Friday, March 30, 2012

Jane Salzano

Autism Light #176 is Jane Salzano.

Jane Salzano is a mother and also a grandmother of individuals with autism. She is also a pioneer in autism services. In 1979 she founded CSAAC (Community Services for Autistic Adults and Children) in Montgomery County, Maryland in order to meet unmet needs for services for those with autism, which she experienced first hand as a mother of a child with autism. Jane Salzano is an Autism Light for her dedicated efforts to build CSAAC into an organization that has helped hundreds of families with autism over the years. 

Jane Salzano's adult son Brian who has autism is now in his 50's. One of Jane's grandsons named Nicholas has autism as well. The following video is Jane Salzano discussing her family and her work at CSAAC.

Life-Time Achivement Award: Jane Salzano received the "Life Time Achievement Award" from the Lido Civic Club of Washington DC in January, 2011. Greetings for the award were sent on behalf of U.S. President Barack Obama, who hailed Jane Salzano for her pioneering work for autism and on behalf of the Italian Ambassador, Giulio Terzi (Source). 

CSAAC: Jane Salzano founded CSAAC in 1979 with a determination that could not be shaken.  To this day CSAAC continues to lay on the foundation set by Jane Salzano.  It has grown to be the largest provider in the United States to exclusively help adults and children with autism across their life span (Source). According to their website, CSAAC's mission is "To enable individuals with autism to achieve their highest potential and contribute as confident individuals to their community." Jane Salzano is recognized nationally as a leader in the autism services that CSAAC provides like early intervention, educational services, family support services, residential supports, and vocational supports. CSAAC's important place as a pioneer autism organization is reflected in the fact that they created the first supported employment services program of its kind in not only Maryland but also the United States (and world). For more information on the ongoing work of CSAAC visit their website at

Jane Salzano said, "I believe that every individual has a right to live in their community (see video above)." The autism world is grateful that Jane was determined to act on that belief back in 1979. Special thanks to Jane Salzano for her dedicated work on behalf of autism. Her work has provided the opportunity for hundreds of people with autism to experience independent living and joys of life that might have alluded them otherwise. Jane Salzano is an inspiration to other parents who want to make a difference and a help to parents in Montgomery County, Maryland who want to help their children with autism become independent.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bill Cannata

Autism Light #175 is Bill Cannata.

Bill Cannata is a Captain in the Westwood, Massachusetts Fire Department. His son Ted is 21 years old and has autism. When he is not putting out fires, Bill frequently wears the hat as an educator to help first responders be better prepared to rescue people with autism in an emergency. Bill Cannata is an Autism Light for his hard work to use his expertise as a fireman as well as his personal experience as an autism father to impart life-saving training to first responders.

Today Show: On March 1, 2012, Bill Cannata's story and work was featured on the Today Show. A video and transcript of that segment can be found on the MSNBC site at this link. It is also embeded here for you to watch.

Bill Cannata currently serves as a Captain in the Westwood, Massachusetts Fire Department and has over 30 years of experience as a firefighter. He has been an instructor for the Massachusetts Fire Academy for 15 years. Through his experience as an autism father and a firefighter he has a special insight into the extreme reactions that people with autism may have in an emergency. This experience has made him a better firefighter and an educator that has touched thousands of lives of first responders. Bill Cannata told Autism Light about how his son Ted motivates him. He writes, "Ted is my teacher so I need to teach my peers how to work with him during an emergency."

ALEC Program:  ALEC stands for Autism and Law Enforcement Coalition. ALEC has an informative website at  Bill Cannata was part of a group who helped start ALEC in 2003 and in 2006 he became the Statewide Coordinator. Dennis Debbaudt of Autism Risk Management helped with some inital training for the program.  The following information is how the ALEC website describes their program and purpose.
The ALEC program began in 2003 as a collaborative effort of the South Norfolk County Arc Family Autism Center and the Norfolk County District Attorney's Office. ALEC training helps foster a deeper understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorders among public safety and law enforcement personnel. Training is available for Police Officers, Firefighters, EMTs, Paramedics and Hospital Emergency Room Personnel, using curriculum and videos specific to each group. Presenters are First Responders with direct knowledge of Autism Spectrum Disorders through a family member. Because of this personal knowledge, in addition to their specific professional background, they are able to answer questions on a wide range of possible situations. The goal of ALEC training is to provide additional tools for First Responders to use in assessing the risk of a situation (Source).
ALEC receives funding from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for their important work. Since it's inception over 15,000 First Responders have completed the training program.

Contact: To find out more about ALEC and resources available to first responders contact Bill Cannata by email at BCANNATA@SNCARC.ORG or by phone 781-762-4001, ext. 420.

Conference Presenter: Bill Cannata is scheduled to present at the NFPA Conference and Expo on June 13, 2012 on the subject, "Autism Awareness for Fire and Life Safety Education" (Source). This national conference will beheld in LasVegas, Nevada. He is recommended as a speaker and trainer by Autism Risk and Safety Management.

