Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Chris Smith

Autism Light #279 is Chris Smith.

The Honorable Chris Smith serves as a member of the United Sates House of Representatives, representing the 4th District in the state of New Jersey. He has served in the House of Representatives since 1981. Chris Smith was born in 1953 and resides in Hamilton, New Jersey. Rep. Smith's passion to help those with autism has been evident through his long and consistent record of advocacy and leadership on behalf of autism friendly legislation. Rep. Chris Smith is an Autism Light because his political leadership has been a light for the cause of autism.

Here is an interview that Chris Smith did in 2012 with WZBN about his autism work and his concern for the cause.

Family: Chris Smith is married to Marie Smith. They have four grown children.

Initial Advocacy: The beginning of Rep. Chris Smith's work in autism can be traced back to 1998, when he was contacted by  autism parents Bobby and Billie Gallagher of Brick, New Jersey, who had concerns about the number of families with autism in their community. Because of this constituent concern, Smith asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research the prevalence of autism in New Jersey. While New Jersey has one of the highest rates of autism in the United States, there is evidence now that virtually all communities across the country without prejudice have been impacted by autism.

Autism Legislation: Chris Smith has a long record of support for autism legislation. "Smith’s landmark legislation enacted in 2000—the Autism Statistics, Surveillance, Research and Epidemiology Act (Title I, P.L. 106-310) created the first comprehensive federal program to combat autism. In 2011, another piece of legislation he authored, The Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (CARA),” now Public Law 112-32, was enacted and will provide $693 million to continue federal programs through 2014 (Source)." There is a section of Chris Smith's website that that is dedicated to highlighting all of his autism achievements.

House Autism Caucus: In 2001, Rep. Chris Smith and Rep. Mike Doyle (Pennsylvania's 14th District) founded the House Autism Caucus and they serve as co-chairs of the caucus (Source).  There are currently 133 members of the House of Representatives who are part of the Autism Caucus.

Congressional Autism Hero: Chris Smith received the "Congressional Autism Hero" Award in April, 2013 from Autism Speaks.  Smith said about the award, "We must seek ways for early diagnosis, effective treatment and even hope for a cure someday. There is so much more work to do, but I am especially honored to receive this recognition during National Autism Month (Source).”

Here is a video of Congressman Chris Smith addressing Autism New Jersey's 29th Annual Conference in 2012. In it he discusses the past victories and future goals that he shares for the autism effort.

Other Legislation: Other caucuses besides Autism that Chris Smith has chaired which reveal his social concern include: Pro-life, Alzheimer's, Lyme Disease, Spina Bifda, Human Trafficking, Refugees, and Combating Anti-Semitism. According to the independent watchdog organization Govtrack, Chris Smith is ranked 2nd among U.S. House Members for the amount of legislation that he authored over the last two decades that has made it through the political process to become law.

Wikipedia: You can read more about Chris Smith on his Wikipedia Page.

Social Media: You can follow Chris Smith at the following social media areas.
Special thanks to Rep. Chris Smith for his years of advocacy for autism in the United States Congress. Autism legislation surely wouldn't have passed without the help of heroes like Chris Smith working so hard to break through the political differences in Washington for the cause of autism.

Note: If you liked this post you may wish to read about Sen. Robert Menendez who was Autism Light #54. He is another New Jersey Politician, who has a passion for autism advocacy.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

The photo of Chris Smith is in the Public Domain.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Lin Wessels

Autism Light #278 is Lin Wessels.

On this Mother's Day we travel to the Heartland to meet an Autism Mother with both heart and passion for autism. Linda "Lin" Wessels is an autism mother from Rock Rapids, Iowa.  She is a public school teacher's aide and is a very busy advocate for autism. Lin Wessels is the mother of Sam Wessels, who was Autism Light #152. Lin Wessels is an Autism Light for her extraordinary advocacy for autism, her decade long work with public school students with autism, and her effective example of empowering her son Sam to become a self-advocate at a very young age.

