Amazing Individuals With Autism

School Nutrition’s March issue explores mental health and mental illness with the aim of starting a conversation about these conditions that often go undiscussed. In “An Invitation to Engage,” Penny McLaren examines autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). The article mentions Daniel Wendler, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome as a teenager and has gone on to help others with ASDs, which earned him recognition from the organization Autism Speaks as one of its “10 Amazing Individuals With Autism Who Shined in 2013.” Read on for more about this organization and the other individuals recognized with this honor.

Autism Speaks is an autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.

In addition to Wendler, the organization honored the following individuals as standouts in 2013:

  • Christopher Duffley is a young boy on the autism spectrum who also is blind. He is a skilled singer.
  • Marvin Viscito adores the New York Jets and playing the drums; he has performed during Jets games with the team’s drumline.
  • Jacob Velasquez is considered a piano prodigy at 6 years old, has performed across the country and is planning to release his debut album in 2014.
  • Evan Angert is a recent high school graduate who was selected by his school’s faculty to give a commencement speech in front of 3,000 people.
  • Isaac, who is 8 years old and nonverbal, has found his voice through Disney songs and has become a YouTube sensation.
  • Andrew Duff works at Autism Speaks and is an actor and writer who has participated in “Square Peg Round Hole,” a production that has been performed in New York.
  • Anthony Starego is a history-making high school football player, who was granted an unprecedented fifth year of athletic eligibility by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association and who helped to lead his team to the 2013 state championship.
  • Alexis Wineman was named Miss Montana in 2012 and participated in the Miss America Pageant, where she was the first individual in history with autism to compete. She finished in the top 15 in the competition and is a motivational speaker who is looking toward attending college.
  • Rio “Soulshocka” Wyles is a 21-year-old rapper who has collaborated with national recording artists.

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