Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Lois Blackwell

Autism Light #415 is Lois Blackwell.

Lois Judevine Blackwell was a pioneer in autism treatment in St. Louis Missouri and founded the Judevine Center for Autism. Lois Blackwell was born on September 17, 1927, and passed away on March 17, 2015, at the age of 87. She had been diagnosed with cancer a week earlier. She is survived by three children: Kathy Blackwell, Mark (Valerie) Blackwell and Rebecca Blackwell. The funeral service for Lois Blackwell was held on March 21, 2015, at the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Frontenac, Missouri. Internment followed at Oak Hill Cemetery in Kirkwood, Missouri. Lois Blackwell will be placed on the Autism Light Memorial Roll today.

Education: Lois Blackwell started working as a secretary in the Sociology Department of Washington University in St. Louis in the 1960's. She taught herself all she could on the newly discovered condition of autism so she could help in the small autism clinic the department had. In 1967 she became the Assistant Director in the Social Exchange Laboratory at Washington University. When she retired in 2004, Washington University awarded her an honorary degree for her lifetime work.

Judevine Center for Autism:  Lois Blackwell founded the Judevine Center for Autism in 1970 after a grant at the university's lab expired.
When the grant for the university's lab ran out out in 1970, Mrs. Blackwell and the parents of the children weren't ready to give up. They started the first program for treatment of autism in St. Louis. They stood in streets with donation cans to raise money from passing motorists. Mrs. Blackwell developed the training for parents, teachers, and professionals (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 20, 2015, Michael D. Sorkin).

Lois Blackwell, who was divorced, didn't want her name on the center, but parents decided to call it Judevine, which was her maiden name.  Lois wrote the curriculum used at the Judevine clinics. They did not use drugs in treatment but used a pioneer version of what we know as ABA therapy by giving rewards to reinforce positive behaviors.

"The Mission of the Judevine Center for Autism is to make a real difference in the quality of life for children and adults with autism, and their families, wherever they may live (Judevine Center Website)."  You can learn more about the ongoing autism services and training offered at the clinics that the Judevine Center for Autism has around the State of Missouri on their website at judevine.org.

Residential Treatment: Lois Blackwell is the founder of the first residential treatment center for autistic people in St. Louis. She established this groundbreaking program in the former St. Margaret of Scotland Catholic Church near the Missouri Botanical Garden  (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 20, 2015, Michael D. Sorkin).

Social Media: You can follow the Judevine Center on the following social media areas:

Philosophy of Education: Michael Sorkin wrote in her obituary, "Mrs. Blackwell viewed her mission as destroying the idea that autistic children cannot learn and are incapable of education (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 20, 2015, Michael D. Sorkin)."

Obituaries: You may read more information about Lois Blackwell in these obituaries.

Special thanks to Lois Blackwell for her pioneer work to improve the lives of those with autism in St. Louis. Her work lives on in the Judevine Center for Autism and in the children she worked with who are now adults. The autism community truly lost a treasure. May her life prove to be an example to others who follow her in Missouri and around the world.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Arizona Lights

The State of Arizona is the home of 9 Autism Lights in 8 posts. The Arizona group includes 4 people with autism, 2 autism fathers, a dog, and a sports team, and autism researchers.

 Arizona Autism Lights

  1. Dr. James Adams is an Autism Father and an autism researcher from Phoenix, Arizona.
  2. The Arizona Diamondbacks are a Major League Baseball Team from Phoenix, Arizona. 
  3. John Dalen has autism and known as God's Baker. He is from Phoenix, Arizona.
  4. Danielle Jacobs and her dog Sampson live in Tempe, Arizona. Danielle has autism.
  5. Jerry Newport has autism and is an author and speaker who lives in the desert in Arizona. 
  6. Dr. Daniel Openden is an autism researcher from Phoenix, Arizona. 
  7. Jim St. Leger is an Autism Father from Phoenix, Arizona.  
  8. Alex Swigart (1998-2011) was from Bisbee Junction, Arizona. He lost his life in a house fire but was able to help save his family. He is on the Autism Light Memorial Roll. 
    You may reach all these posts by searching the blog through the "Arizona" Label.

    The map of Arizona is attributed to By TUBS [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

    Monday, June 22, 2015

    Danielle Jacobs and Samson

    In Memoriam
    Updated on February 7, 2016

    Danielle Jacobs (Autism Light #414) died on February 4, 2016 (CBS News, Woman Killed by Police Had Viral Autism-Awareness Video, February 5, 2016). This post will remain at Autism Light in her memory. She will be placed on the Autism Light Memorial Roll and remembered at the Autism Rest blog.

