Friday, August 30, 2013

Sheila R. Medlam - Mason Allen Medlam

Autism Lights #300 are Sheila R. Medlam and Mason Allen Medlam.

Article Header for Sheila Medlam and Mason Allen Medlam Autism Light Number 300

Sheila R. Medlam is from Colwich, Kansas. She is the mother of Mason Allen Medlam, who passed away at the age of 5 on July 29, 2010, after he wandered away from his home and drowned in a nearby pond. Sheila Medlam is an Autism Light, because since the tragedy of losing her son, she has been an influential national advocate for autism safety and wandering awareness, including talking to numerous commuity law enforcement agencies, promoting the Mason Alert system and founding the Mason Allen Medlam Foundation for Autism Safety. Because of the inspiration that the memory of Mason Allen Medlam has on his mother and her work in wandering awareness, we are also naming Mason an Autism Light posthumously. His name will be placed on the Autism Light Memorial Roll today.

Mason Allen Medlam: Mason Allen Medlam left this world on July 29, 2010, after he wandered away from his home and drowned in a neighbor's pond. However, in a real sense Mason continues to shine his light each time the life-saving autism safety and wandering awareness initiatives are adopted by the autism community through the leadership of his mother. Sheila Medlam writes about the blessing of Mason's brief childhood on the front page of the Mason Allen Medlam Foundation's website.
My son, Mason, was born on July 07, 2005. He was brilliant, beautiful and full of joy. He lit up our world and was the center of our universe. Sometimes he would break out into this glorious laughter, and even though you couldn't figure out what he was laughing at, you would join in because the sound of it touched your soul and filled it with joy. He was the most incredible child I have ever known. He loved life and life seemed to love him. He overcame more obstacles in his life than many adults ever have to even contemplate and he did it with a smile on his face and laughter in his heart (Read More at the Mason Allen Medlam Foundation Website).
Sheila R. Medlam: Sheila Medlam worked as an estimator at the time of Mason's death, but she is now studying to become a structured learning educator, so she can help teach children with severe autism like Mason. Sheila Medlam describes herself and goals this way on her blog.
I am about to drive over the edge of forty. I live on a farm in Kansas with my husband, daughters and many animals. I have an angel in heaven who wandered from home and drowned in a neighbor's pond when he was five years old. His name is Mason Allen Medlam and he was severely autistic. He is my purpose, my drive, my heart. Everything I do for the rest of my life is because of him. I love you, Bubby, I love you, I love you, I love you (Read More at Sheila R. Medlam's Blog).
Following Mason's death in 2010, Sheila Medlam formed the Mason Allen Medlam Foundation for Autism Safety.  The foundation was nominated for the 2010 Age of Autism Award. Sheila has worked tirelessly through the foundation to promote Autism Safety through what is known as a Mason Alert.  A Mason Alert would be similar to but different from the nationwide Amber Alert System, because it would take into account unique circumstances applicable exclusively to missing people with autism of all ages. You can read more about the Mason Alert at this description of the Mason Alert from the Mason Allen Medlam Foundation's Website and you can also sign the online petition to establish a Mason Alert system throughout the United States. The foundation also promotes the Mason Alert Take Me Home Registry

Here is a video from Sheila Medlam and the Mason Allen Medlam Foundation that provides information on the goals of the foundation and serves to give educational awareness of some procedures and equipment that could prevent future tragedies. The YouTube video says, "The Mason Allen Medlam Foundation's goal is to layer all the protections we can around each at risk person." The video also respectfully remembers some of the precious lives with autism that were lost to wandering around the time it was made and helps show the depth of the problem.

United States Health and Human Services: On October 22, 2010, Sheila Medlam was a speaker at the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) about autism wandering awareness. She corresponded with Kathleen Sebelius, the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services, about her message to the IACC. The exchange of letters is available as a note on Sheila Medlam's Facebook Page.

Blogger: Sheila Medlam has a WordPress Blogwhere she shares about her life and promotes autism safety. She also documents the tragic accounts of new incidents of autism lives lost to wandering or elopment. The blog shares Sheila's dreams and goals and is a treasure of educational material on wandering awareness and prevention as well as a memorial to those autistic lives lost to wandering. Sheila Medlam's Blog will be added today to the index on the Autism Light Blogs Page.

