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Autistic teen aims to aid others through her art, writing

April 23rd, 2010

The Autism News | English

Haley Moss

By Robin Benedick | Miami Herald

Haley Moss is a typical teenager in many ways. At 15, she has a learner’s permit and loves practicing driving with her dad on weekends. Going to the mall with her mom is one of her favorite pastimes. She also spends a lot of time on the computer and on video games at her spacious Parkland home.

But Haley’s passion and talent for art and writing are anything but typical, considering she recently became a published author and acclaimed artist while struggling every day with autism.

Diagnosed at age 3 with a developmental disorder that affects her ability to communicate and interact with others, Haley is on a mission to help other kids with special needs — and even those without.

Her book, Middle School: The Stuff Nobody Tells You About, offers advice and anecdotes from her experiences as well as those from teachers and other kids with autism. She wants to help sixth- to eighth-graders deal with everything from changing classes to making friends.

“Middle school was the hardest time of my life,” said Haley, who attended three middle schools and is now a sophomore and straight-A student at Pine Crest private school in Fort Lauderdale.

“I’m bad with social stuff and in middle school, I wasn’t into talking about boys and makeup and parties like the other girls my age were,” she said. “Most people thought I was weird or shy or something.”

Over the past two years, Haley has become like a poster child for people with autism, choosing to go public with what had been a private family concern.

School administrators knew about Haley’s autism, but she didn’t openly talk about it until her artwork received attention at galleries throughout South Florida.

Before her first art show, a teacher suggested she talk to students in the auditorium about her art and autism.

“It felt really empowering,” Haley said of her meeting with students. “I’ve learned that autism is not who I am but it’s part of who I am.”

That experience at school and on a panel discussion for the Autism Society of America made Haley realize that she could help people better understand and deal with the disorder. After she spoke on that panel, a publisher approached her about writing a book. She now hopes to write a similar handbook for kids in high school and publish a picture book for autistic kids who don’t talk.

“Haley is such an inspiration to other kids with autism because she gives them hope,” said her mom, Sherry Moss, who added that the decision to go public has been a relief. “They have to know that if one thing doesn’t work, try something else.”

She remembers that when Haley was diagnosed with autism, some parents wouldn’t let their kids play with her because they thought she was contagious. Moss said she didn’t mention Haley’s autism again.

Today, it’s not uncommon to know someone with autism as the occurence has risen to one in every 110 births in the United States, and almost one in 70 boys, according to a December 2009 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. The Autism Society in Bethesda, Md., says 1.5 million Americans are living with autism. Several events are planned around the country this month to commemorate April as Autism Awareness Month.


Doctors prepared Haley’s parents for the worst, saying she would be lucky to talk. But her parents didn’t give up. They said they were lucky to have the resources to get Haley private speech therapy and hippotherapy, which uses a horse and speech therapist to increase verbal communication through sensory input from the horse. Haley’s mom said she worked tirelessly with Haley, trying different things until she found strategies that worked.

Haley started talking at age 4, and she is considered to be on the high-functioning side of autism. She doesn’t have to study hard to earn good grades. She seems more mature intellectually than her age, but socially, she struggles. She tends to feel more comfortable talking to adults than kids her age.

“Haley doesn’t really think of the autism as any kind of a drawback, rather that everybody has something to deal with and this is hers and she looks at it as a learning experience,” said Estes Carns, the guidance counselor at Pine Crest. “She is so talented and so unique and at the same time she is always thinking about other people.”

Haley has always attended regular schools. She channels her positive energy into colorful computerized sketch art, which combines Japanese comic art and cartoons into whimsical designs.


Her digital illustrations, which have been compared to renowned artist Romero Britto, are on display at ARTcetera in Boca Raton, Hertz Jewelers in Parkland and Boynton Beach and GrovePopArt in Coconut Grove. One of her paintings sold for $1,200 at an auction to benefit the University of Miami/Nova Southeastern University’s Center for Autism and Related Disabilities or CARD.

Haley was discovered as an artist almost by accident when she was 13. Her parents bought art at a gallery and showed a collection book of other pieces in their home. Haley’s drawings were in the back of the book.

“We didn’t realize how good she was then,” Moss said. “It was always just for fun.”

It’s not uncommon for high-functioning people with autism to have special interests and talents, especially in visual arts, said Diane Adreon, CARD’s associate director. Haley has gone to the center since being diagnosed. The center provides free consultation to about 5,000 families affected by autism in Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.


Adreon attributed Haley’s success to her mom and dad, Rick Moss, owner of a home healthcare company, for working so hard to give Haley self-esteem and a pretty normal childhood. Haley didn’t find out until she was 9 years old why she was different from other kids. Her mom compared her to Harry Potter, with whom she shares a birthday: July 31. She told Haley that Harry Potter is different from other wizards and moguls just as Haley is different from other kids — in a good way.

For now, Haley plans to enjoy drawing, writing, playing with her standard poodles, Thomas and Zaki, and appreciate being featured on TV, the Internet and in newspapers and magazines. Asked what she wants to be when she grows up, Haley said she might be a psychologist or an artist or a picture-book author and illustrator. Or all of the above. Haley gives a similar all-inclusive answer when asked to name her favorite color.

“I’m a color person. I like them all,” she says with a laugh. “I don’t want any one color to feel bad.”
Haley Moss Art on NBC6 Miami in October 2009

Source: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/04/23/1593972/autistic-teen-aims-to-aid-others.html

Haley Moss Art on NBC6 Miami (7/24/2009)

[pro-player] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wq4R3JDmsDE [/pro-player]

Middle School – The Stuff Nobody Tells You About: A Teenage Girl with ASD Shares Her Experiences (Paperback)
~ Haley Moss (Author)

• Paperback: 160 pages
• Publisher: Autism Asperger Publishing Co,US; First edition (March 2, 2010)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 1934575623
• ISBN-13: 978-1934575628
• Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.5 inches

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