Saturday, March 30, 2013

Deron and Amy Williams

Autism Lights #265 are Deron and Amy Williams. 

Deron and Amy Williams are Autism Parents from Brooklyn, New York. Their adopted son D.J. has autism. Deron Williams is an NBA All-Star who plays for the Brooklyn Nets Professional Basketball Team. Deron and Amy Williams are able to help autism families in their community through special projects associated with their Point of Hope Foundation. Deron and Amy Williams are Autism Lights because of their dedication to their son D.J. and their desire to shine a light to other families in their community who are struggling with autism.

The following was a video that Deron Williams did for NBA Cares about his passion for autism.

Deron and Amy Williams adopted their son D.J. from an agency in Utah, but their son D.J. was actually born in Brooklyn, New York at Maimonides Medical Center, the official hospital of the Brooklyn Nets. In part to provide stability for his son, Deron Williams recently signed a 5 year contract to play with the Brooklyn Nets.

Deron Williams said this about his son's diagnosis of autism.
It was tough because you start thinking. 'Is he going to have a normal life?' Is he ever going to get married? Is he going to be able to play sports?' It was sad, tough on us for a while. It's been awakening. And you have to learn to be a little bit more patient (Source).
Basketball Career: Deron Williams played college basketball for the University of Illinois. In 2005 he led Illinois to the NCAA Championship game where they finished runner-up. Deron Williams has played in the NBA for 7 seasons and is currently an All-Star Guard for the Brooklyn Nets. You can see his career stats at this link.

Here is a video of when Deron Williams set an NBA record for 9 three pointers in a half of a game on March 8, 2013 against the Washington Wizards.

Kia Community Assist Award: In November, 2012, Deron Williams won the Kia Community Assist Award (Source). He won the award "in recognition of his outstanding efforts in the community and his ongoing philanthropic and charitable work (Source)."

Point of Hope Foundation: Deron and Amy Williams founded the Point of Hope Foundation in 2007. Their website says that,
Point of Hope creates opportunities to help raise funds that can directly impact the lives of children in need. The foundation has supported cancer research, children with autism, different scholarship funds, single mother organizations, Boys & Girls Club, and a number of different children organizations through grants and donations (Source).
Here is a video of the Point of Hope Foundation giving to the community.

On December 22, 2012, Deron and Amy Williams hosted a special holiday party at the Distilled in New York City to shine a light for single mothers of children with autism who were impacted by Hurricane Sandy (Source). The Point of Hope Foundation partnered with Autism Speaks in the holiday event. 30 families had their holiday brightened by this event and, "The families were also gifted with toys, some of which were featured on the Toys "R" Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids and the Ten Toys that Speak to Autism (Source)." Toys "R" Us was featured on this blog as Autism Light #8.

More Information: For more information on Deron and Amy Williams visit these Websites.
Social Media: You can follow Deron Williams on the following social media.
Special thanks to Deron and Amy Williams for the light they shine for Autism. We wish their family the best and look forward to hearing how the Point of Hope Foundation helps needy children, including some with autism, in the years ahead. Deron Williams' post at Autism Light will be linked on the Autism Light Sports Page, where he becomes the first NBA player listed who is also an autism father.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

The photo of Deron Williams is in the Creative Commons of Wikipedia.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Therese Wantuch

Autism Light #264 is Therese Wantuch. 

Therese Wantuch is an autism mother from Cincinnati, Ohio, who assists companies with their health insurance benefits. Therese Wantuch also develops apps for mobile devices and her work is showcased on her website She developed her signature app Training with Faces to help her 21 year old son Jack, who has high functioning autism/Asperger's, with emotion recognition. Therese Wantuch is an Autism Light for her dedication as an autism mother and for developing mobile apps that can make a difference for those struggling with the practical impact of autism in every day life. She is also giving to autism charities through her apps.

Training with Faces: Therese Wantuch released her app Training Faces in September, 2012. She described how she created the app Training Faces like this:
I came up with an idea for an app around nine emotions and nine train routes around the world, because I know how Jack struggles with emotion recognition and how much he LOVES trains.  The app is geared to help in three distinct ways; improve recognition of the emotion, the meaning behind the emotion and then the speed at which the individual can interpret the emotion. The train routes around the world keep the player interested to see where they may go next. The logic of the game is to keep them interested while they are playing.  A simple point and recognize an emotion will not hold their attention long.
Here is a demo of the App Training Faces.

