit this page of their website.

Social Media: You can follow the Arizona Diamondbacks on the following social media.
Wikipedia: You can also find out more about the Arizona Diamondbacks at their Wikipedia page.

Special thanks to the Arizona Diamondbacks organization for supporting autism. Their help has made a difference in the capacity of the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Anita Lesko

Autism Light #183 is Anita Lesko.

Anita Lesko is from Pensacola, Florida. Anita was diagnosed with Aspergers at age 50, and lived the first five decades of her life without knowing about how Aspergers impacted her relationships and life. Autism though has not held Anita back from working to help others. She is an anesthesiologist, author, speaker, trainer, and one of a group of leaders seeking to establish a mentor program for people with Aspergers.  Anita Lesko is an Autism Light for the important role she has filled in bringing awareness of autism through her writing and working to establish a program for mentors for people with Aspergers.

Anita Lesko is working with Dr. Tony Atwood and Craig Evans on a Aspie Mentor series. Craig Evans was Autism Light #178 and you can learn more about him at his entry on Autism Light. The first book is Been There. Done That. Try This!  In the video below Anita announces her book and also asks for the help of anyone with Aspergers to take her survey so the results can be used to determine the most relevant content for the series and give insight for the mentor program going forward.  The survey can be taken at her official website at

Anita Lesko announces "Been There. Done That. Try This!" The first book in the Aspie Mentor series.

In addition to her key role in the new Aspie Mentor series, Anita Lesko is also the author of Asperger's Syndrome: When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Lemonade, which was published in August, 2011. In November, 2011 Anita directed the DVD Born with Asperger's.  In the book she writes:
Asperger's syndrome is poorly understood by most people. In fact, many people in the medical and mental health fields truly do not comprehend the magnitude of the challenges that people with Asperger's face much less how to help them.
More information on her book is available on her website. Anita also appears in Chapter 7 of Dr. Temple Grandin's new book Different...Not Less.  Dr. Temple Grandin was Autism Light #38 and has her own feature at Autism Light that readers may enjoy checking out.

Anita Lesko was interviewed by Craig Evans at Autism Hangout and here is the video of that conversation that was released in December, 2011.

Asperger's Support Group: In 2011, Anita Lesko started an Asperger's Support Group in her community. She has 25 consistent members who range in age from 10 to 65 years old. Parents are also sometimes involved in the group alongside their children. Anita Lesko writes this about her experience:
I have been conducting my group with positive thinking and have really made a difference in so many of their lives. It makes me very happy, and it makes me want to do more, on a global scale, to help them live their best life possible.
Speaker: Anita Lesko enjoys speaking to others about Asperger's. She had the opportunity to speak at the Inclusion conference in March at the University of West Florida.

Profession: Anita Lesko received her Master of Science in Anesthesia from Columbia University in 1988. She passed her board certification for Nurse Anesthetists on her first attempt in December, 1988. She has worked full-time as an anesthesiologist for 24 years. In her role as an anesthesiologist she is assigned patients with ASD. Because of her experience as someone with Aspergers she is well suited to give special care for patients with ASD going through medical procedures. She dims the lights in the pre-op area, operating room, and recovery room. She also tells her coworkers in the hosptial to minimize touch, movement, and noise. Anita Lesk told Autism Light, "This is a very rewarding experience, because I immediately tell the patient and family in pre-op that I have Asperger's, and I've actually had mom's burst out crying and throw their arms around me that I'm going to be taking care of their beloved child with autism."

Special Interests: Anita is also a photographer. Inspired by the movie TOP GUN, she served as a military aviation photojournalist from 1995-2002 and had her work internationally published. During this time she got to fly in an F-15 fighter jet, a Navy training helicopter, and spend a lot of time with the U.S. Navy Blue Angels.

Future Plans: Anita told Autism Light, "I have now put my laser-focus on helping others with Asperger's Syndrome. Working together with Dr. Tony Attwood and Craig Evans, we are going to create the biggest Asperger Mentor system on the planet."  If you would like to contact Anita Lesko with any questions on her Aspie Mentor series, the related survey, or any other issue, she invites you to contact her at the email of

Special thanks to Anita Lesko for being an advocate for the needs of people with Asperger's Syndrome. The autism community benefits from having her efforts as an Autism Light.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

This post went into syndication on Autisable.

Photo: The photo in this post is used with permission of Anita Lesko.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Shinji Tejima

Autism Light #182 is Shinji Tejima.

