Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Susan Boyle

Autism Light #329 is Susan Boyle.

Susan Boyle
Susan Boyle is a 52 year old singer from Scotland in the United Kingdom. Susan Boyle gained international fame on April 11, 2009, when she was a sensational success in her singing debut on Britain's Got Talent, where she sang "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables. After Susan Boyle's surprise debut performance, she went on to become a professional singer and actress. Her debut album was the fastest selling debut album of all time in the United Kingdom.

Susan Boyle revealed in December of 2013, that she had been diagnosed about a year ago with Asperger's Syndrome, a high functioning form of Autism. Susan Boyle is an Autism Light for how the sharing of her diagnosis of autism can help raise understanding and acceptance of autism by adding to the list of autism legends in the music field.

Here is the full clip of Susan Boyle's 2009 audition in Britains Got Talent. Notice how her amazing singing ability surprises everyone. This video version of that night has received over 141 million views on YouTube to date. I personally never tire of watching it again.
Susan Boyle told the Guardian regarding her autism diagnosis, "I was told I had brain damage. I always knew it was an unfair label. Now I have a clearer understanding of what's wrong and I feel relieved and a bit more relaxed about myself (The Guardian, December 7, 2013)."

In an interview with the International Business Times, Susan Boyle also said, "Asperger's doesn't define me. It's a condition that I have to live with and work through, but I feel more relaxed about myself. People will have a much greater understanding of who I am and why I do the things I do (International Business Times, December 8, 2013)."

The National Autistic Society considers Susan Boyle an example of the 'invisible generation' of adults with autism that went undiagnosed for years (BBCNews Scotland, December 9, 2013).

The following is a news story from CNN about Susan Boyle being diagnosed with autism. 
The Huffington Post: The Huffington Post spotlighted Susan Boyle in their December 12, 2013 article about influential individuals with autism called These 8 People Will Change the Way You Think About Autism and Asperger's.
Movies: Susan Boyle has appeared in the following films.

Music Albums: Susan Boyle's music is very popular in both the United Kingdom and the United States and has sold 14 million albums worldwide (International Business Times, December 8, 2013). Susan Boyle has produced the following music albums.
  • I Dreamed a Dream (2009)
  • The Gift (2010)
  • Someone to Watch Over Me (2011)
  • Standing Ovation: The Greatest Songs from the Stage (2012)
  • Home for Christmas (2013)
Her album I Dreamed a Dream became the fastest selling debut album in the United Kingdom. In addition, to these albums fans in the United Kingdom can hear Susan Boyle when she holds a tour of concerts.

Author: In 2010 Susan Boyle wrote the book The Woman I Was Born to Be: My Story.

Christian Faith: Several of the songs that Susan Boyle has given to the world on her popular albums are about the Christian faith. Susan Boyle credits her Christian faith for helping her cope with grief when she lost her beloved mother Bridget in 2007. She said, "That's what keeps you going. I have my faith, which is the backbone of who I am, really."(Christianity Today, November 17, 2009).

Website: To keep informed of the latest developments with Susan Boyle visit her website at www.susanboylemusic.com or you can interact with other fans at the Susan Boyle Fansite.
Wikipedia: You can find out more about Susan Boyle's life on the Susan Boyle Wikipedia Page.

Social Media: You can follow Susan Boyle on the following social media areas. 

Special thanks to Susan Boyle for being an Autism Light. We expect to continue to hear amazing things from her as she shares her gift of music and represents adults with Asperger's through her example and growth.

The photo of Susan Boyle in this post is in the Wikipedia Commons.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Louisiana Lights

The State of Louisiana is the home state of 4 Autism Lights. They include parents, and aunt, and a country music singer who wrote an autism awareness song.

 Louisiana Autism Lights

  1. Will and Lisa Clark are autism parents from Louisiana. Will is a retired major league baseball player. Their son Trey has autism.
  2. Geri Landry is an autism aunt from Lake Charles, Louisiana. Her nephew Joseph Sullivan has autism. She founded Autism Services of Southwest Louisiana. 
  3. Mark Leland is a country music singer who wrote the autism song called "Missing Pieces". He is from West Monroe, Louisiana.
  4. Vickie Nettles (1963-2014) is an autism mother from Lafayette, Louisiana who passed away in August of 2014.
You may reach all these posts by searching the blog through the "Louisiana" Label.

The map of Louisiana is from the Wikipedia Commons.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Tennessee Lights

The State of Tennessee is the home state of 8 Autism Lights honored in 6 posts. Tennessee Autism Lights include two musicians, a golfer, a young man with autism, and a landmark.

 Tennessee Autism Lights

  1. Belmont University Music Therapy Program is a undergraduate academic program that teaches students how to be professionals in music therapy and work with individual with autism. Belmont is located in Nashville, Tennessee. 
  2. Graceland Mansion is the home of Elvis Presley and is a Landmark in Memphis, Tennessee that participates in the Light It Up Blue campaign for autism awareness.
  3. Cynthia Joyner (1981-2013) is the Autism Mother from Chattanooga, Tennessee who died on July 20, 2013, from injuries sustained in an automobile accident. She was a volunteer with the Chattanooga Autism Center.
  4. Cliff Kresge is the Autism Father from Kingsport, Tennessee, who is a professional golfer. His son Mason has autism. 
  5. Brian Schnelle is a man with autism from Nashville, Tennessee, who graduated college from Trevecca Nazarene University May 2019. 
  6. Josh Turner is a star country music singer from Nashville, Tennessee, who let a man with autism named Logan Blade sing with him on stage at the Grand Ole' Opry. Both Josh Turner and Logan Blade were named Autism Lights in the same post.
  7. Jaci Velasquez is a Christian and Latin Pop singer from Nashville, Tennessee. Her son Zealand has autism. 
You may reach all these posts by searching the blog through the "Tennessee" Label.

