We can learn to see each other and see ourselves in each other and recognize that human beings are more alike than we are unalike.
In 2014, our curiosity led us down the ‘yellow brick road’ to better understanding about ourselves and each other. We learned through literature, personal stories, and from those who are doing good works. Here is a recap of the amazing interviews we published in 2014:
Tania is a published author and psychologist who spends her professional time divided between private practice, research and writing. She works with Asperger and high functioning autistic girls and women. The area of female autism and Asperger Syndrome is quite a specialized and complex field, and one she finds very interesting. She is undertaking Doctoral studies, in the area of female Asperger Syndrome and publishing a series of books on the subject. Her first, I Am AspienGirl® is an in depth look at this special population and she’s here tell you more about it.
Founded by Dr Elisabeth Svendsen MBE in 1969, The Donkey Sanctuary has given over 15,500 donkeys and mules in need lifelong care in the UK, Ireland and mainland Europe. I never really thought about it before but we call the donkey, “the beast of burden,” such a terrible nickname for a creature that is so patient and hardworking…and so often taken advantage of.
Listening to music is her muse, Gretchen Leary began expressing herself through poetry. When Josh Groban responded positively on twitter to her “Ivory at Night” inspired by Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, she’s been writing creatively ever since. She’s just completed and published a new children’s book illustrated by Dani Bowman—both very talented young women on the autism spectrum. I caught up with Gretchen to find out more about this creative collaboration
Communication comes in many forms and for the DeMonia family it’s art. You see, the oldest daughter, Leah, is autistic and she expresses her emotions, her heart and her love through her art. And her parents and younger sister are doing everything in their power to make sure Leah has every opportunity to shine using her own artistic talents. Sarah is a compassionate advocate and ‘voice’ for her older sister and never hesitates to make people aware of autism and share the gift of Leah. Their special relationship inspired their mother, Lori DeMonia, to write Leah’s Voice, a narrative children’s story to explain autism in an uplifting and inspirational way.
Jennifer Dirks, mom to Emelie, and author of “Emelie’s Voice.” Jennifer is one of my wonderful Mighty League Autism Moms…she’s such a positive leader for the autism community and I’m so thrilled that she’s published a book about her family’s journey. I asked her a few questions about her book and (special bonus) if she would share some of Emelie’s illustrations.
I’m so happy to feature Blooming with Autism because this organization focuses on the positive side of autism which is what the ‘Autimism’ movement is all about. I caught up with founder, Jodi Goldberg, to find out more about her version of positive autism advocacy.
Margret Ericsdottir produced a documentary, A Mother’s Courage: Talking Back to Autism, that explored her’s and other parents’ experiences with autism. It’s there she met and formed a strong bond with actress, Kate Winslet, who narrated her film. Wanting to do more and inspired by a poem Margret’s nonverbal autistic son, Keli, wrote using a letterboard, the two co-founded the Golden Hat Foundation. Their mission? “To change the way people on the autism spectrum are perceived, by shining a light on their abilities and emphasizing their great potential. With proper education and career training, these individuals can truly realize their dreams.”
Dave Kot is the founder of Face Value Comics, Inc. a non-profit in 2011 and recently changed the legal business name to “Autism at Face Value” to reflect the company’s social agenda for autism awareness and acceptance. Dave and his wife, Angie, write the scripts as a husband-and-wife team. Their artist, Sky O., has over thirty years’ professional experience with comic book illustration and the overall business. (Image on left is an illustrated version of Dave, Angie and Sky.) Add a Board of Directors including talented people from across the country and you have a company that is using its creativity for positive social change.
“I’ve written two books, both fictional pieces and both have been romantic comedies. Although both are totally made up, they each have a part of me in them. However, for my new book “It’s Okay to Say the A-Word!” I started out writing about a mom with a son with autism as another fictional piece and it just didn’t have the umph I wanted it to have. I realized that if I wanted to convey the feelings and the love and the hardships of going through a diagnosis and learning that I had to become a stronger woman than I ever thought possible for my son, I just needed to tell our true story.”
