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y t i r b e l Ce dition E


Fall 2019 Issue #9 $2.99

Autism Moms Are Beautiful

Julie & Lizzie Hornok United in Autism Jona Xiao

Believe in Yourself

Candice Webb

Whitney Mercilus

Autism Mom

WithMerci Foundation

Marcus Boyd Autistic Dad

Zalyn's Boulevards Go-To-Beauty Selections

Fina Ferrara Dancing is Therapy


Nichole Wilson

Chief Advisor

Steve Levine

Lead Advisor

Haley Ahart-Keiffer

Associate Advisor

Donna Shatara Porche

Associate Advisor

Maria Merrick

Associate Advisor

Marta Brain

Associate Advisor

Gayle Fisher

Creative Director

Nichole Wilson

Managing Editor

Sindu Alakot

Style Editor

Nichole Wilson

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Autism Moms please join the Private Facebook Group: Autism Moms Are Beautiful with Nichole Wilson

Follow us on IG: @amab_magazine Website: On the cover: Julie Hornok and Lizzie Hornok Photo credit: Carrianne Photography


EDITORS NOTE Nichole Wilson


CANDICE WEBB Autism Moms Rock


THE DECAF SEGMENT Autism Moms, Let it Out




CONFESSIONS Anonymous Autism Mom


JONA XIAO Always Go For It


FINA FERRARA Dancing is Therapy


MARTA BRAIN A Moment with Marta Fabulous Autistic Mama


PICK A QUOTE, ANY QUOTE Encourage and Motivate


JESS WESSEL-BORGIC A Moment with Jess Fabulous Autistic Mama


MARIA MERRICK Be the Voice for Those Who Have none


GAYLE FISHER Let me Brighten YOUR Day


ZALYN'S BOULEVARD Go-To-Beauty Selections


ANA ESPARZA Breast Cancer Survivor




JULIE HORNOK United in Autism


WRITE TO US Letters from our readers


MARCUS BOYD Autistic Dad's Rock

Editor's Note

Autism Moms Are Beautiful is a magazine providing encouragement, motivation, and empowerment.

This particular issue is filled with beautiful articles and highlights

from Autism Moms raising children on and off the Autism Spectrum. inspire all readers. 

Our goal is to

We at AMAB Magazine believe it is important for parents raising

children on the spectrum to continue to love themselves and follow their dreams. Everyone in the community is gaining a better understanding of our world.  theme of this issue is Dazzling and Marvelous. radiant.


To dazzle is to be bright, flashy, and

To be marvelous signifies someone who is awesome, astounding, and


We hope our articles bring a little dazzle to your day and beam rays of

love on your marvelous nights.

Sharing the expressions of Autism Moms and Dads

while guided with love brings happiness to everyone here at AMAB. continue to stay strong for our little ones. 

We must

By doing this, we let everyone know that

Autism Moms Are Beautiful and we rock the universe!

Nichole Wilson Editor-in-Chief

“Advocating means to not only fight for what I believe in, but fight for what is right.”

Whitney Mercilus WITHMERCI FOUNDATION Interviewed by: Nichole Wilson

NW: There are so many hashtags out there to bring awareness. How do you feel about #differentnotless? 

Whitney Mercilus is a phenomenal supporter of special

WM: We are all different. God made everyone different.

needs families. He brings so much joy to Houston, not

That is what makes us unique. Just because I may look

only as a football player but also as an advocate for the

different, act different, talk different, and think different,

special needs community. As an Autism Mom, it brings

doesn't mean that I am less than the person next to me. It

me great joy to express how much this interview has

doesn't mean that I will perform less than the guy next to

inspired me. It was an honor interviewing Mr. Mercilus,

me. Being the same as everyone else would be boring.



the Founder of WithMerci Foundation.

think being different or unique makes a better narrative for every individual.

Nichole Wilson: Mr. Mercilus, what inspired you to create the WithMerci Foundation?

NW: Finding support is so hard for many families.

