Monday, June 30, 2014

Daryl Hannah

Autism Light #350 is Daryl Hannah.

Daryl Hannah is a 53 year old actress and producer who has had roles in over 80 films since 1978, including playing Madison (the mermaid) in the 1984 movie Splash. Daryl Hannah revealed in September, 2013, that she was diagnosed with Autism/Asperger's Syndrome as a child. She was born on December 3, 1960. In recent years she has been an environmental activist and has homes in Colorado and California. Daryl Hannah is an Autism Light for raising autism awareness as a celebrity figure by publicly sharing about her experiences with autism and how it impacted her life.

The following is an ABC News story from 2013, related to when Daryl Hannah revealed for the first time that she has autism.

When she was diagnosed with autism as a child, doctors recommended medication or that she be put in an institution.  Daryl Hannah's mother, Susan Metzger, refused to accept that fate for her daughter. Her mother pulled her out of school for a year and worked with her at home (The Autism Site, Daryl Hannah Opens Up About Her Autism).

Actress: Having autism has made Daryl Hannah shy away over the years from promoting her career through interviews and publicity performances. She feels more comfortable out of the limelight. Daryl Hannah told People Magazine in September, 2013, "I've never been comfortable being the center of attention. It freaked me out (see video above)." Nevertheless, the talented actress has been in entertainment for parts of five decades and has had roles in over 80 films since 1978. Some of her more well-known films include Blade Runner, Splash, Roxanne, Wall Street, Steel Magnolias, and Kill Bill. You can see a complete list of films she has acted in at Daryl Hannah's IMDB page.

The following is an interview Dan Rather did with Daryl Hannah about her autism.

Environmental Activist: Daryl Hannah is passionate about the environment. She has been an activist in recent years for environmental issues in America. Her simple homes in Colorado and California are off the grid.  Daryl Hannah "leads an eco-friendly lifestyle, pumps well water and relies on solar power at home (Huffington Post, Sept. 27, 2013)."

Wikipedia: You can learn more about Daryl Hannah at her Wikipedia page.

Social Media: You can follow Daryl Hannah at the following social media pages.

Special thanks to Daryl Hannah for being an Autism Light. As an exceptional actress, Daryl Hannah's life story is a testimony that some people with autism can be very successful at acting. We wish Daryl Hannah the best in the future and look forward to her future projects in the entertainment industry. The autism community appreciates hearing her experiences with autism.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

3rd Year Anniversary of Autism Light

Three years ago today I wrote the first Autism Light post after I read the story of Carly Fleischmann and wanted to remember the details of her miraculous communication breakthrough. In the ensuing years this blog has honored the story of 349 diverse heroes to the world of autism. There are representatives from every state in the United States and 22 other countries beyond the USA. I want to thank everyone who has been so kind to let their story be told and for all the faithful readers who have made over 350,000 views of the unpredictable releases of new Autism Light posts. I have truly met so many wonderful friends in these three years and learned so much.

I give this song to you my friends and blog readers because You Light Up My Life and to someone You Light Up Autism. Whether you are part of the 349 mentioned to date on Autism Light or not, please keep being a hero for autism and know that someone notices.

If you like Autism Light, check out these other autism blogs I created after Autism Light.
Thank you for reading as we start our fourth year of blogging at Autism Light.  I always welcome emails from anyone in the autism community with ideas about autims heroes. Contact me at the email address of

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Golden Retriever Puppies of LionPaws

Autism Light #349 is the Golden Retriever Puppies of LionPaws.

LionPaws is a partership between Paws4People and The LionHeart School in Alpharetta, Georgia. Paws4People sends Golden Retriever puppies to help the students with autism at The LionHeart School. It is a win-win situation as the puppies are being socialized to be future service dogs for injured war veterans who have Post-Traumic Stress Disorder. The Golden Retriever Puppies of LionPaws are Autism Light for how their presence helps the children with autism at The LionHeart School. They will be added today to the Autism Light Animal Page.

Here is a news story from USA Today on the LionPaws program.

Autism Speaks and NBC News 11 in Atlanta also did features on the Golden Retriever puppies in the LionPaws program.

The LionPaws program describes the benefit of their partnership as follows:
LionPaws is the only program of its kind in the nation, where students with special needs help socialize future Service Dogs. Many children with special needs have a natural affinity and comfort level with animals, so being around the puppies is beneficial for both the students and the puppies. Research indicates that animal interventions provide health benefits such as reducing anxiety levels, helping with depression and fear as well as facilitating social interactions (LionPaws Website).

The following was posted on Twitter about Austin and Memphis, representatives of these adorable Golden Retriever puppies.

Special thanks to the Golden Retriever puppies in the LionPaws program and their human handlers who made this light to autism possible. Hopefully this concept of puppies learning socialization from students with autism will continue at The Lion School and be replicated in other schools in the future.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Tom Fields-Meyer

Autism Light #348 is Tom Fields-Meyer.  

Special Father's Day Honoree.