    Autism Lights #414 are Danielle Jacobs and Sampson. 

    Danielle Jacobs and her dog Sampson are intertwined in this story, so it is fitting that they are both named an Autism Light together. Danielle Jacobs is 24 years and has the form of autism known as Asperger's. Sampson is her 4 year old rottweiler that she acquired from HALO Animal Rescue in Phoenix. Danielle Jacobs and her dog Sampson are Autism Lights because Danielle opened herself up by sharing a video of her experience on YouTube where Sampson as a true canine hero comforts her and alerts her to self harm.

    Danielle shared the video of Samson comforting her during a meltdown on YouTube and it received over 5 million views on YouTube and was one of the Top Ten Videos in all of YouTube for the week of June 2, 2015.

    Danielle Jacobs wrote this description to the video that she uploaded to YouTube. "This is what having aspergers is like. Please no negative comments this really happened and it's not easy to open myself and share what it's like on a daily basis. This is what's considered a meltdown. Yes Samson is alerting. I trained him to alert to depressive episodes and self harm not both but he alerted. It appears the response is late but it's actually supposed to be as I'm coming out of the meltdown as I tend to have a panic attack after."

    Danielle Jacobs told Buzzfeed News that after she got Sampson she "immediately began training him for service work for Asperger's syndrome, PTSD, TBI, and anxiety disorder. He alerts to meltdowns, anger, depressive episodes, flashbacks and nightmares, stimming, provides balance and counterbalance, and alerts to panic attacks (Buzzfeed News, June 16, 2015, Alan White, An Autistic Woman Has Bravely Shared a Video of Her Dog Comforting Her)."

    Sampson has successfully passed his CGC (Canine Good Citizen) and CGCA (Canine Community) tests and PAT (Public Access Test) (Buzzfeed News, June 16, 2015, Alan White, An Autistic Woman Has Bravely Shared a Video of Her Dog Comforting Her).

    Susan Dunne wrote an opinion piece for the Autism Daily Newscast about Sampson being a hero. She describes Sampson's critical role as an autism therapy dog as follows:
    Sampson typifies what makes animals so special - he does not intervene with reasoning (pointless at this stage anyway), with pleading or restraint, nor does he ignore it and walk away. He persists, he stays with his owner, lets her know that he is not giving up on her even though she may at this point have given up on herself. He is there for her, bringing a safe warm presence into a broken place. He reaches across the despair and hurt but doesn't try to control it. He is in there with her for as long as it takes and he wins her round as she accepts his presence and reaches out to hug him (Autism Daily Newscast, June 17, 2015, Susan Dunne, Opinion: Self-harm Video Shows Heroism of a Dog).

    You can read more about Danielle Jacobs and Samson at these online stories.

    Social Media: Danielle Jacobs is increasing autism awareness through the videos on her personal experiences that she has uploaded to her YouTube Channel.

    Special thanks to Danielle Jacobs for having the courage to share this video so that millions can learn about autism and the role a therapy dog can have. Danielle Jacobs is representative of the many people with autism that are trying to raises awareness of their condition. Sampson is likewise a fine dog to represent the many therapy animals who are unsung heroes.

    Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

    4th Year Anniversary of Autism Light

    Four 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 413 diverse heroes to the world of autism. There are representatives from every state in the United States and 25 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. The statistics of your views reveals that we are on pace to reach 500,000 all-time page views in the next 30 days. I have truly met so many wonderful friends in these four years and learned so much.

    This song about Autism Heroes has become dear and near to Autism Light.

    If you like Autism Light, check out these other autism blogs I created after Autism Light.
    Thank you for reading as we start our fifth 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 autismlight@gmail.com.

    Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

    Sunday, June 21, 2015

    Chad Kleis

    Autism Light #413 is Chad Kleis. 

    Photo of Chad Kleis and Family
    Hudson, Chad, Amy, Hunter
    Special Father's Day Honoree.

    Chad Kleis is 40 years old and is an Autism Father from McKinney, Texas. Chad and his wife Amy have a 9 year old son named Hunter and a 7 year old son named Hudson. His son Hunter has autism. Chad Kleis is the Founder and Director of Hunters Autism Specials. Chad Kleis is an ideal Autism Light for this Father's Day, because of how he raises awareness for autism through Hunters Autism Specials, and because he loves his son so much that he orchestrated on social media a fantastic birthday present for his son Hunter, helping him receive almost 10,000 birthday cards from around the world when he turned 9 on March 15, 2015.