On Autism Apps:  Therese Wantuch told Autism Light this about the role of the right app for an individual with autism.
I see that apps can be a game changer, but you have to have the right app.  I think apps should be used in conjunction with one-on-one working with the child.  We used lots and lots of flash cards when our son was young.  I think some apps have replaced the flash cards and we still need more apps for higher functioning kids.  Point and click is too basic for many of our ASD kids. Having said that, there are already 1650 "autism apps" on the App Store.  Some are so basic, that they should be listed under "general education" and not autism. The miracle apps are the ones that help our non-verbal population get out their desires and requests.
Therese Wantuch is very proud of her son Jack, whom she described to Autism Light as, "a 21 year old former college student who plays cello in the university orchestra, drives a car, performed at Carnegie Hall with his high school orchestra and with his sister arranged the music for the app “Training Faces."

Advice for Autism Parents: Therese Wantuch offered this advice for autism parents related to IEP meetings.
When you are at an IEP meeting and things are not going well remind yourself, these "professionals" will be out of your life in a year, your child will hopefully be with you the rest of your life!  It's okay to tick them off if it means more services and better outcomes for your child!
Passion for Autism Families: Therese Wantuch has a passion for autism families. She told USA Today, "As the diagnosis of autism continues to go up, we need these folks to be independent. It's what gives them a fuller life, and lets them get decent housing on their own and get a job so they're not sitting in Mommy and Daddy's family room their entire life. That's not fair them or their family (Source)."

Future Plans: Therese Wantuch told Autism Light that her, "long term goal is to create apps that give a percentage of each download to autism charities." To accomplish this she plans to create apps aimed at the general population. She has three apps in production, including a Health Care Claim Help and a "Party Trivia" app.

More Information: You can read more information about Therese Wantuch and Training Faces at the following online articles. 

Social Media: You can follow Therese Wantuch's work at the following social media areas.

Special thanks to Therese Wantuch for being an Autism Light. Her passion, insight, and dedication to the autism community is a blessing. It will be exciting to see how Therese Wantuch's apps assist those with autism and help autism charities in the years ahead.  A link to this post will be placed in Therese Wantuch's honor on the Autism Light App page.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

The photos in this post were used with permission of Therese Wantuch. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Adam Bluestone

Autism Light #263 is Adam Bluestone.

Today we honor a Special Education Teacher who was a gifted hero for his pupils with autism and their families. Adam Bluestone served as a Special Education Teacher in Bakersfield, California prior to his untimely death from a massive stroke in 2007. Adam Bluestone was born on February 18, 1964, near London, England and passed away on September 6, 2007, in Southern California. Adam was survived by his wife Angela and sons, Zachary and David. A memorial service for Adam was held on September 14, 2007. A fitting obituary for Adam continues to be on the website. Adam Bluestone will also be placed on the Autism Light Memorial Roll today.

Water Sports and Skydiving Instructor: Adam Bluestone had a brief career as a water sports and skydiving instructor prior to his educational and teaching endeavors. He made a tremendous impact on people who met him through his love of outdoor sports. 

Education: Adam Bluestone earned his Master of Art in Special Education from California State University, Bakersfield

Autism Teacher: Adam Bluestone's obituary says that at the time of his passing he, "worked for the Bakersfield City School District teaching children with severe disabilities and autism. Adam became recognized as a gifted teacher with notable expertise in autism (Source)."

Consultant: Adam Bluestone started his own business called Behavioral Innovations in 2003, and served as a consultant to school districts in the State of California.

Tributes for Adam Bluestone: Many autism families were touched by the efforts of Adam Bluestone as a Special Education teacher. Some of them made comments on Brandon Neal's memorial blog for Adam.  Here are two testimonies of Adam Bluestone's impact. 

John on behalf of The Cohrs Family said, 
I have never before been impacted so greatly by a person whom I barely knew. Adam helped my son, as he helped hundreds of others with autism. He came to my home to help my wife, Kelley, and I to communicate with our son. From the moment he walked in the door, I knew this was a special person. By the time he left, I wished I could emulate him. I remember his voice, his presence, his passion and his love (Source). 
Yvonne Brown Person said, 
My family and I had not known Adam for very long but Adam had a way of making you feel like you'd been friends forever. My 15 year old autistic nephew will continue to benefit from Adam's work and for this my family and many others will be forever grateful (Source).  

Memorial Funds: Two funds were established in memory of Adam Bluestone.
  1. Donations may be made to a Trust Fund established for Zachary and David Bluestone. These donations should be deposited for Zachary and David Bluestone at Washington Mutual Bank. Acct: 4922431400, Routing #322271627.
  2. Donations for Autism Awareness can be sent to: The Adam Bluestone Autism Education Fund, 29949 East Vale Court, Agoura Hills, CA 91301. Phone 818-889-8001. 
Adam Bluestone made a difference for autism as a dedicated special education teacher in California. He set an example for other special education teachers and his memory is an inspiration to all those who knew him. It is the hope of Autism Light that more devoted individuals will continue to make a career of teaching children with autism as the population with autism continues to grow.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

The photo of Adam Bluestone is used with permission of Brandon Neal (Email:

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Myron Cope

Autism Light #262 is Myron Cope.

