Sunday, July 29, 2012

Devin Ross

Autism Light #220 is Devin Ross.

Devin Ross is from Ft. Worth, Texas, and he has autism. In 2008 he moved to Louisiana to attend Centenary College, where he majored in Psychology. Devin Ross is a talented swimmer who excels to the point that he made the Olympic Trials in 2012.  Devin Ross is an Autism Light for how he encourages other people with autism that they can achieve great things.

According to his page on the Centenary College website, he has accomplished the following:
  • 2011 Summit League Conference Champion (50 Free)
  • 2011 NCAA DI "B" Cut Nomination
  • 2010 Summit League Swimmer of the Week (Jan. 26)
  • 2010 Summit League Swimmer of the Week (Nov. 24)
  • 2009 Second Team All-Summit League
In 2012, Devin Ross became the first swimmer in the history of Centenary College to qualify for the Olympic Trials.  He competed in the 50 yard Free Style. Devin said, "As a kid, I always dreamed of doing something great or inspiring people, I just never thought it would come through swimming (Source)." 

When he was asked how having autism impacted his swimming, Devin Ross said, "I think it enhanced my swimming because I was able to put all my physical and cognitive resources into swimming (Source)."

Video Stories: More information on Devin Ross making the Olympic Trials can be viewed on videos at the following news outlets.
There are some photos on Facebook of Devin Ross at the Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska. Devin placed 4th in his heat. He did not qualify for the Olympics, but he accomplished something great by advancing to the Olympic Trials and making history for his college swim program.  Devin Ross is an inspiration to all aspiring swimmers who have autism.  Devin Ross also becomes the first person on the Autism Light Sports page under the sport of Swimming.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


Autism Light #219 is Sevenly.

Sevenly is a business in Fullerton, California that, since they launched on June 14, 2011, have been helping one cause each week of the year by giving to them a portion of the sales of their products that week.  Sevenly partnered with Autism Speaks the week of July 24-30, 2012. Sevenly is an Autism Light for supporting Autism Speaks and raising awareness for autism in social media.

Sevenly describes their business in the following way:
Sevenly is a weekly cause activation platform. Some have even called us a cause crowdfunding platform. Every week (7 days) we partner with a new non-profit organization, we create unique art and limited edition products that we sell exclusively on our website for 7 days. For every product sold, we give that week’s non-profit organization $7. For example, if we sold 1,000 products, Sevenly would donate $7,000 ( Website/FAQ).
In their Frequently Asked Questions they describe their driving force as a "desire is to move a generation toward generosity and an intentional love for others" and that their purpose is driven from a passage in the Bible--Matthew 22:36-40. (Source).

Sevenly's support of Autism Speaks will be used to provide communiation therapy to a child affected by autism. Almost $150,000 has been raised through Sevenly's support of Autism Speaks. Thanks to donors providing a triple match to the standard $7.00 donated by Sevenly, the full $21 of the sale price of the shirts went to Autism Speaks for most of the week.

Sevenly provides a description of the meaning of their shirt design and connects it with the cause being supported. Here is Sevenly's description of their autism shirt.

The illustration style of the lion is meant to represent power and strength. The effect of autism on individuals suffering from the disorder as well as people connected to it such as parents and siblings can be exhausting. The lion represents power and strength so instead of focusing on the issues of people affected by autism we decided to focus on the strength and courage of these individuals. These are people who are extremely determined, talented and courage to say the least. They are not weak, or broken and incapable — We are inspired by their strength and want to encourage them to stay strong ( Website).
One of the keys to the success of Sevenly is that they have a dedicated and hip social media program that compliments their marketing efforts. Each week the designated cause benefits from their social media blitz. Here is one of the Tweets that came from Sevenly's Twitter account.

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


Order your limited edition Sevenly product on the "Speak Loud" autism theme while there is still time. Special thanks to Sevenly for supporting autism and making it their featured cause the last week of July, 2012. Sevenly is indeed an Autism Light. 

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photos: The images of Sevenly were used with permission of Ryan Wood and can be found on their Facebook page.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Michael Bonhan and Tony Lessley

Autism Lights #218 are Michael Bonhan and Tony Lessley.

