Haley Moss has never allowed labels to define her, but she’s willing to make a small exception for her latest accomplishment.
The 24-year-old artist, published author, and autism activist, passed the Florida Bar exam in September, capping off three-years at the University of Miami School of Law.
It also is a homecoming for Moss, who credits the University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University’s Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (UM NSU CARD) as being a big part of the “village” that helped to raise her and make her the success that she is today.
“It feels like the whole circle came together, at least for me,” said Moss, who graduated in May and now works at a Coral Gables law firm.
That journey started for the Boca Raton native, when she was just 3 years old and was displaying now recognized autism symptoms such being non-verbal, crying a lot, and being very shy. After doctors diagnosed Moss with High-Functioning Autism, her parents reached out to CARD at UM and travelled with her to Miami for an evaluation.
Back then CARD, which is celebrating 25-years of helping families this year, had only been in existence for five.
“Twenty years ago, I got a phone call from her mother asking for help,” said Dr. Diane Adreon, associate director of UM NSU CARD. “I remember consulting with her about what were some opportunities what kinds of therapy would be beneficial for Haley.”
Moss has been with CARD ever since.
“They helped me to develop a strong sense of ‘self-awareness,’ and to develop a positive attitude,” Moss said.
The doctors and staff at CARD helped her learn how to navigate the social nuances posed by elementary and middle school, as well as how to manage her time and the demands of high school. Moss said that through it all, CARD provided a safe space and support her family needed, and helped her gain the confidence to pursue her dreams and be creative.
A renowned and accomplished visual pop artist, whose canvases have sold at various autism support events, Moss published her first book Middle School: The Stuff Nobody Tells You About when she was 15 years old. So, it is an understatement to say she is goal oriented. In the process, CARD helped her develop the mindset that she could do anything.
“At every turn, my parents and the people at CARD told me ‘We’ll get through this no matter what,’” Moss said.
That was especially true when Moss decided that she wanted to have the true college experience at the University of Florida. Moss and her parents once more turned to CARD and met with Dr. Michael Alessandri, to develop a strategy to accomplish her goals and manage her autism. She graduated from UF with degrees in Psychology and Criminology in three years, thanks in part to several AP classes and two summer sessions.
Moss also published her second book, A Freshman Survival Guide for College Students With Autism Spectrum Disorders, while at UF. She wanted to share her insight with other young adults on the spectrum.
“It’s okay if your goals aren’t the same as everyone else,” Moss said. “Know what will work for you and don’t put yourself in those positions until you are ready.”
Heading back to Miami, to pursue her law degree at UM, brought her back to CARD and the great resources that they offer young adults on the autism spectrum including employment skills, workshops, and interviewing skills.
The fact that she now gets to celebrate two milestones of her life, on the 25th anniversary of CARD, was just icing on the cake.
“I’m finishing my journey as a Miami Hurricanes alumna, and starting a new adventure,” she said with a smile. “But I’ll always be an advocate for autism and for CARD.”