Whitney Mercilus:    I always knew that I wanted to

What words of encouragement can you give these

give back in some way after I was drafted. It was


something that my parents instilled in me and my

WM: Connect with other families who may have similar

siblings growing up. I would visit children in the

struggles. They can serve as a resource for those families

hospital early on in my career. That helped me to

who are in need of direction or support. Social media is

understand exactly what I wanted to focus on. I would

one of the biggest platforms we have. My foundation,

often see the children struggling in the hospital and

WithMerci, has been able to connect with most of our

then witness their parents feeling helpless because they

current partners through social media. The internet is

couldn't provide everything that their child needed. I

another big resource.

knew then that I had to use my platform and birth the

formed by families that have similar struggles. Last but not

WithMerci Foundation.

least, pray and ask God for help and direction through your

There are so many support groups

journey. He understands every thought, desire, pain, and

NW: What does advocating mean to you?   WM:   Advocating means to not only fight for what I

believe in, but fight for what is right. It means doing everything that I can in my power, by using my platform, to support and be the voice for the children whose voice has been silenced. 8

frustration. God will direct your path.

Autism Moms Rock music video Over 62,000 Facebook views!

"Besides praying daily (often multiple times a day), I work out! Working out is a great way to relieve stress." NW: Your son is now 18 years old.


your journey easy? CW: Absolutely not!

been one of the most difficult things for me

Interviewed by: Nichole Wilson Makeup by: Camilia Wilson Photo credit: Point and Click Photography

and my family.

CAND I CE WEBB Autism Moms Rock

Candice Webb has been in the world of Autism for a while now.  Candice has a smile that will uplift and encourage you so that you can get through your day in peace.  believes in staying positive.

This journey has


Everyone who

receives one on one time with Candice will cherish that moment for the rest of their

When we got the diagnosis,

Tre was 3 years and 5 months old and Autism was not nearly as prevalent as it is today.

1 in 188 children was diagnosed at

that time and we didn't have all of the resources that are available today.


were no support groups. Heck, no one aided us on our journey until much later in life. It took us almost 3 years to get any services and that was with two different private insurances.

Although autism still presents

many challenges for me, I would not change my life for all of the riches in the world! The experience has been very humbling and Tre has taught me more than any professor


could ever teach me. I have learned to be

Nichole Wilson: How many kids do you

matters in life.


no words. It is truly an action.

grateful for the little things and what really

Candice Webb: I have two beautiful

children, a girl, and a boy. My son is my

I know now that love needs

NW: If you could go back and do

eldest and is on the Spectrum.

something different, what would you do?

NW: When you were told your son was

I didn't send him to a private school that

Autistic, how did you feel?

specializes in Autism.

CW: In the beginning, I blamed myself, even

been taught in a 1 to 1 ratio learning

though I hadn't done anything that was even remotely harmful to him throughout my pregnancy.

I was consumed and

overwhelmed with guilt. I was working at the time and took off work for 3 months. It was literally like a mourning period for me.

CW: I used to want to change the fact that

I felt like if he had

environment that things would be different. I no longer feel this way.

I feel like he is

just the way he is meant to be. We will continue to aid him with exceeding his goals to become as independent as possible and to be able to effectively communicate.

NW: If you were able to change one thing in the school district what would it be? CW:

Inclusion, inclusion, inclusion! I feel that Autistic individuals can learn from

neurotypical individuals and vice versa. There is always a lesson to be learned by both parties!  I take Tre basically everywhere.

It is not easy and I never know what type of

behaviors will be displayed by Tre, but I rarely let this stop me from taking adventures with him because I not only want to expose him to the world,

I want to expose the world to Tre!

Autistic individuals have the same rights to enjoy life as anyone else, so I refuse to keep him behind 4 walls! NW: Where do you see Tre in the next five years? CW:   I am hoping to help him decrease some of his behaviors, continue to aid him with

some form of effective communication, and help him become as independent as possible. Our ultimate goal is to seek gainful employment for him. job is, he can shred papers as far as I am concerned.

It does not matter how simple the

I just want him to be the best he can

be, have a sense of responsibility, and feel like he matters. biggest dreams for him is to become an Autistic Model.

In addition to this, one of my

Tre loves taking pictures so, I can

see him doing this if he has the right photographers. NW: To keep yourself going, what do you do for yourself? CW:   Besides praying daily (often multiple times a day), I work out!

Working out is a great

way to relieve stress. It also gives me more energy, which is needed to keep up with Tre because he can be very busy and he only sleeps about 4 hours a day on average.