The map of Tennessee is from the Wikipedia Commons.

Friday, December 27, 2013

North Carolina Lights

The State of North Carolina is the home currently to 10 Autism Lights, a football team,a football quarterback, 3 autism fathers, a musician, an autism uncle, a camp, a leader of organizations for special needs, and a psychologist.

 North Carolina Autism Lights

  1. Jason Allison is an Autism Father and the Assistant Coach at Appalachian State Men's Basketball program in Boone, North Carolina.
  2. Dwayne Ballen is an Autism Father and Sportscaster from Durham, North Carolina who wrote the book "Journey with Julian". 
  3. Dr. Brian Bowman is an Autism Father and a Medical Doctor from Cary, North Carolina.
  4. Rachel Groner is a co-director of Jewish autism organizations in Charlotte, North Carolina. 
  5. Jamie McMurray is an Autism Uncle and NASCAR driver from Mooresville, North Carolina.
  6. Cam Newton is the quarterback for the Carolina Panthers who showed kindness to a boy with autism in 2015. He is from Charlotte, North Carolina. 
  7. Johnny Orr is a Musician from Raleigh, North Carolina who wrote the song We'll Get By (The Autism Song).
  8. Carolina Panthers: An NFL franchise based in Charlotte, North Carolina who have reached out to some special fans with autism. 
  9. Dr. Eric Schopler (1927-2006) was a professor and psychologist whose work at the University of North Carolina helped lead to the growth of the TEACCH Autism program around the world. His home was in Mebane, North Carolina.  He is on the Autism Light Memorial Roll. 
  10. Talisman Camp Programs offer camping programs for individuals age 8-22 with autism. They are located in Zirconia, North Carolina
You may reach all these posts by searching the blog through the "North Carolina" Label.

The map of North Carolina is from the Wikipedia Commons.

Reader's Choice Awards for 2013

2013 was our third year at Autism Light. Here are the top posts and special awards at Autism Light from the year according to reader views. This is not meant to diminish the value of any of our posts or the subjects they reflect, it just reflects the one's that were accessed most.

Most Popular New Posts:
  1. Lorri Shealy Unumb's post debuted on July 29, 2013. This post about an Autism Mother, advocate, and attorney from South Carolina quickly made it's way into the top ten of all-time posts.
  2. A post on a boy named Ethan debuted on February 1, 2013. Ethan is the 6 year old boy with Autism from Midland City, Alabama who was held hostage for almost a week. During Ethan's captivity all new posts were suspended in honor of Ethan.
  3. Deron and Amy Williams' post debuted on March 30, 2013. This post is about an NBA player for the New Jersey Nets and his wife who are inspirational autism parents.
  4. Iris Halmshaw's post debuted on July 5, 2013. This post is on a 3 year old artist from the United Kingdom who has autism.
  5. Donald Triplett's post debuted on April 6, 2013. Donald is 80 years old and lives in Mississippi and is the first person diagnosed with autism.
  6. Spencer Timme's post debuted on July 16, 2013. This post is on an Autism Brother from Virginia, who has a special bond with his autistic brother Mitchel.
  7. Ethan Walmark's post debuted on September 16, 2013. Ethan is an 8 year-old musician/singer who has autism and lives in Connecticut.
  8. Dr. Bryan Jepson's post debuted on May 4, 2013. Dr. Jepson is an Autism Father and physician from Texas.
  9. Harrison Teuber's post debuted on July 3, 2013. Harrison is a 15 year old with Autism from Illinois who formed a business to deliver groceries to people in his community.
  10. John Schneider's post debuted on April 13, 2013. John Schneider is an actor (known best for starring in 'Dukes of Hazard') from California who is also an Autism Father.
Most Google+1's: Joel Manzer's post had Nine (9) Google+1's during the year. Joel is an Autism Father from Virginia and the editor of Autisable.

Most Popular Backlight: Scott James' post as Autism Light #30 returned for an encore appearance on April 4, 2013. Scott is a singer from the United Kingdom who has autism. Scott James' post continues to be a reader favorite since it's debut in the first months of the Autism Light blog on September 6, 2011.

Most Visited Memorial Post: Cynthia Joyner (1981-2013) is the Autism Mother from Tennessee who passed away on July 20, 2013.

Most Popular State Light: The Alabama State Lights has been a popular post to find all the Autism Lights from Alabama.

Most Comments:  A post on a boy named Ethan debuted on February 1, 2013. Ethan is the 6 year old boy with Autism from Midland City, Alabama who was held hostage for almost a week. During Ethan's captivity all new posts were suspended as the autism community went to prayer and waiting for a resolution.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Elaine Hall

Autism Light #328 is Elaine Hall.

Photo of Elaine Hall

Elaine Hall (AKA 'Coach E') is a former Hollywood acting coach and the Founder and President of The Miracle Project, a creative arts project for autism students in Los Angeles, California. Elaine Hall's son Neal Katz, who she adopted from an orphanage in Russia, is an adult now who has autism. Elaine Hall is an Autism Light because of how her vision and passion for The Miracle Project has taken positive action to shine a light for autism. Elaine's work is an inspiration to the entire autism community, but especially within the Jewish community.

The New York Times has called Elaine Hall the 'Child Whisperer' for her amazing gift as an acting coach. The Golden Hat Foundation website says this about Elaine Hall.
She has been the subject of articles in The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Jerusalem Post, among many others and has appeared on CNN, CBS News, Oprah Radio and NPR. Elaine has coached children on numerous TV shows and films which include Honey I Blew Up the Kids, The Flintstones, and Akeelah and the Bee (The Golden Hat Foundation Biography for Elaine Hall).
Autism Mother: Elaine Hall is first and foremost an Autism Mother who is dedicated to her son Neal Katz, who was adopted from Russia, all the while maintaining an ambitious work that helps other families. The following is an interview Elaine Hall did with Autism Live about her life with her son Neal and her use of the dramatic arts to join his world.

