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Let’s Celebrate Our Remarkable Community Today and Tomorrow

January 26, 2024

A new year is upon us, and it’s time to celebrate!

While we are excited about the future here at the magazine, we’re also delighted to look back at the past year and say thank you to our loyal readers and advertisers who have supported our community. We are proud of the strong and compassionate group that has blossomed over the years.

We also want to thank everyone who has played a role in our content this past year. It takes an extraordinary group of contributors to create an award-winning publication. From autism specialists, scientists, and educators, to autism parents and people who are on the spectrum, your knowledge, research, and guidance have touched the lives of so many people.

Several years ago, when we were awarded the esteemed Gold Award in the category of Family/Parenting from the Mom’s Choice Awards, we made it a tradition to highlight several of our key contributors. Selecting a limited number of people to receive this honor is always a challenge as we have worked regularly with hundreds of talented people. Everyone deserves gratitude.

We would like to highlight the following contributors selected for this special recognition for 2017:

Derrick HayesDerrick Hayes Award

Top Autism Advocate
Derrick Hayes

Derrick Hayes is an author, motivational speaker, and paraprofessional with males with autism in the Muscogee County School District in Columbus, Georgia. He provides AUTISM interviews for Autism Parenting Magazine each month by asking six questions through each letter in the word “autism” to give readers insightful perspectives from parents, experts, entrepreneurs, and other leaders in the field

Rob Bernstein  Rob Bernstein Award

Top Autism Assessment and Treatment Writer
Rob Bernstein

Rob Bernstein, an educational therapist specializing in autism spectrum disorders, gives hands-on suggestions for handling a child’s behavioral issues each month in Autism Parenting Magazine. Rob uses a cognitive approach to understand what’s underlying the behaviors so the issues can be resolved. He has over three decades of experience working with individuals with problematic behaviors including tantrums, repetitive behaviors, self-destructive behaviors, hitting, cursing, miscommunication and non communication, school issues, and difficulties relating to others. Rob is also the parent of an adult son who is on the autism spectrum.

Maria RohanMaria Rohan Award

Top Autism Health Writer
Maria Rohan, RN, BSN

Maria Rohan, RN, BSN, is a registered nurse at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. Outside of the nursing field, Maria has dedicated her life to working with children with disabilities, trying to give them as many opportunities as possible. Having worked with children with autism for 10 years and having the autism diagnosis in her family, Maria writes interactive workbooks for children with autism, molding each workbook to a child’s musical voice pattern, attention span, and likes. She also works with multiple schools writing grants and lesson plans and attempting to fulfill any dreams they have for their classrooms. Every year she conducts a sensory-friendly prom for special needs children in her area. She currently sits on the PTO of STEPS Center for Excellence in Autism and continues to let her love for the children plant seeds of movement.

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William Shaw William Shaw Award

Top Autism News Writer
William Shaw, PhD

William Shaw received a PhD in biochemistry, genetics, and human physiology from the Medical University of South Carolina and is board-certified in the fields of clinical chemistry and toxicology. He was Director of Clinical Chemistry, Endocrinology, and Toxicology at Children’s Mercy Hospital, the teaching hospital of the University of Missouri at Kansas City School of Medicine. He is now the director of The Great Plains Laboratory in Lenexa, Kansas that offers worldwide testing for abnormal metabolic diseases and metal and nonmetal toxic chemicals, metabolites from yeast and bacteria, opiate peptides from wheat and milk, mycotoxins, and food allergies. Many of these are important in autism and PDD. Dr. Shaw has published two books on autism treatments: Biological Treatments for Autism and PDD. What’s going on? What can you do about it? and Autism: Beyond the Basics. He estimates that his laboratory has tested samples of more than 100,000 people with autism in most of the countries in the world and has presented seminars to parents and physicians on the causes and treatments of autism throughout the world.

Areva MartinAreva Martin Award

Top Autism Rights Writer
Areva Martin, Esq.

