Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Reader's Choice Awards for 2014

2014 was our fourth 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 viewed the most in my Blogger statistics.

Top Ten Most Popular New Posts During the Year:
  1. Naoki Higashadi's post debuted on May 27, 2014. This post about a 21 year old autism self advocate and author from Japan received hundreds of views.
  2. Jaci Velasquez' post debuted on February 27, 2014. Jaci is an Autism Mother and Musician from Tennessee.
  3. Toni Braxton's post debuted on January 6, 2014. Toni is an Autism Mother and actress from California.
  4. John and Traci Schneider's post debuted on February 2, 2014. John and Traci are Autism parents from Seattle, Washington, where John serves as the General Manager of the Seattle Seahawks.
  5. Pentru Voi Foundation's post debuted on February 13, 2014. The Pentru Voi Foundation is an organization that serves those with autism in the country of Romania.
  6. Chelsea Stepp's post debuted on January 1, 2014. Chelsea is an Autism Sister and musician from Warfield, Kentucky, who has a special bond with her autistic sister Cammi.
  7. J.P. Morgan Chase's post debuted on January 11, 2014. J.P. Morgan Chase is a financial institution that added autism insurance benefits for its employees. 
  8. Sheila Chako's post debuted on April 24, 2014. Sheila is a special education teacher from California.
  9. Matt Kemp's post debuted on May 11, 2014. Matt Kemp is an Autism Brother and Major League Baseball Player.
  10. Tom Fields-Meyer's post debuted on June 15, 2014. Tom is an Autism Father and writer from Los Angeles, California.
Most Google+1's: Toni Braxton's post had Five (5) Google+1's during the year. Toni is an Autism Mother and actress from California.

Most Popular Backlight: Dr. Vince Carbone's post as Autism Light #5 returned for an encore appearance on January 5, 2014. Dr. Carbone is a Board Certified Applied Behavioral Analyst from New York. Dr. Vince Carbone's post continues to be a reader favorite since it's debut in the first months of the Autism Light blog on July 7, 2011.

Most Visited Memorial Post: Dr. William Bolman (1929-2014) is the Autism Psychiatrist and co-founder of the Autism Society of Hawaii who passed away on April 18, 2014.

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

Most Comments:  This distinction of most comments goes to two golfers who we featured in January, 2014. Cliff Kresge and Elijah Winfrey both tied with the most comments.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Nathan Young

Autism Light #369 is Nathan Young.

Nathan Young is a 33 year old autism self-advocate from Fortuna, California, which is in western-central Humboldt County. In 2006 he founded the non-profit Autism Candles to raise autism awareness and to create opportunity for individuals with autism, and other developmental disabilities. What started as a local effort has expanded to a national outreach for autism. Nathan Young is an Autism Light because of his dedication to raise autism awareness and to provide employment opportunities for those with autism. His passion and energy to make a difference combined with his personal journey with autism helps him shine a light for autism. 

Autism Candles employs several people with autism who help make the actual candles. Workers hours change based on sales. It is the goal of Autism Candles to make homemade and personal candles rather than being a candle making factory. You can purchase candles through Amazon or on the Autism Candles Website

Nathan Young told Autism Light that, "The candle making project originated from the desire to show the world that people with autism, and other developmental disabilities, wanted to and could work. The goal was to get the attention of as many people in the area as possible."

These four goals are listed on the Autism Candles Website include:

  • Foster Autism Awareness
  • Promote Inclusion
  • Assist advocacy efforts on social media and traditional news sources
  • Assist advocacy efforts on social media and traditional news sources
  • Provide for the candle making needs of the autism community

Writer: Nathan Young wrote an article called Stuck in Transition that was featured on the Autism Speaks Webpage on May 7, 2012.

Advice to those with Autism:  Nathan Young encourages others with autism to guard their health. He writes, "Taking care of yourself is the first priority. Depending on the individual, accepting that help is needed to have a healthy life is important. Changing the world begins with being healthy."

Advice to Parents of Children with Autism: Nathan Young has the following advice to parents in relationship to how they can empower their children to make a difference in the world.
Take charge of change. The idealism and the expectations that people in society will treat persons with developmental disabilities fairly is not enough. Encouraging individuals to be self-advocates, that their dreams matter, and promoting inclusion where you live, with the help of self-advocates is important. Many people may mean well, it’s just that they aren’t aware of what issues are really there. It’s important to make as many allies as possible, and to turn things around to the positive as often as possible, even when people make obvious social mistakes. Opportunity for lasting change exists around every corner (Nathan Young).
Autism Awareness Strategy: Nathan Young shared his detailed autism awareness strategy with Autism Light.
I am hyper-focused on the strategies of societal change for inclusion, by using logically sound strategies, and trying to be more successful with the participation of national organizations and other self-advocates, families, disability professionals and allies within the general public. That is, to create a more feasible success pathway by using the communities within specific regions and nationally to spread awareness, which provokes measurable progress.