Elaine Hall on Labels: Elaine Hall uses the following illustration to break down the stigma of the high functioning/low functioning labels often used in autism. She says,
I don't believe in the labels 'high functioning/low functioning.'  We are all high functioning in things we enjoy and excel in - and low functioning in areas that we are challenged with.  If you put my son Neal in a noisy classroom with 30 children each clamoring  for the teacher's attention, Neal may put his hands over his ears, run around in circles and appear 'low functioning.' If you place him in the Santa Monica Mountains, he will lead those very same 30 children and the teacher on a long arduous hike with twists and turns that only he can navigate.  High functioning. Same with me! It's easier for me to write a script than to figure out how to copy, collate and where to file it.  I prefer to say, "needing different supports in different environments" rather than "high functioning and low functioning (Elaine Hall, Email to Autism Light, 12/27/2013).
The Miracle Project: The Miracle Project is a theater and film program for autistic children and their siblings and friends that Elaine Hall founded in 2004. The Miracle Project is best understood as a,
Multiplatform socialization program that enables children and teens with autism and other special needs to express themselves through music, dance, acting, story, and writing. ALL children of ALL abilities grow in skill and in spirit while creating and performing in original musicals (The Miracle Project Website).
You can read more about The Miracle Project on their website or their Wikipedia page. Here is the trailer to The Miracle Project.

The Miracle Project Judaica: Elaine Hall has been a wonderful advocate for autism within the Jewish community and she also founded The Miracle Project Judaica in 2011 to offer an inclusive Jewish based theater group for special needs children, including those with autism. The Miracle Project Judaica offers resources for education in the Jewish community, including instructions for a multi-sensory, individualized Bar/Bat Mitzvah for those with special needs.

The Miracle Project Judaica was selected by the prestigious Slingshot Fund naming The Miracle Project Judaica as one of the top 18 Jewish organizations in North America fostering inclusion (Slingshotfund: Disabilities & Inclusion Supplement, 2013/2014).  Here is Elaine Hall explaining about how The Miracle Project Judaica is enriching the Jewish autism community.
Autism: The Musical: The HBO Documentary on the Miracle Project was called Autism: the Musical. Premiering in 2007, Autism: The Musical was written by Tricia Regan and won two Emmy awards. More information on the film is at their website at www.autismthemusical.com or on the Wikipedia Page for Autism: The Musical. You can watch a video of Autism: The Musical on YouTube.

Author: Elaine Hall is the author of the book Now I See the Moon: A Mother, A Son, and the Miracle of Autism, which is her memoir and was published in 2010. You can purchase her book from the publisher HarperCollins PublishersNow I See the Moon received praise from two other Autism Lights.

Elaine Hall is also the co-author along with Diane Isaacs of Seven Keys to Unlock Autism: Making Miracles in the Classroom, written in 2012. This book offers help in how to make meaningful connections with children with autism.

Blogger: You can read articles written by Elaine Hall at the following links.

Website: If you want to learn more about Elaine Hall's ongoing work you can check out her website called Coach E on Autism.

Elaine Hall on Empathy: Elaine Hall believes individuals with autism have empathy and she explains what she means in this way,
Some people say that individuals with autism lack in empathy and emotion.  I find the exact opposite to be true.  My friends, students, colleagues with autism are some of the most sensitive people I have ever had the privilege to know.  They may show their affection in different ways than neurotypicals do i.e. my son might smell someone he favors, or will touch someone's shoulder to show he cares.  But the sensitivity is there (Elaine Hall, Email to Autism Light, 12/27/2013).

Social Media: You can follow Elaine Hall on the following social media.
Speaker: Elaine Hall is available for speaking on autism to groups. For more information you can find contact information for her on her website. She is also is involved in speaker's bureau's including:
World Autism Day-2013: Elaine Hall spoke at the United Nations for World Autism Day in 2013. A clip of her speech is available in a news story at the Vista Del Mar website.

Special thanks to Elaine Hall for being an Autism Light. Her leadership in The Miracle Project and as a writer, autism mother, and autism advocate is an inspiration to the autism community. Elaine's special projects for the Jewish community serve as an inspiration to those within that community who have autism or special needs.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

The photo in this post is used with permission of Elaine Hall.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Autism Light #327 is Kidzcare.

Kidzcare is a non government organization that created the world's first autistic choir comprised of children from the Autism Society of Malaysia. The choir performed at the Dewan Fiharmonik Petronas, Kuala Lumpur on June 28, 2010, in order to raise awareness of autism in their homeland. Kidzcare is an Autism Light for how their leadership with this autistic choir helped raise awareness of autism in Malaysia. Kidzcare becomes the first Autism Light to come out of Malaysia.

The choir's hours of practice were in preparation for a successful performance in front of dignitaries and officials at Dewan Fiharmonik PETRONAS on June 28, 2010, that included as honored guest the Prime Minister of Malaysia's wife, Datain Paduka Seri Rosmah Mansor.  Brian John Yim wrote a song for the choir and directed the 25 member choir through six months of practice. The following is a video of the song the autistic choir sang called, Show Me the Way.

Adam Feinstein explains this about the history of Kidzcare:
Kidzcare, a non-profit, non-governmental organisation, was started in 2010 by a group of individuals interested in helping children in need, and a desire to make Malaysia known as a caring country for kids. They recognised that there were inadequate facilities for children with disabilities in Malaysia and that they could make a positive difference to the lives of Malaysian children who have some form of disability (Adam Feinstein, 'World's First Autistic Choir' Formed, Looking Up, Volume 5, No. 4).

The advertising company Lowe & Partners sponsored the project as part of their 50th Anniversary. The following is a documentary on autism in Malaysia and the achievement of the Kidzcare autistic choir to raise awareness among corporate and government leaders in Malaysia.