Michael Bonhan and Tony Lessley are Park Rangers from Aurora, Colorado who joined Aurora Police, dogs and volunteers of the Citizen Emergency Response Team to search for a missing boy with autism named Brandon Wells on June 12, 2012.  Michael Bonhan and Tony Lessley were the two searchers to find Brandon Wells and they are Autism Lights for their critical part in this rescue.

Michael Bonhan and Tony Lessley work for the Aurora Parks, Recreation & Open Space.  Channel 7 News in Denver reported, "Park rangers found the 11-year-old boy in the open space of the Plains Conservation Center shortly before 4 a.m. Monday [June 13, 2012] (Source)."

Tony Lessley said, "We just got lucky that we were in the right place at the right time and spotted the boy out in the field in one of our open spaces. He was just standing there looking like he was trying to have someone come get him (Source)."

You can read more information on the story and view a news video from the Channel 7 News - Denver website at

Special thanks to Michael Bonhan and Tony Lessley for joining the search for Brandon Wells in Aurora, Colorado and for being the ones to find him.  They are representative of the many searchers who find people with autism each year.  People like Brandon Wells, who actually do have autism in Aurora, Colorado, are in good hands with Park Rangers like Michael Bonhan and Tony Lessley nearby, if they are proon to wandering.
Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Larry Bissonnette and Tracy Thresher

Autism Lights #217 are Larry Bissonnette and Tracy Thresher.

Larry Bissonnette and Tracy Thrasher are from Central Vermont. They both have autism.  They were two of the first people with autism in the State of Vermont to communicate effectively by typing. They are autism advocates who starred in the 2012 Documentary Wretches & Jabberers. Larry Bissonnette and Tracy Thrasher are Autism Lights because of their efforts in autism advocacy to show the world the intelligence of nonverbal individuals who have autism.

Documentary: Gerardine Wurzburg was the Director of the Documentary Wretches & Jabberers which follows the journey of Larry Bissonnette and Tracy Thrasher around the State of Vermont and to visit their friends and fellow autism advocates Chammi in Sri Lanka, Naoki Higashida in Japan, and Henna and Antti in Finland. Assisted by their supporters Pascal Cheng and Harvey Lavoy, Larry and Tracy also were able to travel in this advocacy project and along the way to also speak at autism conferences in Japan and Finland. Here is the trailer to Wretches & Jabberers. 

Larry Bissonnette: Larry Bissonnette is an artist and advocate from Milton, Vermont. He learned to communicate with others by typing at age 34 in 1991.  In the Documentary he says some profound things such as, "Autism is not abnormality of brain, but abnormality of experience."  His website shares this tribute about Larry Bissonnette's skill as an artist.
His work is in the permanent collection of the Musée de l'Art Brut, Lausanne, Switzerland and in many private collections. His work was most recently featured in the Hobart William and Smith Disability and the Arts Festival in April, 2010. He is both the subject and writer of an award winning film about his life, called, My Classic Life as an Artist: A Portrait of Larry Bissonnette (2005) (Source).
Be sure and check out Larry's blog.

Tracy Thresher: Tracy Thresher is an autism advocate from Barre, Vermont. He learned to communicate with others by typing at age 23 in 1990. In the Documentary he is shown visiting a Vermont State Senator. Tracy says some profound things in the film such as, "We are the perfect example of intelligence working out itself in a different way." His website shares this tribute about Tracy Thresher's work as an autism advocate.
He has presented at local, statewide, and national workshops and conferences. He has consulted with local schools, is a member of the Vermont Statewide Standing Committee and has worked for the Green Mountain Self-Advocates in Montpelier, Vermont. In Vermont, he mentors teenagers and adults. Most recently, Tracy has consulted at Syracuse University as a lead trainer (Source).
Be sure and check out Tracy's blog.

Movie Availability: The movie Wretches & Jabberers is available to watch on Demand services such as or Netflix on Demand.  It may also be purchased through iTunes or on DVD.

