Thursday, December 22, 2016

Kaylee Rodgers

Autism Light #453 is Kaylee Rodgers.

Kaylee Rodgers is a 10 year old girl with autism ADHD from Donaghadee in Northern Ireland. Kaylee Rodgers is an Autism Light because of her angelic singing of the Leonard Cohen classic, Hallelujah, in her school's choir concert in December 2016.

Kaylee Rodgers is a student at the Killard House School, a school with 200 students who have special speech needs, including those on the autism spectrum. Kaylee's mother Tracy Rodgers said, "She always loved singing, but it wasn't until she started at Killard House School that she really came into her own. [Mr. Scates is] like her safety blanket -- he's amazing (Deseret News, Herb Scribner, December 22, 2016)."

Below is the video that Nichola Martin shared on Facebook on December 18, 2016, of Kaylee Rodgers singing Hallelujah at the Killard House School program. It was posted because Kaylee was sick and could not sing in a subsequent performance scheduled with her church's Christmas choir.

The video of Kaylee Rodgers' singing has received almost 3 million views in a week. Kaylee reflected on her joy in singing the song Hallelujah and said, "It was really amazing how many views I got...I just loved doing it (ABC7 Chicago, December 22, 2016)."

If you wish to assist Kaylee with developing her talent, a GoFundMe page has been started for her. We look forward to hearing amazing things about Kaylee in the years to come.

Special thanks to Kaylee Rodgers for being a Autism Light and sharing with world her musical gift. She is an inspiration to others with autism and a blessing to all those who have heard her sing.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Eric Schopler

Autism Light #452 is Eric Schopler.

Eric Schopler was an American psychologist whose research into autism treatment led to his creation of what is known as the TEACCH autism program. Eric Schopler was born on February 8, 1927, in Furth, Germany. His family was Jewish and in 1938 left Germany for the United States. Eric Schopler passed away from cancer on July 7, 2006, at his home in Mebane, North Carolina, at the age of 79. He will be placed on the Autism Light Memorial Roll today.

The following is a tribute to Eric Schopler that was produced in 2005, a year before his death. 

TEACCH Program: The TEACCH autism program was developed from a pilot program that Eric Schopler and Robert Reichler started at the University of North Carolina in the 1960's. TEACCH was formed as a statewide program in 1972 by the North Carolina legislator (TEACCH Autism progam, Autism Speaks website). It went on to become a model for other autism programs around the world and is still being practiced widely to this day.

Tribute to Eric Schopler: Dr. Gary Mesibov, a previous director of TEACCH said, "Dr. Schopler's work erased the burden of unjustified guilt borne by many families and led to meaningful, productive lives for people with autism. For more than 35 years, the treatment that he developed has been the most widely used approach to autism in the world (Carolina Alumni Review, July 12, 2006)."

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders: Eric Schopler was editor for the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders from 1974-1997. He also wrote over 200 articles and books during his lifetime.

Board Member: Eric Schopler was a member of the following boards as he lived out his passion for autism.

Wikipedia: For more information about Eric Schopler read his Wikipedia Page

In Memorium: More information can be found about Dr. Eric Schopler in the obituary that the University of North Carolina published on their website. There is also a blog created in memory of Eric Schopler.

Special thanks to Eric Schopler for his contribution to the field of autism therapy. His legacy lives on in the many practitioners who went on to embrace his technique of collaborating with parents and to this day persistently utilize the TEACCH program. May Dr. Schopler's life inspire others to enter the field of autism therapy.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Matthew and Courtney Oakes

Autism Lights #451 are Matthew and Courtney Oakes. 

Matthew (Matt) and Courtney Oakes are the parents of two children: Molly and Liam. Their 6 year old son Liam has autism. Matthew and Courtney Oakes are Autism Lights for their efforts to raise awareness of autism family life as parents, bloggers, and members of their community. Their blog is called 808 [the adventures].

Matthew Oakes: Matthew Oakes is an associate professor at Rock Valley College in Rockford, Illinois. In 2015, Matthew Oakes earned his Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Rhetoric and Composition from the University of Illinois at Chicago (Source: Matt Oakes' LinkedIn Page).

Courtney Oakes: Courtney Oakes serves as the Parents Talk Autism Manager for Easter Seals of Metropolitan Chicago and is a Medical Advocate for Rockford Sexual Assault Counseling, Inc. (Source: Courtney Oakes' LinkedIn Page).

The following is a recent Twitter message from Courtney Oakes introducing an inspiring blog post.

The Fatherhood Project: The following video highlights Matt Oakes and his life as an autism father and was produced in 2014 as part of The Fatherhood Project. The Fatherhood Project was produced by Corbyn Tyson and was part of the SoulPancacke Youtube series about what it means to be a father.