Mike Plascow, Kidzcare Foundation's founder said, “The choir demonstrated that people with learning disabilities are gifted and it is a matter of giving them opportunities to realise their full potential (Adam Feinstein, 'World's First Autistic Choir' Formed, Looking Up, Volume 5, No. 4)."

For more information on the autistic choir of Kidzcare read Adam Feinstein's article 'World's First Autistic Choir' Formed in Looking Up, Volume 5, No. 4). Adam Feinstein was Autism Light #321.
Special thanks to Kidzcare for organizing the world's first autistic choir. We honor Kidzcare in this post, and also recognize that the choir could not have happened without the collaberation of many entities such as The Autism Society of Malaysia, Lowe & Partners, Brian John Yim, and Mike Plascow. The acomplishment of this choir is a testimony in Malaysia and to all of the autism community around the world about the potential of children with autism.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Kmart in Bateau Bay

Autism Light #326 is the Kmart in Bateau Bay.

The Kmart in Bateau Bay, Australia is a discount department store.  The Kmart in Bateau Bay is located in the Bateau Bay Square, which was built in 1984. Kmart in Bateau Bay is an Autism Light because they replaced some Christmas gifts that were stolen from an autism family who bought them at their store.

Jenny O'Donnell is a single mother who had purchased some Christmas gifts on layaway for her two children. She has a daughter Eliza and a son named Connor who is 15 and has autism. Connor's gifts included a popular Skylanders toy and some DVDs.

Jenny O'Donnell had paid for the items at layaway but then left them at the check-out counter when she purchased some other items. When she returned to get them they had been taken.

Mike Charlton, the store manager of the Kmart in Bateau Bay, said, "It was very unfortunate that this should happen. Christmas is about making people happy (Kmart replaces Christmas gifts stolen from autistic teenager, The Telegraph, December 23, 2013)."   After hearing of her loss Mike Charlton decided that his Kmart store would replace the Christmas gifts that Jenny O'Donnell lost at the checkout counter.

Special thanks to the Kmart in Bateau Bay, Australia for setting an example for other businesses in kindness toward autism families. The generosity of this business made a difference in Jenny O'Donnell's family and is an inspiration at this time of the year.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Chris Koru

Autism Light #325 is Chris Koru.

Chris Koru is a truck driver for UPS in Wichita Falls, Texas. On Friday, December 20, 2013, he helped police find a missing teen with autism named Robert Adams. Chris Koru is an Autism Light for his quick thinking that helped find a missing teen with autism, potentially preventing a tragedy.

17 year old Robert Adams was reported missing by his parents on December 20, 2013, at about 2:00pm. Law enforcement mobilized and had been trying to find this missing boy with autism for three hours. Chris Koru was making a delivery in the area of Cunningham Elementary School that afternoon and he noticed Robert Adams walking in the neighborhood. A few minutes later he took a break and checked the weather on the Texomas Homepage App for KFDX on his mobile smart phone. On the app he noticed an alert that there was a missing austic child and recognized the photo as that of the boy he had seen walking around on his route. He then notified police who were already searching for Robert Adams of the boys location, and he kept an eye on Robert's whereabouts until police arrived (Driver Locates Missing Teen With Autism, Texomas Homepage, 12/20/2013). 
The following is a news story that KFDX did on Chris Koru helping find Robert Adams.
Special thanks to Chris Koru for being alert and helping find Robert Adams when he was missing. Wandering is a safety issue for individuals with autism and Chris Koru's quick thinking might have prevented a tragedy.  It is inspiring to hear of workers like Chris Koru, who become Autism Light unexpectedly in the the midst of their everyday routine at work. 

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Natalie Palumbo

Autism Light #324 is Natalie Palumbo.

Autism Light 324 Natalie PalumboPhoto of Natalie and Anthony Palumbo

Natalie Palumbo is 19 years old, and a college student at Ringling College of Art and Design in Florida. Her home is in Columbia, South Carolina. Her older brother Anthony has low-verbal autism. As a sibling of an individual with autism, Natalie takes very seriously a responsibility to care for her brother over his lifespan and she is a natural advocate for autism. Natalie currently serves as the sibling voice for the Age of Autism web newspaper. Her relationship with Anthony is an inspiration to other autism siblings and families. Natalie Palumbo is an Autism Light for the difference she is making in the life of her brother who has autism and how her creative art and writing encourages the greater autism community.

Artist: Natalie just successfully completed her first semester at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida with an A average. She hopes to work in visual effects in film and animation. Natalie became interested in art at an early age, because drawing helped her cope with the isolation imposed by autism and was the only way she could communicate with her brother. Some of her artistic achievements already include:
  • In 5th grade she was recommended to competitive fine arts programs.
  • Natalie won several regional, state, and national awards for traditional, digital, and mixed media pieces.
  • In 9th grade, she won the Nevitt award for “Most Outstanding Art Student” after completing all four years of Tri-District Arts Consortium in Lexington County.
  • In 11th grade, she created an art piece called “NOT Born This Way”, which featured her brother Anthony in a significant way. She expressed her concern for the growing numbers of people diagnosed with autism, and how society is unprepared to deal with this increase. This concern was the subject of her senior thesis.
  • Her PSA for Age of Autism took 1st Place in the PSA Category at the Notre Dame High School National Film Festival in the Spring of 2013.
Here is the Public Service Announcement that Natalie Palumbo created on autism awareness for Age of Autism in the Notre Dame High School National Film Festival.

Here is a news story done on Natalie Palumbo and her relationship with her brother in October of 2012.

