Thursday, December 31, 2015

2016 New Year's Resolutions for Autism Light

As we stand at the edge of a new year, I wanted to share a goal I have for the Autism Light blog, for myself as an autism parent, and for the autism community.

My Autism Light Blog Resolutions: 

I want to publish the 500th Autism Light profile in 2016. To accomplish this I will need to average 5 features per month. It is both realistic but also challenging for the unpredictable world of an autism father.

    My Autism Parent Resolutions:

    I want to listen more effectively to my 11 year old who has autism and celebrate his developmental progress in 2016.

    The following quote succinctly describes my pursuit as an autism parent in 2016.
    "So I entered parenting with only 3 clear goals: to love, to cherish, and to listen." - Melissa Ridge Carter" -- Hillary Flower, Adventures in Gentle Discipline: A Parent-to-Parent Guide.

    My Autism Community Resolution:

    I wish for unity in the autism community through a greater understanding of the diverse passions and perspectives within people, who each in their own way are striving to make life better for all those impacted by autism around the world.
    "A choir is made up of many voices, including yours and mine. If one by one all go silent then all that will be left are the soloists. 
    Don't let a loud few determine the nature of the sound. It makes for poor harmony and diminishes the song." -- Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

    Additional Resources: Several wonderful articles have been written about New Year's Resolutions that are applicable to the autism community.  Here are links to half a dozen of them.

    1. 5 New Year's Resolutions for an Autism Mom (Huffington Post, Julie M. Green, January 5, 2015)
    2. 10 New Year's Resolutions to Support Autism (Kidmunicate, January 5, 2015)
    3. 2015 Autism New Year's Resolutions (Navigating Autism Blog, December 30, 2014)
    4. Top 10 New Year's Resolutions, from My AutismTeam Parents (Autism Speaks, January 18, 2013)
    5. Parent Tips: New Year's Resolutions 2011 (Pathfinders for Autism, Shelly Allred)
    6. 2015's New Year's Resolutions for Autism Parents (, Lisa Jo Rudy, December 30, 2014)

    Photo: The photo in this post was used courtesy of Profile Rehab

    Tuesday, December 29, 2015

    Reader's Choice Awards for 2015

    It's time to announce our 3rd annual Reader's Choice Awards. 2015 was our fifth year at Autism Light and we produced 86 posts this year. Here are the top posts at Autism Light from the year according to the statistics on 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 do to a variety of factors.

    Top Ten Most Popular New Posts During the Year:
    1. Jacob Velazquez' post debuted on July 20, 2015. Jacob has autism and is a musician who lives in Florida.
    2. The memorial post for Lois Blackwell (1927-2015) was published on June 30, 2015. She is the Autism Pioneer from St. Louis, Missouri who passed away on March 17, 2015.
    3. Izzy Paskowitz' post debuted on January 2, 2015. This post is about an autism father and surfer who founded Surfer's Healing.
    4. Kevin Healey's post debuted on July 16, 2015. Kevin has autism and is an Autism campaigner in the United Kingdom.
    5. Talisman Camp Programs' post debuted on June 7, 2015. They are a camp that serves individuals with autism in North Carolina.
    6. Tyler Gianchetta's post debuted on July 23, 2015. Tyler has autism and saved his mother's life from a burning car in New York.
    7. Harold Doherty's post debuted on August 20, 2015. Harold is an autism father and attorney in New Brunswick in Canada.
    8. Kim Stagliano's post debuted on May 10, 2015 for Mother's Day. Kim is an autism mother, writer, and advocate.
    9. Doron Somer's post debuted on February 27, 2015. Doron is an autism father from Israel who founded the GPS tracking company AngelSense.
    10. The memorial post for Jason Mann (1971-2013) was published on April 16, 2015. Jason is a special education teacher from Florida who passed away on December 23, 2013.
    Most Google+1's: Taylor Myatt's post had Four (4) Google+1's during the year. Taylor has autism and is from the United Kingdom.

    Most Visited Memorial Post: Lois Blackwell (1927-2015) is the Autism Pioneer from St. Louis, Missouri who passed away on March 17, 2015. Her post was clicked on so many times it was #2 in the Top Ten of all posts created during 2015.

    Most Popular State Light: The Arizona State Lights has been a popular post to find all the Autism Lights from Arizona. It was the most visited State Light page of the 12 State Lights added this year.

    Monday, December 28, 2015

    Rob Zink

    Autism Light #440 is Rob Zink. 

    Rob Zink is 45 years old and has served as a Police Officer for 17 years in the St. Paul (Minnesota) Police Department. His dedication to use his role as a police officer to help the autism community has earned him the nickname "Autism Cop". Rob Zink is also an Autism Father. Two of his three sons have autism. Rob Zink is an Autism Light for how he is making a difference in the autism community in St. Paul, Minnesota by fostering effective relationships and appropriate police responses to interactions with individuals with autism.

    Autism Father: Rob Zink's 10 year old and 12 year old sons both have autism. Rob Zink told a parent at a community forum in December 2015 that, "This is very personal to me. Now I'm getting teary-eyed, but I never want to see an instance like what happened on the MTC happen to my sons. I give it my heart and I give it my promises as best as we can. We're not perfect, we're all going to make mistakes (City Pages, Rob Zink, St. Paul's 'autism cop' pushes an unconventional approach to policing, Susan Du, December 15, 2015)."

    The following is a video of news story on Rob Zink's role in St. Paul as the Autism Cop.