Tom Fields-MeyerTom Fields-Meyer and son Ezra

Tom Fields-Meyer is a writer, journalist, and public speaker who lives in Los Angeles, California with his wife, Rabbi Shawn Fields-Meyer, and their three sons. His son Ezra has autism. Tom Fields-Meyer is an Autism Light for sharing about his relationship with his son Ezra with the autism community.

Writer: Tom Fields-Meyer has been a writer for three decades. He also is currently an instructor in writing at the UCLA Extension Writer's Program, the largest continuing-education writing program in the United States. He has clients such as The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The Los Angeles Times and he was a senior writer at People Magazine from 1995-2007. "He penned articles on some of the biggest crime stories of the day (from the O.J. Simpson trial to the murder of Matthew Shepherd), profiled prominent politicians and world leaders (Nancy Pelosi, Pope John Paul II, Sen. Ted Kennedy), and demonstrated a pitch-perfect touch writing tales of ordinary people overcoming life's challenges in inspiring and compelling ways (Read more about Tom Fields-Meyer on the Following Ezra Website)." With all those important pieces to his credit aside, Tom Fields-Meyer's most important contribution to the autism community was his memoir about life as an autism father.

Book Cover of Following EzraTom Fields-Meyer is the author of Following Ezra: What One Father Learned About Gumby, Otters, Autism, and Love from His Extraordinary Son. The book is Tom Fields-Meyer's memoir and was published by NAL/Penguin books in September, 2011. "Following Ezra is the riveting story of a father and son on a ten-year adventure, from Ezra's diagnosis to the dawn of his adolescence. An engaging account of a father gradually uncovering layers of a puzzle, it rejoices in each new discovery and exults in the boy's evolution from a remote toddler to an extraordinary young man, connected to the world in his own astounding ways (Following Ezra Website)." You may order the book through links at the Following Ezra Website.

The following is a YouTube video where Tom Fields-Meyer talks about the book Following Ezra. If you can not view it on your mobile phone watch it directly on YouTube at this link.

Awards for Following Ezra: The following awards were bestowed on the book Following Ezra.
Following in his father's footsteps, Ezra Fields-Meyer, is the coauthor of a children's book called  E-MERGENCY!, which the Boston Globe named one of the Ten Best Children's Books of 2011. We look forward to hearing more about Ezra's accomplishments in the years to come and his development is a tribute to his amazing father.

Jewish Faith: Describing the importance of the Jewish faith to his family in a blog post for the Jewish Book Council on November 7, 2011, Tom Fields-Meyer wrote:
As it happens, God comes up in conversation quite a bit in our household. My wife is a rabbi who teaches Jewish texts at a Jewish community high school. We attend synagogue every Shabbat, and our family life revolves around the Jewish calendar.
Ezra, who indeed craves the predictable, has always been attracted to the more concrete aspects of Judaism: the calendar, the holiday cycles, the weekly rituals. At an early age, he memorized the ten plagues, and began acting them out--dramatically, and in order--at our sedar. He has always been attracted to the Bible stories pitting good against evil: Moses vs. Pharaoh, David vs. Goliath, Mordecai vs. Haman (Autism and God, Tom Fields-Meyer, November 7, 2011).

Autism Blessing: Tom Fields-Meyer relates autism to a blessing from the Artscroll prayer book that is used "upon seeing a person who is different....It praises God, mishaneh habriyot--who 'creates variety among living beings' (The Jewish Message, Tom Fields-Meyer, November 11, 2011).

Tom Fields-Meyer finds that his Jewish faith teaches him to respect those with disabilities. He wrote,
In the book of Genesis, it says God created human beings in God's image. That means we should treat every person with dignity, respect and honor--no matter their disability, no matter what they look like, no matter how many times they remind us when the next Pixar movie is premiering (a habit of Ezra's that can be either endearing or annoying, depending on your perspective). That also means that encountering people who are different from us--from different backgrounds, different circumstances, or facing different challenges--gives us a insight into the many aspects of the divine (The Jewish Message, Tom Fields-Meyer, November 11, 2011). 
New Book Being Published in 2015: Tom Fields-Meyer is the coauthor with Barry Prizant of the forthcoming book Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism, to be published by Simon & Schuster in mid-2015. It is based on stories from Dr. Prizant's more than four decades working with individuals with autism and their families

Social Media: You can follow Tom Fields-Meyer on the following social media areas.
Special thanks to Tom Fields-Meyer for sharing his memoir with the autism community. He has provided inspiration to many through his writing and is especially representative of the countless other autism fathers who are seeking to be the best father they can to their sons who have autism. We are especially grateful for the insight he offers on how his Jewish faith helps him as an autism parent. Other subjects featured in the past at Autism Light related to the Jewish faith can be searched using the "Jewish Label".

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photos: The photos in this post were used with permisssion of Tom Fields-Meyer.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Ka'eo and Jackie Griffin

Autism Light #347 is Ka'eo and Jackie Griffin

Ka'eo and Jackie Maraya-Griffin and sonsKa'eo and Jackie Maraya-Griffin live in Kapolei on the island of Oahu, Hawaii with their two sons. Their oldest son Ka'eo Griffin Jr. has autism. Ka'eo and Jackie Maraya-Griffin are Autism Lights because they spread autism awareness in Hawaii as leaders of New Hope Oahu's autism ministry and as administrators of the Son-Rise Program in their son's autism treatment.