Social Media: You can interact with Sheila Medlam and the Mason Allen Medlam Foundation at the following social media areas:
One of the most serious problems facing the autism community today is the regular occurrences of those with autism wandering away from caregivers and falling a victim to tragedy, usually through drowning. Since Mason Allen Medlam passed away three years ago at least 65 known deaths from wandering have befallen the autism community. Below is a photo of some of those precious lives.

Today as Autism Light reaches the milestone of publishing the 300th point of autism light, it's hard to express in words the gratitude we have for Sheila Medlam, who has made autism safety and wandering awareness her life's passion since her son died from wandering. And we shall never forget Mason himself, whose brief life continues to help raise awareness of autism wandering, and whose light shines on as he inspires his mother and the autism community. Thank you Sheila and Mason!

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

The photos in this post are used with permission of Sheila R. Medlam.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Beach Boys

Autism Light #299 is The Beach Boys.

The Beach Boys are a Rock band that formed in 1961, in Hawthorne, California. They became a sensation for hit songs such as Good Vibrations, Wouldn't It Be Nice, God Only Knows, and Surfin' USA (Source). The original members of the band were Brian Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Carl Wilson, Mike Love, and Al Jardine. David Marks and Bruce Johnston are also current members of the group and Dennis and Carl Wilson are deceased. The group has been entertaining fans for half a century, but quite possibly their biggest fan is a young man who has autism. The Beach Boys are an Autism Light for the way their music has helped a 22 year old boy with autism named Brett Werner over the years.

Brett Werner: On August 2, 2013, Brett Werner got his dream of getting to meet The Beach Boys, when their music tour came to the Detroit, Michigan Metropolitan area, where Brett Werner lives. The music of The Beach Boys is able to calm and soothe Brett Werner, who listens to their music all day. Although Brett Werner is nonverbal he is able to say two words, "Beach Boys." A news story and video created by is at this link.

Brett Werner's admiration of The Beach Boys has also been an inspiration to famous band. Beach Boy, Mike Love, said, "I guess it's the ultimate compliment for us--that our music is a tribute (Source)." A CBS Sunday Morning news story on The Beach Boys celebrating their 50th Anniversary in 2011 is available at this link.

Michael Brenner: Brett Werner isn't the only young man with autism who is a fan of The Beach Boys. Here is Michael Brenner singing his own version of The Beach Boys' song Surfin' USA. Michael has autism.

For more information on The Beach Boys visit their Wikipedia Page

Special thanks to The Beach Boys for being an Autism Light and giving good vibrations to people with autism by their beloved music. I have the feeling if all the autism stories were known we would find that there more than a few more people with autism who are fans of The Beach Boys.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

The photo of The Beach Boys with this post is in the Creative Commons of Wikipedia. It was taken by Louise Palanker.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

John Kurrasch

Autism Light #298 is John Kurrasch.

John Kurrasch is a 20 year old man with autism from San Juan Capistrano, California in Orange County. John Kurrasch is an Autism Light because on Sunday, August 11, 2013, he helped lead his grandmother and a neighbor out of a burning house.

Tony Weeda noticed that his neighbor's house was on fire and he went inside the house to warn the 82 year old Autism Grandmother who lived there. John Kurrasch, a young adult with autism was upstairs.  When they got up to John's room the power went out and Tony Weeda was helpless to navigate an exit of someone else's house in the dark. That is where John Kurrasch comes in. After John was asked to help lead his neighbor and Grandma out of the house in the dark, they held on to his shirt and he lead all of them out of the house to safety.

Here is the story on John Kurrasch's heroic act.

John Kurrasch's Grandmother refers to him as an "angel". Dave Kurrasch who is John's father said, "When the chips are down with John, when somebody's sick, he just transforms into an angel (Source)."

For more information on this incident involving John Kurrasch being an Autism Light read the NBC Los Angeles news story at this link.

John Kurrasch is an example of how individuals with autism can be very helpful and make a difference in people's lives. Thanks to John Kurrasch this fire may have destroyed property but no lives were lost.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Olga's Kitchen

Autism Light #297 is Olga's Kitchen.

Olga's Kitchen is a Greek style family restaurant chain that was founded in 1970 by Olga Loizon.  The headquarters of Olg'as Kitchen is in Troy, Michigan and most of their 36 franchises are presently located in the state of Michigan, but they have also have small number of restaurants that reach as far as Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri. Olga's Kitchen is an Autism Light because they are giving a portion of the proceeds from the sale of their entree salads in August, 2013 to the Autism Alliance of Michigan and also have a franchise doing a fundraiser for the Gideon Academic Center, Inc.

