Monday, April 30, 2018

Ruth C. Sullivan

Autism Light #155 is Ruth C. Sullivan.

Dr. Ruth C. Sullivan is an autism mother from Huntington, West Virginia. She and her husband William had 7 children, including a son Joseph who has autism. Ruth and her son Joseph have remained in Huntington to this day because of the important services that are in place for him that don't cross state lines. Born in 1924, Ruth is an autism pioneer who has spent over half of her long lifetime as an advocate and community organizer for autism needs. She was one of the founders of the Autism Society of America and served as its first President in 1965. Ruth C. Sullivan is an Autism Light because of her devotion as an autism mother and her dedication to help other families with autism.

Education: Ruth Sullivan earned her doctorate in psychology from Ohio University in 1984 in psychology, speech, and hearing science and special education. She also has degrees in public health nursing and public health administration.

The following is a video where Ruth Sullivan shares her experiences with receiving her son's autism diagnosis and her dreams for autism services and research.

Autism Society of America: Ruth Sullivan was one of the founders of the Autism Society of America (formerly called National Society for Autistic Children) and served as its first President in 1965. The Autism Society of America is the oldest grass roots organization in the autism community (Wikipedia: Autism Society of America). She continues to be an honorary board member of the organization.

Ruth Sullivan made key contributions to this 2009 video by the Autism Society of America called The Future of Autism.

Autism Services Center: Ruth Sullivan founded the Autism Services Center in Huntington, West Virginia in 1979 as a nonprofit behavioral health center. It serves Cabell, Wayne, Lincoln, Mason and Putnam counties in the state of West Virginia. She retired from the organization in 2007, at the age of 83 (Hilary Groutage, Herald-Dispatch, October 30, 2007).

West Virginia Autism Training Center: Ruth Sullivan helped form the West Virginia Autism Training Center at Marshall University in Huntington. It has been her dream that every major university would one day have their own autism training center.

Rain Man Movie: Ruth Sullivan served as an autism consultant to the 1988 movie Rain Man, starring Dustin Hoffman. Her son Joseph was one of the individuals with autism that Dustin Hoffman studied in order to improve his role in the movie.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA):  Ruth Sullivan was one of the lobbyists for Public Law No. 94-142, which became a United States law in 1975 and since 1990 has been called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA. It became the landmark law that guaranteed handicapped children with autism and other disabilities had the right to receive a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). The ramifications of this law continue to this day to be felt in important rights that parents and their children have when working with diverse public school systems around the country.

Temple Grandin: Ruth Sullivan was the first person to invite Temple Grandin (Autism Light #38) to speak in public about her autism. She also wrote the forward to Temple Grandin's book The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism and Asperger's (2008)

Wikipedia: Visit the Ruth C. Sullivan Wikipedia page for more information on this Autism Light.

Special thanks to Dr. Ruth Sullivan for being an Autism Light. Her faithfulness as a mother and advocate has sent rays of hope for autism across the United States. May the example that Ruth Sullivan has provided inspire other mothers to carry forth the light to meet a new generation of autism needs.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Special Note: Ruth Sullivan is the new Autism Light #155 replacing the numbered spot on the blog left vacant after the removal of Dr. Hans Asperger.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Inspiration and Dreams

Alan Stokes and Jonathan at the Cadillac, Michigan YMCA on Dec. 9, 2017.

I haven't talk personally much about my son Jonathan on this blog, because the style has always been to tell the story of diverse autism heroes from around the world rather than our family situation. But he has always been a part of this. I started this blog in June 2011, almost 7 years ago. Writing these profiles of positive heroes has strengthened my heart from the early days of receiving the autism diagnosis to dealing with a teenager with autism. He is the reason I started the Autism Light blog and he is the reason I keep it going. As he has grown older the new releases on the blog have at times been few and far between. This blog takes a backseat to my priority to care for him and spend time with him.

One of the ways we are able to spend time together is by going to YMCA's around our state on weekends. A story has been written about this and it was featured in our local paper. See article by Judy Putnam, Lansing State Journal, April 28, 2018. Now that many new people have been introduced to Jonathan through this article, it seems fitting to share a dream I have for Jonathan and this blog.