The national inclusion platform I wish to encourage organizations to work together for, is something I call <Area> Includes. Essentially it is a way for towns/cities within county regions to incite progress for inclusive opportunity. For agencies and nonprofits which serve individuals with developmental disabilities, including autism, to serve out their missions with the help of local and national awareness. Regions may compete with one another, measures can take place and, for instance, agencies which facilitate inclusive training, such as job coaching, can qualify local businesses for sponsoring job hours for participants. This further can be empowered through local chambers of commerce and other business organizations which can work with a regional <Area> Includes to spotlight groups who participate, and who eventually directly hire individuals who have been trained through sponsorships with area businesses. Nationally, further propagation of this model may further tailor its goals, and perception within popular culture. As a nation we must work together, on many levels, to better ensure inclusion and hope (Nathan Young).

Other Blogs: The following are additional perspectives on Autism Candles from other blogs.
Social Media: You can follow Nathan Young's work at Autism Candles at the following popular social media pages.
Goals: Nathan Young described to Autism Light his goals for self-advocacy in this way.
I want national autism and developmental disability organizations, and I want our legislators to listen. I think there is a great need to focus on inclusion, so that mainstream media cannot ignore it; I want the community to be a part of pop culture, and through that awareness to improve inclusion, that is, improve personal treatment and health care and to inspire hope. People just don’t realize how common poverty, for example, is in the developmental disability community, but if we put our minds together and fight for it in strategic ways, we will see real change (Nathan Young).
Nathan Young has taken the perspective that to accomplish great things it starts with believing in people. He says, "I believe success for inclusive change begins with a mentality that most people may mean well, and would help with these necessary changes if provided the opportunity in positive ways."

Special thanks to Nathan Young for raising autism awareness. In a sense the candles his company creates are symbolic of the light being brought to the autism community through awareness and opportunities. Nathan Young is a fine representative of many self-advocates in the autism community and we wish him all the best in his efforts to make a difference for autism now and in the future. As an autism father and blogger I hope to meet other adult self-advocates like Nathan Young in the future because they encourage me about the future my young son faces.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photos: The images in this post were used with permission of Nathan Young.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

My Autistic Muslim Child

Autism Light Classic
Updated on December 23, 2015. 

Autism Light #368 is the My Autistic Muslim Child Blog.

The blog My Autistic Muslim Child was started in February, 2010, and is written by an autism mother from Orlando, Florida whose son Amin has autism. My Autistic Muslim Child is an Autism Light because it is uniquely supporting autism families in the Muslim community through the encouragement it provides on the blog. The blog can be found at myautisticmuslimchild.wordpress.com.

Spiritual Encouragement: There is a label on the right side of the blog that emphasizes the hope the blog tries to bring to other parents in the Muslim faith that says, "Never Give up Hope of Allah's mercy." That heading is followed by a quote from the Quran 12:87, "Certainly no one despairs of Allah's mercy, except the people who disbelieve."

The creator of the blog describes her purpose for the blog in this manner,
I realized that I needed to do something to show my fellow Muslim parents that autism is part of our lives, and that we should accept Allah's decree, and move forward. We continue to make du'a for him to outgrow this condition, and we have the greatest of hope and trust in Allah that He will continue to show us amazing things from this amazing child who is special in so many ways (My Autistic Muslim Child, About).
The tag line on the blog My Autistic Muslim Child is "A Site for Learning, Sharing and Support for Muslim Families." The helpfulness of this blog is in no way limited to the Muslim community, although the passion to help that faith community is clear. The blogger provides varied posts that range from research to inspirational encouragement.

The blog My Autistic Muslim Child is a blessing to the autism community, specifically for how it shines a light on the journey families in the Muslim community travel. While the blog is specifically of value to Muslim families desiring to learn, grow, and share the bond of community, those outside the Muslim faith can certainly read the blog to learn about the Muslim faith, varying aspects of autism, and the art of being a devoted autism mother.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism. 

Special Note: The blog references all new posts being placed on a new website at myautisticmuslimchild.com, but that was found to be offline upon a review of this post on December 23, 2015. We have changed the links for the time being to the wordpress.com website which was apparently the original website the blogger developed. Please leave a comment if the new website is back online.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Lorna Wing

Autism Light #367 is Dr. Lorna Wing.

Lorna Wing was born on October 7, 1928, and passed away on June 6, 2014. She was a psychiatrist and autism mother in the United Kingdom. After learning that her daughter Susie had autism she focused the research she did in her long medical career on improving autism. One would be hard pressed to find a psychiatrist who has done so much for autism in the United Kingdom over the last half of the 20th Century. Dr. Lorna Wing is an Autism Light for her outstanding achievements to shine a light for autism, which included being an author, introducing the term "Asperger's Syndrome", and being one of the founders of the National Autistic Society in the United Kingdom. Lorna Wing will be placed on the Autism Light Memorial Roll today.

Lorna Wing passed away due to complications of Alzheimer's. She was preceded in death by her daughter Susie in 2009 and her husband John in 2010.  You can read her obituary at the New York Times and at The UK Telegraph. A special tribute to Lorna Wing was held at the National Autistic Society meeting on November 22, 2014.