The following is a video of the testimony and song Jackie Maraya-Griffin gave at New Hope Church in Oahu, Hawaii on May 8, 2011 to spread autism awareness.

Christian Faith: Ka'eo, Sr. and Jackie Griffin are Christians and their faith provides them with the confidence that there is a divine purpose for all those with autism. Jackie said,
There is hope and beauty in autism.  You can see it if you choose to.  Every day can be a struggle full of obstacles if we choose to see it that way. These kids are just doing the best they can.  We choose to see our son's challenges as opportunities to express an amazing love and acceptance to him in a way that no one else normally would (Email to Autism Light on 6/4/2014).
Ka'eo and Jackie Griffin have served as the Directors of the Autism Ministry at New Hope Oahu, a Christian church in Oahu, Hawaii.

Musical Theater Performer: Jackie Maraya was a musical theater performer for many years, doing shows such as Miss Saigon in Germany, the 3rd National tour of Rent, and Regional Shows such as the King & I and Flower Drum Song. Jackie took a contract to sing on the NCL Star Cruise Ship in Hawaii where she met, Ka'eo Sr. Jackie gave up being a performer so she could stay home with her son after he receive the autism diagnosis.

Son-Rise Program: The Son-Rise Program was developed by Barry Neil Kaufman and Samahria Lyte Kaufman for their son Raun in 1974. The program continues to be taught by the Autism Treatment Center of America. Jackie and Ka'eo run a home-based, child-centered, play-based Son-Rise Program for their son Ka'eo. They direct a 17 person volunteer team, who they've trained to play with their son Ka'eo in the most loving and accepting way possible, with a goal of connecting with him and building a bridge of trust from his special world into theirs.

The following video is Ka'eo Griffin explaining the great results his son had from the Son-Rise program.

Social Media: You can follow more of Ka'eo and Jackie Griffin's work in these social media areas:
Special thanks to Ka'eo and Jackie Griffin for shining their light for autism in Hawaii. Their son Ka'eo, Jr. is wonderfully blessed to have parents who have walked beside him in his journey by learning principles of the Son-Rise program. And the community of believers at New Hope Oahu is likewise blessed to have such capable coordinators of their autism ministry. If you would like to read other posts at Autism Light on individuals from Hawaii find them by searching the blog for the Hawaii label.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The photo of Ka'eo and Jackie Griffin and their family is used with permission and taken from their Hawaii Son-Rise website.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Mery Daniel and Richardson Daniel

Autism Lights #346 are Mery Daniel and Richardson Daniel.

Mery Daniel and Richardson Daniel live in Boston. Mery is a native of Haiti and is a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing that took place on April 15, 2013. She sustained significant injuries in the bombing and lost her left leg.  Mery Daniel is an Autism Light because on her road to recovery she hand-cycled beside runners and walkers on October 5, 2013, in a 5K race to raise funds for the Charles River Center, an autism organization that her husband Richardson works at. Richardson Daniel is an Autism Light for his dedication as a worker with adults with autism at the Charles River Center.

Charles River Center: Mery Daniel raced to benefit the Charles River Center in Needham, Massachusetts on October 5, 2013. Richardson Daniel works at the Charles River Center with autistic adults. According to their website, this is the mission of the Charles River Center:
The Charles River Center (formerly Charles River Arc) is a private, nonprofit human service agency in Needham, Massachusetts, providing employment and job training, residential homes, therapeutic day programs, and recreational programs for children and adults with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities.  Founded by a group of parents of children with special needs in 1956, the mission of Charles River has always been to improve the quality of life by helping each individual with a developmental disability achieve his or her highest possible level of independence so that he or she can fully participate, benefit, and become a contributing member of the community (Charles River Center Website, About Us).
The Charles River Center did a press release on Mery Daniel joining them for their 3rd Annual 5K on October 5, 2013.  The 4th Annual 5K Run/Walk for the Charles River Center will be held on September 28, 2014. For more details see

Mery Daniel's recovery is an inspiration to many but she told WCVB, ABC's Boston affiliate before the race on October 5, 2013, "Sunday's not going to be about me. It's going to be about autism (ABC News, Boston Amputee Races for Autism, 9/25/2013)."

Here is another video on Mery Daniel's inspirational recovery to live life with a prosthetic leg.

Inspirational amputee Bonnie St. John is helping raise money for Mery Daniel. Mery has many extra expenses associated with the injuries she sustained at the Boston Marathon Bombing. If you would like to help Mery Daniel visit There is a Go Fund Me page for Mery Daniel started by Mery's cousin.

Special thanks to Mery Daniel and Richardson Daniel for their contributions to the Charles River Center. Many in the autism community are grateful to Mery who helped fundraise for the Charles River Center on her inspirational road of surviving the Boston Marathon Bombing and likewise to Richardson who faithfully works with a passion at the Charles River Center to help those with autism navigate their daily life.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.