Bloggers: Matthew and Courtney Oakes have a Word Press blog called 808 [the adventures]. Matthew Oakes wrote a guest blog for Autism Speaks called 5 Things Every Autism Dad Should Know.

Social Media: You can follow Matt and Courtney Oakes at the following social media areas.
Special thanks to Matthew (Matt) and Courtney Oakes for being Autism Lights both in their vocations in Rockford, Illinois and to the larger autism community, as they tell their story as autism parents in a blog and video. The autism community, and especially autism parents, are encouraged as the Oakes' family shine their light for autism.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Darius Brown

Autism Light #450 is Darius Brown. 

Darius Brown is an 11 year old author who has autism. He is mainstreamed in the fifth grade at Skyline Elementary School in Suitland, Maryland, which is in the Washington DC Metropolitan area. Darius Brown is an Autism Light for the example he set for other children who have autism by writing a published book, when he was just 10 years old, called Darius Hates Vegetables.

School: Darius Brown has been mainstreamed in his public elementary school since kindergarten and he is now considered on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum. His mother Wendy Brown wrote the following summary about some of the services that have helped her son over the years with his autism.
Darius Brown
Throughout grade school Darius received a lot of speech therapy services due to his inability to speak. The services taught DJ sign language to sign the words he couldn't speak and other methods to communicate while in school and at home. He also received adaptive physical education services that helped with his motor skills. These services included swimming, roller skating and other activities to help develop his low muscle tone. Now he can participate in a lot of physical activities more aggressively because he can use his muscles and be big and strong. Even though loud noises and other sensory issues are still a challenge for Darius we deal with them a bit at a time and develop coping strategies for each issue (Wendy Brown, March 31, 2016, Email to Autism Light).

Darius Hates Vegetables: Darius Brown writes his books from true events he experiences as a boy growing up, and his first published book is about a boy who enjoys cookies more than vegetables.

An 8 year old named Ryan said this about Darius' book, "I enjoyed Darius Hates Vegetables! It was catchy and a good story. The artwork was beautiful. I don't like vegetables either, but I might try them now (I Am Darius Brown Testimonials)."

Darius' mother Wendy Brown wrote to Autism Light, "Darius uses writing as a way to cope with good and bad things that he's encountered while in school trying to make new friends or other challenges faced at home especially when it comes to sharing his trains with his little brother. Nonetheless, we feel other children/adults on the spectrum will enjoy his stories all the same and realize we are all the same."

Website: You can order the book Darius Hates Vegetables online through his website and also learn more about Darius from his website.

Media: To learn more about Darius Brown read the following media.

Special thanks to Darius Brown for being an Autism Light and being a published author at age 10. Darius Brown is one of the many examples of students with autism doing extraordinary achievements. Hopefully his example will be an encouragement to to other aspiring writers with autism. We wish Darius all the best and hope he will continue to learn and grow in his life.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photos: The photos in this post were used with permission of Wendy Brown.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Jennifer Waltrip

Autism Light #449 is Jennifer Waltrip.

Jennifer "Jennie" Waltrip served for 17 years as a bright light in the special education field for Frederick (Maryland) County Public Schools and was a Family Trainer for the Maryland Autism Waiver Program. Jennifer Waltrip was born on July 20, 1969 and passed away from a brain aneurysm on January 20, 2016, at the age of 46. Jennifer is survived by her husband Bryan Christopher Waltrip and 9 year old twin children: Finn Larson and Isabel Bear. Her obituary is listed at Jennifer Waltrip will be placed on the Autism Light Memorial Roll today.

Education: Jennifer Waltrip received the following education.

Teaching Career: Jennifer Waltrip's teaching career included the following.
  • Frederick County Public Schools, Teacher Specialist, Secondary Specialized Programs
  • Caroll Manor Elementary, Challenges Program
  • Ivymount School

In addition, she served as a Family Trainer for the Maryland Autism Waiver. The Maryland Autism Waiver is a program of the Maryland State Department of Education that provides intensive services both in home and school for eligible children with autism regardless of family income.

For more information on Jennifer Waltrip read these online articles.

The autism community was blessed to have a dedicated special education teacher Jennifer Waltrip in Frederick, Maryland and her absence will be felt. It is hoped that her example will inspire others to enter a career in special education teaching.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Marion Bruce

Autism Light #448 is Marion Bruce.

Marion Bruce was a pioneer in bringing autism awareness to New Zealand and improving the situations of autism families and their loved ones by effectively starting the organization presently called Autism New Zealand. Her youngest son Andrew has autism. Marion Bruce was born on June 26, 1925 in Christchurch, New Zealand, and passed away on February 25, 2016 in Wellington, New Zealand, at the age of 90.   Marion was predeceased by her husband Dr. Lyell Bruce. She is survived by her children: Evan, Alison, Mary, and Andrew.  Her obituary is listed at the New Zealand Herald. Marion Bruce holds the distinction of being the first person from New Zealand to be featured at Autism Light. She will be placed on the Autism Light Memorial Roll today.

