Lawyer On The Spectrum Hopes To Advocate, Inspire
BOCA RATON, Fla. — When Haley Moss was diagnosed with autism at 3 years old, doctors told her parents that she would be lucky to graduate high school and get a minimum-wage job.
Two decades later, Moss is a law school graduate, a practicing attorney, a published author and an inspiring voice for children on the autism spectrum.
Moss, 24, was honored at a Boca Raton gala over the weekend with an award from the nonprofit Unicorn Children’s Foundation for changing the conversation surrounding autism.
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“It’s about dreams and following dreams and having no limits,” said Moss, a Miami-based attorney.
Moss, one of the few voices of female activists with autism, often volunteers for the nonprofit that helps children and adults with developmental or learning disorders through education, awareness and jobs programs. Moss is getting the Occhigrossi Family Youth in Service Award for her exceptional work spreading acceptance of those with special needs.
Moss’ main goal: Change the negative, debilitating stigma often associated with autism. People with autism aren’t less, Moss said, they’re different.
“How our brains work is also a form of diversity,” she said. “No two brains are the same. Just because my brain works more like a Mac than a PC doesn’t mean I’m any less human.”
She’s describing the term “neurodiversity,” one that autism advocates, researchers and families are pushing to describe developmental differences in children and adults to level the playing field for those on the spectrum.
Moss has high-functioning autism, meaning she can speak, read and write comfortably, but finds some social situations unbearable. Bright lights and jazz music are among the scenarios.
“Imagine being in Target in the TV aisle and all the TVs are on as loud as possible, all on different channels blaring,” Moss said. “That’s what jazz music is like for me. That’s what some situations are like.”
Even with limitations, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and a law degree from the University of Miami.
As a sophomore in high school, Moss published her first book: “Middle School: The Stuff Nobody Tells You About,” a guide for kids on the spectrum to handle intimidating situations in school.
She went on to write a similar guide after her first year in college: “A Freshman Survival Guide for College Students With Autism Spectrum Disorders.”
“When I started college, I wanted to hear from somebody who went through it,” she said. “The conversation is dominated by parents and professionals, but we rarely hear from the people with autism who live through it.”
It’s one reason Moss focuses her efforts on advocacy — she wants to encourage people on the spectrum to speak out.
“It takes a village to raise a child,” Moss said. “Well, it takes an even bigger village to raise a special needs child. I realized I could be an integral part of a child’s village.”
© 2019 The Palm Beach Post
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