Fire and Autism: Bill Cannata also is involved with Fire Rescue/Autism Training for some of his private trainings taking place out of his home state. The Fire Rescue/Autism Training website is at

Other Articles: Here are some other online articles on Bill Cannata's amazing work.
Social Media: You can follow the work of Bill Cannata at the following social media areas.
Special thanks to Bill Cannata for teaching first responders how to relate to those with autism in an emergency. The world is a safer place for people with autism because of this dedicated work that Bill Cannata performs.

Note: If you enjoyed this post you may wish to read about another Autism Light who was a firefighter. The late Jack Fanning was an autism father who died at the World Trade Center on 9/11. His story is at this link.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism. 

This post went into syndication on Autisable.

Photo: The photo in this post is used with permission of Bill Cannata.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Joan Lenard

Autism Light #174 is The Honorable Joan Lenard.

The Honorable Joan Lenard is a United States Judge on the United District Court for the Southern District Court of Florida. Judge Lenard was appointed to the court by President William Clinton in 1995. On March 23, 2012, Judge Joan Lenard issued a ruling in the case of K.G. vs. Dudek. Her ruling in effect required the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration to cover ABA therapy for children in the Medicaid program, when prescribed appropriately by medical personnel for children with autism. The Honorable Joan Lenard is an Autism Light for handing down this ruling that will benefit potentially 8,000 children with autism in Florida.

Judge Lenard said of this case regarding ABA therapy and Medicaid coverage, "This case, if not the most important, is one of the most important cases that I have ever heard (Source)." The Honorable Judge Joan Lenard is in the process of creating a formal opinion, but she issued the ruling in order to have an immediate effect on its implications for children needing ABA therapy. The ruling was praised by Autism Speaks.

In making her ruling, Judge Lenard said:
Plaintiffs have established through their expert witnesses that there exists in the scientific and medical peer-reviewed literature a plethora of meta-analyses, studies and articles that clearly establish ABA as an effective and significant treatment to prevent disability and to restore children to their best possible functional level and restore their developmental skills (Source).
For more information on ABA therapy at the Autism Light blog you may wish to read Spotlight #1 on ABA Therapy or to search for all posts with the label ABA in them.

Other Articles: Here are some news articles on this ruling.
For more information on The Honorable Joan Lenard visit these biographical webpages about her.
Special thanks to The Honorable Joan Lenard for making this ruling to benefit children with autism. She becomes the first judge to be recognized on Autism Light. Some judical rulings are appealed and overturned by a higher court, but others set a precedence that have far reaching implications for other jurisdictions. We hope the later is the case in this ruling that is a bright light for autism.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Michael John Carley

Autism Light #173 is Michael John Carley.

Michael John Carley is from Brooklyn, New York. In late 2000 he and his then 4 year old son were diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome a week apart from each other. Michael John Carley was 36 at the time of his diagnosis. As a result of this diagnosis he founded the Global and Regional Asperger's Syndrome Partnership (GRASP) and serves as it's Executive Director. He also serves as the Executive Director of ASTEP, which focuses on employment issues. Michael John Carley is a CEO, author, speaker, autism advocate, and is often performing the challenging role of mediating autism politics for his constituents who have autism.  Michael John Carley is an Autism Light for the passion, intellect, leadership, and the needed voice he provides for those who have autism. 

DSM-5: The proposed changes in the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) that would eliminate the reference of Asperger's Syndrome and instead label all individuals as having autism, if they qualify under more stringent standards, has certainly drawn the attention of many in the autism community. Today's Autism Light is one of the voices encouraging the DSM-5 committee not to narrow the criteria for the diagnosis of autism. He has written an online petition which people can sign in support. The petition is at this link.  Publication of the new DSM-5 is scheduled for Spring, 2013. Michael John Carley writes this about the situation related to changes in the DSM-5.
We do seem to be at the lead for the moment in attempting to convince the Committee to discard the proposed changes, but eventually we believe that parents organizations will have to do more than issue a one-page statement of concern. GRASP members have lots to lose by these changes, but parents and their children have more to lose (Michael John Carley).
You can follow updates on the DSM-5 on the GRASP Facebook pageGeri Dawson, the Chief Science Officer at Autism Speaks, has also issued an update on the DSM-5 situation and it can be found at this page on the Autism Speaks' Website.

Education: Michael John Carley received his B.A. from Hampshire College in 1986 and his M.F.A. from Columbia University in 1989. 

Speaker: Michael John Carley has spoken on autism related issues in a variety of settings. The following is a video on Michael John Carley's presentation that he gave in April, 2011 at Columbia University on the comedy and tragedy of autism politics. It is a primer on an array of issues related to how the autism puzzle has been tackled in different ways by well meaning lights to autism. Michael John Carley gives his presentation with an eye on the present challenges and dynamics as well as a mind on autism history.