Lastly, it

clears my mind and actually allows me to process my thoughts because often times I become discombobulated due to the lack of sleep and the fact that my life is so hectic. NW:  Express some encouraging words to other Autism Moms who are on this journey. CW:    First and foremost, I want you all to know that you are not alone, nor are you at fault

for your child's diagnosis. You are your child's advocate. don't ever settle!

Fight for what is best for them and

They just learn differently so they may need extra support,

accommodations, and/or modifications! Your child is beautiful and the sky is the limit for him/her.  Also, do not be discouraged because your life is not as you expected it to be.

It is

perfectly imperfect! There is always something positive in every negative situation!  It is up to you to see the beauty in everything.

So look closely and you will see it!

Confessions of an Autism Mom Author: Autism Mom (anonymous)

I need her to sleep next to me just as much as she wants to sleep next to me. Truth is, I don’t have her sleep next to me because I know she’s afraid of the dark. I do it for safety and my sanity. She’s an eloper and doesn’t sleep, she sleeps 30 minutes to 2 hours at a time. I need sleep too. If she’s in our bed she wakes, but doesn’t get up out of bed. Hubs and my sex life? Guest room and creativity. “Life is fragile, handle with prayer”- unknown


Share your thoughts with us at Letters will be edited for space and clarity. All submissions become the property of AMAB Magazine.





DON'T YOU THINK YOUR CHILD HAD ENOUGH THERAPY? How many Autism Moms are tired of hearing this? This is how we really want to respond:

NO! There is no such thing as too much therapy!

Always do as much as

you can to help your child grow! Unless the child has mastered all of their goals and they exceed their level, then they need to stay in the "Therapy" that was chosen. Some individuals require life long support for their lifelong diagnosis, and what that looks like will change over time.

Thank you: Giset King, Krysta Fields, Dondra Stang, Catherine Hughes, Donna Shatara Porche

“People are looking for exactly what gifts you have to offer.”

Jona Xiao

Photo credit: Ricky Middlesworth Interviewed by: Nichole Wilson


Jona Xiao is a phenomenal actress. I really enjoyed her in "Being Mary Jane".

As an actress she has inspired me

to dig deep into my passions and make it happen. Autism Moms Are Beautiful would like to thank Jona for

NW: Autism Moms Are Beautiful is filled with many

this awesome interview.

Autism Moms who feel they can no longer pursue their dreams. What advice can you give our moms

Nichole Wilson: Tell us a little bit about Jona Xaio

who need encouragement to get back out there in

Jona Xiao: I’m an actress. I’ve been in over 25+ Tv

the acting world?

shows and films.

JX:  In the entertainment business, there's a big push for

I’m the owner of CareerACTivate,

( a company that helps

diversity of all kinds. Just know that there are roles out

actors get more acting opportunities.

there for you.

I am also a flag

football quarterback.

People are looking for exactly what gifts

you have to offer.

I'm sure you would love to see more

autistic actors represented in film and TV, so...why not

NW: When you were a teenager did you know at

you? Some of the most important areas I recommend

that time you were ready to step into the world of

all actors to focus on is:

acting? JX: I fell in love with acting when I was 12 years old.



Finding your money making niche or brand.

took a drama class and did a performance of


Networking with industry professionals and building

Rappinstilskin, the rapping version of Rumplestilskin.

genuine relationships where you both would love to

Me as a rapper is a funny, funny thing, indeed! I loved


making people laugh and feel. That's when I decided I


Recognizing your craft as an artist.

wanted to be an actress.


Finding the right agents/managers for you, based on

who represents actors that have booked the specific TV

NW: Tell our readers who or what inspires you the

shows that you know you are right for.  

most and keeps you motivated daily? JX:   I think it's so important to focus on the bigger

Feel free to follow me. You can reach out to me at

picture. What is your WHY? That bigger, emotional why

jonaxiao on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

can help you get through any how, any challenge, or any obstacle. For me, the most important thing is making an impact on others. 15









Photo credit: Laura Ortiz Interviewed by: Nichole Wilson

FINA FERRARA Dancing is Therapy

Fina Ferrara is a phenomenal dancer. She has her own unique style and is known as a contemporary dance artist. I enjoyed intervieweing Fina and I am inspired to share her beautiful words of love and encouragement. Nichole Wilson: Fina, when did you start dancing? Fina Ferrara:   I´ve been dancing since I was four years old. That was more than 30 years ago. At the age of 10, I started my professional degree as a Ballet Dancer at the National Institute of Fine Arts (INBA) in Mexico.