It was her daughter Susie's diagnosis of autism in the late 1950's that led Lorna Wing to focus on children with autism in her profession. She said,
When Susie was diagnosed there was no support for parents and children. We felt so suddenly and unexpectedly different to everyone else. Now there is a lot out there, and there are lots of good books. The huge change that has happened is the general recognition that autism exists (Lorna Wing, Autism: a mother's labour of love, May 24, 2011).

Here is a video of an interview done with Dr. Lorna Wing.

Author: Lorna Wing's most influential publication might have been her paper she published in 1981 called Asperger syndrome: a clinical account. It was in this work that she introduced the term Asperger's syndrome to refer to a specific group of people on the autism spectrum. Dr. Lorna Wing is also the author of numerous other books on autism. You can check out her page on Amazon for the list of her works that are still available. Books she authored include the following:
Twitter: Kevin Healey said this about Lorna Wing on Twitter.

National Autistic Society: Lorna Wing was part of a group that started the National Autistic Society in 1962. The National Autistic Society is the leading United Kingdom charity for people with autism and they "provide information, support and pioneering services, and campaign for a better world for people with autism (National Autistic Society Website)."  Lorna Wing served a vital role over the years as an autism consultant to the National Autistic Society's Lorna Wing Centre for Autism, which plays an important role in diagnosing autism.

Wikipedia: To learn more about Lorna Wing visit her Wikipedia page.

The autism community in the United Kingdom and around the world owes a debt of gratitude for the lifetime achievements of Dr. Lorna Wing. It is hoped that in her memory others will rise up to further the work of autism to a new generation.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Pope Francis

Autism Light #366 is Pope Francis.

Photo of Pope Francis

Pope Francis was born with the name Jorge Mario Bergoglio on December 17, 1936 in Argentina and he is the current head of the Catholic Church, holding the title of the Bishop of Rome. He has developed a reputation as a leader who genuinely cares about those who are less fortunate and have special needs. Pope Francis is an Autism Light for his outreach to those with autism in his role as the faith leader of over 1.2 billion worldwide members of the Catholic Church. Under his leadership the Vatican's health care office held the Catholic Church's first ever global gathering on autism on November 20-22, 2014. As part of this conference Pope Francis spoke about autism and met directly with persons with autism and their parents and doctors.

Michele Arbogast, a mother of a child with autism who works for Autism Speaks in New York, said about Pope Francis, "Pope Francis has changed the dynamics. He reaches out to those in need. Words from the Holy Father will reach the smallest villages, touch hearts, change minds and help people to volunteer and help other families (Religion News, November 21, 2014)."

Here is a video of Pope Francis speaking at the International Conference of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers which had as its theme this year, "The Person with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Animating Hope".  Pope Francis spoke to participants at the Persons with Autism Conference on Saturday, November 22, 2014.

The medical conference on autism sponsored by the Catholic Church that Pope Francis spoke at is said by organizers to be "the biggest medical conference of its kind on autism, gathering more than 650 experts from 57 countries (ABC News, November 18, 2014)." Thanks to technology the Pope's words will be heard throughout world and reach people around the world, having an especially influential impact on those who are part of the Catholic Church.

The Rev. P. Augusto Chenci of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers said that the reason Pope Francis spoke directly to those with autism at the conference was to "help break the isolation, and in many cases the stigma, that surrounds people affected by autism spectrum disorders (ABC News, November 18, 2014)."

The following are just two examples of some testimonies that were shared on Twitter about the positive impact Pope Francis is having in the lives of those with autism and their families.

Social Media: You can follow Pope Francis on the following social media.
Special thanks to Pope Francis for all he is doing to raise awareness of autism in the Catholic Church around the world. His respectful treatment of individuals with autism is shining a light that those with autism can find a home in a faith community.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The photo of Pope Francis is from Wikipedia Commons.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Manny Dedmon

Autism Light #365 is Manny Dedmon. 

Manny Dedmon has autism and is a 17 year old student at Birdville High School in North Richland Hills, Texas, a suburb of Ft. Worth. Manny Dedmon is a member of his high school football team and was voted Homecoming King this year. Manny Dedmon is an Autism Light because of his extraordinary achievements and winsome personality.

Doctors told his parents that Manny would not be able to do a lot of things that neurotypical people do and labeled him "severely low functioning." His mother Erica remembers, "They gave me a list of nevers. They say, 'He will never have a relationship or have friends (WFAA.com, Neither homecoming crown define Manny Dedmon, October 19, 2014).'"

Best Smile: Manny is known at his high school for having a very special smile. His mother Erica Dedmon says, "His aura just attracts joy. He's just so joyous, and it's contagious (WFAA.com, Neither homecoming crown define Manny Dedmon, October 19, 2014)."

Homecoming King: Manny Dedmon has come a long way from a shy kid who no one expected to be able to make friends. He was voted Homecoming King by his classmates in 2014.

Football Player: In 2013 Manny Dedmon scored 4 touchdowns as a member of the Junior Varsity team. In 2014 he has been an inspirational member of the Varsity team.

Future Plans: "Manny plans to one day go to college and continue to play sports. His mother said he loves computers and animals, and hopes to find a role working with them in the future (Jobin Panicker, WFAA.com, Neither homecoming crown define Manny Dedmon, October 19, 2014)."