Michael John Carley told Autism Light this about how his political views relate to a respect for alternative views:
I believe in engaging in politics, as I strongly believe in confrontation itself. However, "how" we confront is usually where we get things all wrong. When we demonize our ideological opposites, or deny them the same humanity we think that we posses...when we hate or give in to anger then we have lost the debate already, no matter how sound our beliefs are. (Michael John Carley). 
GRASP: GRASP was founded in 2003 by Michael John Carley and he serves as its Executive Director. GRASP stands for Global and Regional Asperger's Syndrome Partnership.  GRASP is the largest membership organization in the world for adults who themselves are diagnosed anywhere along the Autism Spectrum. According to their website, "GRASP's mission is to improve the lives of adults and teens on the autism spectrum through community outreach, peer supports, education, and advocacy." You can find out more about this member organization at their website at

ASTEP: Michael John Carley is also the Executive Director of ASTEP.  ASTEP stands for Asperger Syndrome Training & Employment Partnership. According to their website, "ASTEP's goal is to bring together employers and vocational support professionals to create a successful workplace environment for individuals with Asperger Syndrome and high functioning autism (AS/HFA). You can find out more about this organization at

Other Work: As if the above roles weren't keeping him busy enough, Michael John Carley told Autism Light that he also has "a private contract with the New York City Public Schools, conducting teacher and parent trainings in addition to working with the district's spectrum kids."

Author: Michael John Carley is the author of two autism related books, the later which will be published soon.
Media Appearances: According to the GRASP website, Michael John Carley has been represented in  the media outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, London Times, Chronicle of Philanthropy, Chronicle of Higher Education, ABCNews, BBC News, and Psychology Today. Autism related publications have also published his works. His articles have been published in magazines such as Autism Spectrum News, Autism Spectrum Quarterly, TAP (The Autism Perspective), and Autism/Asperger Digest.

Social Media: You can follow the work of Michael John Carley and GRASP on the following social media areas:
Special thanks to Michael John Carley for his dedication to make a difference for those who have autism. We wish him and all his members on the autism spectrum continued success in all their efforts to shine a light on the needs and dreams of those with autism. For more information on Michael John Carley visit his biography on the GRASP website.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The photo in this post is used with permission of Michael John Carley.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Niamh Cadogan

Autism Light #172 is Niamh Cadogan.

We so often focus on parents of those with autism that we may forget the special bond that exists with sibilings. Niamh Cadogan has a younger brother Stephen who has autism. Her relationship with her beloved brother inspired Niamh as she continued to lead an autism project during a serious illness.

Niamh Cadogan, from West Cork in Ireland, was born on June 22, 1994, and passed away on March 19, 2012 at the age of 17, from Leukemia. Niamh Cadogan is being named an Autism Light posthumously for the autism project she did to help children with autism obtain an iPod Touch with the Grace App on it. Niamh Cadogan will also be added to the Autism Light Memorial Roll today. The name "Niamh" is an Irish name that means "bright", or "radiant" and it's a fitting description for today's Autism Light.

Niamh with her friends Lisa and Liam
Niamh with her brother Stephen
Niamh Cadogan was the leader of a Young Social Innovators project called Amazing Grace: Improving the Lives of Children with Autism in Skibbereen. The 18 month project involved raising funds by recycling mobile phones in order to purchase an iPod Touch with the Grace App installed on it for children with autism. Every child in the autism unit programs at the St. Patrick's Boy's National School and at Rossa College became the beneficiaries of Niamh Cadogan's vision and dedication to serve.

Tributes were made to Niamh Cadogan from two prominent members of the autism community.
  • Lisa Domican, the developer of the Grace App, said, "She got the entire school behind her and made it happen. She appreciated and adored her brother, and realised that it made her a better person (Source)."
  • Kevin Whelen, the chief executive of Irish Autism Action said, "There are children with autism around the country who are now communicating with their parents thanks to Niamh (Source)."
The following are articles on the legacy of Niamh Cadogan
You can also read about Niamh Cadogan's project and her battle with Leukemia in an online copy of a previous edition of the Young Social Innovators Newsletter.

Social Media: The Amazing Grace project has a Facebook page too for further information on it.

We honor the life and memory of Niamh Cadogan and hope that her work will inspire other young people who have siblings with autism to change the world for autism. Because of their youth and generational bond, siblings have a unique opportunity to make a difference over the long term for autism. Certainly Niamh Cadogan's legacy won't be forgotten as dozens of students are communicating with their parents because of the gift of an iPod Touch with the Grace App on it.

If you enjoyed this post you may wish to read about the other Autism Lights with the label Siblings. These people share the special perspective in their story of having a sibling with autism.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photos: The photos in this post were used with the permission of Lisa Domican.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

David Niemeijer

Autism Light #171 is David Niemeijer.

David Niemeijer is from Amsterdam, The Netherlands. He is the founder and CEO of AssistiveWare, a company that develops software and apps for mobile devices that meet the needs of disabled people. While the apps developed by his company serve people with a variety of disabilities, they are widely used in the autism community for assisting with communication. David Niemeijer is an Autism Light for operating a business that creates apps that open up the world of communication to people with autism.

David Niemeijer has a PhD in environmental and agricultural sciences from Wageningen UR. David had a friend named Giesbert Nijhuis who broke his neck in a serious car accident in 1995. In order to help his friend access his computer, David developed KeyStrokes, an on-screen keyboard for the Mac so that Giesbert could use a HeadMouse and access keyboard shortcuts in Photoshop that were critical to his work as a graphic designer. Giesbert's work is at his website is at www.laesieworks.comFor more on Giesbert Nijhuis' story see this link.