NW: What point in your life did you know this is what you wanted to do? FF:   I think I fell in love with dancing when I started to pursue my degree. As the years passed, I realized that dancing was my passion. At one point, it was the only thing that really mattered to me. NW:   Did you ever hit a crossroad in your life where you doubted your abilities? FF:    Of course, many times! Dancing professionally is not easy. There is a lot of pressure, and being the perfectionist that I am, I tend to be really hard on myself.  I have quit dancing a few times, but I always end up dancing again, one way or the other. I think I have reached a point in my life where I have assumed that I need to move and dance in order to feel good, to feel like I am being myself. It has become less important how I move or dance, and more important how I feel when I do.

FINA FERRARA IG @fina_ferrara Facebook @danzafinaferrara Photo credit: Laura Ortiz

NW:  Can you please express to our readers encouraging things, people, or places that inspire and motivate you?  FF:    What inspires me? That is a complicated question. I get inspired by simple things, like a sunrise or laying down on the grass and watching the trees move with the wind. I love being surrounded by nature. I love watching all types of art. Bold artists like Anish Kapoor or Marina Abramovic catch my attention. There is a part of me that is always questioning things, beliefs, and standards. Emotions motivate me as well as all areas of the spectrum of emotions that we as humans are able to feel. I love it when I get feedback from my audience about what they felt. I think art itself is about reconnecting people with themselves and their emotions.  NW:   Raising a child on the autism spectrum can be tough and sometimes time consuming. What encouraging words can you express to an Autism Mom who wants to get back into being a dancer?  FF:    I guess I could say PLAY. Play with the tools you have for taking care of your child by mixing it up a little with body movement. Have fun. Move your body and even dance a little while cooking. Think out of the box. Stretch your body while picking up the toys or the dirty laundry from the floor. Don´t take yourself so seriously. Whenever you are about to explode in tears or anger, please do by transforming that energy into a nice performance, exploring your capacity of expression. Be patient with yourself. For those crazy days where you find yourself running up and down the stairs, look on the bright side! You are moving and exercising your body! It´s not a rule that you have to go to the gym in order to stay fit. So dance every day while you do your everyday activities, and slowly things will align. You will find yourself some years later giving out a performance to your peers and feeling utterly satisfied!

Photo credit: Horacio Flores 19


Hello Autism Moms! I am not just your ordinary mom raising beautiful boys with autism. I am an Autistic adult raising two boys on the autism spectrum. I am sure you are wondering how I was able to do this. Well, as an Autistic adult, I realized that I had to put so much on the side for my babies who were on the autism spectrum.  I also have OCD and having kids around who are very messy, really irritated my OCD.   I constantly found myself chasing my oldest son around our home. I was constantly cleaning up after him with my broom, vacuum, and wipes.  Having dirty floors has always been a pet peeve of mine.  I hate to see my floors dirty.   With the help of counseling, I have overcome so much over the years. Counseling has also helped me with my second son.  Also, I have received lots of love and support from my family and friends. They have really helped me too.   I am an Autism Mom and I rock!


Join us every 4th Thursday!

Thanksgiving with Zeni' I remember when Zeni was five years old. We were invited to attend a family outing for Thanksgiving. Anyone who knows Zeni knows that she tends to be a very picky eater. So I prepared her own meal from home. I remember someone inquiring as to why I would bring her food from home when our family member went through all the hard work to make dinner for everyone. I politely responded, ”She just doesn't like the dishes that were made, but I am going to enjoy every bite.” Nichole Wilson Editor-in-Chief