    CARE Project: Rob Zink created Cop Autism Response Education (CARE) Project.
    CARE Project is part of a groundbreaking effort to ensure that police calls involving people with autism end safely. His first priority has been getting to know St. Paul families with autistic children and explaining how police respond to domestic violence calls - a not uncommon scenario involving those with an autism spectrum disorder. His second is helping police find quieter and gentler ways to defuse those calls (StarTribune, A St. Paul Police Officer is Leading Efforts to Ensure that Encounters with Autistic People End Safely, July 24, 2015). 
    Cmdr. John Bandemer, who is the head of the Western District police command where Rob Zink serves said, "We have been seeing more calls relating to kids on the spectrum and Rob has kind of become our point person. We are grateful that Rob has an interest in this from his point of view as a father. That and his work with families can kind of close the circle for understanding (StarTribune, A St. Paul Police Officer is Leading Efforts to Ensure that Encounters with Autistic People End Safely, July 24, 2015)."

    You can read stories of success within the CARE Project at the following online article: (StarTribune, A St. Paul Police Officer is Leading Efforts to Ensure that Encounters with Autistic People End Safely, July 24, 2015)

    For more information on the CARE Project in the St. Paul Police Department email:

    Special thanks to Rob Zink for being an Autism Light. We hope that programs like his CARE (Cops Autism Response Education) will be adopted in every corner of the world. Rob Zink's success in St. Paul is a shining light to help that happen.

    If you enjoyed this article you may wish to read other posts at Autism Light with the Label of Police Officer.

    Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

    Sunday, December 27, 2015

    Minnesota Lights

    The State of Minnesota is the home of 7 Autism Lights. The Minnesota group includes 2 businesses, a businessman, 2 autism fathers, a high school student, and an animal.

     Minnesota Autism Lights

    Autism Fathers:
    • Craig Evans is an autism father from St. Paul, Minnesota, who created Autism Hangout. Autism Hangout is now closed but his videos remain on YouTube
    • Rob Zink is an autism father from St. Paul, Minnesota. He is a veteran police officer who is called the 'Autism Cop' for his work on behalf of autism in his community. 
      • Snip-Its Salon is an autism friendly business franchise, where kids can get haircuts. They have their headquarters in Eden Prairie, Minnesota
      • Valley Fair is an autism friendly amusement park in Shakopee, Minnesota

      • Trey Kruse is a student at Stillwater High School in Stillwater, Minnesota, who is friends with Adam Potter, who has autism. 

      • Elf Butler Madof was a black lab dog who provided autism service with his family in La Crescent, Minnesota

      You may reach all these posts by searching the blog through the "Minnesota" Label.

      The map of Minnesota is attributed to By TUBS [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

      Friday, December 25, 2015

      Merry Christmas 2015

      For Christmas Day at Autism Light we wanted to simply share a beautiful musical piece played on the saxophone by Lawrence Wang, Autism Light #111. Lawrence is a young adult with autism. This video was originally part of his post on December 18, 2011. You can read more about Lawrence Wang at his post that remains 4 years later an important part of the Autism Light Blog.

      Here is Lawrence Wang playing "Have Yourself a Merry Christmas" on his saxophone.

      Thursday, December 24, 2015


      Autism Light #439 is Ibrahim.

      Ibrahim is a 7 year old boy who has autism and lives in the Harrow area of Greater London, England. He is a Muslim and a student at the National Autistic Society's Radlett Lodge School. Ibrahim is an Autism Light for the inspirational manner in which he prayed for diverse faiths during a lesson on Christmas traditions at his school in December of 2015.

      Ibrahim started attending the Radlett Lodge School in 2012, and when he first arrived he could only say a few words. He has grown over the 3 years of his education at the school. The following is an account of his inspiring prayer during the lesson on Christingle at his school in December of 2015.
      Ibrahim showed how far he'd come in a particularly touching and inspiring way during an RE lesson about Christingle in the first week of December. The students were taking it in turns to light a Christingle they'd made and blow it out. Ibrahim is Muslim and when it was his turn he put his hands together and prayed 'for all the Christians and Christingle and the Church, the Synagogue and Jewish, Islam and Muslims and all the families and children in the world and the Mosque and the Church and Christians and Christingle and Easter eggs (The National Autistic Society, Pupil finds his voice with wonderful Christmas message, December 21, 2015).'
      Ibrahim's teacher Zoe O'Donovan said, "Ibrahim says he wants to be a 'teacher of a hundred children' when he grows up and I have no doubt he'll succeed in his goals. There's no limit to his potential  (The National Autistic Society, Pupil finds his voice with wonderful Christmas message, December 21, 2015)."

      Special thanks to Ibrahim for being an Autism Light. Ibrahim's progress in communication is an example of how autism education can be life-changing for some students. His Christingle prayer reflects the innocence of a child who in his heart holds a love for others, regardless of their diverse religious views. Ibrahim's acceptance of others, whose religion is different than his own, is an inspiring example to others in this day and age.

      Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

      Wednesday, December 23, 2015

      Tom Hanks

      Autism Light #438 is Tom Hanks.

      Tom Hanks (2008)
      Tom Hanks is an American actor and filmmaker. He was born on July 9, 1956, and lives in Los Angeles, California. Tom Hanks has starred in dozens of films since starting his career in 1978, and he won an Academy Award for Best Actor in Philadelphia (1993) and Forrest Gump (1994). Tom Hanks is an Autism Light for the kindness he showed to a special fan with autism named Sarah Moretti in 2013.