In order to meet public requests for a wider audience in the disability community to be able to use the original KeyStrokes product, David created a software development business called AssistiveWare in 2000 with the aim to serve the unique needs of people with disabilities. Some of the diagnosis addressed by their software besides autism, include apraxia, speech delay, Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, strokes, traumatic brain injury, and ALS.

When mobile devices and the iPad were created AssistiveWare adapted its business to also create products for them. There are two apps from AssistiveWare that may be particularly useful for some in the autism community.
  • Proloquo2Go: A fully functional AAC Device (Augmented and Alternative Communication Device) app first released in 2009.
  • Pictello: An app first released in 2010 that helps create social stories, tasks, and schedules. 
A complete list of other products is available at AssistiveWare's product page.

The following video is David Niemeijer talking to Autism Hangout about the Proloquo2Go app and his work at AssistiveWare. David Niemeijer also conducted a second interview with Autism Hangout primarily on the Pictello app that can be viewed at this link.

David Niemeijer said this as an explanation as to why the iPad is such a popular device for the autism community to use for communication.
Proloquo2Go has been widely used in the autism community - just over half of our users are on the autism spectrum. Part of this success is based on he fact that the iPod and iPad are "cool" devices - they're mainstream, lightweight, and don't stigmatize the person who uses them as being different, as some dedicated AAC devices may do. They also offer access to many educational and leisure apps that are simple and intuitive to use, and can be highly motivating to people with autism. 
The following is a video where a boy named Nick who has autism benefited from being able to use Proloquo2Go on his iPad. AssistiveWare has a video project page on their website, where one can find other videos that show case studies of people using their apps.

Social Media: There are a variety of pages on social media that one can interact with AssistiveWare and David Niemeijer's work there.
The best way to learn more about AssistiveWare is at their website at For other information on David Niemeijer you can read an interview that the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism blog had with him in March, 2012.

Thank you to David Niemeijer for being an Autism Light. It is a great help to the autism community to know that AssistiveWare is able to adapt to the changing technology and provide resources for our loved ones with autism to communicate and adapt to their world. We wish David Niemeijer and the AssistiveWare team the best in their work in the future.

If you liked this post you may want to read other posts at Autism Light with the label iPad.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

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

Disclaimer from AssistiveWare: Note that the video above of Nick presents an unscripted case study and any statements made in the video pertain to this particular case and are not intended as a comprehensive product evaluation or recommendation. Different people have different needs and it is always recommended to get an AAC evaluation from an expert.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Alex Hale

Autism Light #170 is Alex Hale. 

Alex Hale is from Cleveland, Ohio. Alex is a 21 year old college student with Asperger's Syndrome who sings to raise awareness for autism. One of his signature songs called Into the Light fits what Alex means to autism. Alex Hale is an Autism Light for the way that his singing brings encouragement to others and raises awareness for autism.

College: Alex Hale is a student at Bryant & Stratton College and studies at the Cleveland, Ohio campus.  His major is an Associate's in Applied Science Business. In an article on Alex Hale, Bryant & Stratton College said, "Alex is not only living successfully despite his challenges, he is using his condition to raise awareness of autism spectrum disorders (Source)."

John P. Girard, Bryant & Stratton College Cleveland Campus Director said, "Alex embodies the Bryant & Stratton spirit of overcoming obstacles and striving to make a difference within and outside of academics (Source)."

Alex Hale has a mission when he sings. His desire is to provide awareness of autism and to be a role model to others with autism just like him. Alex wants other people with autism to say to themselves when they hear him, "If he can do it, what can I do!"  In this news feature Alex and his parents talk about his singing tour around the United States in 2011.


One of the ways that Alex raises awareness for autism is through lyrics that tell about autism. The following video is Alex Hale singing his signature song Into the Light. Alex and Joel Moss of Soul Session wrote the lyrics to this song.

Walk Now For Autism Speaks: On August 21, 2011, Alex Hale provided entertainment for the Walk Now for Autism Speaks held in Cleveland, Ohio (Source). Alex sang the National Anthem and provided other music at the event.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum: On October 22, 2011, Alex Hale sang at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum as part of Autism Speaks Rock Till It Stops 2011. Information on the event is at this link.
The following are news articles written about Alex Hale's autism awareness through singing.
Special thanks to Alex Hale for using his gift of singing to raise awareness for autism. The autism community is encouraged by people with autism like Alex who use their talents on public venues.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

This post went into syndication on Autisable.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Snip-its Salon

Autism Light #169 is Snip-its Salon.

Snip-its is a kids hair salon with 26 locations across the United States. It was founded by Joanna Meiseles in 1995. Snip-its' corporate office is in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Snip-its is an Autism Light because they have devoted the effort to train their employees on the special needs surrounding the experience of cutting hair of children with autism.

A reason that Snip-its is so deserving to be an autism light is that, "All of Snip-its' stylists are certified to work with children with autism and other special needs, including sensory issues (Source)." Autism Speaks also lists Snip-its as a Family Services Resource on it's website.The following is a training guide that Snip-its developed in partnership with Autism Speaks and Melmark New England.