As a mother, I remember so clearly knowing something was “off” with my son. He was my first child and I heard from countless people that things were fine, that I was exaggerating or that I was worrying needlessly as children progress at their own rate. There was one instance where I was taking my son to a Mom and Me Dance Class. We had gone the week before and had a great time. The second time, however, things were different. My son kept crying and fussing and eventually screaming. We left the room and he immediately stopped crying. I then realized the difference: this second week was crowded with more people, which meant more noise and sensory stimulation. My instinct was correct... I just had to be confident enough to follow it. I was right; my son was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2 1⁄2. I am a firm believer in a




mother’s intuition. You know your child better than anyone. Never allow anyone to stifle what you believe to be best for your child. Surround yourself with a tribe...people you can lean on for support...whether that’s family, friends or a group of parents’ also raising children with autism. At the end of the day...whether good or bad, always remember you are beautiful, what you do matters and you are making a positive impact on the life of your child!!!



ou y or f t ju s

3 Steps to Host an Autism-Friendly Christmas for Autistic Children Step 1: Don't be afraid to ask questions

Some Autistic children are picky eaters. Remember to ask about food preferences. Find out if they are comfortable sitting with the family at the dinner table. Don't forget to ask if the child has a sensory disorder.

Step 2: Have no expectations Please remember to not make any assumptions about the child. Don't expect the Autistic child to respond the same way as one you may have met in the past.

Step 3: Be loving, patient and explain Autism to family and friends in attendance Be loving, patient, and be sure to explain Autism to family members and friends in attendance. It is important for everyone especially the children that their family member is different but still very much equal. Remind them to always be kind.

New Mental Health Hospital Takes Center Stage Summer 2019 in Harris County UTHealth President Dr. Giuseppe N. Colasurdo, left, HHS Executive Commissioner Dr. Courtney N. Phillips and State Rep. Dr. John Zerwas hold their shovels and hard hats at the groundbreaking for the Continuum of Care Campus for Behavioral Health.

Dr. Giuseppe N. Colasurdo, (left), Dr. Courtney N. Phillips (middle) and Dr. John Zerwas (right)

HHSC, in partnership with the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, broke ground on the new UTHealth Continuum of Care Campus for Behavioral Health on June 26. The groundbreaking ceremony took place at the construction site next to the Harris County Psychiatric Center. It marked the first major state mental health hospital construction project since the El Paso Psychiatric Center opened in 1996 and the first public mental health hospital built in Houston in over 30 years. In 2017, the legislature allocated $125 million to HHSC for the construction and planning costs. The 240-bed campus slated to be completed in late 2021 and will provie inpatient acute psychiatric care and support to help patients transition back into their communities.

“We are so excited to partner with UTHealth, the community, the county and the federal partners,” said HHS Executive Commissioner Dr. Courtney N. Phillips at the groundbreaking ceremony. “It takes all of us making this commitment and this partnership to make it happen. This partnership is one that is not happening everywhere. It’s happening here in Texas. It allows us to be innovative, to build the academic pipeline and to serve those who we have been entrusted to serve.” Architecture firm Perkins and Will took the importance of natural daylight and acoustics into consideration for patients’ health, as seen in this rendering of a hallway with therapy rooms. The camplus will foucs on short-term civil commitmnets and complex medical needs. “It’s not just bricks and mortar,” said Deputy Executive Commissioner Mike Maples, who oversees the Health and Specialty Care System. “We’re redesigning the whole continuum of care for people so that mental health care becomes something you have immediate access to. You have the best outcomes possible and return to a life of independence as best you can. This is a starting point and a great day."

contributed by: Maria Merrick YOUTH Be the Voice for MAGAZINE Those Who Have none


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Gayle Y. Fisher, M.Ed., Ed.Tech. Improving the World of Learning Differencesl 

How does your Autistic son brighten your day? When I can remember to use humor, not frustration and impatience, he can make me laugh and regain my equilibrium. When he makes good choices that others can see, true to whom I know him to be, it really brightens my hopes for his future.  It helps so much to let go of my fears, and live one day at a time. If an Autism Mom feels like giving up, what advice do you have for her? When others say things that could bring you down, focus instead on the kid you know is in there, with unique skills to share with the world.  All that other stuff is someone else's opinion, really meaningless.  Your child's decisions toward finding their purpose are what matters.   Water the flowers, not the weeds.