I have a dream that one day Jonathan will progress to be able to help me maintain this blog by suggesting subjects, doing some of the writing and indexing of content, and determining the evolving style of it. I hope that one day he will tell his own story in his own words on this blog, and part of me is saving that part for him, as I continue to focus on profiles of others who have their own journey with autism. I'm recording that dream here, because when it happens I want to show him that I prayed for it and believed in it long before the dream ever seemed possible. 

Don't compare yourself to others. Write up your own dreams for your situation. Make sure your dreams are big enough to make you smile if they come true, and that you are big enough to smile if your dreams don't come true.

Dr. Stephen Shore said, "If you've met one person with autism you've met one person with autism (Art of Autism Quotes)." Whether you regularly follow Autism Light or just happened to stumble across some past content here through a search engine, I encourage you to always keep in mind that everyone with autism is different, just like people without autism. Some of these profiles of autism heroes may trigger an idea to apply to your life and others may seem to be meant for someone else. Learn to love helping others reach their dreams and you may find your own have come true.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Statement on Dr. Hans Asperger

Autism Light honored Dr. Hans Asperger as Autism Light #155 on February 25, 2012. Over 6,000 people read his post between 2012 and 2018. Autism Light seeks to be a stop on the Internet that is uplifting and respectful to all people of diverse backgrounds in the autism community.

Evidence of Dr. Asperger's cooperation with the Nazis that resulted in numerous disabled children being needlessly euthanized were not known in 2012 (See Guy Walters: How DID Dr. Asperger hide his past as a CHILD-KILLING monster for so long?, Daily Mail, April 19, 2018). While Dr. Hans Asperger did some good for autism during his time on this earth, as evidence by his original naming as an Autism Light, the uncovering of his horrific conduct rises to the level where he is no longer fit to be named alongside other autism heroes, including disabled children with autism and members of the Jewish community.

Today we are removing the post on Dr. Hans Asperger at Autism Light and removing it from all index pages on the blog, including the Memorial Roll. Our next post at Autism Light will be  a replacement subject for Autism Light #155.

My personal opinion is that the label Asperger's Syndrome (established to honor Dr. Hans Asperger posthumously), and which has been applied to high-functioning people with autism, should be eliminated and changed in light of this news about his conduct. However, I will leave that up to the group of people who have high-functioning autism to come forward with an appropriate name change.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Tarik El-Abour

Autism Light #464 is Tarik El-Abour.

Tarik El-Abour is a 25 year old with autism from San Marino, California. After playing college baseball and two seasons of baseball for the Empire Pro Baseball League, Tarik El-Abour received a minor league contract from the Kansas City Royals in April 2018, making him by all accounts the first player with autism ever to be signed by a major league baseball organization. Tarik El-Abour is an Autism Light because of how his groundbreaking achievement in baseball will encourage others with autism to follow their athletic dreams no matter how high they may be.

After Tarik was diagnosed with autism at age 3, his mother Nadia Khalil quit her corporate job and went to UCLA to get an education in Special Education in order to help her son. She is now a popular author, speaker and teacher of self development. Nadia Khalil says this about her son.
"Those of us without autism think in concepts, he thinks in numbers. The greater the number of times he did anything, the better he was at it. Just like us. However, the way the numbers worked in his mind went way further than anything I could have yet imagined. He knew he had to practice. He knew he loved it. He told me that when he grew up and played baseball, he would buy me a house wherever he plays, so that I could watch his games live. He did not know yet how different he was. He did not know yet how autism was going to speak for him before he could speak for himself (Nadia Khalil, Quoted by Mitch Lehman, San Marino Tribune, August 9, 2017).”
The following is a news story on the Kansas City Royals signing Tarik El-Abour.

Tarik El-Abour was introduced to baseball when his father, Abed El-Abour registered him to play baseball in the San Marino National Little League. His road from there has been a steady pace to new opportunities.