Lin Wessels is a living example of the positive impact a mother can have on a son, especially one on the autism spectrum. Lin Wessels describes her self this way, "I guess you could say that not a single aspect of my life is untouched by autism. Autism is just kind of demanding that way, I suppose. I don't really see myself as doing anything anyone else can't do or doing any of it better than anyone else.  I firmly believe that if you can, you should. So, I do."

Teacher's Aide: Lin Wessels is a licensed paraprofessional and has worked with students in Central Lyons Community Schools in Rock Rapids, Iowa for the past 10 years. For the most part, her work as a teacher's aide involves working with and assisting students on the autism spectrum.  Lin Wessels said about her daytime job, "While not an easy job by any means, I do love what I do!  I adore my students!!  They touch my heart every single day, in ways I never even dreamed about."

Family: Lin Wessels has been married 13 years to Mark Wessels. They have one son named Sam (See Autism Light #152).

United States of Autism (Released in 2013):  When Lin Wessels son, Sam Wessels, was 8 years old, he and his family were one of 21 families featured in the documentary movie called the United States of Autism (Source). For more information on the United States of Autism project see the post when it's Director and Producer Richard Everts was named Autism Light #29. Here is a video of Lin Wessels' role in the film and it's public release in 2013. You can also read Beth Rickers article published in the Worthington Daily Globe for written information on Lin Wessels' family being featured in this documentary.

Political Activism: Sam and Lin Wessels have been involved in both the 2008 and 2012 Presidential campaigns and she has talked to both President Barack Obama and Senator John McCain about autism. Lin Wessels said to Autism Light the following regarding her political activism, "I can't say where our political activism will lead us or what may result from it, but I always tell myself that even if the lawmakers do nothing, everyone in that crowd had to hear what we had to say. We are always approached, complimented and commended by someone in the crowd after each event, without fail.  What we do, does matter."

Meeting with Sen. John McCain About Autism: On November 20, 2007, Lin Wessels was invited to Washington D.C. to personally meet with Sen. John McCain. Her advocacy led to Sen. John McCain writing a letter about the need for more autism research to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy who was chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions at the time.  At the start of the meeting that Lin Wessels attended in his DC office with autism advocates, Sen. John McCain made reference to Lin's persistence when he stated, "For those of you who are unaware as to how this meeting came to be scheduled, in lieu of having to pay someone to start my car and taste my coffee each morning, I decided it easiest just to hold this meeting."

Left to right, Lin Wessel's mother Char Baldridge, Lin Wessels, Lujene Clark, RN, Senator John McCain, Bobbie Manning, Julia Whiting, MD, Lin Wessels' father John S. Baldridge.

Iowa Autism Council:  In March of 2012, Lin Wessels was appointed by Iowa Governor Terry Branstad to serve a three year term as a Parent Advocate Member on the Iowa Autism Council (Source).

Age of Autism: Lin Wessels has had several writings published by the Age of Autism website. Here are links for two of her writings at Age of Autism.
Poetry: Lin Wessels wrote the following poem called This Most Beautiful Boy after her son Sam had been recently diagnosed with autism.

This Most Beautiful Boy
He's the most beautiful boy there ever could be!
I simply can't know; his mind, you see.
Is it frightening?  Is it bad?
Not knowing is what makes me sad.
I waited so long to have him here.
A gift from Above, I did cheer!
It's been a battle; he's had to fight.
And still to this day things aren't quite right. 
Will there ne'er be amend; must this always be his trend?
It is You, Lord, he needs most; his ever present Friend.
I will love him no less, perhaps even more.
For him it's too bad, life's to be such a chore. 
What purpose it all shall serve, I have yet to see...
This most beautiful boy, You've entrusted to me. 
Written by: Samuel's MOM

Social Media: Lin Wessels is active in social media. She said this to Autism Light about her social media efforts,
The vast majority of what I do is advocate and connect with others pertaining to most anything autism related. Whether it be parents or grandparents, educators, doctors, therapists, you name it, we connect and share and brainstorm and help one another. We hold each other up when need be; we rejoice in our loved ones accomplishments, we laugh and cry together.  We share and teach and learn together. Social networks done right can be magical places. 