    In March of 2015, Chad asked his 400 friends on Facebook to help him wish Hunter a Happy Birthday by sending him cards, since while Hunter is nonverbal he enjoys reading. The message went viral and was shared thousands of times. Hunter received almost 10,000 cards from all over the world, including places as far away as Ireland, the Netherlands, and Hawaii (Dad's Birthday Request for His Son With Autism Goes Viral, WFAA, March 5, 2015).

    The story of Hunter receiving surprise birthday cards from around the world was reported on by ABC, CBS, Yahoo, Dallas Morning News, KISS FM, and the New York Daily News. Here is the news story done by ABC News.

    Chad Kleis shared his love for his son Hunter in the following hope. "The life ahead of him is what scares me. I don't care if he never talks. I wish he did, but I just want to make sure he's happy (Dad's Birthday Request for His Son With Autism Goes Viral, WFAA, March 5, 2015)."

    The Autism Flag by Hunters Autism Specials
    Hunters Autism Specials: Chad Kleis is the Founder and Director of Hunters Autism Specials. The goal of Hunters Autism Specials is to provide "unique products/services for families and businesses in the efforts of becoming more unified society under the Autism umbrella (Hunters Autism Specials Website)." The business offers reviews and resources on autism friendly services and information on potential discounts.  In addition to the services, they designed and offer the full size “U.S.Autism Flag” that you see pictured to the right for  purchase.

    Contact and Social Media: The best way to contact Chad Kleis is at the Contact Us secton of the Hunters Autism Specials Website  or on the Hunters Autism Specials Facebook Page. They would really appreciate your social media support by "liking" their Facebook Page. You can also follow them on Twitter @HASpecials.

    Hobbies: Chad Kleis is originally from Minnesota and cheers on the Minnesota Vikings from Texas. He enjoys being with his family, watching movies, swimming, and jumping on the trampoline.

    Encouragement to other Autism Fathers: Chad Kleis wrote the following perspective in an email to Autism Light on June 19, 2015.
    Everything in this world happens for a reason, we might not know or understand why NOW... But one day, it will all make sense (Chad Kleis).
    Chad also shared this perspective on his son Hunter, "I try to help people understand how Hunter is.The best way to explain it is; Hunter is the CEO of his world, and my wife and I are on the board of directors. We can ONLY make recommendations to the CEO, it will be up to Hunter if he wants to accept or reject those recommendations. We won't force anything on Hunter, that includes people. So, allow him to get to know you at his pace, and you will have a much better chance of being accepted and joining the board..."

    Hunter: Hunter is very blessed to have a caring father and mother on his Board of Directors. His parents have found that ABA and Speech therapy have worked the best with him. They are considering trying Music Therapy too. Hunter has previously been through Horse therapy, but he lost interests in that.

    Future Plans: Chad Kleis is working on a program which will connect families with autism to other families that want to connect, and provide OUTSIDE love and affection (Even if it's from a distance) so that others might experience something similar to what Hunter did when he received those thousands of Birthday cards.

    Chad is also working on getting Hunters Autism Specials from places all over the world. In addition, he would like to long term establish a self-funded insurance program to cover ALL related needs regarding Autism services in order to reduce the stress, hassle, and red tape that autism families frequently experience related to relationships with insurance companies.

    We wish Chad Kleis and all autism fathers a very Happy Father's Day. May Chad's work continue to inspire his family and the autism community around the world to grow and live a more fuller life.

    Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

    Photos: The photos in this post were used with permission of Chad Kleis.

    Thursday, June 18, 2015

    Brynjar Karl

    Autism Light #412 is Brynjar Karl. 

    Brynjar Karl is an 11 year old who has autism and lives in Rejkjavik, the capital city in the country of Iceland. Brynjar Karl is an Autism Light for the awareness he has brought to autism through carrying through with his 11 month project to build a 6,33 meter replica of the Titanic out of 56,000 LEGO bricks. Brynjar Karl will also hold the distinction of representing the first Autism Light who comes from Iceland, making it our 26th country to be featured.

    The following is a video that Brynjar created along with his mother.

    Public Speaker: Brynjar Karl is giving public talks on autism in Icelandic and English.

    Brynjar has a three fold message for other kids about fulfilling their dreams and making them a reality.
    1. You have to believe - I really believed that I could build the Titanic.
    2. You need the right team around to help you get there - I chose my family. 
    3. Never, never, never give up, because there will be obstacles but you will overcome them, with the help of your team and your believe. 
    (Source- Email to Autism Light from Bjarney Ludviksddottir on June 14, 2015).