Read more here: is an autism training video developed by Snip-Its in partnership with Autism Speaks

To find out more about Snip-its visit their website at You may also read the following articles on how local franchises are adopting the corporate culture at Snip-its of being autism friendly.
The following is a news story on the Snip-Its in El Segundo, California helping children with autism (Source).

Social Media: You can follow Snip-its on Twitter. Some local franchises also have their own Facebook page.

Special thanks to Snip-its for being an Autism Light. Snip-its provides a valuable service by making it easier for children with autism to get their haircut.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Note: Autism Light is a neutral blog and we have no relationship to the business featured in this post nor have we received any return of goods or services for writing this post.

Photos: The logo and photos in this post were used with permission of the Snip-its corporation.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Joy Smith

Autism Light #168 is Joy Smith.

Joy Smith with her son Adrian
Joy Smith is from Missouri. She is the mother of four children, including a son Adrian who has autism and a daughter Sanura who has Asperger's Syndrome. Since 2006 Joy has been a blogger for her blog called Joy's Autism Blog. Joy Smith is an Autism Light because of how her blog has brought encouragement, hope, education, and joy to others in the autism community.

Joy Smith describes herself on her Twitter profile like this:  I'm a wife, mother of 4, child of God, autism advocate, blogger, homemaker, in support of large families, breastfeeding, and natural childbirth. You can follow her on Twitter at!/joysautismblog.

Joy Smith writes on her blog, "When I started this blog back in 2006 it was going to be just about autism but over time it's become more of a family journal."  For the year 2011 Joy Smith had 135,861 visitors to her blog, making hers truly one of the top autism blogs. If you want to gauge the influence of Joy's Autism Blog try this experiment. Go to Google search engine and simply type the words "Autism Blog". In your results Joy's Autism Blog should come up on the first page. You can find her blog at

Joy's Four Children at an Art Museum
Autism Light asked Joy Smith what her two favorite posts have been and she mentioned these two, which you can read by clicking on the links.
You may also find one of her early posts called What Do I Want for Adrian to be very touching. 

Joy also has posts featured on Autism Speaks blog. You can read about Joy Smith on her "About Me" section of her blog.  Joy Smith explained why she is a blogger in this way to Autism Light.
I firmly believe that sharing our autism experiences in some way, whether that is through a blog, giving talks, taking part in support groups, or just telling friends and families about autism is the very best way to get people with autism the respect and treatment they deserve. That's what I'm trying to do with my blog (Joy Smith). 
Contact: If you could like to contact Joy Smith you can leave a comment on one of her blog posts or you can email her at Joy Smith indicates on her blog that she is able to talk to others in the autism community and offer any support she can.

Social Media: You can follow Joy's Autism Blog on the following social media areas.
Special thanks to Joy Smith for leading the way as a blogger for autism. Joy's Autism Blog is truly an inspiration to many around the world who have the opportunity to follow the joys and challenges of Joy Smith's family.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The photos in this post were used with permission of Joy Smith.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Curt and Shonda Schilling

Autism Lights #167 are Curt and Shonda Schilling.

Curt and Shonda Schilling live in Medfield, Massachusetts and have a son with Aspergers named Grant. They have four children, including Grant. Shonda wrote a book about their challenges of dealing with autism and they bring awareness to autism through publicly speaking about their situation. Curt and Shonda Schilling are Autism Lights because sharing their journey with autism as public figures can encourage many other family's dealing with similar challenges.

Curt Schilling:
Curt Schilling is a retired major league baseball player. He won 216 games and had over 3,000 strikeouts in his 20 year career that concluded in 2007. Curt Schilling is remembered for many all star achievements on the field, including his ace pitching in the post season where he helped both the Arizona Diamondbacks and Boston Red Sox win World Series titles. He is especially remembered as the workhorse who pitched the Boston Red Sox to victory over the New York Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship, despite having an ankle injury that led him to pitch with a bloody sock. Curt Schilling's careers stats can be found at
 In his retirement Curt Schilling continues to operate his company 38 Studios which he started in 2006. 38 Studios creates entertainment products, including video games, toys, and comics.

Shonda Schilling: Shonda Schilling is a skin cancer survivor and is also very passionate about skin cancer awareness. In 2002 Shonda founded the Shade Foundation of America to provide skin cancer awareness and educate on sun safety .  Shonda Schilling continues to speak publicly about her experiences as an autism parent and to do book signings. Celia Brown a mother of a child with autism said about Shonda Shilling's speaking, "For someone so well-known to come out and share her story is really helpful for all of us (Source)."

The following is a CNN interview in which Curt and Shonda Schilling discuss raising their son Grant who has Asperger's Syndrome.

The Best Kind of Different: The Best Kind of Different was authored by Shonda Schilling with an introduction written by Curt Schilling. It was published in 2010 and was a New York Times Bestseller. The official website for the book is Bob Costas said about the book, "In this moving and insightful book, Shonda Schilling explains how she and her family came to understand and appreciate what makes her son Grant the Best Kind of Different. In the process of telling their personal story, she sheds much needed light on this often misunderstood condition (Source)."  

This ABC News interview features Shonda Schilling sharing about The Best Kind of Different. 