ZALYN'S BOULEVARD "Love yourself for who you are, and trust me, if you are happy from within, you are the most beautiful person, and your smile is your best asset." —Ileana D'Cruz


The company provides the beauty industry with the latest innovations to a wide-range of markets through multiple successful product lines. We also provide  the finest educational support to better serve hairdressers and their clientsTo secure the future of the industry, Farouk Systems Inc. leads the way with over 500 CHI Partner Schools. The CHI Lone Star College-North Harris School of Cosmetology in Houston, Texas is a state-of-the-art facility used for training up and coming hair stylists.

Autism Moms Are Beautiful appreciates and thanks CHI for sponsoring our 2nd annual AMAB Award Ceremony!


Zalyn's Boulevard

Autism Moms Are Beautiful appreciates and thanks NARS for sponsoring our 2nd annual AMAB Award Ceremony!



NARS Cosmetics Houston Boutique River Oaks District 4444 Wertheimer Rd. suite F142, Houston, TX 77027 28


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daughter began progressing, I decided to pour my extra energy into giving autism moms the emotional support that I wished I had when I was deep in the trenches. I started a non-profit organization, United in Autism, to bring fun-filled, pampering events to autism moms.

I also

interviewed inspirational families all over the world and shared their stories in the book, United in Autism: Finding Strength Inside the Spectrum. NW:   As a married woman, hard worker, and mother, how do you balance everything? JH:   The word “balance" assumes that I am

successfully juggling all the balls. the case.

That is rarely

When I am pouring myself into one

area of my life, it is impossible for a few balls not to drop.

Photo credit: Carrianne Photography Interviewed by: Nichole Wilson

JULIE HORNOK I had the privilege to meet Julie Hornok earlier this year. When I met Julie, I knew immediately that I I asked her if

she would contribute an interview to AMAB Magazine and she graciously accepted.

Later that

night, I went home and sat on my patio. to read her book, United in Autism. completely blown away!

the best that I can within each day. it all, but I will give it my all.

I cannot do

It is important that

we don’t buy into the pressure of thinking that we need to have it together in all areas of our

United in Autism

wanted people to know her story.

Just like any other autism mom, I do

lives in order to be successful.

One of the things

that makes a woman successful is that she can pass her power over to those whom she trusts, in order to help pick up the balls when she can no longer keep them in the air.

I started

It had me

Every moment that I

spend with Julie is both enlightening and inspirational! Nichole Wilson: Tell me a little bit about Julie. Julie Hornok: I am a wife and mom to three


I have two sons who are 18 and 13.


also have a 16-year-old daughter, Lizzie, who was diagnosed with autism days after her second birthday.

After her diagnosis, we immediately

jumped into action with a 30 hour a week home based therapy program.

This program enabled

her to become the best version of herself.


she is captain of her cheer squad, on the volleyball team, a National Honor Society member, and most importantly, she is confident in herself and what she has to offer the world.

Once my

Julie Hornok and Lizzie Hornok YOUTH MAGAZINE Photo credit: Carrianne Photography

"To every parent who has heard the life-changing words 'Your child has autism'. Together, we are stronger." JULIE HORNOK

NW: When did you recognize your baby was on the autism spectrum? JH:   At 18 months old, Lizzie displayed every red

flag. She had lost her language, walked on her tip toes, flapped her arms, lined things up, and had no ability to communicate or awareness of the world around her. I was fortunate enough to have a no nonsense, speech pathologist friend that told me to “run not walk” to the developmental pediatrician. NW:  When you realized that Lizzie was autistic, what steps did you take? JH:   Upon diagnosis, we began a 30 hour a week

therapy program that included ABA, speech and occupational therapy.

We also did testing for

vitamin deficiencies and allergies and treated them accordingly. Later, we added floor time and social skills playdates. The best guidance that I received was from other autism moms. Talking to moms that were one step ahead, enabled me to continue to know what to do to Julie Hornok and Lizzie Hornok Photo credit: Carrianne Photography

help my daughter progress. Finding a community was an important component in my daughter’s success.

relax, take care of myself, and truly celebrate my NW: How was your mental state during the


beginning process of autism? JH: For the first few years, I was in “fix-it mode.”

NW: Julie, your son is in College now, please

I exhausted myself and my family doing all the

express the joy you are feeling.

things that I thought would make my daughter

JH: My son going to College comes with mixed


feelings. I feel joy in knowing that he is prepared

After a few years, when I realized

autism was for life,

I had a really tough time

and ready for this next step.