      Family: Tom Hanks has been married to Rita Wilson since 1988. He has four children, including Colin Hanks, who is also an actor.

      Career as Actor:  Tom Hanks has had lead roles in dozens of movies, including Splash (1984), Forrest Gump (1994), Apollo 13 (1995), Saving Private Ryan and You've Got Mail (1998), The Green Mile (1999), Cast Away (2000), The Da Vinci Code (2006), and as the voice in the animated Toy Story series.

      Awards:  A list of the awards and nominations that Tom Hanks has received during his illustrious career can be found on Wikipedia.

      The following is a video of some moments in Tom Hanks' career.

      Fan with Autism: In 2013 Tom Hanks took time out of his schedule to visit backstage with Sarah Moretti, who has autism, after his performance of Lucky Guy at the Broadhurst Theatre in New York.

      As Tom Hanks was looking through the fan scrapbook that Sarah had created on his career he remarked, "Sarah, this is so great. You know, even my mum doesn't have something like this (Mirror, Simon O'Kane, June 25, 2015, Video of Tom Hanks taking time out to greet his autistic super fan goes viral)."

      The following is a video of the moment backstage when Sarah Moretti met Tom Hanks. Although this was taken in 2013, it wasn't released to the public until 2015.

      Social Media: You can follow Tom Hanks on the following social media areas.
      Websites: You can learn more about Tom Hanks at the following websites.
      Special thanks to the actor Tom Hanks for being an Autism Light. The time he took out of his schedule to meet a very dedicated fan with autism named Sarah Moretti is reflective of the hope that famous entertainer's can bring into the lives of people with autism. We wish Tom Hanks all the best in his career and life.

      Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

      Special Acknowledgement for the idea for Tom Hanks to be an Autism Light is given to Kerry Magro, Autism Light #119, who wrote a post about Tom Hanks on his blog.

      Photo: The photo in this post of Tom Hanks is on the Creative Commons at Wikipedia.

      Sunday, December 20, 2015

      Santa Claus

      Autism Light #437 is Santa Claus.

      Santa Claus who is also called Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, and simply Santa is a generous and kind old man who lives in the North Pole. Santa visits the homes of children on the night before Christmas (December 24) to give presents to children. Santa Claus is an Autism Light because of the multiple ways in which his appearance before Christmas Day has brought joy to individuals with autism and their families.

      Santa does not discriminate in his giving except for the requirement that someone must have been good during the year to receive a present.  Not everyone believes in Santa Claus, but his story is kept alive by children, friends and family of children, and those rare individuals who are able to remain young in their heart even as they grow older. Just because some people don't believe in Santa doesn't mean he is not real anymore than people not believing in God means God is not real.

      We don't know exactly how old Santa really is, but he is older than anyone reading this or their grandparents. Santa Claus gives special permission for his designated representatives to dress like him and gather information on the type of presents children want. Those representatives are allowed to be called "Santa" after an intensive training to reflect the true spirit of the real Santa.

      In 2015 there were two specific incidents in the United States where Santa interacted with a child with autism in Michigan and North Carolina and showed his character of being an Autism Light.

      Santa in Michigan: Landon Johnson is six years-old and has autism and he visited Santa at the Rivertown Crossings Mall in Grand Rapids, Michigan the first week of December 2015. Landon told Santa he was worried that his behavior during the year caused by his autism might have landed him on Santa's 'naughty list'. Santa told Landon "It's okay to be yourself" (Fox 17 News, Bob Brenzing, Be Yourself: Santa's Message for Boy with Autism, December 7, 2015).

      Here is a news story on the impact that Santa had on Landon Johnson's life.

      Santa in North Carolina: Brayden Deely has autism and visited the Caring Santa event sponsored by Autism Speaks at the South Park Mall in Charlotte, North Carolina on November 29, 2015. His parents couldn't persuade Brayden to sit on Santa's lap, so Santa got down on the floor to spend time with Brayden (USA Today, Xavier Walton, Santa Lays Down on Floor for Boy with Autism, December 3, 2015). Some beautiful pictures were captured of the encounter.

      Below is the news story on the touching impact that Santa had for Brayden and his family.

      Sensitive Santa in Western Australia:  Sensitive Santa events are in no way limited to the United States. Sensitive Santa events in Western Australia are very popular in 2015 with children with autism (ABC News, Roxanne Taylor, Sensitive Santa Proving a Hit with Kids with Autism in WA, December 6, 2015).

      Sensitive Santa in West Virginia: Mindy Dawson was Autism Light #104 for her role in organizing a Sensitive Santa events in West Virginia.

      Websites: You can learn more about Santa Claus at the following websites. 
      Special thanks to Santa Claus for being an Autism Light. The kindness that Santa and his official representatives have shown to children with autism this year and in the past is a shining light. May we all give to others in the spirit of Santa not just in December but all through the year. Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism. Photo: The photo in this post is in the Wikipedia Creative Commons and was taken by Bailiwick Studios in Rockford, Michigan.

      Saturday, December 19, 2015

      Belmont University Music Therapy Program

      Autism Light #436 is Belmont University Music Therapy Program.

      Belmont University is located in Nashville and is the largest Christian university in Tennessee. Belmont was founded in 1890 and in 2015 had over 7,000 students. Belmont began their Music Therapy program in 2014. Belmont University's Music Therapy Program is an Autism Light for the way in which it's training will equip students to make a difference for autism through music therapy.