Social Media: You can follow the work of Curt and Shonda Schilling at the following social media.
Wikipedia: For more information on Curt and Shonda Schilling visit these Wikipedia pages.
Special thanks to Curt and Shonda Schilling for sharing their story and encouraging other families to not lose hope. They are sincerely Autism Lights.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The photo in this post was used with permission of The Best Kind of Different website.

This post went into syndication on Autisable.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Alex Herrmann

Autism Light #166 is Alex Herrmann.

Well the 2012 NCAA Tournament field has been set and it's the day of the year today when people are busy filling out their brackets and many offices around the United States are getting their annual NCAA Final Four bracket pools together. For some avid sport fans today is like a holiday. If you are in need of some help on filling out your bracket this year you may want to get some pointers from today's Autism Light.

Alex Herrmann is a teenager from Chicago, Illinois who has autism. Alex Herrmann correctly picked the first 48 games (first two rounds) of the 2010 NCAA Final Four Tournament. Alex Hermann is an Autism Light for showing the world his amazing talents of analyzing college basketball.

The following is the news story about Alex Herrmann's accomplishment.

View more videos at:

It should be noted that Alex filled his official bracket out online assuring the legitimacy of this accomplishment. Unfortunately in the 3rd Round (Sweet Sixteen), Alex's streak ended.  However, the odds of Alex predicting the first 48 games were 1 in 13,460,000 according to For more information on Alex Herrmann's accomplishment in predicting the first two rounds of the 2010 NCAA Final Four tournament see the NBC Chicago article called Autistic Teen Picks First Two NCAA Rounds Perfectly

Special thanks to Alex Herrmann for showing an amazing talent at picking his 2010 NCAA Bracket. Your story brought awareness to autism to NCAA Basketball fans everywhere during 2010. Best wishes in your future endeavors.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The photo of a basketball in this post is in the Public Domain and was obtained from Wikipedia

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Philadelphia 76ers

Autism Light #165 is the Philadelphia 76ers. 

The Philadelphia 76ers are a National Basketball Association franchise located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1963 the Syracuse Nationals moved to Philadelphia and the franchise became known as the Philadelphia 76ers (they are commonly called the Sixers). The Philadelphia 76ers are an Autism Light because in September, 2011, when a 11 year old Mt. Airy boy with autism named Ojay Harris had his basketball hoop stolen, they replaced it for him.

On September 21, 2011 the Philadelphia 76ers replaced a treasured basketball hoop that was taken from a boy with autism named Ojay Harris. They also gave the boy new tennis shoes and other gifts. You can view pictures of this event on the Philadelphia 76ers Flickr Page. The news story was featured by the CBS affiliate in Philadelphia. The following is the news story on the generosity of the Philadelphia 76ers and what it meant to Ojay Harris.

Social Media:  To follow the Philadelphia 76ers on social media visit these pages.
For more information on the Philadelphia 76ers visit these links:
Special thanks to the Philadelphia 76ers organization for being a light to a boy with autism. This gift meant so much to his life and he and his family will always remember it.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Stephanie Crane and Justin Harlan

Autism Lights #164 are Stephanie Crane and Justin Harlan. 

With the mood very hopeful that 2012 might bring Autism Insurance Coverage to the state of Michigan, we recognize Stephanie Crane (formerly Stephanie Harlan) and her 13 year old son Justin Harlan who have advocated for the need for autism insurance in Michigan for 6 years. Stephanie and Justin are from Berkley, Michigan. Justin had been diagnosed with autism and is himself an example to the success of early intervention. But Justin's personal success has not led him and his mother to retreat to their own victory over autism, but instead they have continued year in and year out to make it their cause to speak for those that do not have a voice and need autism treatment. Stephanie and Justin Harlan are Autism Lights because of their advocacy that children with autism in Michigan have insurance coverage for autism treatment. Let's meet this mother and son advocate team.

The following is a video of Justin Harlan testifying at a Michigan House Health Policy Hearing back when he was 8 years old in 2007.

This next video is of Stephanie and Justin Harlan presenting their "Top Ten Reasons Why Autism Insurance Legislation Should Pass Michigan" at an Autism Insurance Rally at the State of Michigan Capital steps in April, 2009. At this time Justin is 10 years old.