Natalie Palumbo offered this perspective to Autism Light on finding a cure for autism.
Growing up, those who thought of autism only as a verbal condition criticized me for wanting a cure for my brother. They actually asked me,
“If you love your brother so much, why do you want a cure?”
They did not understand how Anthony’s low-verbal autism made him vulnerable to danger, and how lack of communication limits his life. Anthony will need lifetime care. I feel it’s important to identify the cause of autism to prevent it as well as treat it. Some people with autism are gifted and verbal, but only represent about 30% of the spectrum. I responded to criticism by saying…  
“If you can argue against a cure, you don’t need one. For those without a voice, we can never stop fighting for a cure. We cannot neglect the many for the exceptional gifts of the few.”

Age of Autism: The Age of Autism is a Daily Newspaper on the Autism Epidemic that is Edited by Dan Olmsted, Kim Stagliano, and Mark Blaxill. Natalie Palumbo serves as the Sibling Voice for Age of Autism. Her writing on this daily web newspaper on autism is having a significant impact. You can access the over 20 posts she has written through her page on Age of Autism.  Some of her favorite posts include:

Autism Light asked Natalie how her relationship with a brother with autism impacts her life and she said this:
Anthony keeps me young. He is immune to the world’s negativity. It
is a blessing and a curse for me. Anthony is unaware when people
are intolerant, so I hurt for the both of us. It does comfort me that he
is unaware of people’s ability to be cruel. I can escape into his world
where our childhood is never-ending. He still thinks of me as 6 and
him as 9. Anthony acknowledges that I’m in college, but his interaction
with me remains frozen in time. Anthony speaks in chunk phrases from
his echolalia. He will repeat a phrase, and change certain words to
suit his message. This is how he copes with having no conversational
speech. This results in funny phrasing that we call “Anthonyisms”. I
started a Tumblr at the suggestion of one of my friends who enjoyed the
Anthonyisms as my Facebook statuses. Anthony inspires my art. He is
highly visual to compensate for being low verbal. I focus on whatever
captures Anthony’s attention. I try to see the world through Anthony’s eyes.

Social Media: You can follow Natalie Palumbo's work on the following social media areas.

Here is a video of Natalie and Anthony dancing to a light hearted song together.

Being Anthony’s only sibling, Natalie anticipates being his caregiver one day when her parents are no longer able. Special thanks to Natalie Palumbo for being an Autism Light as a sibling voice for autism. Her thoughts challenge the autism community to listen to autism siblings to make sense of the puzzle of autism. We look forward to continuing to hear about the great things Natalie will do in the future to raise awareness for autism.

If you enjoyed this post you may wish to read about the other Autism Lights with the label Siblings. These people share the special perspective in their story of having a sibling with autism.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

The photos of Natalie Palumbo with her brother Anthony in this post were used with permission of Natalie Palumbo.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Bob and Dreama Denver

Autism Light #323 is Bob and Dreama Denver.

Bob Denver was the comic actor who starred in the sitcom Gilligan's Island. Bob Denver died on September 2, 2005, from cancer. Bob Denver was an autism father who quietly spent the last two decades of his life caring for his autistic son Colin. Bob's widow Dreama Denver is an author, speaker, runs The Denver Foundation and Little Buddy Radio, and continues to care for the couple's son Colin Denver. Bob and Dreama Denver are Autism Lights because of how their devotion to their son and their journey with autism has increased autism awareness. In addition, Bob Denver will be placed on the Autism Light Memorial Roll today.

Actor: Bob Denver starred as Gilligan in the popular sitcom Gilligan's Island which originally aired from 1964-1967.  Bob Denver also starred as Maynard G. Krebs in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, which aired from 1959-1963. You can read more about Bob Denver's career at Bob Denver's IMDb Page or the Wikipedia Page of Bob Denver. Bob Denver was not wealthy as he was only paid for the original shows he did and had no residual income from the numerous years of syndication and reruns of his beloved shows.

Autism Father: Dreama Denver shared with Fox411's Pop Tarts column about Bob Denver as an autism father.
I wanted the fans to know who he really was because he was a special, special man, especially when dealing with our son Colin, who has severe autism. I thought it was important to tell people that he set aside the last 21 years of his life to be with me and take care of our son, who had to have full-time care, [because he] didn't want me to do it alone. That speaks to the type of human being he was...He was highly intelligent, and I think that is the most surprising thing about him. He was extremely intelligent, and that didn't always come across in the characters that he played (Fox News, Wife of Late Bob Denver Says, 11/15/2012)

Little Buddy Radio: Bob and Dreama Denver founded Little Buddy Radio that provides a variety of music that comes from different decades of history. Dreama Denver continues to manage Little Buddy Radio. You can listen to the radio station online.

Foundation: Bob and Dreama Denver established The Denver Foundation in honor of their son Colin who has autism. The foundation operates in West Virginia and has a partnership with ResCare to meet the needs of special needs families in the community. You can learn more about The Denver Foundation at www.bobdenver.com/the-denver-foundation.  The following is a video where Dreama Denver reflects on Bob Denver.

Author: In September, 2012, Dreama Denver published Gilligan's Dreams: The Other Side of the Island. The book shows people that Bob Denver loved in his life and includes a discussion of his relationship wth his autistic son Colin.

Autism Mother: Dreama Denver encourages other autism mothers and widows who are caring for children with autism alone while she promotes her book on her family. She said, "Even when you get a heartbreaking diagnosis for your child -- and even when you lose the person in your life who is everything to you and shares the load with you -- that you can survive. It really is a book about hope and survival and mainly about making commitments and keeping them (WDTV.com, Wife of Deceased Actor Shares Her Story, 4/13/2013)."

Special thanks to Bob and Dreama Denver for being a light for autism. The autism community is grateful for the light of Bob and Dreama Denver and for the courage of Dreama Denver as an autism mother who continues to make a difference for autism without the support she once had of her husband Bob Denver.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Susan Dunne

Autism Light #322 is Susan Dunne.

