Eight years ago, Dillan learned to communicate his thoughts and ideas by pointing to letters on a letterboard, which changed his life and the trajectory of his education. He has his sights set on a degree in psychology, with a goal of working to change how nonspeaking autistic students are educated. Dillan has a blog, Typing4change.com, and has been featured in TV ads for Autism Acceptance Month sponsored by Apple iPad.
Anna Elazar had always been relegated to segregated special ed classes, as the so-called experts in school did not presume her competence — and did what we learn in kindergarten not to do: Judge a book by its cover. Anna is cognizant and aware of everything around her, as those close to her would learn. One day, her mom went to pick Anna up from school and lost her keys there. She was frantically looking around the classroom. Anna showed her mom the typing device she was using back then with a communication partner. She had written, “The keys are just in the car.” Her mom, wide-eyed, ran to the car and sure enough, she had locked her keys inside. There was no more skepticism from her parents about Anna’s typing. Unfortunately, she still finds herself having to prove that to the world, especially because FC has been so maligned. Fast forward ten years. Anna loves to read and write poetry, much like Deej, and has a knack for analyzing literature. She hopes to go to college after graduating from her vocational high school, and eventually to become a “self-advocate.” She also has peers who have similar talents and interests and has written poetry in a team collaboration. She once quipped after such a session, “Maybe we can all form a traveling band of autistics!”
Neal Katz works at the Shemesh Organic Farms in Malibu, and at the Farms grocery store in Santa Monica. Neal sees himself as an ‘emissary’ for disability. His journey is the subject of the book, Now I See the Moon, and he is a star of the HBO Emmy winning documentary, Autism: The Musical. Neal has presented at the United Nations for World Autism Awareness Day and on stage with Crosby, Stills, and Nash at a “Light Up the Blues” event last year. Last summer Neal received the Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation Leadership in Autism Award from the Autism Society of America. Neal is a multi-modality communicator using sign language, supportive typing, Pro Loquo 2Go (an app on his iPhone ), and some spoken words to communicate.
Sue Rubin started typing to communicate at age 13 after being previously labeled as a “low functioning” person with autism. When she began typing to talk, she began actively participating in general education and eventually graduated with honors. She went on to attend Whittier College and received a bachelor’s degree in Latin American History. Sue is now a well-known presenter, author, and activist. Sue has received many honors, including carrying the 1996 Olympic Torch in Los Angeles as a Community Hero, and awards from Cal-TASH, the Autism Society of America, the Supported Life Institute, and Vista Del Mar. Sue was the subject of two PBS Life and Times programs; has had two articles published in the L.A. Times; wrote chapters for the books Education for All: Critical Issues in the Education of Children and Youth with Disabilities; Autism and the Myth of the Person Alone, and Sharing Our Wisdom. Sue was the subject and writer of the 2004 Academy Award-nominated Autism is a World and was featured in We Thought You’d Never Ask: Voices of People with Autism.
Gaby Valner is a young woman with atypical Rett syndrome. She was diagnosed at 17-years old after being misdiagnosed with autism for many years. She has become an advocate for girls with Rett syndrome. Gaby has a blog called Breaking out of My Cage, about what it feels like to have Rett syndrome. Gaby graduated with a high school diploma and has taken many online college classes. She would like to see one person who has Rett go to college and will be starting at Santa Monica Community College in spring 2019. She loves to ride horses and volunteers at a ranch. She hopes to be able to make Rett history and inspire girls with disabilities to be confident in their dreams.