Special thanks to Manny Dedmon for being an Autism Light. His bright smile, his striving to become what doctors said he couldn't do, and his efforts to reach his goals are a gift to the autism community and the world. We wish Manny Dedmon all the best in his future endeavors.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect)

Autism Light #364 is Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect).

Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect), is a non-profit organization located in Sydney, Australia. They were founded in 1969 by a passionate group of autism parents and today are the largest provider of services to individuals with autism in Australia, helping 10,000 people each year. Autism Spectrum Australia is an Autism Light for the light they shine for autism in Australia through their direct services with individuals with autism and for their creative and effective efforts at raising public awareness of autism.

Values: The following is the values and mission of Autism Spectrum Australia as shared on the Aspect Website.
"At Aspect we are passionate about people, about being positive and about what's possible. We are committed to providing the best opportunities for people at home, in the classroom and at work. We are single-minded in our pursuit to make life better for people living with autism and we are devoted to making connections that help us to better understand people’s needs and wants (Aspect Website)."
The following is a video that gives an overview of the extensive work and programs of Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect).

A Different Brilliant Campaign was launched by Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) in November, 2014. People are encouraged to watch and share the "A Different Brilliant" video that Aspect created. If you are sharing on Twitter or other social media that uses hashtags please use the hashtag #adifferentbrilliant.

Social Media: You can follow the work of Autism Spectrum Australia at the following social media areas:
Contact: To contact Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) use the following means.
  • Phone: 1-800-ASPECT (277328)
  • Email: customerservice@autismspectrum.org.au
  • Mail: PO Box 361, Forestville, Sydney, Australia 2086
  • Website: www.autismspectrum.org.au
  • Webform: www.autismspectrum.org.au/forms/contact-us
If you would like to donate to Autism Spectrum Australia there are online ways to support them.

Special thanks to Autism Spectrum Australia for their dedication to changing the lives of individuals with autism in Australia. May they continue to shine a light for autism and grow as an organization. 

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Richard Lussier

Autism Light #363 is Richard Lussier. 

Special Veterans Day Recognition!

Richard Lussier is a 49 year old U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. from Lewiston, Maine. Richard Lussier has four children, including a 15 year old son named Caleb who has autism. Richard Lussier is an Autism Light because when he returned home from a 5 month deployment in Afghanistan in February, 2014, he organized his return into a very special surprise for his son Caleb.

Richard Lussier is a true military hero. He is a veteran of Desert Storm and had reenlisted at age 49 in order to give a break to the younger soldiers who have had multiple deployments.

Richard Lussier had been home for a week from a five month deployment in Afghanistan, but had kept his return a secret from his son Caleb, in order to surprise him. Richard Lussier surprised his son by being a guest speaker at the Air Force Junior ROTC meeting at Lewiston High School in Maine on February 4, 2014. Caleb was not told who the speaker was, only that it was classified information. 

At the reunion Caleb hugged his father Richard.  Caren Lussier, Caleb's mother said, "It was amazing, because you don't see that from Caleb. There's no hugs, no kissing or touching (Autism Speaks, February 5, 2014)."

Here are some online stories about Richard Lussier and his special reunion with his son Caleb.
Special thanks to Richard Lussier for all he does in the service of of his country and as an autism father. Richard Lussier is representative of other autism fathers in military service.  His service is an inspiration to the autism community.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Carolina Panthers

Autism Light #362 is the Carolina Panthers. 

The Carolina Panthers are a football team in the National Football League located in Charlotte, North Carolina. They were organized on October 26, 1993 as an expansion team in the NFL.  The Carolina Panthers are an Autism Light because of their compassion towards people with autism. The Carolina Panthers are the first NFL team to be named an Autism Light and will be placed today on the Autism Light Sports page.

The Carolina Panthers played their first season in 1995. They reached Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004 and lost to the New England Patriots. At the time it was the most watched Super Bowl in history. The Carolina Panthers have many fans in the Carolina area and around the country, but two of their biggest fans have autism and the team has reached out to them.

Alphonzo "Fonz" McDonald:   Alphonzo is a 15 year old boy who has autism. He is such a big fan of the Carolina Panthers that his room is decorated in blue and black.  When asked what his sports dream would be, Fonz said, "I want to play wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers (MyFox8.com, Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers Make Dream Come True for Young Autistic Fan)!" 

On Saturday, October 25, 2014, Fonz got the opportunity to play wide receiver at a Carolina Panthers practice. He was then given a tailgate party, pregame field passes, and tickets for the game on October 26 when Carolina played the Seattle Seahawks. The Arc of North Carolina helped make the connection between Fonz and the Carolina Panthers. 

Here is a video of radio coverage of this special moment for a boy with autism.

Carolina Panthers Help Dream Come True for Autistic Boy from HIS Radio on Vimeo.

The following is a tweet on Twitter about Alphonzo McDonald meeting the Carolina Panthers. Fonz is the happy young man wearing the blue jersey.