Social Media: You can follow Larry Bissonnette and Tracy Thresher at the following social media pages for their Documentary.
Special thanks to Larry Bissonnette and Tracy Thresher for being Autism Lights. Their expression and autism advocacy gives an important window into the intelligence of people with autism. Larry Bissonnette and Tracy Thresher also hold the distinction of being the first Autism Lights from the State of Vermont.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Marian DeMyer

Autism Light #216 is Dr. Marian K. DeMyer.

Marian K. DeMyer was born on October 30, 1922 in Greensburg, Indiana. She died on July 15, 2012. She was a pioneer autism researcher and professor emeritus at Indiana University.  Marian K. DeMyer is an Autism Light because of the impact her efforts had to autism research and therapy. She is being named an Autism Light posthumously and will be added to the Autism Light Memorial Roll.

Marian DeMyer's obituary at shares this about her contribution to autism research:
Dr. DeMyer was a research pioneer in Childhood Schizophrenia, later known as Autism. Her research at LaRue Carter Hospital and the Institute of Psychiatric Research at Indiana University provided the ground work for later research by others that identified and defined the spectrum of Autism (Source).
Marian DeMyer is regarded as a pioneer in the use of Applied Behavioral Analysis to work with individuals with autism. The Autism Research Institute tweeted this message about Marian DeMyer's influence on ABA therapy on their Twitter Account in November 2, 2011.

For more information on ABA read the Autism Light Spotlight #1 on ABA.

Literature: Marian K. DeMyer was a prolific writer of her autism research. The following are some important publications of hers.
Conversation with Autism Pioneer: Marian DeMyer is mentioned on page 155 in the chapter on the 1970's in Adam Feinstein's important work called A History of Autism: Conversations with the Pioneers. Her 1974 study is mentioned where her research found, "a profound language dysfunction in every autistic child. This language dysfunction was manifest in symbolic aspects, even if the mechanics of speech were present (Source)."

An obituary of Dr. Marian K. DeMyer is available at  Our thoughts are extended to the family of Marian DeMyer. It is hoped that this tribute to her work will encourage other people to dedicate their life to autism research.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Joe and Arlene Mantegna

Autism Lights #215 are Joe and Arlene Mantegna.

Joe and Arlene Mantegna are from North Hollywood, California. Their oldest daughter Mia has autism and is in her twenties. Joe Mantegna is an actor and director who has endeared himself to fans for over 40 years as an entertainer. Arlene Mantegna is a businesswoman. Joe and Arlene Mantegna are Autism Lights because of how they help raise autism awareness as autism parents.

Joe Mantegna's website describes the entertainer like this: "Joe Mantegna is a world-class entertainer and a loving, devoted husband and father. With over 100 films like Searching for Bobby Fischer, The Godfather Part 3, Celebrity, Forget Paris, Liberth Heights to name a few (Source)."  He also has starred in television shows such as the popular CBS crime drama Criminal Minds.

Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame: On April 29, 2011, Joe Mantegna was awarded the 2,438th Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  He received the award for the category of live theater, a tribute to his diversity as an entertainer (Source).

Here is an interview that Joe Mantegna and Joey Travolta had with The Talk.  Joe Mantegna's daugther Mia has had success working with Inclusion Films, which was founded and run by Joey Travolta.

Joe Mantegna was featured in the following Public Service Announcement for Act Today! for Military Families, an autism organization he helps promote.  Act Today! for Military Families was Autism Light #82.

Autism Families Together Network: Arlene Mantegna is the creator of the Autism Families Togther Network.  The Autism Families Together Network is a wonderful group that helps facilitate contact with friends or professionals that can help family members with autism. They also sponosr an online support group for siblings of individuals with autism.

Social Media: You can follow Joe Mantegna on Twitter@JoeMantegna.

Websites: You can find out more information on Joe Mantegna at the following websites.
Special thanks to Joe and Arlene Mantegna for their work in raising awareness for autism. Their efforts are a light to the cause of autism and their daughter Mia can be proud of her parents efforts. We wish them and their family the best today and in the years to come.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The photo of Joe Mantegna is in the Creative Commons of Wikipedia and is attributed to Dan Huse.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Gary Cole and Teddi Siddall

Autism Lights #214 are Gary Cole and Teddi Siddall.