Ethan Blecher Braves a Bully, early reader/chapter book for kids reading on their own, is a great tool for teaching kids the value of kindness and forgiveness. Ethan finds himself the focus of a bully in his new school. His parents decide to send him to spring camp hoping he’ll make some friends, but the outlook turns terrifying when his nemesis shows up. Will Ethan’s fearful attitude and shy nature get the best of him or will he muster some courage and stand-up to the bully?
Melissa Northway is an award-winning author of three children’s books, two of which are also storybook apps on iTunes. She’s also the founder and editor of Dandelion Moms, an inspirational lifestyle site to support women as they follow their dreams and provide expert tips on parenting, recipes, beauty, and fashion. Clarence and the Traveling Circus is her third children’s book.
Actress and comedienne, Kathy Kinney, has been on television since the late 1980’s playing a variety of fun characters including the recurring ‘Miss Goddard’, the town librarian, on Newhart and the irascible (but lovable) ‘Mimi’ on the Drew Carey Show. But one of her most important roles is the storytelling, children’s literacy advocate, ‘Mrs. P.’
So much has happened since my husband and I shared our story on Geek Club Books last April. Even our name reflects our changes going from QR Code iD to If I Need Help. And we are officially a 501(c)(3) charity.
Charlotte Olson is a mum to children, one with Asperger’s Syndrome. She is a trained National Nursery Examination Board (NNEB) Nursery Nurse and has always worked with children, most recently as a teaching assistant before giving up her job to start writing Suzie Books, a series of books that help young children understand and cope with new situations.
Susan and Sarah Sullivan are a mother and daughter duo working together to provide job training and employment opportunities for those on the autism spectrum. I caught up with Susan to find out more about their new nonprofit, PreLOVED Toys. You’ll be inspired by these super heroine entrepreneurs who are creating positive futures for autistic adults.
We have a strong affinity for families who are creative collaborators (I wonder why?) Jennie and Josh Book are a husband and wife team who are boldly branching out and making their own wonderfully imaginative children’s story apps. Jennie is a writer and Josh is a veteran art director who has worked on hit TV series’ such as “Bubble Guppies” and “The Penguins of Madagascar” for Nickelodeon, “Sheriff Callie’s Wild West” for Disney, and the recent video game Marvel Heroes.
Rebecca Dauer is a self-published children’s author. Her work is focused on helping siblings of children with emotional and physical challenges. She is a member of the Independent Book Publishing Association and currently lives in Forrest Hills, New York.
Melissa Winter is a vibrant, positive force of nature when it comes to her family and her autism advocacy. Her oldest son, Max, is autistic and she and her husband do whatever it takes to make sure he has what he needs to flourish—even if that included uprooting and moving from New Jersey to South Florida. With Max happy and blossoming, she turned her focus on ways that she could support the organizations that were making such a positive impact on her family’s lives.
“The title for the book, ‘He’s not naughty!’ was born out of utter frustration at the never ending disapproving looks as one or both of my sons had public meltdowns, often running in different directions! If anyone could spend a day watching, feeling and truly understanding how hard life can be caring for a child with autism or indeed being a child with the condition, then they may think twice before making judgments. Sadly that can’t happen, so I thought I write a book.”
Julia Cieslukowska is currently an M.A Candidate at the prestigious Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. She is passionate about issues of poverty, politics and gender inequality in developing countries, having recently authored a children’s book to empower young girls.
Out of unconditional love for her autistic brother, Paul, Mary Ann LaRoche has sewed the seeds of independence for adults on the autism spectrum. She wanted to create an environment where autistic and aspergers adults can learn a vocation, feel supported and accepted, and have a place to socialize without judgement.
**Are you an author, changemaker or entrepreneur trying to make a difference in the world, especially for those in the autism community? We want to know about you! Reach out via our contact page or on Facebook and you may be one of our featured interviews in 2015!