Dave: .Dave is a young adult with autism. He is also known as Brother Dave. He is a huge Carolina Panthers fan. You can see a YouTube video where he reviews a game Carolina played against Green Bay in 2011. In 2011 the team gave Dave a signed football and tickets to a game. Here is a video of Dave receiving the gifts on behalf of the Carolina Panthers organization.

Light It Up Blue: In addition to their concern for individuals with autism the Carolina Panthers participated in a visible way in the community as the Bank of America Stadium where they play was displayed in blue lights for Autism Awareness Month in April, 2014.

Social Media:  To follow the Carolina Panthers on social media visit these pages.
For more information on the Carolina Panthers visit these links:
Special thanks to the Carolina Panthers for shining a light on the cause autism through their autism awareness efforts.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Boyce Coleman

Autism Light #361 is Boyce Coleman.

Boyce "Scoop" Coleman is from Yonkers, New York and died on September 7, 2014, when he went into the Hudson River to rescue a 6 year old boy named Stephen Jones, who has autism. Boyce Coleman drowned in the Hudson River shortly after he handed Stephen Jones safely to another adult. We honor Boyce Coleman for giving his life to save Stephen Jones. Boyce Coleman will be placed on the Autism Light Memorial Roll today.

On September 7, 2014, Boyce Coleman had been near the water at JFK Marina and Park in Yonkers for a family reunion. Boyce Coleman jumped into the murky waters of the Hudson River to save Stephen Jones, when he heard that that a boy with autism had went into the river.

In Boyce Coleman's obituary it was said,
Boyce Coleman, 43, of Yonkers, New York died heroically on Sunday, September 7, 2014 as he saved the life of another. Boyce (Scoop) Coleman was born in Yonkers, NY on August 27, 1971. He was known for his bigger than life personality, tremendous generosity, and warm heart. Family and friends alike were blessed many times over by his giving spirit. Scoop adored his two daughters, spending quality time with his family and friends, sports, cooking, and indulging in the finer luxuries of life. On the day that he surrendered his life to save another, he truly demonstrated the characteristics that made him who he was (Boyce Coleman Obituary).
Obituary: You can read his full obituary at Dignity Memorial.

More Information: The following stories have more information on the heroism and passing of Boyce Coleman.

We are grateful to Boyce Coleman for caring about a boy with autism enough to risk his life for him. Our thoughts are with the family of Boyce Coleman. May the example that Boyce Coleman set inspire others to go the second mile to help those with autism who have issues with their safety.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Dwayne Ballen

Autism Light #360 is Dwayne Ballen. 

Dwayne Ballen is an autism father from Durham, North Carolina. He is the owner of Ballen Media and a journalist and sports announcer.  Dwayne Ballen wrote the book "Journey with Julian" about his lessons of raising a son with autism. Dwane Ballen is an Autism Light for how he spreads autism awareness through both his memoirs as an autism father and as he speaks to groups about autism.

Dwayne Ballen's book "Journey with Julian" is an account of a father observing the world through the eyes of his son growing up with autism. Dwayne Ballen said, "I watched the world through Julian's eyes, and it was a marvel. And at times, it was a heartache (WRAL.com, Father's Memoir Offers Lesson on Raising Son with Autism)."

Dwayne Ballen expresses how he feels as an autism father in this way, "People with special needs have much to offer us. I hope I'm a better person for having Julian. I hope I'm a better father. But one thing is certain, my life is better for having been Julian's father (Franklin Porter Graham Child Development Institute, April 23, 2014)."

Journey with Julian:  Dwayne Ballen's book "Journey with Julian" was released in April, 2013. You can read posts that eventually were put into the book at Dwayne Ballen's blog at journeywithjulian.com and order the book through Amazon. This is the video where Dwayne Ballen explains why he wrote his book "Journey with Julian."

Sports Announcer:  Garden District Book Shop in their promotion of "Journey with Julian" says, "Dwayne Ballen is a television journalist whose broadcast résumé includes CBS Sports, the ESPN networks, the Golf Channel, Fox Sports, USA Network and TNT's NBA Playoffs coverage. He has been a contributor to NPR and the Fox News Channel (Garden District Book Shop, May 17, 2013)."

More Information: The following articles highlight some of the ways in which Dwayne Ballen spreads autism awareness.

Here is a video of Dwayne Ballen being the color commentator for a past college basketball game.

Social Media: To learn more about Dwayne Ballen view his LinkedIn page.

Special thanks to Dwayne Ballen for raising autism awareness through giving the world his memoirs in "Journey with Julian". The perspective that Dwayne Ballen brings as an autism father is a gift to the autism community. We wish Dwayne and Julian all the best in the future.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Johnny Orr

Autism Light #359 is Johnny Orr. 

The Johnny Orr Band Autism SongJohnny Orr is a country singer and recording artist from Raleigh, North Carolina. He is the lead vocalist for The Johnny Orr Band. Johnny Orr wrote the words to the song We'll Get By (The Autism Song) which was released by The Johnny Orr Band in April 1, 2014 for Autism Awareness Month. Johnny Orr is an Autism Light for giving to the world the song We'll Get By (The Autism Song). Johnny Orr will be listed today on the Autism Light Music page along with others who have given us autism awareness music over the years at Autism Light.  