      Belmont University's Music Therapy Program has about 70 students and is the first four-year undergraduate program in Tennessee for music therapy. The academic program equips students to utilize music with a person's healing and recovery (Tennessean, Belmont Launches Choir for Children with Autism, December 16, 2015). Music therapy is used often with people with autism.

      The following is a video on Belmont University's Music Therapy Program.

      Community Choir for Children with Autism:  Belmont is partnering with the Rising Star Music Fund to create a free Community Choir for children with autism in 2016. Registration for this new choir will be held on January 10, 2016 at 2:30pm at the Massey Performing Arts Center room 12 on the campus of Belmont University. They are planning the first concert for April 17, 2016 (Tennessean, Belmont Launches Choir for Children with Autism, December 16, 2015).

      Prospective Students: If you are interested in the Music Therapy program at Belmont University visit their Undergraduate Music Therapy Program web page.

      Special thanks to the Belmont University Music Therapy Program for helping to create a choir for children with autism. We are confident that this opportunity will enrich the lives of many children with autism in the Nashville area.  Belmont University is to be commended for making it a priority to develop a curriculum in music therapy that will shine a light or autism as the graduates take their knowledge around the world.

      Search the Music Therapy label at Autism Light to find other posts on Music Therapy.

       Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

      Wednesday, December 16, 2015

      Tara Triantafilo

      Autism Light #435 is Tara Triantafilo.

      Tara is a family cat who lives in Bakersfield, California. She is owned by the Roger and Erica Triantafilo family. In May of 2014 a dog attacked the family's then 4 year old son Jeremy, who has autism. Tara is an Autism Light because she saw the attack and fought off the dog, saving Jeremy from more serious physical harm.

      In May of 2014 a Labrador-Chow mix named Scrappy who lived next door to Jeremy Triantafilo grabbed the boy's leg and started shaking the boy back and forth. Tara ran outside and used her feline body to literally push Scrappy off of Jeremy.  Video surveillance of the confrontation showed the determination of Tara to intervene when the dog was attacking her family.

      Here is a news story on Tara the Cat being proclaimed a hero on the Today Show that aired May 15, 2014.

      A clip of the encounter between Tara and Scrappy on YouTube went viral and was viewed more than 24 million times (Cat Tara gets Award for Saving 6-year-old Autistic Boy from being attacked by a Dog, Daily Mail, June 19, 2015).

      Here is a video of a news story that an ABC News affiliate in Bakersfield, California did with Jeremy Triantafilo about his cat Tara.

      Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: In 2015, Tara, a cat, received the annual "Hero Dog" award from The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Los Angeles.

      Since the attack Tara and Jeremy have developed a closes bond as one can imagine. Special thanks to Tara for helping save Jeremy from a vicious dog. Tara is representative of the many cats around the world who have been an extraordinary shining light for humans with autism. Tara will be the 4th Cat and the 20th Animal added today to the Autism Light Animal Page.

      Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

      Tuesday, December 15, 2015

      Shirley Ellen Woodward

      Autism Light #434 is Shirley Ellen Woodward.

      Shirley Ellen Woodward dedicated her life work as an advocate for individuals with autism and their families.  Ellen Woodward was born on January 13, 1946 in Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada, and passed away on January 25, 2014 at her home in Huntington Bay, New York, at the age of 68. She had battled cancer bravely for several years. She is survived by her husband John Neff Woodward and two children, Amanda Lea Woodward and John Matthew Woodward. The funeral service for Ellen Woodward was held on February 6, 2014, at the Greenlawn Presbyterian Church. Shirley Ellen Woodward will be placed on the Autism Light Memorial Roll today.

      Her obituary shares this about her amazing contributions for autism.
      Ellen will be remembered for her visionary and skilled work on behalf of children with autism and developmental disabilities and their families. In her leadership positions at the Developmental Disabilities Institute in Huntington, NY and more recently at the Cody Center for Autism Development Disabilities at Stony Brook University, she was a pioneer and advocate for the early diagnosis and treatment of developmental disabilities, and an innovator in demonstrating how scientific findings and new techniques could be incorporated into university curricula and service programs.
      Her legacy includes her participation in writing the autism diagnosis and treatment guidelines for the state of New York and her role in building and launching the Applied Behavioral Analysis Certification program at Stony Brook. Her particular gift was to see the whole range of needs of families affected by autism and to strategically develop and implement programs and services to address those needs (Shirley Ellen Woodward Obituary, Nolan & Taylor-Howe Funeral Home).
      Education: Ellen Woodward earned her BFA and MSW degrees from Stony Brook University. She earned an Ed.D degree from Hofstra University on Long Island, New York.

      Retirement: Although her heart wanted to continue to work, Dr. Ellen Woodward retired from the Cody Center in 2011, because of her health.

      Obituaries: You may read more information about Shirley Ellen Woodward in these obituaries.
      Memorials: Shirley Woodward's family requested that in lieu of flowers any donations in her memory be given to Autism Speaks.  Her Memorial page at Autism Speaks continues to receive donations.

      Special thanks to Shirley Ellen Woodward for her leadership to shine a light for autism in New York. The autism community is grateful for her life and work. May the memory of her passion for autism inspire others to give of themselves to make a difference for those who need a voice.

      Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

      Monday, December 14, 2015

      Levi Waitukaitis

      Autism Light #433 is Levi Waitukaitis.

      Levi Waitukaitis is a 5th grade student from Riverside, Ohio who has autism. Levi is an Autism Light because he helped get life-saving help to his neighbor who had fallen and was stuck outside in dangerously cold temperatures on February 26, 2015.

      On February 26, 2015, Levi Waitukaitis' neighbor Linda Blakely fell on her steps and hurt her ankle. She was trapped outside for about 15 minutes in sub-freezing temperatures and all she could do is cry for help. Levi heard her cry for help and asked his Grandmother Diane Waitukaitis to help him call 911 to get medical assistance for his neighbor. Were it not for Levi's help his neighbor could have easily caught hypothermia and had more severe consequences.

      Here is a video of the news story about Levi helping save his neighbor.

      Diane Waitukaitis said this about her grandson after he stepped up to help save his neighbor, "He's still the same little boy. I'm just proud of him and he may be severely autistic, but he's doing a lot better than a lot of normal kids (Autistic Riverside Boy Feted for His Act of Heroism, Dayton Daily News, May 22, 2015)."

      Special thanks to Levi Waitukaitis for being a good neighbor when Linda Blakely fell on February 26, 2015. Levi is a wonderful example of the extraordinary things that some individuals with autism are capable of doing in emergencies. Although he has special needs himself, Levi played a critical role in helping his neighbor in her urgent time of need. He was the type of neighbor we would all want to have. We wish Levi Waitukaitis continued success as he grows and develops in his life.

      Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

      Sunday, December 13, 2015

      Derek Hadley

      Autism Light #432 is Derek Hadley.

      Derek Hadley is a 31 year old man who has autism. He lives in Springfield, Oregon. Derek Hadley is an Autism Light for donating one of his kidneys to his brother Jeff and in doing so setting an example for others within and outside the autism community.

      In 2004, Derek Hadley graduated from Springfield High School's special education program. He currently works three days a week making nameplates for the State of Oregon at the Pearl Buck Center in Eugene, Oregon.

      Jeff Hadley was experiencing kidney failure due to having abdominal muscle deficiency syndrome and he needed a transplant in 2015. Derek Hadley was a perfect match for his biological brother Jeff, matching all six markers that measure organ transplant compatibility.

      Read more here:
      On October 26, 2015, Derek Hadley donated his kidney to his brother Jeff Hadley at Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland, Oregon. Dr. John Ragsdale surgically removed Derek's kidney and Dr. Kevin McEvoy performed the kidney transplant. It is very rare for someone with autism to donate a kidney, but Derek was willing to help out.

      William Bennett who is the medical director of Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital said, "So, we went to great lengths to make sure this was his [Derek's] free will, and that he understood what he was doing. And he did (Springfield Man with Autism Donates Kidney to His Brother, Lexington Herald-Leader, December 12, 2015)."

      When Derek agreed to donate his kidney it followed a period of reflection on the slight possibility of complications from the procedure. He said, "I want to take the risk. Jeff is important to me (Springfield Man with Autism Donates Kidney to His Brother, Lexington Herald-Leader, December 12, 2015)."

      Read more here:

      Special thanks to Derek Hadley for being an Autism Light. Derek's willingness to donate his kidney saved his brother's life. It also set an example for others who have autism that it is possible to go through the scary process of donating a kidney. We can learn much from Derek's sacrifice.
      Read more here:

      Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

      Friday, December 11, 2015

      Lisa Aldrich

      Autism Light #431 is Lisa Aldrich.

      Lisa Sarber Aldrich is from Grand Rapids, Michigan. On Saturday, November 28, 2015, she purchased a cake at the Meijer in Gaines Township, Michigan. Lisa Aldrich is an Autism Light for the manner in which she showed kindness to an employee with autism who decorated her cake.

      Lisa Aldrich asked an employee at Meijer to decorate her cake with the words "Happy Birthday Mandy", thinking the person worked in the bakery department. Unaware to Lisa Aldrich, the employee has autism and does not decorate cakes in her job duties at Meijer. After her cake was decorated differently than she expected, Lisa Aldrich showed kindness and smiled and accepted the cake graciously with a thank you.

      Here is a video news story of Lisa Aldrich sharing the story of the Meijer cake.

      Here is the Facebook post where Lisa Aldrich shared her story. The post was so inspirational that it went viral and to date has received over 150,000 shares from around the world.

      Picked out a cake at Meijer. Asked bakery-looking-employee if she could write on it for me. She said she would, and...
      Posted by Lisa Sarber Aldrich on Sunday, November 29, 2015

      A cashier at Meijer told Lisa Aldrich as she was checking out, "the girl who wrote that has Autism. Thank you for smiling and thanking her-even though she's not supposed to write on cakes, you probably made her day (Meijer Customer's Cake Photo, Story Goes Viral, Free Press, December 1, 2015).

      Lisa Aldrich explained that her family enjoyed the special cake very much. She also explained that her reason for sharing the story and the picture of her cake was to promote the simple message that "kindness matters."

      "I never asked for all this publicity," said Aldrich. "I just wanted people to consider being nice to each other (As Quoted by Melanie Dostis, Birthday Cake Decorated by Worker with Autism Goes Viral, New York Daily News, December 2, 2015)."