    Here is a June 2015 video about his work spreading autism awareness.

    Brynjar and sister Magdalena

    To the right is a photo of Brynjar with his sister Magdalena Björk Birgisdóttir. Magdalena has been very supportive of Brynjar's projects and is his number one fan.

    Brynar is currently working to find potential hosts that would be interested in placing his Titanic ship on display. Brynjar Karl follows his ship wherever it goes and shares messages to the public that view it about the positive side of autism and that everyone can make their dream come true.

    This photo demonstrates the size of the Titanic that Brynjar created.

    Brynjar stands next to his Titanic on Display

    Social Media: You can follow Brynjar Karl on the following social media pages.
    Visit his website at www.brynjarkarl.com to track progress on his work.

    Special thanks to Brynjar Karl for being an Autism Light. We hope to hear exciting things from him in the future as he continues to use his creativity in life. He is truly an inspiration to others with autism that amazing projects can be accomplished when one puts their mind to it.

    Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

    Photos: The photos in this post were used with permission of Brynjar Karl's mother Bjarney Ludviksdottir.

    Sunday, June 14, 2015

    Ted Lindsay

    In Memoriam
    Updated on March 4, 2019

    Ted Lindsay (Autism Light #411) passed away on March 4, 2019, at the age of 93. The Detroit Free Press has issued a news story on his passing while under hospice care. Ted Lindsay's name will be placed on the Autism Light Memorial Roll today.

    Autism Light #411 is Ted Lindsay.

    Photo of Ted Lindsay
    Ted Lindsay
    Ted Lindsay was born on July 29, 1925, in Renfrow, Ontario in Canada. He lives in Oakland, Michigan near Detroit. Ted Lindsay had a hall of fame career in the National Hockey League playing for the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks. Ted Lindsay is an Autism Light because he established the Ted Lindsay Foundation and has been shining a light on finding a cure for autism since 2001.

    NHL Career: Ted Lindsay scored 851 points in his hockey career from 1944-1965. He played Left Wing for the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks. His nickname as a player was Terrible Ted, because of his aggressive style of play. Ted Lindsay was inducted into the National Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966. His illustrious career included winning the Stanley Cup four times and he was the first player to skate around the rink with the Stanley Cup hoisted over his head after his Detroit Red Wings team won the championship.This started a tradition that has been continued to this day.

    The following documentary celebrates the accomplishments of Ted Lindsay as a Legend of Hockey.

    Hockey Players Union: Lindsay is also known for playing a key role in helping the Hockey players organize a players association, an action that resulted in the Detroit Red Wings trading him to the last place Chicago Blackhawks in 1957. The 1995 movie Net Worth was about Lindsay's role in this historical step for the NHL.

    Ted Lindsay Foundation: The Ted Lindsay Foundation was created in 2001 and had raised over $2 million for research into new autism treatments as of 2013. The mission of the Ted Lindsay foundation is, "To raise money and funds to support research and educational programs focusing on the cause and management of Autism Spectrum Disorders (Source: tedlindsay.com)." You can find more about the foundation at tedlindsay.com.

    Ted Lindsay does not have relatives with autism, but back in 2001 his physical therapist at the time had a 4 year old with autism. "Ted took on this cause at 76 years-old after finding out the son of a close friend had autism. Ted tells everyone until then he never heard about autism and didn't know how debilitating it is to children (Detroithub, February 25, 2013)."

    Here is a video of Ted Lindsay at his 12th Annual Celebrity Golf Outing to raise money for autism in 2013.

    The Ted Lindsay Foundation, 12th Annual Celebrity Golf Outing from Zara Creative on Vimeo.

    Hope Center at Beaumont Hospital: In April 2014, Ted Lindsay announced a $1 million gift from his foundation to the Beaumont Hospital. Because of this gift it will be renamed the Ted Lindsay Foundation Hope Center (Ted Lindsay Website).

    The following is a video of some of the work the Ted Lindsay Hope Center will be doing for families.

    Todd Lang, an autism father, said that The Ted Lindsay Foundation, "is one of the foundations that really makes a difference, where the results are tangible. Mr. Lindsay's passion for creating awareness, to making people understand not only what autism is but what resources are available, is important (Livingston Daily, February 8, 2015)."

    Wikipedia: You can learn more about Ted Lindsay at his Wikipedia Page.

    Social Media: You can follow the Ted Lindsay Foundation on the following social media.
    Contact: Information on contacting Ted Lindsay for an autograph is on his FanMail webpage. You can also contact the Ted Lindsay Foundation at 1819 E. Big Beaver Rd. Ste. 200 Troy, MI 48083 Phone: 248.457.1400 or email: info@tedlindsay.com.