Johnny Orr started The Johnny Orr Band in 2007.  "Johnny's been on CMT's Big Break with Sara Evans, was a finalist for Nashville Star, has opened for Kenny Chesney, Zac Brown Band, Gretchen Wilson, LeAnn Rimes, Josh Gracin, Josh Thompson, Jeff Bates, Phil Vassar, and many more (Facebook Page for The Johnny Orr Band)." Read more about Johnny Orr at his official website at johnnyorrband.com

The following is the official video on Johnny Orr's song We'll Get By. The song is part of The Johnny Orr Band's album "Down South" which can be purchased on iTunes.

The following video gives the inspiring story of how Johnny Orr was led to write We'll Get By (The Autism Song) after being asked to write an autism song by a friend on Facebook who has two twin sons who deal with autism everyday. Johnny Orr didn't know much about autism at the time but he waited for about a year until an idea for the song came to him and he did research to better understand autism.

Social Media: You can follow Johnny Orr on the following social media areas.

Special thanks to Johnny Orr for writing We'll Get By (The Autism Song). It is an inspiration and benefit to the autism community to have talented recording artists helping raise awareness through their gift of music. To book Johnny Orr call Chris Keaton at 615-313-7211. We wish The Johnny Orr Band all the best as they continue to entertain more and more fans around the world with their music.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The photo in this post of Johnny Orr was used with permission of Johnny Orr.

This post is dedicated to my wife Anne Stokes on her birthday. She loves North Carolina and country music.  She is a wonderful autism mother. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Thula the Cat

Autism Light #358 is Thula the Cat.

Thula is a one year old Maine Coon Cat who lives in Market Horborough, England in the United Kingdom. Thula is a therapy cat to a 5 year old girl with autism named Iris Grace Halmshaw. The story of Iris Grace Halmshaw was originally featured at Autism Light in July of 2013 when she was named Autism Light #285.  Thula is an Autism Light for the way in which she helps serve as an autism therapy cat to Iris Grace. Thula helps young Iris Grace to overcome anxiety in social situations and cope with everyday routines such as getting her hair washed.

Petango writes this about the Maine Coon Cat breed, which is the official cat of the State of Maine in the United States.
Unlike some other people-oriented cat breeds, Maine coon cats are not overly dependent on their human family. Instead of pestering you for attention, they will remain close by for companionship. Not usually “lap cats,” they prefer to sit beside you instead of on top of you. Maine coon cats make great buddies for kids and generally socialize well with other pets (Petango).
Arbella Carter-Johnson, Iris' mother, told Bored Panda, "Thula has lowered [Iris'] daily anxieties in life and keeps Iris calm, but equally has the effect of encouraging her to be more social. She will talk more to Thula, saying little phrases like 'sit cat (Bored Panda).'"

Online Resources: You can read more about the heartwarming friendship between Thula the cat and Iris Grace in these online articles.

Special thanks to Thula for being an Autism Light and helping Iris Grace Halmshaw in her life with autism. Without a doubt some of the amazing things that Iris Grace Halmshaw is able to do with her painting would not be possible without the devotion of her therapy cat Thula on her side. If you want to read about other cats at Autism Light you can search for them with the label "Cat".

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Mormon Channel

Autism Light #357 is The Mormon Channel.

The Mormon Channel is the "media channel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The channel originates from Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah and broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Content for the station comes from the vast archives of the Church, along with several new series created specifically for this station (About The Mormon Channel)."  The Mormon Channel is an Autism Light for raising autism awareness by creating media that addresses autism and is spread to their viewers across the world.

The following media on The Mormon Channel shares the story of a girl named Hannah whose brother Hyrum has autism. It was released by The Mormon Channel in April of 2013 for Autism Awareness Month (Deseret News, Sarah Petersen, May 1, 2013). It concludes with an excerpt from a message on inclusion by Thomas S. Monson, the President of The Mormon Church.

Autism was also the subject of a special program on The Mormon Channel called "Mormon Identities."  Episode 43 of "Mormon Identities" was dedicated to autism. You can listen to that media at www.mormonchannel.org/mormon-identities/43.

Special thanks to The Mormon Channel for being an Autism Light by raising awareness of autism in their media. Hopefully this message of hope for autism will reach a large and diverse audience as they share their media around the clock. To read about other features at Autism Light with connections to the Mormon faith search for the label "Mormon."

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Vickie Nettles

Autism Light #356 is Vickie Nettles. 

Vickie Nettles is an autism mother from Lafayette, Louisiana. Her daughter Catherine has autism and following her diagnosis Vickie Nettles began intensive research into the condition, becoming a relentless autism advocate. She had been serving as an administrative assistant with the Autism Society of Acadiana. Vickie Nettles passed away unexpectedly on August 6, 2014, from complications of surgery.  Vicki leaves a legacy of service to the autism community.  She is survived by her husband Charlie Nettles; her step-daughter, Nichole Robicheaux; her son, Richard Charles Nettles and daughters, Laura Elizabeth Nettles and Catherine Marie Nettles. Her funeral service was held on August 9, 2014 in La Chapelle de Martin & Castille. Vickie Nettles will be placed on the Autism Light Memorial Roll today.