Autism Mother: When Marion Bruce was placed in the role of being an Autism Mother, there was little known about autism in New Zealand. It was written of her that, "Marion Bruce spent her life trying to make a better world for her autistic son. In doing so, she helped scores of other autistic children and their families (Access, Hillary Stace, March 31, 2016)."

Autism New Zealand: Marion Bruce was effectively the founder of what is now Autism New Zealand, an organization she was a lifelong member of. It was her passionate efforts that helped convince the Intellectually Handicapped Children's Association in New Zealand to recognize autism in New Zealand and set up an autism sub-committee in 1969. This group later became the Autistic Association and then became what it is today known as Autism New Zealand. Visit the Autism New Zealand Website to learn more about their ongoing work.

Tribute from Phillipa Barker: Philippa Barker is the former national secretary of Autism New Zealand. He wrote these words about Marion Bruce's important contribution to autism in New Zealand.
She was the go-to person for information and advice on autism in New Zealand when no-one knew anything about it, when there were no resources or facilities. In the UK there were schools for autistic children but not here.
She lobbied for facilities and to have autism recognised as a condition. She travelled abroad to conferences, often at her own expense, to learn about the condition and brought back information to parents here (As quoted in Access, Hillary Stace, March 31, 2016).  
Conversation with Autism Pioneer: Marion Bruce is mentioned in Adam Feinstein's important work called A History of Autism: Conversations with the Pioneers. Adam Feinstein was Autism Light #347.

Education: Marion Bruce earned her BA in languages from the University of New Zealand in 1947.

Queen's Service Order:  Marion Bruce was awarded the prestigious Queen's Service Order in 1986 for services to the community.  Her volunteer efforts included serving as an advisor to Mana Parents Centre.

For more information on Marion Bruce read the tribute article to her in Access on March 31, 2016 by Hillary Stace. This profile at Autism Light is indebted to their understanding of Marion Bruce's life and background.

Special thanks to Marion Bruce for her leadership to shine a light for autism in New Zealand. 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.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Benji the Labrador

Autism Light #447 is Benji the Labrador.

Benji is a Labrador dog who lives in Aberdeen, Scotland in the United Kingdom. Benji is a therapy dog for a 7 year old boy with autism named Declan McInnes-Pirie. Benji is an Autism Light for the positive impact he has on Declan's life as he stays by his side as a faithful dog.

Declan's mother Phionna was encouraged to try a dog for her son after she read the book A Friend Like Henry written by Nualah Gardner, who was Autism Light #58 Henry is another dog who from Scotland who made a difference for a child with autism.

Phionna McInnes-Pirie says this about the light Benji has shined in her son Declan's life.
Benji has been wonderful, he has really had his personality tested with Declan and he has risen to the challenge every time. Never have I seen such loyalty, patience and compassion. 
There has been many a happy tear shed in this house. You read about it, sure, but until you see it happen with your own child - well that's some experience.
It's worth everything we put ourselves through. Getting Benji was the best thing we could have done (STVNews, Victoria Pease, Boy's Best Friend: Autistic 7 year-olds bond with Labrador Benji, March 19, 2016).
Two specific areas where Benji has helped Declan with his some of the effects of his autism are preventing him from running away and providing pressure therapy. A harness and handle keeps Benji and Declan together in public and offers a barrier to his wandering. Benji is able to provide pressure therapy by placing his dog paw or leg on Declan, which helps decrease his anxiety.

Benji is in the process of being trained by Assistance Dogs International (ADI) and when completed he will be able to go more places with Declan and become an official autism therapy dog. For more information about Benji the Labrador read the article on STVNews by Victoria Pease (Boy's Best Friend: Autistic 7 year-olds bond with Labrador Benji, March 19, 2016)

Benji will be added to the Autism Light Animal Page today. Benji is a fine example of a dog who is making a difference through his therapeutic and loving relationship with a young person with autism. We wish Benji and Declan the best in the future.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

David Kot

Autism Light #446 is David Kot.

David Kot is a comic book script writer who founded Face Value Comics, a non-profit which raises autism awareness and featured the world's first comic book hero with autism. David lives in York, Pennsylvania with his wife Angie and four children. In addition to his own clinical diagnosis as an adult with Asperger's, his young step-daughter also has autism. David Kot is an Autism Light for his influential efforts to raise autism awareness through his comic book enterprise and as a self-advocate.

