When I think of rock stars, I often think of people who appear larger than life, stand out in a crowd and draw attention to themselves. One doesn't have to excel as a musician in order to be a rock star, though. People in any walk of life can be one, and yes, even in the world of autism there are rock stars. However, unlike many of today's rock stars who seem to be focused on who can buy the most cars and throw the most lavish parties, autism's rock stars are focused on raising awareness and providing hope for a better future for families affected by autism. So, who are these autism super stars and what makes them shine? Here are three individuals who I feel truly stand out in the world of autism.
Temple Grandin, a doctor of animal science, professor, best selling author and inventor of the squeeze machine, a device that helps calm hypersensitive people, is also a person with high-functioning autism. Grandin first began speaking about her experiences with autism in the mid 1980's and continues to advocate for early intervention for children with autism, appearing at many conferences and on numerous TV programs. Her descriptions of what it feels like to be autistic and how her thought process works have helped many people to better understand what its like to be autistic. In 2010, Grandin was portrayed by actress Clare Danes in the HBO film titled Temple Grandin. The film went on to be nominated for 15 Emmys and received five awards including Outstanding Made for Television Movie and Best Actress in a Drama. In 2010 Grandin was named one of 2010's most influential people by Time magazine.
A former Playboy Playmate turned actress, comedian and author Jenny McCarthy has proven that she's more than just a pretty face in the world of autism. When her son, Evan, was diagnosed with the disorder back in 2005, this vivacious blond dove right in to the world of autism and began fighting for her son and thousands of other autistic children. In 2007 McCarthy became a spokesperson for Talk About Curing Autism (TACA) and used her celebrity status to fundraise for the group. Concerned about the toxins in immunizations and the safety of the vaccination schedule, she was one of the driving forces behind the 2008 Green Our Vaccines Rally in Washington, D.C. McCarthy is currently the spokesperson for Generation Rescue, a group which advocates that autism is caused by environmental factors and that recovery is possible. In addition to her role as a spokesperson, Jenny McCarthy has also written several books about autism and appeared on shows such as The Oprah Winfrey Show and Larry King Live.
Famous pro surfer Izzy Paskowitz and his wife Danielle are the founders of Surfers Healing, a non-profit organization that strives to enrich the lives of children with autism by exposing them to the unique experience of surfing. Having an autistic son himself, Paskowitz knows first hand the difficulties that parents of autistic children face. Like many autistic children, Paskowitz's son, Isaiah, frequently suffered from sensory overload and would have huge meltdowns. After one such meltdown, Paskowitz put his son on the front of his surfboard and headed out into the water. Miraculously the gentle flow of the ocean seemed to calm Isaiah. It was then that Izzy Paskowitz and his wife decided that they wanted to share this unique form of therapy with other autistic children. The pair founded Surfers Healing, whose mission is to provide free, one-day surf camps to autistic children and their families. Since then Surfers Healing has grown by leaps and bounds and holds camp all over the United States. Paskowitz and Surfers Healing have been featured on ESPN, Last Call with Carson Daly and The Swell Life, a reality TV show on the Oprah Winfrey Network which follows the day to day lives of Izzy Paskowitz and his family.
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