Areva Martin, Esq is one of the nation’s leading voices in the media. An attorney, legal and social issues commentator, and talk show host, she is an audience favorite on a long list of talk and news shows on CNN, ABC, and Fox. With regular appearances on Good Morning America and Dr. Phil, Areva is also a co-host on the Emmy Award-winning daytime syndicated talk show The Doctors. A Harvard Law School graduate, Areva is the founding partner of Martin & Martin, LLP. She represents clients in high-stakes civil and disability rights and employment litigation. She has been identified as a Southern California Super Lawyer for the last three years. Recognized as one of the nation’s leading autism and children’s rights advocates, she is the founder of Special Needs Network, Inc. and the author of an Amazon best-selling book, The Everyday Advocate: Standing Up for Your Child with Autism and Other Special Needs (Penguin 2010).

Lieutenant Joseph Pangaro Lieutenant Joseph Pangaro Award

Top Autism Safety Advisor
Lieutenant Joseph Pangaro (Ret.)

Lieutenant Joseph Pangaro (Ret.) is a 27-year veteran of law enforcement. He retired in 2013 at the rank of lieutenant and currently serves as the director of school safety and security for a large school district in NJ. He is also the owner of Pangaro Training and Management, a company that provides training to the public and private sectors on a host of topics. Mr. Pangaro is also a staff writer for the magazine NJ Blue Now.

Debra MooreDebra Moore Award

Top Autism Solutions Writer
Debra Moore, Ph.D.

Debra Moore, PhD, is a psychologist who, prior to retirement from an active practice, worked extensively with children, teens, and adults on the autism spectrum. She coauthored The Loving Push: How Parents and Professionals Can Help Spectrum Kids Become Successful Adults (2016) with Dr. Temple Grandin. She contributed two chapters (one coauthored with Dr. Temple Grandin) to The Nine Degrees of Autism (2015) and wrote the chapter Internet and Gaming Addiction in Youth on the Autism Spectrum: A Particularly Vulnerable Population in Internet Addiction in Children and Adolescents: Risk Factors, Assessment, and Treatment (2017). She also facilitates the groups Autism Spectrum Across the Lifespan, and Autism Spectrum HELPING HANDS Mentors on LinkedIn.com.

Cheri Florance  Cheri Florance Award

Top Communication Advisor
Cheri Florance, PhD

Cheri Florance, PhD, has a dual doctorate in speech and hearing science and psychology from Ohio State University. As a clinical research fellow for the National Institutes of Health, she studied the neuroscience of human attention-memory and processing for five years, and that research led her to develop five-step training programs for highly visual thinkers with communication problems of attention, memory, listening, reading, speaking, and writing. This includes her son, her third child, who, shortly after birth, was diagnosed as deaf, autistic, and severely mentally disabled. Combining her maternal instinct with her knowledge of the brain science of communication, she was able to identify the problem and develop training that eventually completely eradicated all of the child’s symptoms. He is now a college graduate and a chemical engineer. She wrote about this experience in her book, Maverick Mind: A Mother’s Story of Solving the Mystery of Her Unreachable, Unteachable, Silent Son. Currently, Dr. Florance works with families all over the US, as well as internationally, using all the tools of e-learning and web conferencing. She also conducts individualized “Brain Retreat” camps in Florida.

Debbie GelinasDebbie Gelinas Award
Top Educational Advice Writer
Debbie Gelinas

Debbie Gelinas’s passion has been making the world better for all of our children. Her background includes advocating for children who have been abused and neglected, and for the past one and a half decades, her focus has shifted to being a voice for children who cannot speak for themselves due to disability and/or a condition that impacts their holistic learning. Debbie is the founder of IEP Coaching & Advocacy, an organization that strives to provide professional and expert services to parents of children who have a need for a Section 504 plan and/or who require an individual education plan, within either the public or private school setting. Debbie has been a wife for over 35 years to the father of four incredible blessings, and their fourth blessing is now a teenager with Down syndrome. Debbie’s love of her work is evident, and she considers it a gift to participate alongside parents as their children’s advocate.