Shinji Tejima is from Fukuoka, Japan. He works at the Showa Studio Automobile Repair Shop. Shinji built a very expensive motorcycle that is a replica of a famed motorcycle that was featured in the 1988 Japanese animated science-fiction movie Akira. Rather than let it sit safe in his garage, he is riding it across the country of Japan to raise funds for a Japanese autism support group called the Bokura Company. Shinji Tejima is an Autism Light for riding this special bike across Japan for autism awareness and to raise funds for an autism charity.

Shinji Tejima's bike is the only one of its kind officially recognized by Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo and it took seven years and cost $121,000 U.S. funds to build (Source). Here is a video of Shinji Tejima on his motorcycle trip that includes stops in Osaka, Nagoya, and on Shodo Island in Japan. Other videos can be seen on a YouTube Channel dedicated to the project.

Online Articles: Read more about Shinji Tejima at the following online articles.
Shinji Tejima is the first Autism Light from Japan. Special thanks to Shinji Tejima for raising funds for autism in Japan through this one of a kind bicycle. This project is certain to raise awareness for autism in Japan.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Image: The image in this post is in the Wikipedia Creative Commons.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

John Mikkiah Thompson

Autism Light Classic
Updated on December 14, 2014. 

Autism Light #181 is John Mikkiah Thompson.

On this Third Sunday of Advent we wanted to revisit the story of a Christian young man with autism who we first featured on Autism Light back on Easter Sunday, 2012.

John Mikkiah Thompson will turn 21 years old this week and is from Shelbyville, Indiana. He has autism and did not speak until he was age 8, but he is making a tremendous difference in this world through his Christian music that spreads the message of his personal Christian faith. John Mikkiah Thompson is an Autism Light for the awareness he brings to autism when he shares his outstanding musical talent and gifts of faith.

If you hear John Mikkiah Thompson sing it is clear that there is a lot of heart behind his words. The reason for this may be because the music came to this young man with autism before he had any words. And he credits this victory to the act of the God he praises and adores through his music.

John's father Grant Thompson said to Autism Light, "By the time John was 8 years old he could listen to just about anything and play it the same day. This is what the Lord used to "unlock" John Mikkiah Thompson's tongue. When he holds that Mic in his hand or sits down behind the piano, a Miracle takes place right before your eyes EVERY SINGLE TIME. All of the autism disappears and you would never, ever known that it even existed."

The following is a video of John Mikkiah Thompson singing his song "I Believe" on YouTube.

John's song, You Made Me Who I Am was written by his father Grant Thompson and a version of him singing this is below.

Past Awards: Dann Veldkamp of The Center Grover Community Newspaper describes John's experience on the stage this way, "Once John Mikkiah's talent was recognized his career started to take off. In 2010, he won the 'Shelby Idol" contest and swept multiple categories in the Franklin Fall Talent Contest. He appeared at the 2010 Indiana State Fair and formed the National Anthem at the opening of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May, 2011 (Source)."
At the Strand Theater: The following is a video of John singing at the Strand in Shelby, Indiana. He is introduced with the master of ceremonies reading a letter from his family that tells a story of how autism, music, and faith have been a part of John Mikkiah Thompson's life.

Not Giving Up: Like each of us in our own way, John Mikkiah Thompson continues to work at areas he can grow in his life and he is involved in ABA therapy for his autism. John offered the following advice for people with autism about finding success in life: Never Give Up and the Lord Will Help You!

Social Media: You can follow the work of John Mikkiah Thompson at the following social media:
Praise Band:  When not on the road performing, John Mikkiah Thompson is in the Praise Band at his church in Indiana, the Word of Life Fellowship.

Booking Information: John Mikkiah Thompson enjoys singing and sharing his songs of praise to his Lord whenever possible. If you would like information on scheduling John Mikkiah Thompson to sing at your church or event, please email him at

Special thanks to John Mikkiah Thompson for singing the songs of praise and blessing churches and community groups with his talent. We expect to continue to hear great things about his music in the future and how it is a blessing to thousands of people.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The photo in this post is used with permission of John Mikkiah Thompson.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Spotlight on the News

Spotlight #2 is Autism News.

Autism is frequently in the news because of it's global impact on so many areas of society. The autism community should welcome news stories on the condition, because it raises awareness and helps educate the public. There's nothing quite like free advertising. One can find some interesting studies and insight in autism news. However, not all news is accurate or helpful, but every positive has a negative.