    Special thanks to Ted Lindsay for being an Autism Light. The efforts he has made to raise funds to support autism are shining a light in many areas of autism in Michigan. Never estimate what one man can do who wants to make a difference.

    Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

    Photo: The photo of Ted Lindsay was from the Creative Commons of Wikipedia

    Saturday, June 13, 2015

    Camp Summit

    Autism Light #410  is Camp Summit.

    Camp Summit is a sleep away camp currrently located in Argyle, Texas* that provides programs for people with disabilities of all ages. Camp Summit was founded in 1947 and will be relocating their camp to Paradise, Texas at the end of 2015. Camp Summit is an Autism Light for providing camp programs over a span of six decades for individuals of all ages with disabilities, including autism.

    The following is a video about the programs of Camp Summit.

    Mission: The mission of Camp Summit is to provide barrier-free outdoor experiences that promote personal growth and foster independence for children and adults with disabilities (Camp Summit Website).

    Because of their location many of their campers come from the Dallas/Ft. Worth Area but the camp is open to anyone whose medical condition can be safely managed by the camp staff. Lisa Braziel is the Camp Director.

    Serves All Ages: Many camps hold children's programs but Camp Summit is uniquely focused on sereving individuals with disabilities of all ages. "Camp Summit's campers may range in age from six to ninety-nine years old. We have experienced a unique longevity in our client base due to the fact that we have no upper age limits. Many of our campers have been coming to and re-connecting with their camp frieds every year for 20, 30 and even 50 plus years (Camp Summit Website)."

    *Future Home: Camp Summit is moving from it's home of 60 years to a 460 acre site in Paradise, Texas. The transition will take place at the end of 2015 and campers should be able to experience the new Camp Summit in the Spring 2016 in Paradise.

    The following is a video about the new Camp Summit. To give toward the development of Camp Summit you can participate in their Capital Campaign.

    Contact: If you wish to contact Camp Summit their corporate office is at
    17210 Campbell Road, Suite 180-W, Dallas, Texas, 75252. Phone: 972-484-8900.

    Social Media: You can follow Camp Summit on the following social media areas.
    Special thanks to Camp Summit for being an Autism Light. We think it is absolutely wonderful that as a camp they have no upper age limit on access to their programs, and can be there for people with autism throughout their lifespan. While autism may just be one of the several possible disabilities that their campers face, over the years many people with autism have had their life brightened by the light that Camp Summit shines.

    Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

    Photo: The logo of Camp Summit is used with permission of Camp Summit

    Texas Lights

    The State of Texas is the home of 19 Autism Lights in 18 posts. The Texas group includes a former President, a restaurant, a church, a camp, a truck driver, an autism brother, 5 autism parents, a neurotypical student, and 6 individuals with autism.

     Texas Autism Lights

    1. Jacob Allen is a boy with autism from Arkansas Pass, Texas, who saved his father's life by getting help for him when his father had passed out from a diabetic incident. 
    2. George W. Bush is the former President of the United States and he is from Crawford, Texas.
    3. Camp Summit is a camp serving people with disabilities in Argyle, Texas. They are relocating to Paradise, Texas at the end of 2015.
    4. Manny Dedmon has autism and was voted the Homecoming King at his school in San Antonio, Texas
    5. First Baptist Church of Plano is a church in Plano, Texas.
    6. Kyle Forbes is a student who has autism from Houston, Texas.
    7. Joe's Crab Shack is a restaurant based in Houston, Texas
    8. Fred and Ally Harmon are thrift store owners from Amarillo, Texas
    9. Dr. Bryan Jepson is an Autism Father and Physician from Austin, Texas.
    10. Chad Kleis is an Autism Father from McKinney, Texas.
    11. Chris Koru is a UPS Truck Driver from Wichita Falls, Texas.
    12. Milo, the Robot was designed by RoboKind in Dallas, Texas.
    13. Chris North is a high school wrestler from Justin, Texas.
    14. Jeanette O'Donnell is an autism mother with five children with autism from Austin, Texas.
    15. Nathan Pustka is a musician who has autism from Spring, Texas.
    16. Devin Ross is a student and swimmer who has autism from Ft. Worth, Texas.
    17. Jordan Spieth is a professional golfer and autism brother from Dallas, Texas.
    18. Christopher Webster has Asperger's and is from San Antonio, Texas
      You may reach all these posts by searching the blog through the "Texas" Label.

      The map of Texas is attributed to By TUBS [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

      Wednesday, June 10, 2015

      Trey Brand

      Autism Light #409 is Trey Brand.