Susan Dunne was an autism mother and autism advocate who lived in Lixnaw in North Kerry, Ireland. Susan Dunne was the mother of 3 and her adult son Patrick has autism. Susan was known in the autism community for being the chairwoman of the Kerry Branch of Irish Autism Action (Autism Ireland). Susan Dunne was found tragically murdered in her home on Wednesday, November 27, 2013, and her autistic son Patrick has been charged with his mother's murder (The Irish Times, Nov. 29, 2013). Susan Dunne is an Autism Light for her devotion as an autism mother and for her tireless work for Autism in her community in Ireland. Susan Dunne will be placed on the Autism Light Memorial Roll today.

Mother: Susan Dunne was involved in autism advocacy in her community but she was first and foremost the carer for her autistic son Patrick.
Autism Ireland: Susan Dunne became the chairperson of the Kerry Chapter of Irish Autism Action in 2009. She provided leadership and passion for the work of the Kerry Autism group. "As well as organizing and chairing Kerry Autism Action's monthly support group meetings and regular coffee mornings, Susan organised autism conferences, information stands and workshops, fundraisers and fun events for all families in Kerry that have a child with autism, even setting up Kerry's first sensory friendly cinema club (Independent, Man Charged Over Susan Dunne's Murder, 11/28/2013)."

Domnick Walsh a spokesperson for Kerry Autism Action paid this tribute to Susan Dunne:
Susan was a kind, caring, selfless lady and an inspiration to all and made a lasting impression on everyone she came in contact with. In addition to her tremendous voluntary work with Kerry Autism Action, Susan also volunteered with other charities for special needs. She was an invaluable source of guidance, support and encouragement to many special needs families. Susan was always willing to help or lend a listening ear when needed. She dedicated her life to helping others and in doing so touched the lives of so many people (Independent, Man Charged Over Susan Dunne's Murder, 11/28/2013.
Susan Dunne had planned to visit a parent whose child had been diagnosed with autism on the night of November 27, 2013, but she was unable to keep that appointment because of the tragedy (Irish Examiner, Tributes to Selfless Lady and Relentless Autism Activist Found Dead in Her Home, 11/29/2013).

There is no way to make sense of Susan Dunne's untimely departure. It is hoped that Susan Dunne's life and legacy will encourage others to become advocates for autism in Ireland and around the world. Our thoughts and prayers are with Susan Dunne's family and community in this time of great loss.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Adam Feinstein

Autism Light #321 is Dr. Adam Feinstein.

Adam Feinstein is an autism researcher, author, and journalist who lives in London, England in the United Kingdom. Adam Feinstein's 20 year old son Johnny, who has autism, inspired him to enter the field of autism research almost two decades ago. Today Adam Feinstein is a recognized international leader in autism with his influence being felt far beyond his homeland in the United Kingdom. Dr. Adam Feinstein is an Autism Light for being a leading researcher on autism and helping the autism community understand autism through contemporary research and analysis of the history of those who have contributed to the cause of autism.  

The following is a two part interview that Alison Singer of the Autism Science Foundation conducted with Dr. Adam Feinstein at the International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) in 2010. 


Autism Cymru: Adam Feinstein works for Wales' National Charity for Autism called Autism Cymru. His duties at Autism Cymru include two very important roles:
  • Website Editor: He serves as the editor of the Autism Cymru websites called Awares and Autism Connect. These websites have a vast resource of information on diverse subjects in the field of autism. 
  • Conference Organizer: Dr. Adam Feinstein leads an annual international online autism conference for Awares. A unique feature of this conference is that anyone from around the world may pose questions directly to top autism experts who are involved in the conference. Dr. Adam Feinstein said, "More than sixty of the world's leading autism experts --including Simon Baron-Cohen, Gary Mesibov, Donna Williams, Wendy Lawson, Susan Leekam and Susan Folstein--have taken part (Introducing Myself, Adam Feinstein)." 
Newsletter: Dr. Adam Feinstein serves as the editor of an international autism newsletter called Looking Up, which has the latest reasearch and news on autism from around the world. Looking Up is a monthly 40 page newsletter. Looking Up describes their work as, "Aimed at parents and professionals alike, it is a lively and informative mix of the very latest findings in autism resarch from around the world and articles which explore the imapct of autism in all areas (Looking Up Website)."

A History of Autism: Conversation with the Pioneers: In June, 2010, Adam Feinstein published with Wiley-Blackwell a groundbreaking book called A History of Autism: Conversations with the Pioneers. Dame Stephanie Shirley financed the research of the book. The Autism Light blog is very grateful for having been able to reference information in A History of Autism: Conversation with the Pioneers in order to help write some of the Memorial Roll posts on autism heroes of the past who have passed on. 

Dr. Adam Feinstein also speaks on autism around the world and has been featured regularly on the BBC and in the Guardian. If you want to read more about Dr. Adam Feinstein's ongoing work, you can read his blog at http://adamfeinstein.wordpress.com. You can also contact him at the email address of editor@lookingupautism.org

Social Media:  You can follow Adam Feinstein at the following social media areas.
Special thanks to Dr. Adam Feinstein for being an Autism Light. His leadership and writing on autism research is a priceless aid for those charged with putting together pieces of the puzzle of autism. Adam Feinstein's work helps the autism community understand the past and present in order to offer constructive hope for improving the future.  

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Chris North

Autism Light #320 is Chris North.

Chris North is a Junior at Northwest High School in Justin, Texas, which is near Ft. Worth, Texas. Chris North met Alex Chapell, a 15 year old who has autism, on November 15, 2013, at a high school wrestling tournament. After the tournanent Chris North gave his silver wrestling medal he had won to Alex Chapell. Chris North is an Autism Light for this special act of kindness towards a peer with autism.