Here's links to some of the latest headlines from a variety of diverse places and perspectives found at the time this post was written or updated. Any bias or agendas of the news writers are their opinion alone and not that of Autism Light.

There are a variety of resources to keep up on the latest Autism News. Here's a short list. Use your own judgment if they can help you in your autism journey. Autism Light does not endorse all news stories from these external websites.
Please leave a comment if you have other sources of Autism News. 

This spotlight topic was originally published on April 7, 2012. It will be updated as warranted.

The photo in this post is in the Creative Commons of Wikipedia.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Sara Winter

Autism Light #180 is Sara Winter.

Sara Winter is from Toronto, Canada. She is an aunt of a child with autism. She has spent over a decade working as a teacher's aid for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in school settings and serving as an aid to her 12 year old nephew who has autism. Sara is also a writer who writes on subjects that raises awareness for autism. In January, 2012 Sara Winter launched a social platform site for tweens and teens with Autism called Squag™ that she and her family had spent two years creating themselves. Sara Winter is a Autism Light for creating the unique Squag™ website to meet the special social needs of young people with autism and for being a writer, aunt, and aide, that shines a light for autism each day.

Here is a video that provides an overview of how the Squag™ site works.

Autism Light asked Sara Winter how Squag™ came to fruition.  She said,
We started Squag™ because we felt kids with autism were often underestimated in their daily life and that many environments weren't conducive to the way they communicate. Our goal is to give kids a safe place to be themselves, build original ideas and gain some confidence with the idea of friendship to take with them wherever they go.

The platform was named Squag™ because it was one of the first words of Sara's loved one with autism. "Squag" was one of his first words - his word for "square" back in the early days of his diagnosis and treatment therapy. The word reminds how far he's come and how far we know he'll go (Source)." You may go to to find out all about the Squag™ social platform and sign up.

One of the questions parents may have about Squag™ is how it keeps kids safe in contrast with the potential concerns by other social media sites. Sara Winter explained the security protocols this way:
The Squagpad itself (the parent/child communication) is a totally private experience. We follow strict privacy laws and just received our truste certification. For our launch of the peer-to-peer capabilities, later this spring, we are working with several special needs organizations with coded membership to ensure that everyone is safe. Parents are the members and hold all usernames and passwords. When they register, they will be taken through a proper application process to be considered. We will also require their credit card. Our staff will be moderating all of the activities and as well, parents will have transcripts from every squag session – all of their activities will be accessible right from their dashboard.
Social Media:  You may follow Sara Winter's work at Squag™ at the following social media areas:
Other Articles: Here are some other articles on Sarah Winter and Squag™:
Writer: Sarah Winter writes for the following sites and publications:
Advice to Parents: Sara Winter gave this advice on how aunts or uncles of children with autism can help parents and families with their special needs.
My advice is to do whatever you can to be a part of that child’s daily life. Do not wait to be told what to do or asked for help. Jump in and be useful. Facilitate nights out for the parents whose child has just been diagnosed. Babysit. Do dishes. Figure out what interests the child has and educate yourself. Find frameworks where you’re confident (for some it’s cooking, for others it’s hockey cards) and have that be the activity that you and your loved one go back to again and again. Our whole family is better for knowing and loving my nephew; he makes us all better every day.
Special thanks to Sara Winter for the devotion she has to her nephew with autism and for being the founder of Squag™.  We expect to hear great things in the future about how Squag helps young people with autism growing socially in a safe environment.

Related Posts: If you like this post, you may enjoy these others on people who founded other autism social networking sites. Like Squag each fulfills a unique niche'.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The photo in this post is used with permission of Sara Winter.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Karen Tuohy

Autism Light #179 is Karen Tuohy.

Karen Tuohy lives in Wilmington, Delaware. Karen is a special education teacher and a single mother of two adult children with autism. She is also a volunteer with Autism Delaware. Karen Tuohy is an Autism Light for her diverse efforts day in and day out to make the world a better place for children with autism and those who love them. Karen Tuohy is the first Autism Light from the state of Delaware in our ongoing search across the world for bright lights for Autism.

Education: Karen Tuohy received her BA in Psychology and a Certification in Regular Education, K-6 and Special Education, K-12 in 1980 from the College of New Rochelle.