Gary Cole and Teddi Siddall are from Los Angeles, California. They were married on March 9, 1992. Their teenage daughter Mary has autism and is their only child. Both Gary Cole and Teddi Siddall have had illustrious careers as television and movie screen stars. Gary Cole and Teddi Siddall are Autism Lights for their dedication as autism parents and for the manner in which they utilize their celebrity status to raise autism awareness.

Gary Cole has performed dozens of roles in both television shows and movies, including the movie Office Space and the HBO television show Entourage. Teddi Siddall is an actress, who has appeared in several television shows such as Grey's Anatomy and Happy Days. She put her career on the back burner in 1998 in order to have more time to give to her daughter Mary who has autism.  

Support for Autism Causes: The Gary Cole Archives website says, "Gary's teenage daughter has autism, and he's particularly interested in autism charities, for which he has done a great deal of work(Source)." Two autism causes Gary Cole supports are The Help Group and Autism Speaks (Source).

Here is a Public Service Announcement that Gary Cole produced for The Help Group, an organization that runs multiple autism schools in the Los Angeles area. Gary and Teddi's daughter Mary attended a program run by The Help Group when she was in high school.

Autism Awards: In April, 2012, Gary Cole was honored at an autism awareness gala in Northville, Michigan that was sponsored by Celebrities Against Autism.  More information on this event can be found at an article at the Northville Patch.

Autism Heroes Book: Teddi and Gary Cole wrote a forward to the book Autism Heroes: Portraits of Families Meeting the Challenge, which featured 38 families dealing with autism. The book's author Dr. Barbara Firestone was Autism Light #14.

WebMD Interview: In February, 2009, Gary Cole shared about his daughter's autism and his autism advocacy in an interview with WebMD.  The WebMD article was written by Lauren Paige Kennedy.

Larry King Live: In 2007 Gary Cole appeared on Larry King Live with Ed Asner, Toni Braxton, and Bill Cosby in a discussion of autism

Other Information: You can read more information on Gary Cole and Teddi Siddall at the following websites.
Special thanks to Gary Cole and Teddi Siddall for raising awareness for autism, even as they make their daughter Mary their priority. They are Autism Lights in Los Angeles and around the world with their visible advocacy for autism.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sylvester Stallone and Sasha Czack

Autism Lights #213 are Sylvester Stallone and Sasha Czack.

Photo of Sylvester StalloneArticle Header for Sylvester Stallone and Sasha Czack Autism Light Number 213

Sylvester Stallone is an actor, director, and writer who is best known for the Rocky and Rambo film series. Sylvester "Sly" Stallone is a Hollywood icon and Californian who, like so many parents around the world, has a child with autism. Sylvester Stallone and Sasha Czack were married from 1974-1985 and had two sons together, Sage and Seargeoh. Their youngest son Seargeoh Stallone has autism and is now a 33 year old adult.  Sylvester Stallone and Sasha Czack are Autism Lights because of their dedication as autism parents and their support of autism awareness and autism charities.

Sylvester Stallone has many memorable scenes from his dozens of movies, but this scene from Rocky Balboa (2006) is very inspirational.

In 1990, Sylvester Stallone recorded the following Public Service Announcement, where he shared about having a child with autism and encouraged people to contact their local chapter of the Autism Society of America if they knew a child who has autism.

Death of Their Oldest Son Sage: Sage Stallone died at his home on July 13, 2012 (Source). His mother Sasha Czack requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent in Sage's honor to Autism Speaks.  Sage Stallone is survived by his father Sylvester Stallone, his mother Sasha Czack, and his brother Seargeoh Stallone, who has autism. Autism Light extends sympathy to all of Sage Stallone's loved ones.

Online Presence: You can follow Sylvester Stallone online at the following areas:
Special thanks to Sylvester Stallone and Sasha Czack for being Autism Lights. Celebrity autism parents are in a challenging position to maintain their privacy and that of their child, when dealing with autism. Sylvester and Sasha are praised for raising autism awareness and for their dedication as parents to their autistic son Seargeoh Stallone.

Note: In an additional fitting tribute to Sylvester Stallone and Sasha Czack this post is the first in the history of Autism Light to receive over Ten Thousand (10,000) Views.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The photo of Sylvester Stallone is in the Creative Commons of Wikipedia and is attributed to Cage Skidmore.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Graceland Mansion

Autism Light #212 is Graceland Mansion. 