About Justin Harlan:  Justin turns 13 this month. He is a 7th grader at Anderson Middle School in Berkley, Michigan. Justin was diagnosed with Autism in 2001 at age 2 and he did not speak until 4 1/2 years of age. Because of effective early intervention he has been mainstreamed since kindergarten. His mother Stephanie described Justin like this:
He has a beautiful voice, and currently sings in the church choir and has a lead role in a Community Theatre production of Schoolhouse Rock. Justin loves to play computer and video games, create digital music, and play in Magic the Gathering card tournaments on the weekends. His best buddy is his little 5 year old brother who idolizes him! But he is well liked and has many friends at school and in the community. Justin has a wonderful sense of humor, and uses his intelligent wit to keep his classroom and his teachers amused. Justin is taking advanced classes at school (high school level Algebra and Spanish) and loves to pursue intellectual challenges such as Word and Number games. 
Justin Harlan's autism advocacy is explained in this way by his mother Stephanie Crane.
Justin is a staunch Autism Advocate and is the first to use his former diagnosis of autism when talking about the need for insurance reform in the state of Michigan. He has used his personal story of recovery to testify twice in Lansing (Michigan's Capital) and speak at public rallies. He also has been interviewed on several local television and radio news shows and has appeared countless times in the newspaper. Justin takes his "celebrity" status in stride, and is always excited when his name is out there, as he wants to spread the word that autism treatment DOES WORK and should be made available to all kids.
About Stephanie Crane: Stephanie graduated from the University of Michgian in 1990 with a BA in Social Psychology and in 1991 with a Masters in Social Work degree. Stephanie currently works as a Clinical Case Manager and Subject Matter Expert (systems trainer) for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Stephanie is a licensed, board-certified clinical social worker and has spent 19 years as a clinical social worker in a variety of environments including medical, school, child and family work, crisis intervention, CMH, non profit director, business owner, and managed care.

Stephanie Harlan had worked for Autism ASK prior to coming to her current position at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.  Stephanie explained her experience and honors in this way:
After her son was diagnosed with autism in 2001, she helped to create Everyday Miracles, a nonprofit organization designed to support families and provide financial assistance. In 2005 she was hired by the Judson Center to create programming for children, teens and adults with autism and she worked as the Program Director of the Autism Connections for almost five years until founding Autism ASK. Stephanie has served on the Board of Directors of the Autism Society of Michigan and is currently on the executive board of Autism Insurance in Michigan (AIM) and is involved in lobbying efforts, advocacy and community awareness. Stephanie was the recipient of the E.P. Maxwell J. Schleifer Distinguished Service Award in 2009 and was honored at Comerica Field by MassMutual on Disability Awareness Night.
Message to Parents:  Autism Light asked Stephanie Crane if she had any encouragement for parents of children with autism and this was her response.
The message both Justin and I like to give to parents is that of HOPE. Your child is never 'too old' to get benefits from treatment. You have never tried every single treatment approach. There is always something else to uncover, another therapy being discovered, or that perfect combination of things that is your child's perfect combination. I noticed that for Justin, a combination of biomedical intervention WITH intensive ABA speech and OT seemed to be the combination that worked for him. Doing any of those alone did not get the desired effect. But we tell parents to never give up. Never give up fighting for what your child needs- whether it's therapy, insurance coverage, or better school services--because there is HOPE and your child deserves you to fight for them. 
Current Status of Autism Insurance in Michigan: Autism Insurance in Michigan has received tremendous momentum in 2012.  In the Executive office of the State of Michigan both Governor Rick Snyder in his 2012 State of the State and Lt. Governor Brian Calley have championed the cause (Lt. Governor Brian Calley was Autism Light #17 and has a daughter with autism). On March 8, 2012 the Michigan Senate Health Policy Committee passed Autism Insurance Legislation (SB 414, 415 and 981) and moved it to the full Senate for consideration, calling the coverage of autism treatments a "moral public responsibility" (Source). To keep informed of the current status of autism insurance legislation in Michigan visit regularly the My Great Kid Blog.

Special thanks to Stephanie Crane and Justin Harlan for their autism advocacy. If autism insurance coverage is adopted in Michigan this year it is people like Stephanie and Justin who have spoken out for years on the issue that we must surely thank and show our gratitude too.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Troy Blevins

Autism Light #163 is Troy Blevins.

Troy Blevins is from St. Augustine, Florida. He has two sons with autism. Troy Blevins is raising awareness for autism literally one step at a time. Troy Blevins is an Autism Light because he is taking a 6 week journey to walk from his home in St. Augustine, Florida to Washington DC to raise awareness for Autism as part of Project Autism of St. Johns, Inc.

Troy Blevins is talking to legislators and the general public along his journey about autism and the need for early intervention funding. At the time of this post he had finished about 200 miles of his approximately 750 mile journey to the capital of the United States. The following is a video of Troy Blevins on his trex to Washington D.C. when he reached Savannah, Georgia on Wednesday, March 7, 2012.


Troy Blevins earned a degree in recreation in 1989 from Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida. Troy Blevins had worked as the Recreation and Parks Director for St. John's County in Florida for many years, but he resigned that position in the Fall of 2011 to prepare for his autism walk (Source). For more information on Troy Blevins' walk read this news story.

Special thanks to Troy Blevins for his autism advocacy. He is certainly raising autism awareness as he walks on this incredible journey and the autism community is thankful for his dedication and discipline.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

This post went into syndication on Autisable

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Joshua Banks

Autism Light #162 is Joshua Banks. 

Joshua Banks was raised in Jupiter, Florida and now lives in Jensen Beach, Florida. He is an artist who also has autism. Joshua Banks is an Autism Light for the way he expresses his amazing gifts through a special art form which is done with markers.

Joshua Banks has been described as, "A 24-year old young man with autism who enjoys music, gymnastics, hiking and horseback riding but doesn't speak, he discovered this art form when his mom packed some markers to channel his abundant energy during evacuation from a hurricane (Source)." Joshua is nonverbal and is working on using an iPod Touch to aid his communication with others. He also uses gestures and some vocalizations.