Karen Tuohy with her two adult children
Teaching: Karen Tuohy has served as a Special Education teacher at Heritage Elementary School in Wilmington, Delaware for 18 years. The school is a mainstream school and the special education program serves children of a variety of disabilities. In 2000 she was named Teacher of the Year at the school. One of her roles in the school environment is to facilitate an after school sibling group for students who have a family member with a disability. In the group siblings are able to talk about issues that are unique to their lives while participating in social activities such as a game or art project. Karen Tuohy gives this advice to parents of special needs children about working with their local school.
As a special education teacher, I advise parents to remember that they are the best resource any teacher has. You know your child's strengths, interests, triggers, and what incentives will work with your child better than anyone else. Please share that information. It will make your child's schooling as successful and comfortable as possible. If your child needs an accommodation to ease his access to the regular education curriculum, please make sure that the accommodation is written into his Individualized Education Plan. This will ensure that the accommodation will be implemented across the school day and into the next grade.  Talking with school personnel about your child does not need to be adversarial. We all want what's best for your child. Go to conferences and IEP meetings with an open mind, and a list of what you'd like to see changed or implemented. You are the most important member of your child's team.  
Autism Delaware: Karen Tuohy serves as a volunteer for Autism Delaware and received their Outstanding Autism Delaware Volunteer award on March 30, 2012. Karen says, "My involvement with Autism Delaware began slowly as I realized how much they've given me and my children and it has been very beneficial to me and my children who are now adults. It has given us a supportive community that accepts us - blemishes and all."  Some of the volunteer roles Karen has filled include:
  • Working the Registration Table at Every Walk for Autism
  • Annual Golf Outing
  • Hosting the Weekly Bowling Event Throughout the Year
  • Helping with Bowling and Swim Practices for the Autism Delaware Special Olympics Team. 
The mission of Autism Delaware is "to create better lives for people with autism and their families in Delaware."  For more information on Autism Delaware visit their website at

The following video shares more about what Autism Delaware is doing in the state.

Karen Tuohy summarizes her advice to parents of special needs children in this way:
Being a parent of two special needs children has made me a better teacher and, yes, a better person. I've learned not to sweat the small stuff- when I do, I miss out on so many precious moments in life. To other parents of special needs children, I would advise to get invovled in their local Autism organization. At Autism Delaware, I was able to access resources, recreational opportunities, and social interactions for my children. Since I've been a single working parent for almost 20 years, with no immediate family in the area, members of Autism Delaware have been my sounding boards, my brainstorming team, my lifeline, in effect, my sanity.
Special thanks to Karen Tuohy for being a teaching light for autism and a hard working volunteer at Autism Delaware. The world is a better place because a kind and competent mother of two children with autism is serving as a special education teacher at Heritage Elementary School in Wilmington, Delaware.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photos: The photos in this post were used with permission of Karen Tuohy.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Loving the Blue Light

This year I changed the light bulb on my front porch so that my residence would participate in a small way in the global Light It Up Blue campaign. But I can't bring myself to take the blue light out and change it back to a white light. You see as a parent of a child with autism every day is autism awareness day. So I think I will keep the blue light.

The blue light is a more subdued light than a white light, but it is beautiful and different not less. It's kind of like a person with autism. A person with autism might not look like the majority of neurotypical people, but as a blue light they represent a beautiful and unique part of our society. 

Special thanks to Kerry Magro and Autism Speaks for leading this initiative. Here is a video of some of the world's buildings that participated in Light It Up Blue in 2012.

The world's famous buildings can't light it up blue year round, but maybe as parents we should keep the blue light outside our homes. Every time we turn it on we can remind ourselves that our loved ones with autism are different not less. And if you are driving around your town after April and still happen to see a blue light, maybe that home is a place where every day is autism awareness day. 

Occasionally we break from announcing a new Autism Light and provide a Special Post as we are doing today. Thank you for reading the Autism Light blog. Will you be tomorrow's Autism Light? 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Craig Evans

Autism Light Classic
Updated on December 27, 2015. 

Autism Light #178  is Craig Evans.

Craig Evans is a marketing instructor at Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount, Minnesota. When he met his future stepson Nolan he was inspired to create an amazing website and gathering place for the autism community known as Autism Hangout. Nolan has Asperger's Syndrome. Craig Evans is an Autism Light for all he did to help the autism community foster community, increase awareness, and keep abreast of the latest resources related to a diverse range of topics impacting autism.