College Career: Tarik El-Abour played baseball in college at Pasadena City College, Condordia University, Pacifica College and Bristol University. He received his Bachelors Degree in Business Administration from Bristol University but was not drafted out of college.

Empire League Career: "In 2016, El-Abour was named the Empire League's Rookie of the Year after batting .323 in 122 plate appearances and in 2017, he won a championship with the Plattsburgh Red Birds (DJ Dunson, Yahoo Sports, April 4, 2018)."

Reggie Sanders, a special adviser for the Kansas City Royals and an autism advocate, was instrumental in helping connect Tarik El-Abour and the Royals. Here is a video of the news conference where the Royals announced signing Tarik El-Abour.

Reggie Sanders said this about Tarik's major league baseball contract helping the autism community,
"Tarik doesn't realize what he's doing. But the beautiful thing is that it's so raw for him because he's focusing just on baseball. But he doesn't realize he's really helping the community, which is amazing (Reggie Sanders, Quoted by Maria Torres, The Kansas City Star, April 14, 2018)." 
Special thanks to Tarik El-Abour for being an Autism Light. We wish him the best of luck in his professional baseball career with the Kansas City Royals minor league system. May his achievement be an inspiration to others with autism who aspire to be professional athletes.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Holly Young

Autism Light #463 is Holly Young. 

Holly Young is an autism mother, retired police officer, and business owner from Cincinnati, Ohio. Her 8 year old son Roman has autism. She retired after 16 years as a police officer to open a business called Puzzle Pieces in order to provide a place where parents of children with autism and special needs could find appropriate toys. Holly Young is also known for filing a federal lawsuit in 2012 against the failure of Ohio to provide ABA therapy for her son. Holly Young is an Autism Light because of the way in which she has helped provide resources and set the stage for legal precedent that will make a tremendous difference for autism families in Ohio and around the country.

Puzzle Pieces: Puzzle Pieces is a store opened by Holly Young so that parents and their children with autism would have a place they could go to see and touch toys geared for their special needs. Puzzle Pieces had their grand opening on March 24, 2018. The store is located at the address 11912 Montgomery Road, Cincinnati, Ohio.

The following is a news story on the opening of Puzzle Pieces.

Holly Young experienced frustration when she couldn't find a place to acquire therapy toys geared for autism, so she went into retirement from being a police officer in order to open Puzzle Pieces. Puzzle Pieces is not merely a business but a resource for the autism community in Ohio born from the passion of an autism mother that discovered a need for it.

Holly Young said, "Picking out a toy for a child is hard. Picking out a toy for an atypical child with sensory needs is very hard, so hopefully this will help bridge that gap for parents (As quoted by Nicole Pelletiere, ABC News, March 21, 2018).

Groundbreaking Lawsuit in Ohio for ABA Therapy: Holly Young had to fight the State of Ohio over the lack of ABA Therapy for her son Roman. Roman began receiving services in 2011 through the Help Me Grow program in Ohio when he was age 2. When the state refused to provide ABA therapy and services ended in August 2012, she and her husband David filed a lawsuit in December of that year. In January 2013 Judge Michael Barrett ruled in their favor of the Young's forcing Ohio to provide ABA services (WBRC News, January 15, 2013). In 2014 they received a settlement of $142,000 for the time that Roman went without treatment and how that impacted his development (, September 30, 2014). This case was inspirational and helpful in opening doors for countless other autism families by setting legal precedent regarding ABA therapy.

"Roman has paved the way for a lot of autistic children that are having the same problems we had. The United States Department of Education actually stepped in and said Ohio was not doing what they should be doing for children zero to three, Holly Young said (As quoted by Adrianne Kelly,, September 30, 2014).

Social Media: You can follow Puzzle Pieces at the Facebook page for Puzzle Pieces.

Special thanks to Holly Young for being an Autism Light. She is an inspiration for her dedication as an autism mother, and her willingness to take action in the public arena that is making a practical difference for other autism families in Ohio. The climate for autism is improved for many by the faithfulness of mothers like Holly Young who see a need and do what they can to meet that need, even though it involves sacrifice. We wish Holly Young and her store Puzzle Pieces much success.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.