His parents wrote that, "It always seems that art provides Josh a focal point to his day and to his physical space, it's a visible expression of his joyful personality. His parents prefer that he be recognized for his abilities, which include a joyful means of expressing himself and transcending multiple challenges."

Joshua was first encouraged to prepare for an exhibit by Texas art professor and international fine artist Mari Omori; several other artists have since admired the quality of his work.  Joshua uses markers to create his artwork. Here is a photo of one of his pieces.

Joshua's Art Show:
  • Joshua has his work featured at an art show at the Lighthouse Art Center in Tequesta, Florida from June 4, 2012 through July 26, 2012. There will be a reception on June 21 from 5:30 to 7:00pm.
Joshua's Past Art Show:
  • Joshua's first public art show was held at the Town of Jupiter Community Center in Florida. It was an inclusive art show featuring other artists as well. There was an opening reception from 6 to 8pm on Friday, March 23, 2012 and the art was displayed through April 27, 2012.
For further details on Joshua's art shows, please contact Vicki Silver at  For more information on Joshua Banks see this article written about him called Autistic Artist's Work Speaks For Him.

Special thanks to Joshua Banks and his parents for showing us a wonderful example of someone with autism expressing themselves through art. Joshua's talent shows the autism community that art is a positive way for someone with autism to express their joy.  We expect to hear great things about Joshua Banks' art in the future.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The photos in this post were used with permission of Vicki Silver.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Clara Clairborne Park

Autism Light #161 is Clara Clairborne Park.

Clara Clairbone Park is a mother of a girl with autism named Jessica Park. She was an author and an American English teacher. Clara Clairbone Park was born on August 19, 1923 and died on July 3, 2010 in a nursing home in Williamston, Massachusetts. Her obituary was written by the New York Times. Clara Clairbone Park is being made an Autism Light posthumously, because her writing made a difference for autism awareness during a very critical period of the history of autism. She will also be added to the Autism Light Memorial Roll.

Dr. Fred R. Volkmar, director of the Yale University Child Study Center said of Clara Clairbone Park:
She was one of the first parents who had the courage to share their story at a time when autism was poorly understood. Since she first published her book, wider recognition of autism and early diagnosis have led to new treatments and improved outcomes (Source).
The Siege: Clara Clairborne Park wrote her book called The Siege: The First Eight Years of an Autistic Child in 1967. The book is one of the first books by a parent of a child with autism and chronicles her journey to help her daughter Jessica who has autism to grow socially, emotionally, and intellectually. It is also one of the first books to refute the now debunked Refrigerator Mother theory of autism being caused by detached mothers.

Exiting Nirvana: The sequel to The Siege was Exiting Nirvana: A Daughter's Life with Autism and was published in 2001. The book tells the journey into adulthood of her daughter. Jessica Park has worked for years in the mailroom at Williams College and is also an artist who has her own website.

Education: Clara Clairborne Park graduated from the University of Michigan in 1949 with a Master's degree in English Literature.

English Professor: Clara Clairbone Park was on the faculty of Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts from 1975-1994.

Wikipedia: For more information on Clara Clairbone Park visit her Wikipedia Page.

Other Information: Other information on Clara Clairbone Park is available at these websites:
Special thanks to Clara Clairborne Park for her contributions in her life to the cause to autism. May her memory continue to inspire us.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Victoria Boland

Autism Light #160 is Victoria Boland.

Victoria Boland with her partner Andrew Rudd
Victoria Boland is from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. She has lived in both Canada and Australia. In 2002, Victoria and her mother Viga Boland wrote the Autism Song, Don't Give Up on Me as an autism awareness song. Victoria Boland is an Autism Light for the way in which Don't Give Up on Me has brought awareness to autism.

At age 8 Victoria Boland started performing for audiences in her homeland of Australia. At the age of 15 she won two scholarships to Boston's Berklee College of Music. In 1999 Victoria Boland performed at a Shania Twain concert and in 2000, she produced her first music CD called All Woman Girl.  Victoria Boland sings pop rock and alternative music. She also performed at Queen Elizabeth's Golden Jubilee in 2002.  Additional information about her honors and experiences in music are at this link.

Although written in 2002, it took 3 years to raise funds to record Don't Give Up on Me (the Autism Song). It was recorded in 2005 and was officially released on April 30, 2006 for the Canadian National Autism Foundation. The story of how the song was commissioned is at this link. The following is the original video presentation of Victoria and Viga Boland's song Don't Give Up on Me.


The following is a live performance of Victoria Boland singing Don't Give Up on Me. 

The chorus to the song says, "You're the light in my dark, the current in my stream. my sun when it's raining and drowning all my dreams. Without you, I can't make it ... so don't give up on me. There's a whole lot of love inside the person you can't see (Source for Lyrics).

Websites: The following websites feature Victoria Boland's career.
Social Media: You can follow Victoria Boland and her partner Andrew Rudd on the following social media areas:
Special thanks to Victoria Boland for raising awareness for autism in Canada through her music. It is an inspiration to see such a talented musician devote efforts to an autism song. 

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The photo in this post is used with permission of Viga Boland.