Autism Step-Father: Craig Evans writes this about his stepson Nolan, who has autism.
I've always called Nolan my "Courageous Son"...partially for how well he faces his sensory challenges, but more so because of the unique person he is. Like his Mom, Nolan is a creative, optimistic, nature-loving human being. He's compassionate, bright, funny and one of the most incredible people I will ever know. Had it not been for Nolan, I would never have discovered this amazing population of people. My world has been forever changed for the better knowing autism. 
Autism Hangout: Craig Evans was the co-founder of Autism Hangout. Autism Hangout started on July 4, 2008 and closed operations on August 24, 2014. There were approximately 2,500 members comprised of teachers and professionals, caregivers, parents and people with autism who were able to share their thoughts and ideas about autism with each other during the six years that Autism Hangout was online.

Autism Hangout also provided a library of resources such as information on a variety of themes like autism apps, and the workplace for people with autism. Part of Craig Evans' resources at Autism Hangout includes creating videos of interviews he has with news makers in the autism world. This collection of 500 videos are still available on his YouTube Channel.

In an interview with Autism Light in 2012, Craig Evans chose for us to share here the following video on Lois Brady, a author and speech and language pathologist. He believes she is "a typical example of the extraordinary compassionate, humble, loving, and competent people found in circles of folks working with people on the spectrum."

Author: Craig Evans has written the following books

Words of Encouragement: Autism Light asked Craig Evans if he had any words of encouragement for the autism community. He wanted to share this: Learn! Share! Thrive! We can all help each other to find joy in living with autism. It's there.

Social Media: You can follow Craig Evans on Twitter @autismstepdad or on LinkedIn.

Special thanks to Craig Evans for using his gifts as a writer and innovative leader in technology to help make the world a brighter place for those collaborating on autism. We look forward to the future endeavors Craig Evans will undertake.

Related Posts: If you like this post, you may enjoy these others on people who founded other autism social networking sites. Like Autism Hangout each fulfills a unique niche'.
Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The photo in this post is used with permission of Craig Evans.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Bob and Suzanne Wright

In Memoriam
Updated on July 30, 2016

Suzanne Wright (Autism Light #177) passed away on July 29, 2016, after a 9 month battle with pancreatic cancer. Her obituary was released by Autism Speaks. This post will remain at Autism Light in her memory and as a tribute to her husband Bob Wright who was featured jointly with her. Suzanne Wright's name will be placed on the Autism Light Memorial Roll today.

Autism Lights #177 are Bob and Suzanne Wright.

Bob and Suzanne Wright have been longtime residents of Fairfield, Connecticut. Bob Wright is a businessman who is a former CEO of NBC Universal (1986-2007) as well as a former Vice-President of General Electric. In 2004 their grandson Christian was diagnosed with autism. After seeing the need for a national advocacy organization for autism, they co-founded Autism Speaks in February, 2005. Bob and Suzanne Wright are Autism Lights for founding the Autism Speaks organization that has touched thousands of lives by raising awareness of autism from the halls of Congress to the plains of the heartland.

The following is a video about Autism Speaks and the role that Bob and Suzanne Wright had in starting this autism organization.

Autism Speaks: Autism Speaks has been a critical part of the Autism Light blog since the beginning, but we wanted to wait for World Autism Awareness Day to recognize their founders. Over 25% of our previous subjects that have been honored on this blog in the past are in some way involved with or using the resources that are made possible by the leadership of this important organization to autism. One of the notable Autism Lights is Kerry Magro who was Autism Light #119. Kerry Magro serves on staff of Autism Speaks and was a leader of the "Light It Up Blue" Campaign in 2012.

According to the Autism Speaks website,
Autism Speaks has grown into the nation's largest autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.
You can access the multitude of resources from Autism Speaks on their website at On the website Bob and Suzanne Wright give a message to visitors that says, "We created this organization because of our grandson Christian and for the millions of children in the world just like him. Everyday they serve as our inspiration as we continue on our journey to find the missing pieces of the autism puzzle. Thank you for joining us in this pursuit (Source)."

The following is a video of the ceremony where Bob and Suzanne Wright received the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from St. Johns University on May 16, 2010.

Social Media: You can follow the work of Bob and Suzanne Wright and Autism Speaks at the following social media areas:
Biography Pages: You can read more about Bob Wright at the following pages:
Special thanks to Bob and Suzanne Wright for having the vision and dedication to found Autism Speaks in 2005. May Autism Speaks continue to shine forth as a light in the future and carry forth the work that Bob and Suzanne Wright started.. Light It Up Blue!

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.