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.