11 People Changing The Way The World Views Autism

People with autism often find themselves in the shadows of society but these 11 people with autism are standing in the spotlight, showing the world what they are capable of.

1. Alexis Wineman

18 year-old Alexis Wineman is the first contestant with autism to compete in the Miss America pageant.

Through her pageant platform, “Normal Is Just A Dryer Setting: Living With Autism,” she aims to raise awareness about the developmental disorder.

Since her crowning, Alexis has formed partnerships with special needs groups Autism Speaks, AbilityPath and Generation Rescue and spoken at schools and autism conferences around Montana.

“I want show the world that being on the autism spectrum is not a death sentence, but a life adventure.”

2. Clay Marzo

Clay is an accomplished professional surfer and aquatic athlete. He is sponsored by Quiksilver, Skullcandy, SPY Optic, Future, Creatures of Leisure, Vestal, and Rockstar Energy. Marzo was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a form of autism. He is constantly seen rubbing his hands together at a rapid pace. Clay helps out with an organization called Surfers Healing Camp. Originated in Malibu, California, Surfers Healing is a foundation for taking children with autism surfing, in hopes to enrich their lives by exposing them to the unique experience of surfing.

3. Satoshi Tajiri

The creator of Pokemon—one of the top-ranking video game media franchises in the world—has Asperger’s Syndrome. As a child, Mr. Tagiri was obsessed with bugs, a fixation that eventually inspired him to create Pokemon. Since its creation in 1996, the game is still majorly popular. In Japan 2011, Pokemon Black and White sold 2.6 million within 48 hours of being released.

4. Temple Grandin

An American doctor of animal science and professor at Colorado State University, bestselling author, and consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior. As a person with high-functioning autism, Grandin is also widely noted for her work in autism advocacy and is the inventor of the squeeze machine designed to calm hypersensitive persons. Grandin is listed in the 2010 Time 100 list of the 100 most influential people in the world in the category “Heroes.”

5. Alex Hale

On May 18, 2013 Alex Hale debuted a song called “Walk a Mile,” which he wrote and recorded with his three-time Grammy Award-winning uncle, Joel Moss at Soldier Field before a crowd of 20,000.

Alex says the lyrics were inspired by the frustration and rage he’s felt living a life with autism. “I’ve had people tell me I’d do nothing with my life,” said Alex. “How I don’t fit in … people perceive me as this monster.”

He hopes when people hear the song they will have a better understanding of autism. “People still don’t understand, they think of it as mental retardation, but it isn’t,” said Alex. “An autistic mind is a very beautiful mind.”

He has also graduated from high school, has completed an Associate’s Degree and is working on his Bachelor’s Degree. He hopes his work and his song will inspire other families with autism to pursue their dreams and never give up hope.

“The parents I talk to after this say, ‘You give my child hope,’ and that is the most satisfying thing I’ve gotten for all this,” said Alex.

6. Anthony Starego

In 2006, Anthony Starego witnessed his favorite Rutgers moment of all time. The Scarlet Knights upset Louisville on a last second field goal from kicker Jeremy Ito. After making the kick Ito turned and pointed to the camera. It was one that changed Anthony’s life forever.

Anthony watched that kick over and over again. He decided at that moment, despite his disability and his parents’ concerns about his disability, he would be a kicker. He practiced constantly. The repetition and ritual of the process was comforting to him. Before long he was consistently making 40+ yard kicks, and was good enough to be the varsity team’s kicker.

In his very first start at kicker, Brick took on powerhouse Tom’s River North. The game came to down to the wire. Tied 21-21 with little time left in the fourth quarter, Anthony was called on to make the deciding kick. When asked what he did by kicking that field goal, Anthony said, “Helping my team. Helping my family.”

But the story didn’t end there. Rutgers invited Anthony out to the team’s stadium to get his own Scarlet Knights jersey, kick some field goals and recreate the moment that changed his life.

7. Stephen Wiltshire

This astonishing 18ft drawing of the world’s most famous skyline was created by autistic artist Stephen Wiltshire after he spent just 20 minutes in a helicopter gazing at the panorama.

The unbelievably intricate picture was drawn at Brooklyn’s prestigious Pratt Institute from Stephen’s memory, with details of every building sketched in to scale.

Listening intently to his ipod throughout the artistic process - because music helps him. He listens to everything through the 70s, 80s, and 90s, including blues, soul, funk, Motown, pop, Back Street Boys, All Saints and even New Kids on the Block.

Diagnosed with autistism at an early age, Stephen’s talent for drawing emerged as a way of expressing himself. Using his drawing’s to help him learn and encouraged by his family, Stephen created a series of 26 coded pictures to help him speak, all of which corresponded to a letter in the alphabet.

In 2006, Stephen Wiltshire was awarded a Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to art. He opened his permanent gallery in the Royal Opera Arcade, Pall Mall, the same year.

8. Eric Duquette

Eric Duquette was the salutatorian of his high school, an honor student, a musician, and he has autism.

The 18-year-old who couldn’t say a word until age five, gave the commencement speech at his high school graduation ceremony in Smithfield, Rhode Island.

“My parents were told I would most likely end up in an institution,” said Duquette. “I stand before you accepted into every institution of higher learning I applied to.”

“I tell you this so you do not allow yourself or others to be defined by your limitations but rather abilities. Never underestimate yourself,” he said.

He now attends Rhode Island College, studying biology and eventually wants to become a pharmacist.

9. Jason McElwain

McElwain had a passion for basketball, so Greece Athena High School basketball coach Jim Johnson appointed him manager of the team.

On February 15, 2006, Greece Athena was playing Spencerport High School for a division title. Greece Athena got a large lead, so Johnson decided to let McElwain play in the last four minutes. After initially missing two shots, McElwain made six three-point shots and one two-pointer. After the final buzzer rang, the crowd dashed onto the court in celebration.

McElwain won an ESPY Award for the Best Moment in Sports in 2006. The speech that Jason gave upon winning the award was written for him by his older brother. The theme of the speech was about dreams coming true. In addition to the many celebrities McElwain met, he also appeared on various talk shows, including The Oprah Winfrey Show, Larry King Live, Good Morning America, and Today.

Seven years later, coach Johnson and Greece Athena High have decided to honor J-Mac, who has served as an assistant to the basketball program since graduation, by retiring his No. 52 jersey.

10. James Hobley

James Hobley, is an astonishing 11-year-old dancer with autism, who gave stunning performances on both the semi-final and final rounds of Britain’s Got Talent. Although he ultimately lost the competition, James received a full scholarship to a ballet school.

11. Jodi DiPiazza

Little Jodi DiPiazza, a young girl living with autism was joined by superstar Katy Perry during Comedy Central’s Night Of Too Many Stars benefit for autism programs. In a pre-taped profile on DiPiazza, the audience learned of her struggles with the disorder as well as how she began to find a way forward through music.

Following the video, DiPiazza, seated almost comically at an enormous grand piano, was joined on stage by Katy Perry for a duet of the star’s hit song, “Firework.” What followed was a performance that left not one dry eye in the theater.

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