      Special thanks to Lisa Aldrich for being an Autism Light. Lisa Aldrich is an example of how people can show kindness to those with autism by being sensitive to their feelings and being gracious.  We hope that this story will inspire others to treat those with autism respectfully when they interact with them in public.

      Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

      Saturday, November 14, 2015

      P.J. Gialopsos

      Autism Light #430 is P.J. Gialopsos.

      P.J. Gialopsos has owned the Little Italy Restaurante in Anchorage, Alaska for 30 years. One of her delivery drivers has autism and a customer complained mercilessly about them making a mistake with their order and then made a judgment remark that the employee was not intelligent or that they were using drugs on the job. P.J. Gialopsos is an Autism Light because on November 11, 2015, after considering the situation for a while, she announced that her restaurant would no longer provide service to the customer who had such a bitter attitude toward her employee with autism.

      P.J. Gialopsos' daughter received the loud complaint on the phone from the customer, and even after explaining that the employee had autism, the customer was unrelenting in condemnation of the employee (Restaurant Fires Patron Who Berated Autistic Delivery Driver, Seattlepi, November 13, 2015).

      The Mighty shared this about the accomplishments of the delivery driver with autism who is in this story.
      The driver, who has autism and a speech impediment, is a university student who's worked for the restaurant for two years. After the mixup, he immediately retrieved the right order from his car and returned to the restaurant (Restaurant 'Fires' Customer who Berated Employee with Autism, The Mighty, November 11, 2015). 

      The following is the post that P.J. Gialopsos made on her business's Facebook page about her decision. Over 25,000 people have liked this post on Facebook.

      This has been pondered for days now: should I write this post and HOW should I write this post? Over the weekend we...
      Posted by Little Italy Restaurante on Tuesday, November 10, 2015

      This special appreciation of P.J. Gialopsos was given out by @TimVashon on Twitter.

      Special thanks to P.J. Gialopsos for being an Autism Light and spreading autism awareness by the stand she took in her business. We wish P.J. Gialopsos tremendous success in her business and hope that she will continue to employ individuals with autism even after her current employee graduates from college and moves on. P.J. Gialopsos is representative of many caring business owners around the world who have the courage to take a stand in defense of their employees who have autism.

      Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

      Tuesday, October 20, 2015

      Justin Bohley

      Autism Light #429 is Justin Bohley.

      Justin Bohley is from Troy, New York. He works as a security guard at night while he studies psychology at a nearby college. Justin Bohley is an Autism Light for his efforts to help bring a 23 year old man with autism named Michael Lindsley to safety in September 2015.

      Here is a timeline of the process involved in getting Michael Lindsley safely back home with his family.

      Friday, September 4, 2015: Michael Lindsley's family reports him missing to police.

      Saturday, September 5, 2015: Justin Bohley notices a man who had been hanging around the Albany Hilton who seemed to need help. He calls the Albany police who give Michael a name of a shelter to walk to, but that shelter the police sent Michael Lindsley to was closed. Justin encountered him again that same night on the streets. At that point Justin took it upon himself to call around and found a bed for Michael at the Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless of Sheridan Avenue in Albany, New York and then gave him a ride there.

      Sunday, September 6, 2015: Justin Bohley discovers Michael Lindsley's photo in a Missing Person Alert on the News Channel 13 Facebook Page and he reported to the Troy police the location of the shelter that he had taken him to. Michael Lindsley is returned safely to his family.

      When Justin Bohley was asked why he spent so much effort to go out of his way to help Michael Lindsley he said, "It's the right thing to do. See somebody in need, you should probably help them. I would hope somebody would do it for me, or my kids (Quoted in, September 6, 2015, Kumi Tucker)"

      Here is a video of a news story on Justin Bohley's important role in helping Michael Lindsley.

      Special thanks to Justin Bohley for helping a young adult with autism who was missing and needed someone to care enough to follow through for him. Justin Bohley is representative of the many security guards around the world that are sometimes in great positions to help someone with autism. Justin and Michael's story underscores the tremendous need for people in society to be mindful of others they meet who may be in need of special help.

      Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

      Thursday, October 1, 2015

      Kelvin Moon Loh

      Autism Light #428 is Kelvin Moon Loh.

      Kelvin Moon Loh is a Broadway actor from Manhattan, New York.  Kelvin Moon Loh's Broadway experience includes understudying the role of Lun Tha in the 2015 Broadway production of The King and I, and previous roles of Half-Man Half-Woman in Side Show, The DJ in Here Lies Love, and the understudy of Wil in American Idiot. Kelvin Moon Loh is an Autism Light for his call for compassion to autism families who have the courage to expose their special needs children to the theater.

      In the afternoon matinee on September 23, 2015, Kelvin Moon Loh was performing in The King and I at the Lincoln Theater when a boy with autism made noises during the production. After the production Kelvin went on his social media and advocated for more empathy for autism families and the situations they face by defending a mother's right to bring her son with autism to Broadway.

      The following is a news story on this incident from the New York Daily News.

      Kelvin Moon Loh said, "Parents of autistic children sit there with such fear and terror that this episode could occur. I was watching a mother's nightmare happen, and I just wanted to have her know that what she's doing is right in trying to expose her child to the theater, and there are advocates supporting her (Kelvin Moon Loh as Quoted in, September 25, 2015)."

      Facebook Post: The following is the post on Facebook that Kelvin shared as soon as he was able to after the show.