You can follow Lin Wessels at the following social media areas.
Special thanks to Linda Wessels for shining her light for the autism community as she impacts one child at a time, starting with her son. Even as she empowers her son Sam to be a self-advocate, her own autism advocacy is reaching more and more people through her gracious and wise understanding of the world of autism and her dedicated work each day on behalf of the cause.  While autism continues to impact more and more families in the world each day, it is mother's like Lin Wessels who are on the front lines and making a tremendous difference in the battle for services and answers. Happy Mother's Day to all the autism mothers in the world!

Note: If you enjoyed this article you may wish to read the feature for last year's Mother's Day on Eustacia Cutler, the mother of Dr. Temple Grandin or you can search all the posts at the Autism Light blog on mothers.
Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

The photos in the post are used with permission of Lin Wessels.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Bryan Jepson

Autism Light #277 is Dr. Bryan Jepson.

Dr. Bryan L. Jepson, M.D. is a physician, researcher, author, and internationally known speaker. Dr Bryan Jepson resides in the Austin, Texas area. Trained as a board certified Emergency Physician, the passion and focus of his career turned significantly toward understanding the biomedical treatments for autism after his second son Aaron was diagnosed with autism in 2001. Dr. Bryan Jepson is an Autism Light for being an autism father and for the way in which his work over the years has helped those dealing with autism.

Family:  Dr. Bryan Jepson is married to Laurie Jepson. The couple has four children. Their second child Aaron has autism. In 2008 they adopted an older 7 year old boy named Austin from the foster care system who has autism (Source).

Education: Dr. Bryan Jepson graduated from the University of Utah Medical School in 1995. He completed his emergency medicine residency in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1998.

Experience: Dr. Bryan Jepson has experience as an emergency physician and medical director and has been integral in helping start clinics in Utah and Texas.
  • In 2002, Dr. Bryan Jepson and his wife Laurie founded the Children's Biomedical Center of Utah. 
  • Dr. Bryan Jepson worked full-time as as an emergency physician until 2006.
  • In 2006, Dr. Bryan Jepson helped start The Thoughtful House Center for Children (now known as the Johnson Center for Child Health and Development) in Austin, Texas. He was a medical director, researcher and treated patients when he was a member of the team there from 2006 till about 2011. 
  • He returned to being an emergency physician after he concluded his time at the Johnson Center for Child Health and Development.
  • Dr. Bryan Jepson is currently serving as the medical director of Integrative Sports and Wellness Medical Center in Austin, Texas.
The following is a video of Dr. Bryan Jepson briefly sharing his background.

Changing the Course of Autism: Dr. Bryan Jepson authored the book Changing the Course of Autism: A Scientific Approach for Parents and Professionals, which was published in 2007. Medical Veritas 4 (2007) reviewed the book and said, "The book reviews the history of autism through its evolution from a purely psychiatric disease model to the current cutting edge biomedical understandings and treatment approaches. Emerging science is cited as to the epigenetic phenomena causing this increasingly prevalent disorder. The text acts as a roadmap for healthcare professionals and parents attempting to understand the intertwined gastrointenstinal, immunological, and neurological issues that are shrouded by an underlying corruption of detoxification systems in these children (Source)." The forward to the book was written by Katie Wright, daughter of the founders of Autism Speaks.

Here is a video of Dr. Jepson discussing his book Changing the Course of Autism.

Autism Organizations: Dr. Bryan Jepson is a member of the Treatment Advisory Board at Autism Speaks. He has also served as a "clinical advisor to Autism Research Institute and co-coordinator of their clinician training seminars (Source)."

Conference Speaker: Dr. Bryan Jepson was a frequent speaker autism related medical conferences.
Hobbies: Exercise is one of Dr. Bryan Jepson's hobbies. "He has completed in amateur bike races, running races and triathlons for the last 10 years (Source)."

Special thanks to Dr. Bryan Jepson for the difference he has made in the lives of thousands of families with autism through his work with research into biomedical treatment options. This post will also be linked to the Autism Light Medical Page.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.