The following is a video where David Kot explains how Face Value Comics is intentional about raising autism awareness.

Face Value Comics: David Kot and Angela Kot created Face Value Comics, which was legally incorporated as a non-profit organization in 2011 and is presently a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization. According to their website, "Autism at Face Value practises 'comic awareness' and employs the use of comic books and educational toys to publicly demystify Autism Spectrum Disorders (Autism at Face Value - About Us)."

Some of the accomplishments of Face Value Comics include:
  • Introducing the character "Michael" who is the first comic book super hero with autism.
  • Having a third party medical journal review their work for their therapeutic value to children.
  • Advising the Dover Area School District on new special needs curriculum based on our use of facial feature recognition helps us maintain our non-profit status.
David Kot says,
"Comic book author and pop-icon Stan Lee wrote Spiderman when he was 40 years old. I debuted Face Value Comics #1 a year earlier than my role-model. Since this time, we have been on the nation’s largest news network, reviewed in a medical journal, and outsold some popular titles. Our comic has been nominated and won two international awards for Children’s Literature (Ireland, Canada) and enshrined in the National History of Disability History in New York. We have international print and distribution for our comics. Additionally, we hold the copyright on our work, and are proud to give kids heroes like themselves. In the future, we have many great plans."
His plans for Face Value Comics in the future include:
  • Developing public school special needs curriculum with the Dover Area School District for a net surplus, insulated against legislative budget cuts, and without levying a single dime to the typical taxpayer;
  • Sensory-friendly action figures of our heroes, with flexible pieces (i.e. silk cape or wool cape), designed to calm children who play while they play;
  • Printing comic books with 3D features, like raised facial expressions to literally feel emotions, which also opens comic books to the low/no-vision community;
  • Visiting the U.S. Congressional Autism Caucus by (Mike Doyle’s) invitation;
  • Continued issues of comics, including special guest artists and authors;
  • Advocating and teaching young people and adults about living with autism; and
  • Finishing my doctoral research as my health and time allows.
Copyright 2016 - Face Value Comics
Author: To date David Kot has published three comic books labeled Face Value Comics #1, #2, and #3. Face Value Comics #4 is in the production phase.

Ordering Information: You can order print copies of comics by Autism Face Value at their page on Indyplanet. Digital copies, including a pay-what-you-want price option on Issue #1, are available at Drive Thru Comics.

Education: David Kot has the following educational background.

David Kot
  • Since 2006 he has been studying at Capella University. He has earned a Master of Science in Human Services (Psychology) and did his graduate research in Self-funding community clinics to include self-injurious clients, in respect to billing, coding, and clinical interventions. 
  • David Kot is expected to earn his Doctor of Philosophy, Psychology in 2016 from Capella University. His PhD research focus has been Autism and multicultural, nonverbal communication strategies that promote compassion and empathy. 
Blogger: David Kot writes a blog as part of his advocacy on his website. The following two articles are representative of some of the content.
#WeAut2Vote Campaign: David Kot has been working hard to advocate for making voting accessible to people with autism in the Winter and Spring of 2016. He has solicited the support of ALL Pennsylvania senators and support is growing throughout the United States. His advocacy includes helping individuals with autism to:
  1. Register to Vote
  2. Identify their Local Polling Place
  3. Use Absentee Ballots When Their Disability Prevents Typical Voting Inclusion.
The York Dispatch wrote an article on David Kot's efforts to get out the autstic vote (Greg Gross, The York Dispatch, March 28, 2016).

Encouragement to those with Asperger's: David Kot offered these words of encouragement to others with Asperger's.
"In a world run by neurotypical people (i.e.: people without autism), some comforting words by George Bernard Shaw and the Kennedy family: 'You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?’' By this, I encourage people living with autism to remember how we brought you a comic book hero with autism, not industry giants like DC or Marvel (Disney) Comics. I am just a guy living in a small town with a dream, limited resources, but with great supports who love and value me as much as any work I have done or may yet do (David Kot)."
David Kot provided this summary of his autism advocacy and his appreciation for people who assist him in shining his light for autism.
"In summary, I hope any other person – with or without autism – may look to what I have done and replicate something similar, for their own advocacy on any number of deeply-concerning social topics that get bypassed by mass media monopolies, and for the benefit of younger readers in the future. One may say that writing a comic book has launched autism advocacy through national news coverage, educational reform based on science with economical responsibility, address of congressional representatives, and review in a legitimate medical journal. Yes- a comic book paved the way. I think about our success as one average guy’s science-fiction story (equally heavy in both parts ‘science’ and ‘fiction’) that makes people believe in fantastic opportunities – in equality - like those events described. I could not have done any of these things without so many long evenings with my wife, Angela, and our artist, Sky Owens. He patiently taught me how to write for comic books, and his thirty years’ experience in the comic book industry shows on the static page. Angela listened to my writings, and offered many great changes from her views as a mother and wife living with autism. She also has a very active imagination! Overall, I am just a man. However, I also have great supports and people who love me. I never thought our comic book would be published in a medical journal before my own doctoral defense. We must never stop believing we deserve good things for ourselves or our children, who need our collective best (David Kot)."

