By Haley Moss
Hi! My name is Haley Moss and I am a 19-year-old college student with high functioning autism from Boca Raton, Florida. I currently am in my second year at the University of Florida (go Gators!), and I am studying both Psychology and Criminology. I hope to go to law school to help legally advocate for those who have autism and other special needs related challenges. Outside of being an overworked college student who wants more sleep on a regular basis, I am an author, autism advocate and an artist. I have written two books, Middle School: The Stuff Nobody Tells You About and A Freshman Survival Guide For Students With Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Stuff Nobody Tells You About! The survival guide will be released in June 2014, so keep your eyes peeled for it! I hope you enjoy it nearly as much as I enjoyed living the college experience and writing about it. I enjoy public speaking in order to give autism a voice and to advocate on behalf of others and myself.
I am also an artist, and that is something I will be talking about today. I draw and paint for everyone: for charity, to make other people smile, and for myself. Lots of my artwork is donated to help raise funds and awareness for nonprofit organizations, specifically those that benefit individuals with autism. It is a fun way to give back that rewards the organization and the buyer, since everyone is contributing to the community! A lot of people find my artwork to be very cheerful. The amount of smiles I’ve seen are beautiful and make creating even more fulfilling. I use a lot of colors in my work because color is usually a great way to express happiness, and a lot of happy people are described as colorful and lively. I also create for myself, as selfish as that may sound. After a long and stressful day – as I said earlier, I’m doing two majors and I’m also graduating early! – I sometimes just need to decompress and feel less overwhelmed. Art is my escape from the world around me. I could just disappear into a world controlled by my hands and head; filled with color and beautiful things that people might not even pay attention to – but I do. Sometimes I lose myself in it, but I think the end result is worth it.
So the advice I give all families and people with autism – find your passion. Everyone I’ve met on the autism spectrum is so gifted. Open your hearts, explore and try new things. You never know what you’re going to find. And when you find that passion, don’t quit. Keep developing it and growing within yourself. It’s worth it, I promise.
About the Author
Haley Moss is a 19-year old South Florida native and University of Florida sophomore who was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism at age three. Haley is an award-winning artist and has been featured on many television programs such as CNN, PBS and NBC as well as in numerous magazines and national newspapers. Her awards include the 2011 Council For Exceptional Children’s Yes I Can! International Award and the 10th Annual Samsung’s Hope Teen Hero Award in 2011. Recently, Haley has been appointed to the Unicorn Village Academy’s Board of Directors and an Asperkids Advisor of Awesomeness.