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 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 (, 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 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.