My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style.
In 2015, our curiosity took us to places beyond our imaginations. We discovered people of passion and compassion. We learned about ourselves and others through literature, personal stories, and from those who are doing good works. Here is a recap of the amazing interviews we published in 2015:
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Stephen Shore’s quote, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism” inspired Debra Muzikar, autism mom and co-founder of The Art of Autism. She launched an initiative, Autism Unveiled, that brought positive attention to the autistic and showcased many autistic individuals’ gifts. The virtual event culminated on World Autism Day. Read about the launching of the initiative.
From a dance teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District to worldwide leader and guiding light for autism, Joanne Lara proves that one woman can make a far reaching impact. She is taking action to move us from autism awareness, hope and acceptance to making sure our kids transition into adulthood with employers who understand their value and are ready to employ!
Longtime friends, actress Kathy Kinney and veteran publishing executive Cindy Ratzlaff, wrote an inspiring women’s book that has turned into a social media phenomenon! QUEEN OF YOUR OWN LIFE: The Grown-Up Woman’s Guide to Claiming Happiness and Getting the Life you Deserve is a light-hearted guide to owning your authentic self. No matter what our ages, we can transform our thoughts, fill our lives with joy and finally proclaim:”I am fabulous, just the way I am.”
Georgia, under her pen name Florida Frenz, fulfilled her desire to be a published author with her How to Be Human: Diary of an Autistic Girl. As she put together the book, she realized that her life’s experiences had real potential to help others understand autism and have compassion for autistic people. “I am an autistic who knows that I can overcome the challenges I face and lead a happy, productive life.”
Ajit Narayanan is a developer and new father! Out of compassion and interest, he founded Avaz Inc. to make an augmentative and alternative communication app (AAC) for kids with autism. He’s an electrical engineer and used to live and work in the Silicon Valley in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2007, he moved back to India – the city of Chennai – and began working on technology for kids with special needs. At that time India had very little assistive technology, and he and his team built India’s first communication device. They called it Avaz, which is the Hindi word for speech. This device was VERY popular in india and they won an award from the President of India for inventing it. After the iPad came out, they converted Avaz into an app, and it’s now being used all over the world.
Emma Lesko is the author of the children’s chapter book series SUPER LEXI. She is a vocal believer in diversity and inclusion in children’s books, with the purpose of cultivating empathy and perspective-taking in our kids. SUPER LEXI is a funny chapter book series about a second-grade girl on the autism spectrum, who is just trying to navigate kid life. She gets stuck dealing with stuff like “hoopla” and “staring eyeballs,” even though they give her the “feeling of barf.” Her achievements are humble, realistic and accessible.
Downs Designs Dreams is an organization founded on love. Founded by Karen Bowersox, the company is motivated to meet the Activities of Daily Living (ADL) needs of individuals who struggle to find appropriate clothing that is stylish, comfortable and aids in independent dressing. People with disabilities are often forgotten in the fashion world so Downs Designs Dreams strives to make a difference. Karen’s company advocates disability awareness, promotes independence and instills confidence through their special clothing line.
Roy Dias has Aspergers Syndrome. He’s also a husband, a father to two sons with Aspergers, and a teacher at a school that teaches English as a second language. Oh, and Roy is an author whose books are promoting autism awareness and acceptance. Aspeans: The Beginning and Aspeans: The Invasion are, as you can probably guess from the titles, sci-fi tales but what makes them stand out from others in that genre are his Asperger protagonists. Entertaining and original they bring the topic of autism into today’s zeitgeist, making it less ‘issue’ and more…human.
Our guest contributor, children’s author Lori DeMonia, shares the impact of sensory processing disorder in a children’s book, Love for Logan, inspired by her own family’s experiences.
Since 1983 RJ Cooper has been making software and gadgets for those with severe disabilities, including autism. Known lovingly as “The Assistive Tech Guy,” he travels around the country, at his own expense, to work on some of the most difficult challenges, coaching and trying different solutions to help. At age 62, he’s still in demand! I caught up the RJ in between his road trips to find out more about what he does and who he serves.
In Chasing the Rabbit: A Dad’s Life Raising a Son on the Spectrum, Derek Volk shares his experiences raising a son on the Autism spectrum. Both Dylan and Derek write about the challenges, triumphs and coping strategies from the early days to the adolescent years to life in the “real world” as a young adult. This book showcases the unique relationship between a father and his son who has spent his entire life chasing the rabbit.
Jeroen De Busser is a 21 year old autistic Software Engineering M.Sc. student from Antwerp, Belgium. He is prone to sensory overload where he loses the ability to form and sometimes, even understand speech. When he couldn’t find a way to effectively communicate and get help during a meltdown episode, he used his software talent to create an app for it! Now it’s free in the app store for everyone.
We’re so thrilled to be able to highlight another amazing autistic writer…Benjamin K.M. Kellogg. His delightful Noah and Logan series of children’s books are helping autistic kids learn social and life skills. We know that you will enjoy getting to know him and his work.
Gretchen Leary is 29, a children’s book author and a woman on the autism spectrum. She has written two children’s books, Really, Really Like Me and The Quiet Bear which were both written to promote a better understanding of differences and how they make us special. Neither book says the word autism inside the pages which she did on purpose to avoid labels. She wants to show children that “we can shine without putting out someone else’s candle.”
At Community Gatepath‘s “Power of Possibilities Recognition Event” I had an opportunity to learn more about the people behind their organization and have an exclusive one-on-one post event interview with Holly Robinson Peete, actress, author, talk show host, autism mom and the event’s keynote speaker.
Darren Groth is a Vancouver author and “new-ish” citizen of Canada, having moved from his native Australia in 2007. His novels include Kindling, published by Hachette in 2010 and released in Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan; and his most recent YA work, Are You Seeing Me?, published by Random House Australia and released in Canada and the US through Orca Book Publishers. Darren has fourteen year old twins, one of whom is on the autism spectrum. He creates characters and interesting storylines inspired by his children.
After I Am AspienGirl® was released, Tania and her team were inundated with emails, stories, messages and letters, many from females themselves or from their family members, their loved ones and professionals. They received messages from a number of countries wanting to know more about female autism. Messages came in from parents and professionals saying they were using the book as an effective way to promote awareness and educate others. On August 22, 2015, Tania released a sequel entitled I Am AspienWoman, and within its first week, it became a #1 Amazon Australia bestseller in both the Autism and Disabilities categories and reached #5 on Amazon USA.
*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 2016!