      Trey Brand is a 13 year old with autism who lives in Battlefield, Missouri. Trey Brand excels at the sport of bowling and has recorded multiple perfect 300 games since he was age 10. Trey Brand is an Autism Light for how his success in the bowling alley can inspire others with autism to take up the enjoyable pastime of bowling.

      "Since he started bowling at the age of 10, Brand has bowled two perfect 300 games in the United States Bowling Congress sanctioned play, and at least eight other non-sanctioned perfect games in addition to that (News-Leader, June 9, 2015)."

      In honor of his accomplishments his hometown of Battlefield, Missouri designated June 4, 2015, as Trey Brand Day. He was given the esteemed award in recognition of how he lives his life "with autism with grace, diligence and hard work." Trey Brand was given the honor at an Autism Authors Pep Rally that featured as a guest speaker professional golfer and autism advocate Elijah Winfrey, who was Autism Light #334.

      Ten-time PBA champion, Belmonte met Trey Brand in 2012 and he said, "Before I met Trey I heard about his awesome accomplishments. After watching Trey bowl against me, I could tell those accomplishments were just the start of what I believe will be a great career. He is a good young man, has great form and a wonderful family supporting him. The sky is the limit for Trey, and I hope he keeps doing what he does best (IABowling.com, Meet Trey Brand)."

      In July 2015, Trey Brand will be competing in the Junior Gold Bowling Championship in Chicago. We wish Trey all the best in his future bowling competitions. We have a feeling we will be hearing more about his accomplishments as he grows as a teenager. Special thanks to Trey Brand for showing the autism community that the sport of bowling may just be the perfect game for some individuals with autism.

      Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

      Tuesday, June 9, 2015

      Missouri Lights

      The State of Missouri is the home of 4 Autism Lights. The Missouri group includes an autism mother, a young bowler who has autism, founders of an autism foundation, and a pioneer on the memorial roll.

       Missouri Autism Lights

      1. The late Lois J. Blackwell (1927-2015) lived in Kirkwood, Missouri near St. Louis and founded the Judevine Center for Autism. 
      2. Trey Brand is a bowler who has autism and lives in Battlefield, Missouri
      3. Joy Smith is a blogger and Autism Mother from Missouri
      4. Daryl and Tracy Strawberry are founders of an Autism Foundation and are from Missouri.
        You may reach all these posts by searching the blog through the "Missouri" Label.

        The map of Missouri is attributed to By TUBS [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

        Monday, June 8, 2015

        Scott Mellanby

        Autism Light #408 is Scott Mellanby.

        Scott Mellanby was born in Montreal, Canada on June 11, 1966. Scott Mellanby has two sons named Nicholas and Carter and a daugher named Courtney. His son Carter has autism. Scott Mellanby is a retired National Hockey League player who helped found Athletes Against Autism. Scott Mellanby is an Autism Light for his dedication as an autism father and for his efforts to raise awareness for autism through the former Athletes Against Autism and the Mellanby Autism Foundation.

        The following is a a YouTube video featuring an interview with Scott Mellanby. In the video Scott Mellanby discusses his willingness to help fellow autism father hockey player Pierre Groulx.

        Hockey Career: Scott Mellanby played as a right wing in the National Hockey League from 1985-2007.  He played during his career for the Philadelphia Flyers, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, St. Louis Blues, and Atlanta Thrashers. On October 9, 1993, he scored the first ever goal in the history of the Florida Panthers franchise. He killed a rat with his goalie stick in 1996 and inspired the "rat trick" movement from the fans of the Florida Panthers, where they would throw plastic rats on the ice after a Panthers goal. Scott Mellanby's career statistics are available at Hockey-reference.com.  Scott Mellanby retired in 2007.

        Post-Playing Career: Scott Mellanby continued to be involved in hockey in front office positions after his playing days were finished and most recently he was named the Assistant GM of the Montreal Candiens on July 30, 2014.

        Photo of Hockey Player Scott Mellanby

        Athletes Against Autism: In 2006, Scott Mellanby joined fellow hockey players Olaf Kolzig and Byron Dafoe as one of the original founders of Athletes Against Autism. Athletes Against Autism is now associated with Autism Speaks

        Mellanby Autism Foundation: Scott Mellanby and his wife  Susan established the Mellanby Autism Foundation in 1999 after their son Carter was diagnosed with autism. It is a non profit organization that helps with direct care services to people affected by autism and their families. Scott Mellanby said this about starting the foundation as an acknowledgement to the many others who care and are not autism parents.
        We get credited for starting foundations and doing this kind of stuff. Obviously for us there was a direct relationship to our family so it was a natural thing to do, but there are a lot of athletes and non-athletes that are doing what they can nowadays to get involved with charities even if they weren’t affected by it and I think those people are very special for wanting to get involved and they deserve a lot of credit for that (Scott Mellanby, Pros Give Back).

