By KATHERINE HIGNETT, NEWSWEEK
When she hadn’t spoken by the age of three, doctors told Haley Moss’s parents she had autism. In January, twenty-one years after her 1997 diagnosis, she was sworn into the Florida Bar as its first openly autistic member.
On Saturday, local autism charity Unicorn Children’s Foundation declared her a Youth Ambassador in recognition of her achievements.
“It’s about dreams and following dreams and having no limits,” she told The Palm Beach Post in advance of the Unicorn Children’s Foundation gala, at which she received the Occhigrossi Family Youth in Service Award.
The young attorney volunteers with the charity, which runs education, awareness and jobs programs to help people with developmental or learning disorders, the publication reported.
Explaining the term “neurodiversity,” which is promoted by autism advocates and others, she told The Post: “How our brains work is also a form of diversity… 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.”
Moss, who has a high-functioning form of autism, gave the commencement speech to her class at the University of Miami School of Law, according to Law.com. Before she graduated, she had already authored two books—the first published when she was just 15.
The lawyer told The Post her autism makes some social situations very difficult. “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.”
Now, she hopes she can help children facing similar difficulties. “It takes a village to raise a child,” she told The Post. “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.”
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Lisa Walsh said it was “A great privilege” to swear-in Moss back in January. The young attorney was “Somebody that has actually had to overcome issues and develop skills that may not be natural,” she said, according to Law.com.
“As an attorney, you will have the opportunity to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves,” Joe Zumpano, Moss’s boss at law firm Zumpano Patricios, told her during the event. “The hopes of so many rest on her,” he told the audience.Her parents, Rick and Sherry Moss, added: “Just never give up… Don’t put up limits and boundaries on your child. Different can be extraordinary.”