Graceland Mansion was the home of the late Elvis Presley from 1957-1977.  Graceland became a National Historic Landmark on March 27, 2006 and is located in Memphis, Tennessee. Graceland Mansion is an Autism Light for their participation in the Autism Speaks Light It Up Blue Campaign for Autism Awareness in April.

Wikipedia describes Graceland as "a large white-columned mansion and 13.8-acre (5.6 ha) estate that was home to Elvis Presley in Memphis, Tennessee. It is located at 3764 Elvis Presley Boulevard in the vast Whitehaven community about 9 miles (14.5 km) from Downtown and less than four miles (6 km) north of the Mississippi border. It currently serves as a museum. It was opened to the public on June 7, 1982 (Source)."  It is the second most popular private residence in the United States for tours behind the White House. You can learn more about Graceland through their Wikipedia Page

Autism Mother's Crusade: Cindy Wynn-Brandon was instrumental in helping obtain Graceland's first year of involvement in the Light It Up Blue campaign in 2012. Cindy Wynn-Brandon has a 9 year old son named Noah who has autism. More on her story and involvement was featured on the Autism Speaks blog.

The Light It Up Blue Ceremony: Here is a video of the Graceland Mansion Light It Up Blue ceremony held on April 4, 2012, featuring Kerry Magro who was Autism Light # 119Kerry Magro is doing a excellent job in his role of helping draw attention to landmarks who are going to Light It Up Blue for autism awareness.

For information on Graceland visit their website at  Graceland also issued an online news release on their participation in the Light It Up Blue campaign.  

Special thanks to Graceland Mansion for their willingness to Light It Up Blue. Graceland Mansion holds two distinctions on the Autism Light blog. They are the first landmark participating in the Autism Speaks Light It Up Blue Campaign to be featured on Autism Light. Graceland Mansion is also the first Autism Light from the State of Tennessee.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The photo of Graceland Mansion is in the Creative Commons of Wikipedia and is attributed to Jan Kronsell.  

Friday, July 13, 2012

Autism Light #211 is is a content rich website resource created to help the autism community in Idaho, though some of the news and practical information can relate also to those outside Idaho. is an Autism Light because of how their resources are helping change lives of those with autism in Idaho as loved ones discover local resources available to help them.

The website was created and maintained by an unidentified family in Treasure Valley, Idaho who have a 9 year old son with Autism. The creators of the website say this about their passion for developing this autism resource:
We feel very grateful for how much progress our son has made and we wanted to do something to give back to the Autism community. It is possible with the right intervention and with well trained and professional therapist working with your child that you can improve a child’s prognosis enormously. We hope that by creating this web site that it helps those families trying to find the right services and therapist for their loved one (Source).
Mission: In addition, lists this as their mission:
Our hope in creating this website is to help families find the resources they need to help their loved ones suffering with autism. Everyone deserves the opportunity to know about the latest, best treatment and services that are available to them. 
Structure of Website: 
  • Contacts for services and Local News is organized into four geographical regions in Idaho.
    • Treasure Valley
    • Magic Valley
    • Eastern Idaho
    • Panhandle
  • Additional resources are categorized into subject areas.
    • Dietary Foods and Grocery
    • Treatment Centers
    • Educational Materials
    • Publications
    • Support Groups
    • Activies
    • Definitions
    • Doctors
    • Medicaid/Katie Beckett Program

Special Needs Training: is affiliated with Special Needs Training. Their website is at According to their website, "Special Needs Training provides professionally accredited online educational program. This web-based program is specifically designed for professionals, direct service providers, teachers, and families."

The autism community in Idaho has a treasure in To check out all the information on their website go to

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Elgina Byrd

Autism Light #210 is Elgina Byrd.

Elgina Byrd was an autism mother from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania whose son Shawn Gauthney, Jr. has autism. Elgina Byrd died on July 4, 2012 from a stroke. She was 38 years old. Autism Light is designating Elgina Byrd an Autism Light posthumously because of her devotion as an autism mother and for her autism fundraising efforts. Elgina Byrd will also be added today to the Autism Light Memorial Roll.

