Autism Lights

My mom and I have been honored as Autism Lights by writer, Alan Stokes, whose blog focuses on “diverse heroes in and for the autism community.”  Please read the feature article here:   Alan writes, “We may never agree on or understand everything related to the diverse world of autism, but we can love completely those with autism and all those diverse rays of light who are seeking to make a difference on their behalf.”

Alan asked us a few questions that we want to highlight here:

Q:  Benjamin, tell me about something that would encourage others with autism.
A:  I know what bullying feels like. When I was in middle school, I actually gave my very first autism “presentation and talk-back” to kids in health class because I hoped that explaining about autism would help them be more kind. I wanted kids to appreciate me and my talents instead of teasing me about my differences. I never dreamed that I would go on to speak with hundreds of kids my age, helping them to understand that “being different” doesn’t mean that someone is less of a person. Actually, being different can give you insights and thoughts that others wouldn’t come up with—sometimes such ideas can change the world! Think of people like Albert Einstein and Temple Grandin… I’m doing what I can to teach about kindness and compassion, and one of my big dreams is to give my autism presentation in an events center filled to the top with people—I want to make an impact like a meteor!

Q:  Malva, do you have some advice for parents of children with autism?
A:  Always keep up hope and faith, keep reaching for the stars to help your child become the most that he/she is capable of, and find ways to maximize the silver linings that come with the darkest clouds….

2014 Autism Lights

Q:  Malva, can you tell me a bit about the therapies that you focused on?
A:  I personally worked therapeutically with Benjamin, all day, every day, always focusing on a heart-to-heart-connection and a feeling of joy, searching for what might motivate him. I used behavioral principles for teaching skills, but always focused on the “dance” that is the art of teaching (knowing when to lead and when to follow). Music, art, dance, and poetry were sources of inspiration; I added lots of movement and sensory integration, and found teaching opportunities in every ordinary situation. Additional support of Benjamin’s progress came from his specially tailored diet, holistic therapies (like homeopathy and bodywork), and also from bio-medical testing/treatment.

Q:  I read on Facebook that Benjamin will have an extended year in high school in 2014-2015. What are his plans for the future? Will he continued with his public speaking? And what about your plans, Malva?
A:  Benjamin was just invited to be one of the keynote speakers at the national U.S. Autism & Asperger’s Assoc. conference (in Kansas City, MO) as part of a TEDx-style presentation. He is hoping for further opportunities such as this to keep spreading his message of hope, compassion, joy, and determination. Aside from public speaking, Benjamin intends to continue performing in musical theater and choirs, to find work that involves nature/plants/animals/people, and to develop an intimate relationship with a wonderful woman. I will continue to assist Benjamin in whatever ways are necessary as he continues growing into increasing independence, and I’ll continue to be a violinist in a professional symphony. Together, Benjamin and I plan to create and give more presentations to raise autism awareness wherever we can.

Alan writes:  “Special thanks to Benjamin and Malva Tarasewicz for being an inspiration to many. Although Benjamin has accomplished much, it is apparent that his success was furthered by the dedication and diligence of his devoted mother, Malva. The story of how Benjamin breaks barriers provides an example to many autism families facing an uncertain future. We look forward to hearing exciting things from Benjamin Tarasewicz in the future as he continues as a self-advocate for autism.

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