Courtesy of Autism Society of Pittsburgh

Beloved by fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers and honored by a grateful community where he lived his entire life, Myron Cope's last words were said five years ago, but his charitable legacy continues to give a voice to those, like his son Danny, who live in the silent world of autism. Born on January 23, 1929, and passing away on February 27, 2008, Myron Cope was preceded in death by his wife Mildred and was survived by a daughter Elizabeth and an autistic son Danny. Myron Cope is an Autism Light for supporting leading autism organizations in the Pittsburgh area and giving his son Danny a legacy through his humble support. Myron Cope will also be placed on the Autism Light Memorial Roll today.

The following is an Obituary on Myron Cope that aired on Pittsburgh's WTAE-TV after his death.

Sports Writer and Commentator: Myron Cope was best known for being the color commentator for the Pittsburgh Steelers for 35 years from 1970-2005. During his career he also was involved in other media ventures in the Pittsburgh area for sports enthusiasts. Myron Cope was also a sports writer in his early career and did a famous interview with Howard Cosell that is considered a Sports Illustrated Classic. You can still read the article on the Sports Illustrated Website.

Pro Football Hall of Fame: Myron Cope retired in 2005 and that year he received the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Pete Rozella Radio-Television Award (Source).

The following is a news story of Myron Cope's funeral service by WTAE-TV in 2005.

Terrible Towel: In 1975 during the Pittsburgh Steelers playoff run, Myron Cope created what is regarded as the first rally towel in sports. Called the Terrible Towel, the Pittsburgh Steeler's fan towel is black and gold and says "Myron Cope Official The Terrible Towel".  In 1996, Myron Cope signed over the rights for the Terrible Towel to the Alleghany Valley School, where his son Danny lives. Sales of the towel have generated over $3 Million dollars for the school.

Elizabeth Cope, Myron's daughter, believes that the Terrible Towel  is symbolic of much more than football and is a legacy to her autistic brother Danny. She said, "He's like the invisible face. He's the main man really behind the terrible towel. My dad is known for his voice and he has a son that doesn't speak, isn't able to speak and he's kind of given him an enormous voice (Source)."

Alleghany Valley School: Today about 900 children, adults, and senior adults with developmental disabilities, such as autism, are served by the Alleghany Valley School. More information on the school is available at their Website at

After Myron Cope's death it was revealed that he had also quietly been donating millions of dollars to the Alleghany Valley School through his speaking engagements.  In 2008 the Alleghany Valley School's CEO Regis Davis told reporter Mike Wereschagin that whenever Myron Cope was paid to give a speech he would ask that the check be made payable to Allegheny Valley School or he would later sign it over himself to the school (Source). 

Regis Davis said, "This was his income...He never needed any notoriety, never wanted any attention brought to all this. Danny is the center of Myron's universe. He was completely dedicated to Danny, to his care, to his progress (Source)."

Autism Society of Pittsburgh: Myron Cope was one of a group of individuals who founded the Autism Society of Pittsburgh in 1967, helping them get their first grant for operations. He also served on their board of directors for many years. The mission statement of the Autism Society of Pittsburgh is this:
Since 1967, the Autism Society of Pittsburgh has been the local action unit of the Autism Society of America, the foremost voice and resource of the nation's autism community. We are comprised of volunteers, parents and professionals, working on behalf of all children and those of adult age on the autism spectrum. Our objective is to improve the lives of those with autism and related disorders of behavior and communication (Source).
For more details on the work and mission of the Autism Society of Pittsburgh visit their website at

The Autism Society of Pittsburgh continues to benefit from those who wish to pay tribute to Myron Cope. One of the organization's key fundraisers is the Myron Cope/ Foge Fazio Memorial Golf Classic.  The 2013 event will be held on June 10, 2013. For more information on the 2013 event visit the golf tournament's section of the Autism Society of Pittsburgh's Website.

Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix: Myron Cope is also responsible for founding the charitable Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix which had it's first race in 1983. Several million dollars of funds from the race over the decades have benefited both the Autism Society of Pittsburgh and Alleghany Valley School. More information on the event is available at their Wikipedia page.

Other Information: For more information on Myron Cope's life visit his Wikipedia page. You can also read his obituary published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Through this post being placed with others on the blog today, Autism Light wishes to give a special shout out for Myron Cope. The legacy he left his son Danny and the support his name gives to the Alleghany Valley School and the Autism Society of Pittsburgh has made a tremendous difference for hundreds of people with autism in the Pittsburgh area. For the autism community, Myron Cope was much more than a dynamic hall of fame sports announcer. Myron Cope was like so many other autism fathers who quietly gave what resources he had at his disposal to make a difference for the cause that personally touched his own child. And what a difference he is making.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

The photo of Myron Cope was used with permission of Daniel Torisky and is credited to the Autism Society of Pittsburgh.