Jeff Strong Jeff Strong Award

Top Music Therapy Writer
Jeff Strong

Jeff Strong is the creator of the auditory brain stimulation therapy Rhythmic Entrainment Intervention (REI). He is the CEO of the Strong Institute and co-founder of braishiftradio.com. Jeff has been using musical rhythm to help people with autism for over 25 years.

Cara Koscinski Cara Koscinski Award

Top Occupational Therapist Writer
Cara Koscinski

Cara Koscinski, MOT/OTR/L, obtained her master’s degree in occupational therapy in 1997. She is the parent of two children with autism and SPD. Cara is known as “The Pocket Occupational Therapist,” has written four published books, and has created two CDs for children with fear of loud noises. Additionally, she speaks at conferences and for Future Horizons, serves as an OT Advisor for Autism Asperger’s Digest, and teaches continuing education courses in the US and the UK.

James GuttmanJames Guttman Award

Top Parental Advice Writer
James Guttman

James Guttman has been writing for 15 years and introduced his blog last year. James writes about parenting both of his children (one nonverbal and one nonstop verbal), self-reflection, and all that comes with fatherhood. His mix of humor and honesty aims to normalize the way people view raising a child with special needs and show that we, as parents, are all basically the same, regardless of the children.

Colleen Nagle TrynerColleen Nagle Tryner Award

Top Personal Narrative Writer
Colleen Nagle Tryner

Colleen Nagle Tryner is the parent of a 19-year-old son with nonverbal autism. She resides in Illinois, were she diligently researches communication and how to teach her son skills including self-help, academics, independent life skills, and American Sign Language (ASL), to name a few. Together, Colleen and her son spend their days together, learning from each other. Colleen is continuing her education having returned to college last year. She began homeschooling her son when he was 12 years old and has been successful in teaching him beginner ASL. She has documented her journey in numerous articles shared among the community of parents of disabled children and lectured at colleges to courses full of future doctors, teachers, therapists, and psychologists. She has a large following of her journey across social media sites, referred to as Autism Sign Language.

Nancy PeskeNancy Peske Award

Top Sensory Needs Advisor
Nancy Peske

Nancy Peske, the Sensory Smart Parent, began learning about sensory issues when her son was a toddler and diagnosed with sensory processing disorder and multiple developmental delays. With her son’s occupational therapist, Lindsey Biel, OTR/L, she co-wrote the award-winning Raising a Sensory Smart Child: The Definitive Handbook for Helping Your Child with Sensory Issues. Nancy speaks to parents and professionals about practical ways to help kids with sensory issues.

Ryan F. Platt Ryan F. Platt Award

Top Special Needs Financial Writer
Ryan F. Platt, MBA, ChFC®, ChSNC™

Ryan F. Platt, MBA, ChFC®, ChSNC™ completed his Special Care Planner Certification in 2005 at the American College in Bryn Mawr, PA, in which he received advanced training in estate and tax planning, special needs trusts, government programs, and the emotional dynamics of working with people and families with special needs loved ones. In 2013, he went on to complete the Chartered Special Needs Consultant designation. A pioneer in his field, Ryan is one of only a few planners certified through Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) and the American College in Special Care Planning in Charlotte. He is the founder of A Special Needs Plan.

Janele HoernerJanele Hoerner Award

Top Special Needs Writer
Janele Hoerner

Janele Hoerner is the author of Loving the Soul Beneath the Autism: An Interior Analysis of the Impact a Special Needs Child Bestows upon the Family. Her book details her son’s life, from in utero, to his diagnosis at three years of age, and concludes with the beginnings of his first year of school at five years of age. She believes her son is the greatest gift that she has ever received and wishes to help all individuals come to understand that people with special needs are an important part of our society. She lives with her husband and their five children in Lancaster County, PA.

This article was featured at Issue 71 – Navigating a New Year

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