      I am angry and sad. Just got off stage from today's matinee and yes, something happened. Someone brought their...
      Posted by Kelvin Moon Loh on Wednesday, September 23, 2015

      Twitter: Kelvin Moon Loh had this tweet on Twitter about his encouragement for autism parents.

      Social Media: You can follow Kelvin Moon Loh on the following social media areas.
      Website: You can also follow the work and life of Kelvin on his website at

      Special thanks to Kelvin Moon Loh for having compassion on autism families. The influence Kelvin has as a Broadway actor when combined with the power of social media has made an impact on raising autism awareness.  It is hoped that Kelvin's example will encourage more actors and stars to take a stand for autism acceptance in the settings in which they perform.

      Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

      Thursday, August 20, 2015

      Harold Doherty

      Autism Light #427 is Harold L. Doherty.

      Harold L. Doherty is an attorney and autism father from Fredericton, New Brunswick in Canada. He is an autism advocate who is also a blogger and prolific user of social media. His son Conor has autism. Harold Doherty is an Autism Light for the dedication he has an autism father and for using his expertise as a Canadian attorney to help fight for autism services in Canada, especially that medicare will cover ABA therapy to help those who are most severely impacted by autism.

      Harold Doherty with his son Conor
      Autism Father: Harold Doherty has two sons and his 19 year old son Conor is severely impacted by autism. Harold began his autism advocacy in 1999 when Conor was 3 years old. Harold Doherty says, "My interest in autism, and my engagement in autism advocacy, began with my son Conor's Autism Disorder diagnosis and the need to do something (Organized Wisdom-Autism Reality in NB)."

      Harold Doherty wrote the following Autism Pledge to his son Conor. It reveals the scope of his dedication and is found on his blog.
      Today I Pledge to continue; I Pledge to continue to fight for the availability of effective autism treatments; I Pledge to continue to fight for real education for autistic children; I Pledge to continue to fight for decent residential care for autistic adults; I Pledge to continue to fight for a cure for autism; I pledge to continue finding joy in my son but not in the autism disorder that restricts his life; Today, and everyday, I Pledge to continue to hope for a better life for Conor and others with autism through accommodation, care, respect, treatment, and some day a cure; Today, and everyday, I Pledge to continue to fight for the best possible life for Conor, my son with autistic disorder (Facing Autism in New Brunswick Blog).

      Attorney: Harold Doherty's primary area of practice as a lawyer in Canada has been in the field of labour and employment law. He has also had extensive involvement working with some First Nation’s (Indian Bands) in the province of New Brunswick where he lives and practices.

      Medicare for Autism Now!: Harold Doherty is a member of the Board of Directors of Medicare for Autism Now!. He advocates for ABA treatment for autism disorder coverage under medicare legislation in Canada. Harold is advocating for inclusion of evidence based autism treatment and ABA, under the Canada Health Act. He will be an advocate for autism coverage under medicare in the current federal election in Canada.

      The following is a 2012 interview featuring Harold Doherty in a series called Medicare's Orphans.

      Facing Autism in New Brunswick Blog: Harold Doherty started his blog Facing Autism in New Brunswick in 2006 to spread his autism advocacy. Since it's beginning his blog has had almost 1.3 million page views. His blog includes both news and opinions related to his autism advocacy in Canada as well as personal updates on Conor and his journey as an autism father. 

      If you wish to read Harold Doherty's blog, the following are two selected posts on his blog that Harold Doherty recommends people read.

      You may also find some of Harold Doherty's blog posts in syndication and tagged on the Autism Speaks Blog.

      ABA Advocate: Harold believes in the proven effectiveness of ABA therapy to make a difference for autism. His efforts as an autism advocate have it's start when he "began to realize the seriousness of his [son Connor's] autism disorder, that ABA treatment could be helpful and that ABA based early intervention for autism disorder was not generally available where I live (Harold Doherty via an email to Autism Light, August 3, 2015)."

      Care and Treatment for Adults with Autism: Harold Doherty has been an autism advocate as his son has grown from a toddler to an adult. His current priority is to advocate for better services for adults with autism. He writes the following about the urgency of this part of his efforts.
      My most important effort right now is working on adult autism care and treatment and for that reason met with the provincial Minister of Social Development for the province of New Brunswick. Establishment of a decent, modern adult autism care and treatment is the biggest challenge I have faced and both me and my son are getting older. Time is growing short (Harold Doherty via an email to Autism Light, August 3, 2015).

      Questioning Neurodiversity Message: Autism is a spectrum that represents people who have extraordinary abilities as well as exceptional disabilities. The great chasm of differences in the intellectual and developmental capacity of individuals with autism can lead to profound differences in autism messaging from their advocates. Harold Doherty has personal experiences with the serious difficulties facing individuals with low functioning autism both in his family and in his community work. He has raised an alarm about the unintended consequences of the neurodiversity message having the potential to demotivate government from providing critical autism treatment services. He writes the following about neurodiversity.
      I believe that neurodiversity is a major obstacle to improving lives of those with autism disorders including my son. The mainstream media has a tendency to grab the feel good stories about those persons with high functioning autism or Aspergers who have very impressive accomplishments. The severe end of the spectrum tends to be ignored by the media and generally lost to public consciousness until a serious tragedy results as in the Avonte Oquendo case and other cases of wandering leading to death (Harold Doherty via an email to Autism Light, August 3, 2015).
      Photographer: Harold Doherty's principle hobby is outdoor photography that he combines with his love of walking. He writes, "I am fortunate to live in a city called the green city with a very natural environment and wildlife in the middle of, and throughout, the city. I have always loved being outdoors and in nature and I combine the two for exercise and relaxation (Harold Doherty via an email to Autism Light, August 3, 2015)." The following is a photo he took on his walk that he posted on Twitter.