Social Media: You can follow Face Value Comics at the following social media areas.
Media: You can read more about David Kot's autism advocacy in the following media features. 
Special thanks to David Kot for being an Autism Light through his amazing talent in comic book script. Face Value Comics is an independent company that can offer hope and encouragement to the autism community as well as educate others about this growing group of people in our society. We wish David continued success in his endeavors as a self-advocate and his role as an autism father.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

The photo of David Kot was used with permission of David Kot. Comic book images are copyright by Autism at Face Value (2016).

Friday, February 5, 2016

Cam Newton

Autism Light #445 is Cam Newton.

Cam Newton (2014/Keith Allison)
Cam Newton is the quarterback for the National Football League's Carolina Panthers (Autism Light #362). He is from Atlanta, Georgia and has a residence in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Newton played his college football for Auburn University. He is the first player since 1950, "to within a one-year span, be awarded the Heisman Trophy, win a national championship, and become the first overall pick in an NFL draft (Wikipedia: Cam Newton)." Cam Newton is an Autism Light because of the kindness he showed in the Summer of 2015 to a six year old boy named Jaxon Shytle who has autism.

Jaxon Shytle is a big fan of Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. Because of the excessive stimulation at an actual NFL game, Jaxon has not been taken to a Carolina Panthers game yet. He watches Carolina Panther games on television and in the Summer of 2015, Jaxon's father, Alan Winninger, took him to see the team at the Carolina Panthers training camp in South Carolina. At the practice Jaxon was able to play catch with Cam Newton. The highlight of his experience with the star quarterback was when Cam Newton gave Jaxon the football to keep.

The following is a video news story of Cam Newton showing special kindness to Jaxon Shytle.

Alan Winninger was thankful his son was able to meet Cam Newton, saying, "This is something that will affect him forever, and it probably helped his progression being autistic. Now, he's got something he can relate to and be a part of (Fox 46, Robin Kanady, 6-year-old Autistic Boy Got Football from Cam Newton, January 25, 2016)."

Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 2011 and has been their starter since his rookie season. He has led the Carolina Panthers to a spot in Super Bowl 50 on February 7, 2016, after a successful 2015-2016 season where they went 15-1 and won the National Football Conference. You can check out Cam Newton's career statistics at

Social Media: You can follow news about Cam Newton on the following social media areas.
The following is a tweet that Autism Speaks put out on Twitter about Cam Newton's remarkable kindness to Jaxon.

Special thanks to Cam Newton for being an Autism Light. His kindness to a boy with autism is an example to other athletes who have the potential to brighten the lives of people who look up to them as heroes. To read other posts about athletes that have been featured on this blog visit the Autism Light Sports Page.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

The photo of Cam Newton was taken by Keith Allison in 2014 and is in the Creative Commons of Wikipedia.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Michael Hannon

Autism Light #444 is Dr. Michael Hannon.

Photo of Martin Luther King

"Faith is taking the first step, even when you don't see the whole staircase." 

When autism parents commence on the journey of raising a child with an autism spectrum disorder, they are put in a position, like Dr. King says, of needing to work and love their child persistently without being able to see all the growth and success their child with autism will experience over time. I believe if Dr. King were living today he would have acknowledged the unique challenges autism families face, and would have been especially engaged with how autism impacts families in the African-American community. King would have been very supportive of research into finding out the influences of autism on diverse family systems and would have been publically grateful for the efforts of the following autism father and researcher who is being honored for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 2016.

Dr. Michael Hannon is a professor and autism father from Westampton, New Jersey. He and his wife LaChan Hannon have a 13 year-old daughter Nile and an 11 year-old son Avery. Avery has a form of autism. Dr. Michael Hannon is an Autism Light for his research into the potential rewards of fathering a child with autism within diverse communities.

Dr. Michael Hannon serves as the Assistant Professor of Counselor Education at Montclair State University, where his primary responsibility is teaching in the graduate level counseling program. He also serves as a mentor to doctoral students in their counseling doctorate program. Dr. Michael Hannon conducts research related to mental health and counseling and his research specialty is the influence of autism on broader family systems and fathers, with a particular emphasis on fathers and families of color. His website shows a summary of his previous work experience.

Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK): Dr. Michael Hannon told Autism Light that MLK influenced his work in this way.
Dr. Martin Luther King devoted his life, and particularly the latter part of his life, to an unapologetic fight for social justice. He was courageous to speak out and fight against racial discrimination, socioeconomic disparities, and war in revolutionary ways. His legacy influences my work in being able to share stories and experiences of an understudied and often misunderstood community: Black fathers of individuals with autism. There is important research about how autism affects family systems that includes highlighting disparities in diagnosis timing and access to care between racial/ethnic groups in the United States. While raising children with autism and other developmental differences can be challenging at times, the challenges might be exacerbated when we study the experiences of diverse parents. These exacerbated challenges may be based, in part, by negative interactions with service providers (e.g., teachers, therapists, etc.) that undermine trust between parents and service providers (Michael Hannon, January 13, 2016).

Education: Dr. Michael Hannon has completed the following educational degree programs.
Author: Dr. Michael Hannon has been the author or co-author of over 25 presentations, book chapters, and/or articles on the area of his expertise in counseling, mental health, and autism families.
Highlights of Research Findings: Some recurring messages that Dr. Michael Hannon has heard from fathers in his research include:
  • The most rewarding aspect of fathering individuals with autism is seeing their children successful.  
  • There is an orientation and adjustment process that fathers experience as they learn about their children’s autism diagnosis and possibly have to adjust their relationship expectations with their children with autism.  
  • Fathers seem to appreciate connecting with resembling fathers and families as they navigate fathering an individual with autism. 
  • Fathers are paying close attention to their different forms of capital (Dr. Michael Hannon, January 13, 2016)
Certifications: Dr. Michael Hannon is a National Certified Counselor (NCC) and a Licensed Associate Counselor (LAC) in New Jersey.

Awards: Dr. Michael Hannon received the Presidential Award by the Willingboro, New Jersey and Vicinity Branch of the NAACP in November 2015.
Conference Speaker: Dr. Michael Hannon provided the keynote at the 3rd Annual Conference for New Jersey Fathers of Children with Special Needs in October of 2015. Below is a brief excerpt of his presentation. More information on past conferences he presented at are listed on his blog.

Great Expectations Teaching & Advocacy Center for Childhood Disabilities, Inc. (GETAC): Michael and LaChan Hannnon founded GETAC on April 19, 2007 to offer advocacy, educational, and consultative services for parents raising children with developmental disabilities. Michael's wife, LaChan Hannon, serves as the Executive Director and the work of this non-profit is dear and near to them.

The following is a video of Google Hangout where Dr. Michael Hannon was on an online panel called Autism Brainstorm: Guy Talk that Dr. Robert Naseef did in March 2015 as part of a feature on an African-American perspective on raising children with autism. A second part of this series was taped in April 2015.

Advice to Autism Fathers: Dr. Michael Hannon shared this advice to autism fathers with Autism Light. 

"Fathers are important members of the family. When families have experiences that require something new or unexpected from them, it can be a source of both stress and enrichment. As they navigate this experience, I encourage fathers of children with autism to:
  • Learn (more) about themselves so they can engage with their families in healthy and honest ways. Discover (or rediscover) interests, hobbies, stress relief activities, and ways to support personal growth and development.
  • Learn about their children (with or without autism) so they can find connection points. Fathers may find they share interests, attitudes, dispositions with their children, which is awesome. They also may discover something their children enjoy that eventually becomes a mutual interest or something in which they entirely support their children.
  • Learn about autism by talking to trustworthy people who help build a sense of community. These can be other dads, romantic/marital partners, specialists and therapists, school personnel, and/or a faith community (if applicable). (Michael Hannon, January 13, 2016)."

"Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'".

Others Supporting Autism Families: Dr. Michael Hannon provided this insight to Autism Light on supporting fathers in diverse communities.
I appreciate the ongoing advocacy for individuals with autism by individuals with autism, their families, and concerned community members and groups. One way we can all continue to help families affected by autism is being courageous in helping eliminate the disparities in diagnosis, diagnosis timing, and access to care for families of different racial/ethnic groups. 
Another way to help is to continue balancing the autism narrative. All families experience stress, and raising an individual with autism can be stressful at times, and in different ways than raising an individual who does not have autism. However, the stress/coping narrative is not the only autism story. It’s great to be able to read, hear, and talk to those living with and/or affected by autism when they share their success and reward stories (Dr. Michael Hannon, January 13, 2016).
People-First Language: Dr. Hannon has a specific way in which he speaks about people with autism that affirms their dignity and that they are more than their autism diagnosis. He said this to Autism Light:
One last suggestion for all of us is to affirm the humanity of individuals with autism, by using people-first language. Unless I’m corrected, I try to address people with autism with that moniker: people WITH autism. I get concerned when we label a community by just one identifier, especially when that identifier has been constructed as something negative (e.g., autistic, diabetic, schizophrenic, etc.). Those identifiers can be sources of pride for the individuals living with such conditions and contribute to our diverse communities; however, I err on the side of caution and try to use people-first language in my interactions and recommend others do the same unless told otherwise (Dr. Michael Hannon, January 13, 2016).
Follow Michael Hannon on Social Media: 
Special thanks to Dr. Michael Hannon for being an Autism Light and fighting the good fight as an autism father, researcher, and counselor. His work is a benefit to the autism community and he is an appropriate representative of someone who has a passion to shape the world for the better like the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This post is our 5th annual feature to honor someone who is an Autism Light in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. Past honorees of Autism Light on Martin Luther King, Jr. day include:





Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

The photo of Martin Luther King, Jr. in this post is in the Creative Commons of 
Wikipedia and is from the National Archives and Records Administration. The photo of Michael Hannon is used with permission of Michael Hannon.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

New Jersey Lights

The State of New Jersey is the home of 15 Autism Lights. The New Jersey group includes two individuals with autism, two autism fathers, a business, a businessman, a music therapist, a musician, a teacher, a professional bass fisherman, two politicians, and three people who are on the Autism Light Memorial Roll.

  New Jersey Autism Lights

Autism Fathers:
    • Toys "R" Us is a toy store that has its corporate headquarters in New Jersey. They were recognized for creating a line of autism friendly toys in their stores.
    • Eric Kunkel is a businessman from Villas, New Jersey. He showed kindness to a girl with autism on a plane trip.
    Individuals with Autism:
    • Kerry Magro is a young adult with autism who is a recognized author, speaker, and self-advocate. He is from Jersey City, New Jersey.
    • Anthony Starego is a young adult with autism. He was added to Autism Light for his achievements in 2012 as a high school kicker in Brick, New Jersey.
    Music Therapist:
    • Dez Childs is a musician and song writer from Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
    • Janet Mino is a special education teacher from Newark, New Jersey.
    • Mike Iaconelli is a professional bass fisherman from Pittsgrove Township, New Jersey. 
    • Robert Menendez is a United States Senator from New Jersey. His home is in Paramus, New Jersey. He has supported autism causes over the years through his position in the Senate.
    • Chris Smith is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Hamilton, New Jersey. He has supported autism causes over the years through his position in Congress. 
    Memorial Roll from New Jersey:
    • James Gandolfini (1961-2013) was an actor whose hometown was Parkwood, New Jersey. Upon his death on June 19, 2013 he left money in his will to a friend who was an autism father. 
    • Herbert A. Kahn (1925-2005) was from Mahwah, New Jersey. He founded what is now Autism New Jersey.
    • Gail Walsh (1954-2012) was an autism mother from Cinnnaminson, New Jersey. She died in an automobile accident on January 19, 2012. The mother of two sons with autism was dedicated to supporting autism causes.

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

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

    Friday, January 8, 2016

    Jacob Allen

    Autism Light #443 is Jacob Allen.

    Jacob Allen is 4 years old and has autism. He lives in Arkansas Pass, Texas. On January 1, 2016, Jacob found his father Bryan Allen passed out from a diabetic attack and proceeded to get himself dressed and go to a neighbor for help, because his mother was at the store. Jacob Allen is an Autism Light for his mature thinking that helped save his father's life.

    Doctors indicated that Bryan Allen could have went into a diabetic coma if he hadn't receive timely emergency medical attention. Below is a video of the news coverage on Jacob getting help for his father. | Continuous News Coverage | Corpus Christi

    Jacob Allen's mother Michelle Allen said, "I have been ...told...not to expect very much of my son because he's autistic. Autistic kids...They're the same as everybody else. And they can be more miraculous than a regular person (, Caroline Flores, January 1, 2016)."

    Bryan Allen expressed his gratitude by saying of Jacob, "He's just the greatest...little kid there is. I wouldn't change him for nothin' (, Caroline Flores, January 1, 2016)."

    Special thanks to Jacob Allen for being an Autism Light. Jacob is one of many cases where individuals with autism made a difference for good in their families and communities. We wish Jacob all the best and hope he will continue to learn and grow in his life.

    Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

    Saturday, January 2, 2016

    Brandon Williams

    Autism Light #442 is Brandon Williams.

    Brandon Williams is a 13 year old with autism who is in the 7th grade at Barnes Intermediate School in Staten Island, New York. On October 28, 2015, Brandon noticed a classmate, Jessica Pelligrino, choking. He successfully performed the Heimlich maneuver and saved Jessica. Brandon Williams is an Autism Light for his role in helping save a classmate when she was choking.