Here is a video of Olga Loizon explaining how she came to start Olga's Kitchen.

Autism Alliance of Michigan: During the month of August, 2013, Olga's Kitchen is donating a portion of the proceeds from their salad entrees to the Autism Alliance of Michigan. CBS Radio and Pepsi are also participating in this autism fundraising campaign (Source). 

Anthony Ianni, Autism Light #239, has created this announcement enouraging people to eat at Olga's Kitchen in order to help the Autism Alliance of Michigan to help those with autism in Michigan. They are also doing a social media campaign of encouraging people to take a photo of themselves eating at Olga's Kitchen.

Gideon Academic Center: In addition to their support for the Autism Alliance of Michigan, the Olga's Kitchen franchise located in the Woodland Mall in Grand Rapids, Michigan will be also do a fundraiser to benefit Gideon's Academic Center on Saturday, August 24, 2013. 

You can find out more information on Olga's Kitchen on the following social media areas: 
Olga's Kitchen also has a Wikipedia Page
Special thanks to Olga's Kitchen for being an Autism Light and helping the Autism Alliance of Michigan. It is hoped that Olga's Kitchen support of the cause of autism will encourage other businesses to likewise consider partnering with their local community autism associations to help shine a light for autism. 

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Note: Autism Light is a neutral blog and we have no relationship to the business featured in this post nor is their any expectation of personal gain by sharing this information.
The photo of the Olga's Kitchen in Ann Arbor, Michigan is in the Creative Commons and is credited to Dwight Burdette.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Eli Suggs

Autism Light #296 is Eli Suggs.

Eli Suggs is a 13 year old from Santa Clarita, California who has autism. On June 15, 2012, he gave an inspiring speech at his promotion from 6th Grade at Pine Tree Elementary School in Canyon Country, California. Eli Suggs is an Autism Light for his representation of the accomplishments one with autism can obtain through school.

Eli is your typical boy with many of the same interests and hobbies as others. Eli has two cats. He has a grey one named Burpie and a red one named Redmond.  He makes things with Legos and makes movies with his creations. He enjoys swimming, watching television, playing video games such as Little Big Planet 1 and 2, and doing outdoor activities with his family (note photo in this post of Eli rock climbing). Eli Suggs is also a member of the Boy Scouts, and completed the Arrow of Light in Webelos.

Eli Suggs Rock Climbing (July 24, 2013)
The speech that Eli Suggs gave for his 6th grade graduation is spreading autism awareness as it goes viral. The Huffington Post asked on their Facebook page, "Who inspires you to be a better person?" Eli's mother responded with the video and the statement, "My son." It stood out and The Huffington Post published an article about Eli's speech in their online news site.  You can read it at this link.

The following is a video of the 6th grade speech that Eli Suggs made that went viral. As of the date of publication of this post it has been viewed 18,633 times. Everyone in Eli's 6th grade was invited to prepare a speech and audition to speak at their graduation. Eli's speech on the subject of having autism was selected.

The closing part of Eli's inspirational speech communicated the following message:
As we leave here today I have a challenge for all of you. We are all different. Not less, just different. We all have things we're good at, things we need to work on, and things we need help with. Whenever you see someone else who is different, instead of just judging them or being a bully, I challenge you to offer help and treat that person with the kindness you have shown me over the last six years. Remember, all of you can make a difference in someone's life. You've already made a difference in mine (Source).
Autism Light asked Eli if he had any advice for other students with autism. He said, "I guess my advice is to try not to let something difficult get to you. Just do your best and keep trying." Eli Suggs has taken his own advice and won the following awards in elementary school.
  • 1st Place for a Movie He Made (with Legos) on the topic of diversity.
  • 2nd and 3rd place for Photographs he took.
  • Most Improved Reading in 6th Grade.
  • 1st Place in a 50 Yard Dash.
  • 4th Place in a 100 Yard Dash.
  • 5th Place for Distance in Throwing a Softball.
The most improved in reading award was an amazing accomplishment for Eli who needed to bring his reading level up to 6th grade. Eli said, "I don't really like to read but I know it's something I have to do, so I just do it.

Special thanks to Eli Suggs for being an Autism Light. Eli is an example that despite the challenges of growing up with autism, one can improve and make a difference as an elementary student. We look forward to hearing more amazing things about Eli as he journey's through high school and life.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

The photo of Eli Suggs in this post is used with the permission of Eli's mother, Shannon Rosenberg.