Obituary: You may read more information about Vickie Nettles' life in her obituary at Legacy.com. Memorial contributions are suggested to be made to the Autism Society of Acadiana.

Tributes: The obituary for Vickie Nettles has this word about her:
Vickie Nettles dedicated her career and much of her free time to the Autism Society of Acadiana. She was a loving wife, mother, daughter, grandmother and friend to all who knew her and will be dearly missed (Legacy.com, Vickie Nettles).
Robyn Blackwell, Board President of the Autism Society of Acadiana and mother of an autistic son, describing the impact of Vickie Nettles, said, "She taught all of us so much about advocating for your child, and advocating for your rights as a parent. She cried with us, laughed with us, celebrated with us (As quoted in KATC.Com News, Tonya LaCoste, August 6, 2014)."

We are grateful to Vickie Nettles for her contributions to the cause of autism. Our thoughts are with the family of Vickie Nettles, especially her daughter Catherine who has autism. It is hoped that the example that Vickie Nettles has left the world of shining her light for autism will spread to others in Lousiana and throughout the world as they read this. 

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Benjamin Tarasewicz - Malva Tarasewicz

Autism Lights #355 are Benjamin Tarasewicz and Malva Tarasewicz. 

Benjamin and Malva Tarasewicz
Benjamin Tarasewicz and his mother Malva.
Benjamin Breaking Barriers is an autism success story brought to the autism community by a mother and son from Boulder, Colorado. Benjamin Tarasewicz is a 19 year old student with autism who has broken barriers in his own life and today is giving public presentations on autism to hundreds of people. His mother Malva Tarasewicz has been Benjamin's chief therapist over the years and authored a book about Benjamin's life called Benjamin Breaking Barriers. Benjamin and Malva Tarasewicz are Autism Lights for the way in which their speaking and writing about Benjamin's journey with autism are helping raise autism awareness and encourage others who have autism or who care about someone with autism.

Benjamin Tarasewicz: Benjamin will be in his final year of school this year at Fairview High School in Boulder, Colorado. He was a senior this past year but decided to stay on for an extended year of learning in high school before starting the next chapter of his life. In addition to school, his busy life includes being an actor, musician, autism advocate, and a public speaker.

The following is a news story with Benjamin and Malva sharing about their life and autism outreach.

Origins of Benjamin's Desire for Public Speaking: Benjamin Tarasewicz wrote this on his blog about why he started speaking up about autism. 
"I know what bullying feels like. When I was in middle school, I actually gave my very first autism “presentation and talk-back” to kids in health class because I hoped that explaining about autism would help them be more kind. I wanted kids to appreciate me and my talents instead of teasing me about my differences. I never dreamed that I would go on to speak with hundreds of kids my age, helping them to understand that “being different” doesn’t mean that someone is less of a person. Actually, being different can give you insights and thoughts that others wouldn’t come up with—sometimes such ideas can change the world! Think of people like Albert Einstein and Temple Grandin… I’m doing what I can to teach about kindness and compassion, and one of my big dreams is to give my autism presentation in an events center filled to the top with people—I want to make an impact like a meteor! (Benjamin Tarasewicz)"
Benjamin Tarasewicz
Benjamin Tarasewicz - Senior Picture
Benjamin's Awards:  Benjamin Tarasewicz has received the following awards. Read more about Benjamin at the publicity page of his website called Benjamin Breaking Barriers.
  • 2013 Temple Grandin Award (Presented by Future Horizons autism publishers in Texas; this award recognizes the accomplishments of special individuals with autism making a difference in today's world.)
  • 2013 Self-Advocate of the Year Award (Presented by the Association for Community Living, Boulder County; Benjamin is the youngest individual to have received this award since its inception.)
  • 2012 Compassionate Youth of the Year Award (Presented by the Autism Society of Colorado; honoring Benjamin for his debut year of autism presentations and outreach work.) 
Here is a video of Benjamin giving one of his presentations called "Living with Autism".
Malva Tarasewicz
Malva Tarasewicz
Malva Tarasewicz: As Benjamin's mother, Malva has been his supporter and angel the past 19 years and has helped him grow to his present level of success. Malva Freymuth Tarasewicz is also an author, professional violinist, and an equestrienne specializing in dressage and musical freestyle. Malva earned her Doctor of Music Arts (DMA) from the University of Colorado (Boulder). You can read more about Malva's biography on her page on the Benjamin Breaking Barriers Website.

Advice to Parents: Malva Tarasewicz says this word to parents of children with autism.
"Parents--always keep up hope and faith, keep reaching for the stars to help your child become the most that he/she is capable of, and find ways to maximize the silver linings that come with the darkest clouds...."
Benjamin Breaking Barriers Book Cover
Benjamin Breaking Barriers: Malva Tarasewicz wrote the book Benjamin Breaking Barriers to tell the autism journey of hope of her son Benjamin. The book was published in January, 2014 and is currently a semi-finalist for the 2014 Kindle Book Review's Best Kindle Book Awards and a Reader's Favorite Book Award Finalist.