    Brandon Williams was asked where he learned to perform the Heimlich maneuver and he shared that he learned it from watching the television show SpongeBob SquarePants. The following is a news story from the Staten Island Advance about Brandon Williams saving his classmate's life.'

    Brandon's father, Anthony Williams, said, "He picks up on things that most of us would miss, and files it all away in his head, and he can recall it in an instant. That's how he knew instantly what to do. And we're glad he did. We're proud of him (The Mighty, Melissa McGlensy, 7th Grader with Autism now a Hero Thanks to SpongeBob SquarePants, November 6, 2015)." Anthony Williams was very encouraged by Brandon's heroic actions in this incident. He shared that this is what Brandon taught him about autism:
    Raising special-needs kids, you feel like they're very limited in what they can do. This just proves don't ever hold your kid back for anything. There's no limits to what these kids can do. 
    It's something positive in the autism-spectrum community, that there's hope. Don't ever think they can't do anything as they go on in life and as they get older (New York Daily News, Staten Island Teen with Autism Performs Heimlich Maneuver on Chocking Classmate after he 'learned it on SpongeBob', November 6, 2015). 
    Special thanks to Brandon Williams for being an Autism Light. Brandon is representative of the many individuals with autism who are everyday heroes in their communities. We wish Brandon all the best and hope he will continue to learn and grow in his life.

    Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

    Friday, January 1, 2016

    Milo, the Robot

    Autism Light #441 is Milo, the Robot.

    Milo is a humanoid social robot that was designed by RoboKind, a company in Dallas, Texas.  Milo has been programmed to integrate the curriculum of Robots4Autism into a therapy program for children with autism. Milo is the first robot to be named an Autism Light, because of how his social robot therapy can help children with autism to learn valuable social skills.

    RoboKind was formed in 2011 and Milo is a descendent of the Zeno R25 robot they created in 2013. Christopher Everett Tracy describes the specs on Milo.
    Milo stands at just under two feet, weights 4.5kg, and has the face of a young boy.... The oversized doll is nothing short of a technical marvel. His brain is an OMAP 4460 dual core 1.5 GHz ARM Cortex A9 processor and he has 1GB of RAM as well as 8GB of memory, which can be expanded via a MicroSD slot. He has a 5-megapixel autofocus camera in his right eye, as well as a battery of visual algorithims to detect colours, motion, faces, and QR codes. His CompuCompassion system gives Milo the ability to identify and respond to emotions. And of course he has Wifi and Bluetooth connectivity (Tharawat, Christopher Everett Tracy, November 6, 2015).

    The following is a video of Milo's background and how he works to help young people with autism learn.

    The Robots4Autism curriculum currently can be used in elementary and middle school. "The objectives of robot therapy include learning to pick up emotions, express empathy, act more appropriately in social situations, self-motivate, and generalize in the population (RoboKind Website, Robots4Autism Curriculum)."

    Dr. Pamela Rollins is the author of the Robots4Autism curriculum. In the following video Dr. Rollins describes the curriculum.

    Dr. Pamela Rollins said, "We found that especially with the fluent children, they were engaged with Milo 87 percent of the time. We also looked at how much they were engaged with the therapist when she tried to talk to them. It was about 3 percent (, April 2, 2015)."

    Milo has the potential to accomplish great things for autism and also reduce the cost of autism treatment. "Educating a child with autism can cost from $17,000 to $22,000 a year, according to the company. The cost for a Milo robot including the curriculum is $5,000. RoboKind's representative said that some insurance companies have helped reimburse the cost (Medpage Today, Shannon Firth, March 9, 2015)."

    Like any therapy Milo will not be effective with every single person on the autism spectrum. Dr. Rollins indicated that children that Milo seems to be the most effective in treating have picture symbol recognition, ability to answer yes/no questions, ability to understand cause and effect, and ability to use a table to communicate (Medpage Today, Shannon Firth, March 9, 2015).

    Milo will last up to 3 years but is also designed with the capacity for an upgrade. At the time this post was written RoboKind is only selling Milo to institutions that will use it in concert with the Robots4Autism curriculum. Robokind has a web form that parents and caregivers can complete to refer Milo to their child's school.

    Milo is not intended to replace a human therapist but is an additional tool that can be used to facilitate more hours of instruction. One of the advantages that Milo has is he can endure unlimited repetitions without ever becoming frustrated in the middle of a therapy session or life lesson. The data and video that Milo can collect efficiently is also priceless to autism treatment plans.

    Social Media: You can follow Milo on the following social media areas.
    Special thanks to Milo for being an Autism Light. This breakthrough in technology is promising for autism therapy and it will be exciting as it is more widely adopted and becomes increasingly an affordable option for research based autism therapy with some children with autism. We look forward to hearing great things about Milo in the future.

    Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.