John F. Morrison explained Elgina Byrd's relationship with her son Shawn this way:
Shawn, now 12, got the full impact of Elgina's care and love. She took him to the many activities for autistic children offered by the Variety Club. She took him skating, bowling and on trips to Wildwood. With Variety Club, there was camping and visits to aquariums and zoos, and many events to stimulate Shawn's mind and help him lead as normal a life as possible (Source).
In addition to being an autism mother to Shawn, Elgina Byrd worked for AlliedBarton Security Services. She also found time to participate in Autism Speaks walks in Philadelphia and raise funds for the national autism charity.

Elgina's daughter Deraj Pugh said about her mother, "She was very hardworking. She was very devoted as a mother. She was highly intelligent and was always willing to sacrifice herself for others. But she was also very funny, with a bubbly personality (Source)."

Funeral Arrangements: The funeral for Elgina Byrd will be at 11 a.m. on Thursday, July 12, 2012 at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Philadelphia. Visitation will take place starting at 10 a.m. prior to the service and Burial will take place at Fernwood Cemetery.

The autism community has lost a hero. Elgina Byrd didn't need to be a celebrity or famous name to be one of those dedicated mothers for autism whose short life causes us to ask, "If this were my last day on earth, what would I do for autism?" Our thoughts are with Shawn Gauthney, Jr., Deraj Pugh and all the family of Elgina Byrd at this time. May her untimely death remind us to treasure all of our unknown days to serve and fight for autism.

The writer of this post learned about Elgina Byrd's Autism Light through a touching tribute that John F. Morrison wrote.  For a photo of Elgina Byrd and more information on her life read John F. Morrison's complete obituary on her for at

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Jim Palmer

Autism Light #209 is Jim Palmer. 

Jim Palmer is a retired Hall of Fame Baseball Player. His stepson Spencer has autism. Jim Palmer has his primary home in Palm Beach, Florida. Jim Palmer is an Autism Light for his support of autism in his own family and for helping an autism charity through a special auction.

Baseball Career:  Jim Palmer was a pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles from 1965-1984. He won 268 games and never gave up a Grand Slam. His complete statistics are on his ESPN page.  Jim Palmer was voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1990. The following is the Hall of Fame Video on Jim Palmer.

Baseball Announcer: Jim Palmer became a baseball announcer after his playing days were over.  He worked with ABC Sports on a popular broadcasting team that included Al Michaels and Tim McCarver from 1985-1989 and 1994-1995. Palmer also has a condominium in Baltimore and serves as the current color commentator for Baltimore Orioles baseball games for the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.

Jim Palmer has been known to wear the Autism Speaks pin while broadcasting. When asked why he wears the pin, Jim Palmer said,
It's for autism awareness. My stepson is autistic - actually, Aspergers, which is supposedly a higher functioning form of the autism spectrum - and they're trying to figure out what causes autism.  The puzzle (piece) is that they're looking for an answer (Source).
Here is a video where Jim Palmer talks about how he keeps healthy today. The video includes portions of Palmer sharing about autism and his stepson Spencer.  At the conclusion of the video Jim Palmer says, "You do the best you can and you hope that somewhere down the road that they are going to make inroads into finding what really causes autism and it would certainly be great to be a part of that."

Auction of Baseball Awards: On July 10, 2012, Jim Palmer put 2 of his Gold Glove Awards and 3 CY Young Awards up for Auction (Source). David Brown of Yahoo Sports writes about the auction, "Some of the proceeds will go to the autism project of Palm Beach County, Fla. (Palmer has a 15-year-old stepson named Spencer, who has autism) and the rest will go in the bank, perhaps to help fund the education of Palmer's grandchildren (Source)."

Wikipedia: You can find out more about Jim Palmer at his Wikipedia Page.

Special thanks to Jim Palmer for being an inspiration to the autism community.  Jim Palmer shows that one need not be a biological father to be an autism father. His dedication as a step-father to an individual with autism is an example for all autism fathers.  Jim Palmer becomes the 8th Major League Baseball Player to be featured on Autism Light. A complete list is found on the Autism Light Sports Page

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The photo of Jim Palmer is in the Wikipedia Commons and is attributed to Keith Allison. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sophie Perlzweig

Autism Light #208 is Sophie Perlzweig.

