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 (, 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 (, 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,, 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:
  • Mail: PO Box 361, Forestville, Sydney, Australia 2086
  • Website:
  • Webform:
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 (, 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.