      Social Media: You can follow Harold Doherty on the following social media areas.
      Special thanks to Harold Doherty for being an Autism Light. His dedication and tenacity as an autism advocate is a strength of source for those severely impacted by autism who may not necessarily be able to speak for themselves. We wish Harold Doherty all the best in his role as an autism father and community advocate in New Brunswick, Canada.

      Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

      Photos: The photos in the post were used with permission of Harold L. Doherty and are in the "Buddies Forever" section of his blog's main page.

      Sunday, August 9, 2015

      Ranveer Singh Saini

      Autism Light #426 is Ranveer Singh Saini.

      Ranveer Singh Saini is a 14 year old with autism from the city of Gurgaon in India. Ranveer competed in golf in the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles and became the first one from India to win a Gold Medal in the World Games. Ranveer Singh Saini is an Autism Light for the way in which his skill in golf inspires others with autism and for the pride he has brought to the country of India by being their first citizen to win a gold medal in the Special Olympics World Games.
      Ranveer began golfing at age 9. Because of his condition of having autism the dynamics of being successful while playing in a formal golf outing (that has many potential distractions around the course) has been a growing experience for him over the years. He has had therapy and special schedules geared toward the skills necessary to compete, so he could showcase his athletic talent. His coach Anitya Chand said:
      While he adapted to the game, I took time to understand his special needs and devise different training techniques for him. He is quite an extraordinary child who thinks of golf merely as a game. Instead of getting bogged down by technicalities, he focuses on simply hitting the ball towards the hole. That's how he gradually became consistent with his swings and now he hits ball really well (Hole in One, Indian Express, May 12, 2013).
      The following is a news story on Ranveer's golfing when he was 12 years of age.

      2015 World Games - Special Olympics: Ranveer won a gold medal in the GF Golf-Level 2 Alternate Shot Team Play event on July 31, 2015, and in doing so became the first one from India to win a gold medal in the history of the World Games. 21 nations participated in the event in 2015. "Ranveer and his partner Monica Jajoo were nine shots clear of joint second-placed teams from Hong Kong (Tsz Leung Chung/Ka Kit Lam) and Nippon (Takefumi Hiyoshi/Tadatoshi Sakai) (Golfer Ranveer Singh Saini Bags Gold in Special Olympics World Games, NDTV Sports, August 1, 2015)."

      The following is a news story from India Progressing about Ranveer Singh Saini's accomplishment of winning the Special Olympics Gold for India.

      In response to the achievement, Ranveer's father said, "To all parents of special children, just don't give up, special children are self-sustaining (Golfer Ranveer Singh Saini Bags Gold in Special Olympics World Games, NDTV Sports, August 1, 2015)."

      Asia Pacific Special Olympics Golf Masters - 2013: At the age of 12, Ranveer won two gold medals at the Asia Pacific Special Olympics Golf Maters in April, 2013 that was held in Macau.  He won a gold medal in the individual category and a gold medal in the team category. He also won a trophy in the skills competition (Hole in One, Indian Express, May 12, 2013). Ranveer's achievement also made it to the Limca Book of Records, which is the Indian equivalent to the Guiness Book of World Records.

      Website: Visit Ranveer's official website at to learn about his past and future success.

      If you would like to read more on Ranveer Singh Saini the following online stories feature his inspirational accomplishment.
      Special thanks to Ranveer Singh Saini for being an Autism Light. We applaud Ranveer, and indeed his parents and coaches over the years, for this achievement in golf of winning the first Special Olympics Gold Medal from India. This feat has brought autism awareness to India and serves as an inspiration to many that people with autism can potentially do amazing things in the sport of golf.

      Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

      Thursday, July 23, 2015

      Tyler Gianchetta

      Autism Light #425 is Tyler Gianchetta.

      Tyler Gianchetta is an 18 year old who has autism from Huntington, New York. He is currently an honor's college student at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. Tyler Gianchetta is an Autism Light because he pulled his unresponsive mother from a burning car in Long Island, New York on July 15, 2015 and saved her life.

      Susan Gianchetta blacked out while driving in West Hills, New York on July 15, 2015. The car she was driving then hit a tree. Her son Tyler was riding in the passenger side and he broke his hand but managed to pull his mother out of the vehicle to safety just a minute before flames engulfed the car. The following is a news story about Tyler rescuing his mother.

      Tyler has said this about the incident: "I say don't call me a hero, I'm not a hero yet until I know she's OK (Autistic Son Saves Mother from Burning Car on Long Island, CBS New York, July 16, 2015)."

      Still Tyler's dad Michael Gianchetta is certain his wife wouldn't have survived the accident without the quick thinking of his son. Michael Gianchetta said, "He's [Tyler] a hero and he is a special kid (Autistic Son Saves Mother from Burning Car on Long Island, CBS New York, July 16, 2015)."

      You can read more information on Tyler Gianchetta's rescue of his mother in these online stories.

      Special thanks to Tyler Gianchetta for being an Autism Light. His quick thinking in the midst of an emergency where his own hand was broken saved his mother's life. Tyler Gianchetta is representative of the many people with autism who are everyday heroes as they live their lives in tune to how they can help others.

      Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.