Sophie Perlzweig is a 5 year old Golden Retriever that is a trained autism therapy dog. Sophie visits Floral Park Memorial High School in Floral Park, New York every other Tuesday to interact with autism students who are in the after-school program called Promoting Academics through Life Skills (PALS). Sophie is an Autism Light for the contribution she makes in the lives of PALS students with autism.

Sophie is owned by Roni Perlzweig of Bayside, Queens in New York City. Roni Perlzweig is a math teacher at Floral Park Memorial High School and she has been bringing Sophie to the PALS program at her school since January, 2011 (Source). The following is a video of Sophie's interaction with the autistic students.

Special thanks to Sophie for being an Autism Light. Sophie is a fine example of how autism therapy dogs can help in temporary school settings.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Lloyd Nolan

Autism Light #207 is Lloyd Nolan.

Lloyd Nolan was a 20th Century film actor and also a father of a boy named Jay who had autism. Lloyd Nolan was born on August 11, 1902 in San Francisco, California and passed away on September 27, 1985 in Los Angeles.  Lloyd Nolan is being named an Autism Light posthumously because of what he did for autism awareness efforts in the 1970's as a celebrity and Autism Father.

Lloyd Nolan's son Jay was one of the earliest individuals to be diagnosed with autism, having received his confidential diagnosis in the 1940's.  While Jay Nolan was growing up it was not common for celebrity families to discuss having a child with autism. Jay Nolan passed away in 1970 at the youthful age of 27 from choking on some food.  A few year's after his son's death, Lloyd Nolan helped further the national dialogue on autism by sharing with the public that his son Jay had been severely affected by autism and had in fact been living in an institution from age 13 till his untimely death.  Lloyd Nolan shared these words in 1974.
It's important for parents of autistic youngsters to know that this problem strikes all economic, social, and intellectual levels of our society...The amazing thing is that autistic children can hear and understand everything that is said to them, But they are unable to communicate... I haven't talked about my own personal problem and my son because my wife was terribly sensitive about it. But now we've both agreed to work hard to spare other people the hell we went through.  [Source: Schnectady Gazette, May 17, 1974]
Jay Nolan Community Services: In 1975 Lloyd Nolan founded the Jay Nolan Autistic Center in honor of his son, which is today known as Jay Nolan Community Services.  The organization supports individuals with autism and other disabilities so they can live independently and not be in need of institutional care. According to their website,
Today Jay Nolan Community Services is the leading provider of personalized support services in California, with most of its clients concentrated in Southern California, particularly Los Angeles, Santa Clara and surrounding counties (Source).
Here is a video on how present day lives are being touched by Jay Nolan Community Services.  The organization is a legacy of Lloyd Nolan's autism efforts 35 years ago.

Save Autistic Children Telethon: Lloyd Nolan also was a host of the Save Autistic Children Telethon, the first ever telethon for children with autism in the United States. That telethon took place from 1977-1984.

National Society for Autistic Children:  Lloyd Nolan served as the honorary chair for the National Society for Autistic Children which is now the Autism Society of America.

Film Career: Lloyd Nolan appeared in dozens of movies and television episodes over his lengthy career as an actor in the 20th Century. One of Lloyd Nolan's more memorable contributions to the historical television themes on autism was probably when he appeared in Season 3, Episode 4 (Oct. 19, 1978) of the television series Quincy M.E. in the episode called A Test for Living. The episode did not have any dead bodies or the typical Quincy autopsy in it but focused on the crusade of Quincy and Lloyd Nolan's character (a physician specializing in autism) to help a child with autism obtain the proper diagnosis from school officials in order to qualify for an autism program and thereby avoiding having to be insitutionalized.

Wikipedia: You can find out more about Lloyd Nolan on his Wikipedia page.

Lloyd Nolan is an important figure in the history of autism not only for his autism adovcacy but for his example of eventually sharing about his son's diagnosis, in an era when celebrities were often silent about similar situations. Lloyd Nolan's name will be also be added to the Autism Light Memorial Roll today.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Bekah Cheppenko

Autism Light #206 is Bekah Cheppenko.