Dr. Temple Grandin, who was Autism Light #38, said about Benjamin Breaking Barriers, “I really liked the way Benjamin was ‘stretched’ by his mother to achieve new things. Too many kids on the autism spectrum are over protected. Fixations were directed into creative, useful activities.” 

You can purchase a copy of Benjamin Breaking Barriers through Integrated Musicians Press and it is also available in a Kindle Edition.

Blog: Benjamin and Malva write an Autism blog called Benjamin Breaking Barriers at http://benjaminbreakingbarriers.wordpress.com. Some of the most memorable posts they have written for their blog include: My Love of MusicChoose KindnessMusings on Romantic Relationships, and Media Whirlwind

Social Media: You can follow Benjamin's journey in life on the following social media.
Autism Therapy: Malva Tarasewicz told this to Autism Light about the autism therapies the Tarasewicz family has tried:
"I personally worked therapeutically with Benjamin, all day, every day, always focusing on a heart-to-heart-connection and a feeling of joy, searching for what might motivate him. I used behavioral principles for teaching skills, but always focused on the "dance" that is the art of teaching (knowing when to lead and when to follow). Music, art, dance, and poetry were sources of inspiration; I added lots of movement and sensory integration, and found teaching opportunities in every ordinary situation. Additional support of Benjamin's progress came from specially tailored diet, holistic therapies (like homeopathy and bodywork), and also from bio-medical testing/treatment (Malva Tarasewicz)." 
Future Plans: Benjamin was just invited to be one of the keynote speakers at the U.S. Autism & Asperger's Association Conference as part of a TEDx-style presentation. Malva Tarasewicz told Autism Light,
"He is hoping for further opportunities such as this to keep spreading his message of hope, compassion, joy, and determination. Aside from public speaking, Benjamin intends to continue performing in musical theater and choirs, to find work that involves nature/plants/ animals/people, and to develop an intimate relationship with a wonderful woman." 
As for Melva she plans to continue to assist Benjamin in whatever necessary as he continues to grow into increasing independence. She will continue to be a violinist in a professional symphony. Together both Melva and Benjamin plan to create and give more presentations to raise autism awareness wherever they can.

Special thanks to Benjamin and Malva Tarasewicz for being an inspiration to many.  Although Benjamin has accomplished much it is apparent that his success was furthered by the dedication and diligence of his devoted mother Malva. The story of Benjamin breaking barriers is an example to many autism families facing an uncertain future. We look forward to hearing exciting things from Benjamin Tarasewicz in the future as he continues as a self-advocate for autism.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism. 

The photos in this post were used with permission of Malva Tarasewicz.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

JJ's Chickens

Autism Light #354 are JJ's Chickens.

Joshua James (JJ) Hart is a four year old boy with autism who lives in DeBary, Florida. JJ's Chickens have made a tremendous difference in his life over the past three years. Currently he has three chickens named Acorn, Nugget and Snow. JJ calls them his "ducks". JJ's Chickens are Autism Light because of the therapeutic help they provide for JJ.

Ashleigh Hart, JJ's mother, describes the help the chickens provide for her son and his autism in this way: 

JJ’s chickens really helped him come out of his shell! He is physically active and social. The chickens helped give JJ something to look forward to. They love him with no conditions and in turn, he loves them. When he comes home from school, he goes out, he sees his chickens, gives them treats and plays with them and is content. 

They have helped him physically, mentally, socially and even in terms of his diet (he eats the hens’ eggs). The chickens encouraged him to speak. He started making sounds and mimicking them when he was younger. (As quoted by Alex Strickland for Autism Daily Newscast, March 13, 2014).

JJ Hart's family acquired the chickens before any city zoning issue or controversy surfaced in their community about private ownership of chickens. But after they had been with JJ for a year, JJ's Chickens got packaged into a one year pilot program to regulate them within the  City of DeBary, Florida. Then in 2013, the City Council voted to end the program and prohibit chickens, including JJ's Chickens, from being in the city limits anymore. The Hart family hired an attorney and were victorious in this important case for the autism community. In the end, because the chickens were being used for therapy for a person with a disability, JJ's family received a special accommodation from the city council permiting three chickens at a time to be at their property in DeBary, Florida for as long as JJ lives in the home (Orlando Sentinel, December 11, 2013). For more information on this civic disability case visit JJ's Chickens website.

The Autism Daily Newscast reported that "Dr. Emily Forrest, a developmental behavioral pediatrician for Florida Hospital for Children voiced that although chickens are unconventional in the use of Autism therapy as dogs and horses are more commonly used JJ. has bonded with them and made progress (Autism Daily Newscast, December 7, 2013)."

Social Media: If you would like to keep track of JJ's Chickens join the Facebook Group called Save JJ HART's "Ducks".

JJ's Chickens are the first chickens to be honored at Autism Light and a link to this article will be placed today on the Animals Page at Autism Light. It is possible that chickens could help some other person or child with autism somewhere in the world. We wish JJ the best in his life and hope his chickens will continue to be a blessing to him in his development.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

The photos in this post were used with permission of Ashleigh Hart.