Alex Chappell loves wrestling and he had previously only competed in the Special Olympics until his first meet for the Frisco Wakeland High School junior varsity team on November 15, 2013. Alex lost both of his matches, but the kindness of a wrestler from a different team named Chris North made a tremendous difference in his life.

After he received his silver medal for winning 4 matches in the tournament on November 15, 2013,  Chris North went across the gymnassium and found Alex Chapell to give him his medal and as he gave it to him he said, "I won this for you buddy (Winning Athlete Gives Medal to Teen Wrestler with Autism, MyFoxDFW, 11/19/2013)."

Chris North said the reason he gave his medal to Alex Chappell is, "He looked like a really nice kid who deserved a medal, and he deserved to feel like he won (Winning Athlete Gives Medal to Teen Wrestler with Autism, MyFoxDFW, 11/19/2013)."

The reaction of Alex Chappell and his family to this special gift from Chris North was one of gratitude.
  • Alex Chappell said, "I want to say thank you. I love it." 
  • Sharon Segura, Alex's mother said, "He tries so hard to be accepted, and for this kid (Chris North) to see him as a person, and not for his disability, makes me proud (Winning Athlete Gives Medal to Teen Wrestler with Autism, MyFoxDFW, 11/19/2013)."
For more information on Chris North and Alex Chappell read the MyFoxDFW story called Winning Athlete Gives Medal to Teen Wrestler with Autism.

Special thanks to Chris North for being an Autism Light. Chris' kindness toward a peer with autism is a wonderful example of compassion. It is hoped that this story of Chris North's selfless actions will inspire others to reach out in kindness to make a difference in the lives of people with autism by being an Autism Light.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Ryan and Megan Nicholson

Autism Lights #319 are Ryan and Megan Nicholson.

Ryan and Megan Nicholson are from British Columbia, Canada.  Nathan Antone, a 12 year old boy with autism, had his bicycle stolen in front of the Maple Ridge Library on November 12, 2013. Although the Nicholson's did not previously know Nathan Antone, they decided to help out when they heard of his loss. Ryan and Megan Nicholson are Autism Lights because when they heard that Nathan Antone had his bicycle stolen, they purchased him a new bike, along with a light and lock on November 15, 2013.

In explaining his rationale for buying the bicycle, Ryan said, "Somebody did something very nice for me and I am just paying it forward so to speak. I think if more people did nice things to even strangers, it would just make the world a better place (Huffington Post, 11/16/2013)."

For more information on this Random Act of Kindness from Ryan and Megan Nicholson read these news articles:

Special thanks to Ryan and Megan Nicholson for being Autism Lights. The kindness they offered a boy with autism who lost his bike is an inspiration. It is hoped that this brief Autism Light feature will encourage others to commit random acts of kindness toward people with autism that may suffer injustices.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Alexis Wineman

Autism Light #318 is Alexis Wineman.

Alexis Wineman is a 19 year old with autism from Cut Bank, Montana. Alexis Wineman was Miss Montana in 2012 and was the first contestant with autism in the history of the Miss America pageant. Her platform issue at the pageant was "Normal is a Dryer Setting: Living with Autism (Huffington Post, 1/10/2013)." Alexis Wineman is an Autism Light for her autism advocacy and her groundbreaking achievement for people with autism.

Here is a news story of Alexis Wineman being named Person of the Week by ABC News.

2013 Miss America Pageant:  Alexis Wineman finished in the top 15 in the 2013 Miss America Pageant and won the coveted "America's Choice" Award by vote of viewers in the online competiton (Missoulian, 1/14/2013). In a CNN Report Alexis said, "My autism isn't what defines me. I define what is autism."
Future Autism Advocacy: Alexis Wineman shared this about her plans to continue to make a difference for autism even after her time as Miss Montana came to an end, as her successor was chosen in 2013. She said,
The glitz and the glamour may have faded from the wonderful experience of Miss America, but my commitment to raising awareness about autism and building bridges of acceptance grows stronger each day -- especially after I read e-mails, Facebook posts or tweets from the people who have supported my journey (Alexis Wineman, Via CNN.com).
Here is a video of Alexis Wineman being interviewed about autism by KRTV in Montana for their Face the State program.

Wikipedia: You can read more about Alexis Wineman on the Wikipedia Page of Alexis Wineman.

Social Media: You can follow Alexis Wineman's ongoing autism advocacy on the following social media areas:

Special thanks to Alexis Wineman for being an autism advocate and spreading autism awareness through her platform of having been Miss Montana and a Miss America contestent.  We look forward to hearing more about Alexis Wineman's advocacy for autism in the years ahead.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The photo in this post of Alexis Wineman is in the Public Domain and found on Wikipedia.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Alex and Jamie Schneider

Autism Lights #317 are Alex and Jamie Schneider.

Alex and Jamie Schneider are 23 year old identical twins from New York who have autism. Alex and Jamie received national attention for their inspiring story of running in races as individuals with autism. Their family has developed a website on their accomplishments in life called Autism Runners. Alex and Jamie Schneider are Autism Lights for the way in which their running raises awareness for autism and the successful interests those with autism can have.

Alex and Jamie Schneider have prepared for and competed in over 130 races since they began their interest in running at age 8, including most recently the New York City Marathon on November 3, 2013. They ran the 2013 New York City Marathon to raise funds for the Association for Science in Autism Treatment. The following is a news story from ABC News about Alex and Jamie Schneider's participation in the New York City Marathon in 2013.

ABC US News | ABC Business News

Alex and Jamie are both nonverbal and because of the severity of their place on the autism spectrum, a guide runs with them in races to help if necessary with the variety of potential obstacles that might take place on a run outside. Both Alex and Jamie look forward to running in races and have their own styles. Alex is the faster runner and is coached by Kevin McDermott and Stephen Dalton. Jamie really enjoys the experience of a leisurely pace as he runs and is coached by his father Allan Schneider. Allan Schneider says about Jamie, "I'll explain to people, there's not a lot I can share with him, but when we're running, it's an unspoken language (ABC News)."