He is a wonderful,

accepting what this meant for my daughter and

involved brother to both Lizzie and his younger

for our family. Over time, I have realized that my


first mistake was in trying to make my daughter

has become, and I can’t wait to see how he

someone she wasn’t.

chooses to impact the world.

She is beautiful and

perfect exactly as she is.

Therapy could still

help her become more functional and happier in

I am so proud of the young man that he There is also

sadness because our family dynamic will be different, and we will all miss him so much.

the world, but putting the expectation of “typical” on her was wrong.

Once I accepted our family

for what it was, I was able to better

NW: Your book, United in Autism is a phenomenal read.  What inspired you to write such a wonderful book?

JH: I began doing emotional support events for

moms of kids with autism, and although our time was impactful, I wanted to send the moms home with daily inspiration for when they were back in the trenches at home.

I looked everywhere for

the perfect book, but couldn’t find it.

So, I wrote

it. This book is written with the autism mom in mind.

It shares raw, inspirational stories from all

types of families, all levels of the spectrum, from all over the world.

Each story can be read in five

minutes or less while you are hiding in the bathroom with some Oreos.

The icing on the

cake was that Temple Grandin wrote the foreword for the book. NW: What encouraging advice do you have for other moms raising a child on the Autism Spectrum? JH:   Love them as they are while gently pushing

them to become the best version of themselves. Learn to recognize your child’s strengths and interests, and use those to help teach them. Remember that the small steps of progress add up over the years.

Everyday consistency is the key

to a happy and functional child.

Julie Hornok Photo credit: Carrianne Photography

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Bags of whole bean coffee

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During my breast cancer treatment,  being a Mom to my two teens on the  spectrum was tough.  I had to battle fatigue and nausea while doing my best to care for them.


Ana Esparza



I enjoyed reading the 2018 spring issue! Haley Ahart-Keiffer is a wonderful autism mom who rocks!

Haley's article As a mother of three children living with Autism, this article served as a reminder that Autism is an individual journey and each persons journey is unique and cannot be measured by another's experience living on the spectrum.

April Green

It's Going to Be AUlright:Testimonies from AUsome Women Raising AUsome People Capitol Heights, MD

5 Ways Autism Moms Can Relieve Stress at Home I enjoyed reading this section of the magazine. I believe in exercising on a weekly bases to help relieve stress. Donna Shatara Porche Houston, Texas Autism Mom


Write to us! Share your thoughts with us at Letters will be edited for space and clarity. All submissions become the property of AMAB Magazine.

POETRY FOR THE SOUL If I told you I loved you would you believe it? a whole book about you would you read it?

If I told you I wrote I hope that my

advances don’t make me seem conceded, but it’s something about your vibe that has me addicted, therefore I need it.

So if I

tell you I love you, please don’t take it as a joke, or some kind of cliche quote, just know those three words are the realest words I ever spoke… I love you with an open hand so understand a title isn’t what I demand… I’m just being transparent while I still can, Just because,

I actually do… love you.



Once I was diagnosed, I slowly began transitioning into the man and person that I would become today..

Photo credit: Adeva Rae Interviewed by: Nichole Wilson

Marcus Boyd Autistic Dad's Rock

I was so happy to meet with the great Marcus Boyd when I was in Atlanta. He is truly an amazing individual! He has a huge admiration for the autism community, especially being autistic himself. It was great to hear how much of an impact he has within the autism world. I am so excited to share Marcus Boyd’s journey with our readers. Nichole Wilson: When were you diagnosed with Autism? Marcus Boyd:   I was diagnosed with Autism on April 12, 1993. I was 10 years old at the time. Dr. King at Clifton Springs Mental Health Center diagnosed me. I was born with Autism and I didn't start speaking until I was thirteen years old. I spoke at a two or three year old level. When I was 11 years old, the doctors told my grandma that the left side of my brain didn’t function correctly and that I would need an adult caregiver for the rest of my life. I didn't know that when I got diagnosed with Autism, I would be propelled into a path that would lead me to be a voice for a community and that I would truly understand my purpose. Before I was diagnosed my grandma and foster parents didn't understand my behaviors or know how to really help me with them.  So with me being diagnosed, it really opened more questions such as “how do we fix this,” “is there medication he can take,” or “is there a pastor we can talk to for prayer?”  