        Wikipedia Page: You can find out more information about Scott Mellanby at his Wikipedia Page.

        Social Media: You can follow Scott Mellanby on the following social media areas.

        Special thanks to Scott Mellanby for being one of the founders of Athletes Against Autism and using his notoriety to promote autism awareness. Autism Light wishes Scott and his family all the best in their ongoing journey with autism.

        Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

        Photo: The photo of Scott Mellanby is in the Wikipedia Creative Commons.

        Sunday, June 7, 2015

        Talisman Camp Programs

        Autism Light #407 is Talisman Camp Programs.

        Talisman Camp Programs are located at 64 Gap Creek Road in Zirconia, North Carolina. They offer camp programs for people affected by autism. Talisman Camp Programs are an Autism Light because of the difference their program has been making in the lives of young people with autism for the past 35 years.

        Talisman Programs opened in 1980 and they offer summer camps for young people ages 8 to 22 who have learning disabilities, ADD, ADHD, Asperger's Syndrome, and high-functioning autism. They also offer a year-round boarding school. The camp is accredited by the American Camp Association.

        The following is a promotional video about the difference Talisman Programs have made for autism families and individuals.

        Vision: Talisman Camp is co-owned by Douglas Smathers, who is the Executive Director and Linda Tatsapaugh, who is the Operations Director. The Talisman Camp articulates their philosophy of camping this way:
        At Talisman Programs for children with autism or ADHD, we believe that every child wants to do well, and that every child has unique strengths, struggles and outlooks on life. At our camp, these beliefs require a special outlook and special tools. In order to help all of our campers reach their potential, we must meet them as individuals, and not attempt to fit them into one mold. Therefore, we use a variety of tools to guide our campers as they strive to meet their objectives in socially appropriate and fulfilling ways (TalismanCamps.com, Philosophy of Programs).
        Social Media: You can follow Talisman Camp at the following social media areas.
        Contact Talisman: To learn more about Talisman Programs visit their website at talismancamps.com or call 828.697.6313. You can also email info@talismancamps.com.

        Special thanks to Talisman Programs for being an Autism Light. They are an example of how programs in a camp setting can change the life of individuals with autism. We hope that camps like Talisman that are built for campers with autism will thrive and be common and accessible to more and more families around the world.

        Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

        Saturday, June 6, 2015

        Alex Cohen

        Autism Light #406 is Alex Cohen.

        Alex Cohen is an autism sister and is from Bayside, Wisconsin. Her older brother Aaron Cohen has autism. Alex Cohen played college basketball for four years at Northwestern University. Alex Cohen is an Autism Light for the work she did in the leadership of the Autism Speaks U chapter at Northwestern University from 2012-2015.

        The following is a video done on Alex Cohen as one of the Faces of the Big Ten.

        Northwestern University Basketball: While playing college basketball at Northwestern University, Alex Cohen played for Coach Joe McKeown, who was Autism Light #382. Alex scored 646 points in her career at Northwestern University and made almost 40% of her three point shots. Her statistics for her career are on her page on the NUSports webpage. She also earned All Big Ten Academic Honors in the Winter 2015.

        Autism Speaks U: Alex Cohen served as the President of Autism Speaks U at Northwestern University from 2012-2014. In her senior year (2014-2015) she transitioned to the Vice-President and created and led an initiative for autism awareness and fundraising called NU Goes Blue.

        "Most of the events we've coordinated through Autism Speaks U have been geared specifically toward Northwestern students," said Cohen. "I really wanted to create something that the surrounding community could be involved in as well. When I thought of the idea for NU Goes Blue, one of my main goals was raise autism awareness beyond Northwestern's campus and into the Evanston and Chicagoland communities. We're bringing everyone together for a fun evening that supports a great cause (NU Sports.com, September 29, 2014)."

        Alex Cohen's work for Autism Speaks U earned her a spot on the 2015 All State Good Works Team. Here is a video of her selection.

        Future Plans: Alex Cohen graduated in 2015 with a degree from Northwestern University in Human Development and Psychological Services. Alex Cohen hopes to continue her basketball career in a professional international league. She plans to use her education to work with individuals with autism after she finishes her professional basketball career.