Bekah Cheppenko is from Sioux Falls, South Dakota and is the mother of a son named Skyler who has autism. Bekah Cheppenko works as a property manager and was selected as Mrs. South Dakota International in 2012.  She is an Autism Light because of her promotion of autism awareness as she shares her son Skyler's story.

On her Facebook page, Bekah Cheppenko describes herself this way:
I am married to a wonderful and supportive man, Kevin Cheppenko. We have 3 beautiful children and 2 very silly dogs. My most prized possesion is my family, they keep me humble and make me strong (Source).
Autism Light asked Bekah Cheppenko if she had any words of encouragement for the autism community and she emailed the following on July 26, 2012:
The most important thing for people to remember is that ones ability or disability is only a small part of who they are. Disabilities do not determine ones worth or value nor should they dictate what that individual desires out of life or strives to achieve. If you think you can or you think that you can't, you are right...never decide for someone else what their potential is in life.  Never debilitate a person because of their diagnosis. Anyone can have a disability but you have to allow that disability to have you, we choose not to give Skylers autism control over him. It is one small part of who he is and it does not determine his capabilities in his day to day living. I've seen people without legs win races and people with no arms paint masterpieces.  Skyler will do anything he puts his mind to and just like anyone who's been diagnosed with a disability the sky truly is the limit as long as we don't get in the way of that persons dreams.  A friend once told me "what God has for you will not pass by you".  Keep you head high and your hopes higher.  Society needs labels for disabilies but God calls us all by name!
The following is an autism awareness video of Bekah Cheppenko sharing her son Skyler's autism story. In the video she says, "The most important thing I think people need to understand is that autistic or not, he has feelings. And just making people aware that regardless of your ability or your disability everybody wants to be loved-everyone wants to be accepted, and that's all Skyler wants and that's all we want for him."

Mrs. South Dakota International: Bekah Cheppenko was selected as Mrs. South Dakota International in the South Dakota International pagents. Bekah Cheppenko will be a contestant in the Mrs. International pagent held July 20-21, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. She has a contestant page at the Mrs. International website.

Walk Now for Autism Speaks: Bekah Cheppenko was the leader of Team Skyler at a Walk Now for Autism Speaks in South Dakota.

Hobbies: Bekah Cheppenko owns a jet ski and was featured in the June, 2012 issue of Motor Market Magazine (see page 60).

Social Media: You can follow Bekah Cheppenko on the following social media:

Special thanks to Bekah Cheppenko for being an Autism Light and helping raise awareness of the needs of autism. Bekah Cheppenko is the first Autism Light from the State of South Dakota. We look forward to hearing more about her autism work in the future.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photo: The photo in this post is used with permission of Bekah Cheppenko.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Robbin Thompson

Autism Light #205 is Robbin Thompson.

Robbin Thompson is a Folk Rock Music singer from Richmond, Virginia. He has been a musician for over 40 years in a career that has included being the lead singer in the early Bruce Springsteen band Steel Mill. Robbin Thompson is an Autism Light because he wrote an autism awareness song for military families called Maybe Tomorrow.

Robbin Thompson career of over 40 years includes these achievements.
The song Maybe Tomorrow is the real life true story of San Diego Marine Corps wife Karen Driscoll and her son Paul. You can purchase the song at Robbin Thompson's page on CD Baby. Here is a news story on Robbin Thompson and his autism awareness song for military families.

The song Maybe Tomorrow has been adopted by the organization Act Today! For Military Families. More information on Act Today! For Military Families can be found on the blog post when they were named Autism Light #82. The following is a video of how Act Today! For Military Families has used Robbin Thompson's song in their promotional video.

Social Media: You can follow Robbin Thompson on the following social media areas.
Wikipedia: More information on Robbin Thompson is available on his Wikipedia page.

Special thanks to Robbin Thompson for being an Autim Light and giving the autism community a song that represents the real life military families struggling with autism. We hope Maybe Tomorrow will continue to raise awareness of this important part of the autism family. For more information on Robbin Thompson visit his official websie at

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.