NW: How was life for you as a child?  MB:   My life as a child was very hard. I was placed in a lot of foster homes and group homes. I spent a lot of time in different mental hospitals. I received both inpatient and outpatient care. I went through many therapy sessions and received behavior aides. Needless to say, I went through a lot of trials and tribulations. I went through a lot of lonely nights. I used to have to write a lot of things down because of me not being able to speak. My family tried to help teach me words and sentences, but it took years for me to really understand the information. As a child, I went through bullying and being picked on because people didn't understand my condition.   I went through physical and emotional abuse as a result of not being able to talk. It made me feel so alone and abandoned. I was moved around a lot, but my family and grandma did play a major part in trying to help raise and teach me. I had extreme behavioral problems because of the life that I was living at home. It made school and normal life hard to deal with a lot of the time. As a child, I think I was trying to find a voice so that others could hear me speak. NW:   Now that you are an adult, tell us how you are able to overcome adversity and rise above? MB:   Well I had a lot of angels that God placed in my life to help me deal with my Autism. My behavior aide Mr. Bob, my social worker Dorothy Carr, my therapist Verta Looper, my grandma and my family were very instrumental in helping to educate, teach, and get my mind and words to a place where I could speak like everyone else. Music was another main factor that helped with my developmental process.  How I heard sounds and how I took in words 

and melodies was a way that I escaped my reality at the time. I was able to finish school even though it took me a lot longer than others. With the help of reading lessons, flash cards,hearing sentences, and having to write them and other words down, I was eventually able to grasp the knowledge that was given to me. It took a lot of prayer and a lot of sleepless nights and dedicated people that God put in my life to work with me. It’s like they say, “it takes a village to raise a child.” NW:   What is it like for you as a father?  MB:   Well that is my favorite question! Malakai and my daughter Destiny are the reason why I breathe and want better, so that they can have better. I didn't know God could give me such amazing, incredible children. I couldn't ask for better kids to leave a legacy to.   I am truly blessed to be able to watch them grow and to see their passion and gifts unfold and see what they will give unto the world. I am a goofy father, so I love joking and talking to them. They both love music and love to dance and I am constantly laughing and dancing with them. But as a father, I am the most proud when they say “I’m proud of you!” I work so that their dreams can be better and their opportunities can be greater. My biggest achievement is my children and I praise God for both of my blessings. NW:  When did you discover music was your passion?  MB:   I first met music on January 20th, 1989. I was 6 years old. My family were super big on music and I used to hear Motown and old school R&B records playing in the house. My favorite was Michael Jackson, Denise Williams and Michael Mcdonald. But in 1993, I really fell in love with music when I got a chance to meet Biggie Smalls.  I wanted to be just like him. Plus, I heard music in my head.   I started to hear different instruments in my head. I had to learn how to take the music that I was hearing in my head and create and make it in a music format.   I didn't learn that until

years later. But when I first discovered music it was raw and fresh and it wasperfectly shaped and it didn't run me away or make fun of me. Music provided me a safe place, somewhere I could goand be me and free from the troubles of the world. Discovering music helped to change my life, thoughts, and feelings. NW: Now that you have done so much and made a major impact, what should the world expect to see from Marcus? MB:   Well I am just getting started! Expect me to be doing more speaking engagements, more speaking to kids and our youth, to help encourage and give them wisdom on music and the business. Expect more new music coming from me. I am a gospel rapper and I do have bars lol! Expect the ATL’s hottest Special Awards 2nd Annual event going on December 2020, where we honor and pay tribute to the mental health communities in the state of Georgia. Expect me to still be out here spreading awareness for Autism and letting my voice be heard for those who may not have a voice. Expect my new documentary about Autism around April 2020. Expect my brand new book to come out in 2020. So basically, just expect more to come from Autism activist Marcus Boyd! NW:   What advice can you give other Fathers? MB:   If you are a father with a child who has Autism, please be patient, loving, caring, and understanding with your child. Never give up on them. Grow with your child’s progress and lean to God for understanding. Keep the faith, even if the road is hard and long. Never give up!

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2019 AMAB Magazine Fall Issue