        Special thanks to Alex Cohen for being an Autism Light. We wish her all the best in her professional basketball career and in her future work as an autism advocate. Alex is representative of the growing number of autism siblings who are poised to make a difference in the world for their relatives and for all those impacted by autism.

        Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

        Thursday, June 4, 2015


        Autism Light #405 is Valleyfair.

        Valleyfair is an amusement park in Shakopee, Minnesota, located in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan Area. The amusement park was opened in 1976 and consists of 75 attractions, including 48 rides and a water park on 125 acres of property. They are open full-time from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Valeyfair is an Autism Light because they designated May 31, 2015 as Autism Awareness Day at their entertainment business and made adjustments to their venue to be more autism friendly.

        Valleyfair donated $1.00 from the sale of each ticket on May 31, 2015 to the Autism Society of Minnesota. Other things that Valleyfair announced for their Autism Awareness Day was their guest boarding passes so that autism families could avoid long lines, a lowering of the loud speaker at the park, and the establishment of designated quiet areas (KSTP.com, May 31, 2015). There is also a section of the Valleyfair Website that gives Tips for Guests with Autism which will provide support for those that attend the amusement park at any day of the season.

        The following is a news story on the Autism Awareness Day in 2015 at Valleyfair.

        Valleyfair is the largest amusement park in the Upper Midwest USA. According to Wikipedia, "Valleyfair and Cedar Point are the two original Cedar Fair parks, and the Fair in the Cedar Fair comes from Valleyfair (Valleyfair Wikipedia Page).

        Wikipedia Page: You can read more about Valley Fair on their Wikipedia Page.

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

        Special thanks to Valleyfair for being a business that cares about autism awareness. We hope that they will continue to be an autism friendly business and have Autism Awareness Days every season.

        Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

        Monday, June 1, 2015

        Eric Kunkel

        Autism Light #404 is Eric Kunkel.

        Eric Kunkel is a businessman, husband and father from Villas, New Jersey. Eric Kunkel is an Autism Light for the kindness he showed a three year old girl with autism named Kate Mouland, who he was sitting next to on an airline flight on January 6, 2014 and for his subsequent work on behalf of Easter Seals New Jersey.

        Eric Kunkel works as an Executive Vice President at MMA Technologies Corporation. He graduated in 2008 with a degree in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix (Eric Kunkel Facebook Page).  He earned his degree in Management from Slippery Rock University and graduated from Wilson High School in West Lawn, Pennsylvania in 1991.

        Eric Kunkel was a swimmer/water polo player both in high school and college. In 1999 he was the Collegiate Water Polo Association Rookie Referee of the Year (Collegiate Water Polo Association, January 14, 2014).

        Eric Kunkel was travelling by airplane in January 6, 2014 and sat in seat 16c on Flight 1850 to Philadelphia. He sat next to Kate Mouland and her mother Shanell Mouland. Kate has autism and her mother was apprehensive about how she would handle the flight sitting next to a stranger.

        After he sat down Kate started calling Eric Kunkel her "Daddy". He didn't correct her and he reacted in a sensitive manner and let Kate use his iPad and carried on a conversation with her. Because of Eric's handling of the situation Kate was able to have her most successful plane ride ever.

        Eric Kunkel's family has now become friends with Kate Mouland's family, but after the flight Shanell Mouland did not even know his name. Shanell Mouland is a blogger and wrote a post in her blog Go Team Kate about thanking a stranger in seat 16c of Flight 1850 for his kindness. In the post, Shanell Mouland writes,

        You could have shifted uncomfortably in your seat. You could have ignored her. You could have given me that 'smile' that I despise because it means; 'manage your child please.' You did none of that. You engaged Kate in conversation and you asked her questions about her turtles. She could never really answer your questions but she was so enamored by you that she keep eye contact and joint attention on the items you were asking her about. I watched and smiled. I made a few polite offers to distract her, but you would have none of it (Shanell Mouland, Go Team Kate, January 9, 2014).

        The post went viral and reached Eric so there could be a reunion. The following is a news story on Eric Kunkel and his experience with Kate Mouland.

        Easter Seals: After his introduction to autism through Kate Mouland, Eric Kunkel joine the Board of Easter Seals New Jersey. Anysa Holder of Easter Seals New Jersey said, "It's been such an honor to have someone with the spirit and compassion that Eric has join our board (CBS Local News, April 11, 2014)."

        Special thanks to Eric Kunkel for being an Autism Light. Eric Kunkel's kindness toward Kate Mouland is an example of how airplane travelers can treat encounters with individuals with autism.

        Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.