The twins' mother Robyn Schneider offers a reason to The New York Times why her sons enjoy running so much as individuals with autism. Robyn Schneider says, "They thrive on repetition and routine of racing. You finish, get a medal, high-five everyone at the finish line and go home (Autistic Twins Find a Release in Running, New York Times)."

Robyn Schneider said this about the days her sons race.
Race day is always a special and exciting day for us all. My emotions are high as I wait impatiently at the finish line. I watch first, for Alex, and then Jamie.  And as they each approach the finish line, my heart pounding rapidly; I tearfully cheer, and think of how proud I am of their accomplishments.  After the race, as we celebrate among the crowd of runners, many will approach them and offer congratulations and high fives. How grateful we are that we have discovered the gift of running (Autism Runners)!
Other Activities: Alex and Jamie participate in other activities, including horseback riding, fitness exercise, bicycling, swimming, and learning piano (Beyond Running, Autism Runners).

High School Graduation: Alex and Jamie Schneider's life included academics as well as running. Alex and Jamie Schneider graduated in June, 2011, from the Genesis School, a private school in Long Island, New York for children with autism. They also were able to walk in the graduation ceremony with their neurotypical peers at Great Neck South High School in June, 2011.  Here is a video of Alex and Jamie Schneider receiving their diploma.

Social Media: You can follow Alex and Jamie's accomplishments on the YouTube Channel of Autism Runners.

Special thanks to Alex and Jamie Schneider for being Autism Lights. Their successful experience in running offers another light on autism awareness. We hope that Alex and Jamie will keep on running. 

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Kellen Binder

Autism Light #316 is Dr. Kellen Binder.

Dr. Kellen Binder is a Chiropractor with The Wellness Way and a Line Therapist at the Centerpiece Center for Autism in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Dr. Kellen Binder is an Autism Light for his utilization of chiropractic care to help people with autism.

Education: Dr. Kellen Bider graduated from Palmer College of Chiropractic and received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point.

The following is a video where Dr. Kellen Binder explains how he decided to become a Chirorpactor.

Here is a video of Dr. Kellen Binder explaining how Chiropractic care can help some people with autism. Part of his treatment includes sensory friendly chiropractic adjustment rooms.

In the above video Dr. Kellen Binder says:
For children with autism there is always that added stress on their nervous system to speak, interact, or even use parts of their body every single ay. Usually children that have ASD are either hypersensitive or hyposensistive to their environment, which means they are taking in way too much sensory information or hardly any at all. Seeing a chiropractor and getting adjusted helps children feel that balance between hypersensitive and hyposensistive. With balance comes less frustration because that child has more control on themselves and what they are sensitive to.
2013 Autism and Chiropractic Event: On April 25, 2013, Dr. Kellen Binder hosted an event with Dr. Amanda Pigeon for Autism Awareness Month on Autism and Chiropractic.

Social Media: You can follow Dr. Kellen Binder's work at the following social media areas:
Dr. Frank M. Painter has compiled research on autism and chiropractic care that is available online at this link. This research may be helpful to further understand the reasons that some chiropractors are making a difference with some patients with autism.

You can learn more about Dr. Kellen Binder at his staff page at The Wellness Way. Special thanks to Dr. Kellen Binder for using his skills in Chiropractic care to help children and people with autism in the Green Bay, Wisconsin area. To read about other Chiropractors featured on Autism Light use the Chiropractor label
Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Robert MacNeil

Autism Light #315 is Robert MacNeil.

Robert MacNeil is 82 years old and is an Autism Grandfather. Robert MacNeil, also known as Robin MacNeil, is an author and a news journalist who along with Jim Lehr anchored the MacNeil-Lehr Newshour on PBS for 20 years. MacNeil was born in Canada and became an American citizen in 1997. He has homes in both Nova Scotia and Manhattan, New York. Robert MacNeil is an Autism Light for raising awareness of autism by using his news reporting skills to tell the story of autism, including that of his Grandson Nick.

Education: Robert MacNeil graduated from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada in 1955.

News Anchor: From 1975-1995, Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehr hosted the MacNeil-Lehr Newshour on PBS. The daily news program that focused on a single feature was popular and groundbreaking. On October 20, 1995, Jim Lehr gave a Tribute to Robert MacNeil as MacNeil ended his time with the program.  After a hiatus of over a decade, Robert MacNeil returned briefly to the Newshour in 2011 to do a 6 part Autism Now series that has a personal connection to his family. Here is the news segment that Robert MacNeil did on his then 6 year old Grandson Nick's life, as part of the series on Autism Now.

More information on this series can be found on the PBS Newshour Autism Now Webpage.
Author: Robert MacNeil's biography on the PBS Newshour Website shares this about his writings:
MacNeil is the author of several books. "The People Machine," (1968) studied the relationship between television and politics. He has written three memoirs, "The Right Place at the Right Time" (1982), "Wordstruck" (1989) and "Looking For My Country, Finding Myself in America" (2003). He wrote three best-selling novels, "Burden of Desire" (1992), "The Voyage" (1995) and "Breaking News" (1998). He was co-author of "The Story of English," companion volume to the BBC-PBS television series which he hosted, and its sequel, "Do You Speak American?" (2005), a three-hour PBS series on American English today (PBS News Hour-Where Are They Now?)
Honors: In 1997, Robert MacNeil was made an officer in the Order of Canada in honor of his contributions in the field of journalism. The Order of Canada is the highest civilian award that is given to a Canadian.
You can find out more about Robert MacNeil at the following pages.
Special thanks to Robert MacNeil for his devotion as an Autism Grandparent and for shining a light on autism with his talent in journalism. Robert MacNeil's contribution to the Autism Now series helped raise awareness of autism.  

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.