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 You can also contact him at the email address of

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
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.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Tiffany Alberts

Autism Light #314 is Tiffany Alberts.

Tiffany Alberts is a Special Needs Resource Teacher at Lakeview Middle School for the Warsaw Community Schools in Warsaw, Indiana. With her leadership she arranged for a 13 year old boy named Jacob Brock who has multiple disabilities, including autism and cerebral palsy, to have the opportunity to score a touchdown in a special Pink Out Football Game on September 10, 2013. Tiffany Alberts is an Autism Light for the joy she brought to Jacob Brock's life through setting up this opportunity for him. Autism Light also gives a special mention to the Warsaw Tigers football team who helped Tiffany Alberts create this special experience for Jacob.

Jacob Brock loves football and he had surgery last year to temporarily extend his ability to walk and run. Playing football, like so many young people do, will not be physically possible for Jacob. His teacher Tiffany Alberts arranged for Jacob to have the opportunity to score a touchdown in a game at his school.

Here is a video of Jacob Brock scoring the touchdown during the football game on Sept. 10, 2013.

You can also watch a video of a news story on when they covered Jacob Brock's first touchdown.

Tiffany Alberts said, “Jacob isn’t going to get the opportunity to run in a normal football game like a lot of typical kids can. I just thought it would be something he would really enjoy and remember. I just wanted him to have a shot (The Greatest Touchdown Ever Made, Stacey Page Online).”

Jacob's parents, Jeremy and Charity Brock appreciate the dedication of Tiffany Alberts toward their son. Charity Brock said, "She's just awesome! She knows he loves to play sport (The Greatest Touchdown Ever Made, Stacey Page Online).”

You can find out more about Tiffany Alberts and Jacob Brock's first touchdown in these online features.
Special thanks to Tiffany Alberts for being an Autism Light. She is representative of the genuine commitment to go the second mile that many teachers put forth when working with their students with autism.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.