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AWE in Autism Conference & Expo

Thank you to all of our performers and attendees! Check back for information about our 2017 Awe in Autism Event.

AWE in Autism Flyer

Lobby Auditorium Talent Showcase Autism Market Courtyard Golf Course
10:00 AM

Cafe7 &



Welcome, Emcee - Reece Carpenter

Come learn more about our talents!

James Williams

Jacob Velazquez

Reid Moriarty

Ron Sandison

John Miller

Merrick Egber

Alex Perez

Josh Deer

Taylor Raines


Come Shop!


Chocolate Spectrum

RLA Glass Making

Artists for Autism

Joshua's Art

Christine's Jewelry

Layla & Indiana's Art

10:05 AM Spectrum Award Winner - Joshua Deer
10:10 AM Author - Merrick Egber
10:20 AM Pianist - Zachary Williams
10:40 AM Author - Ron Sandison
11:10 AM Pianist - James Williams
11:30 AM Movie & Speaker - Alex Perez
11:45 AM Movie - RLA Production
12:00 PM Registration       Performer - Jacob Velazquez

Come Eat & Relax!

Foodies4Autism Food Truck

12:20 PM        
1:00 PM Movie - Wizard Mode

Come Watch!

#GameON Autism Golf Clinic with Joshua Deer

1:15 PM       
2:00 PM Speaker - John Miller
2:45 PM Speaker - Taylor Raines
3:00 PM Pianist & Pod Cast - Reid Moriarty    


Talent Bios


Zachary Lee Williams
is a 12-year-old Honor Roll Student, who did not know a musical note a year and 8 months ago!  One day he expressed an interest to play the piano, though never having any musical experience. 

After returning from a family reunion with unspent gift money, Zachary saw a used piano at a consignment store.  He instantly he told his mother that THIS is what he wanted to buy!

The piano came home. Zachary started teaching himself how to play immediately, composing his very own pieces and is now inseparable from this instrument.  It was as if he and the old instrument were lifelong friends.

After just one year, he entered a four-week Talent Search competing against seasoned professionals, and WON First Place as well as $1,000!

Zachary was asked to become a Kretzer Kid at age 11 which typically has an age cut off of 13 years old.  He performs at different venues like retirement homes, public performances and The Kimmel Center at City Place for the Physician's Talent Showcase, where he received a standing ovation for his performance.  He feels blessed to have wonderful teachers and stays inspired.  Zachary has always been called an “old soul” who now, connected with an old piano, is doing what he loves and happy to share his gift with others. 


James A. Williams is a young and very gifted piano player, who wows his listeners with his musical talents. He was diagnosed with Autism at the age of three years old and has overcome many major obstacles to obtain his current status.  James has the ability to play by ear and is self-taught within the last five years.  His debut album - A Moment with The Classics, features Fantaisie-Impromptu has become his trade mark.  He has been selected to take part in several major Fine Arts competitions over the last few years, representing the State of Florida at the National level. He recently graduated from High School and has been accepted to South Eastern University.  He has also performed at many venues including the Tampa Yacht Club, Vinoy Park and for Temple Grandin at the CARD annual conference in Orlando.  In addition James performs at various charity and non-profit events.  His passion is to inspire and bring joy through his music. James is available for bookings – please contact Stephanie Stevens at or book direct from the web site –  All that remains is to hear him play 


Jacob Velazquez is an eight year old pianist from South Florida who began playing at the age of four years old.  He has performed on Good Morning America, The View, CNN, The Steve Harvey Show & more.  Jacob was recently invited by Taylor Swift to meet her on tour after she heard him play a seven song medley from her latest album. 

Jacob has already recorded his first album and dreams of becoming a music producer one day. Today Jacob will be playing a mix of classical, contemporary, Jazz & Pop.


Reid Moriarty brings a contagious sense of joy to every audience. A charismatic performer on keyboard and vocals, he has a song in his heart, music on his lips, and two recordings to his credit: Purple Party and Worship with a few of My Friends. His podcast, Talk Time with Reid Moriarty, is a series of 7-minute interviews with people he finds interesting, and others might too! Reid’s voice breaks through social barriers to inspire.  Reid will take "favorite color" requests from the audience and sing original songs he wrote with his longtime music therapist from their Purple Party CD.


Alex Perez is a bass player with Latin Jazz CD being released.  Here’s his story.

I was born October 13, 1989 in Miami, Florida.  Since the age of 10 years old, I have been involved in learning music and mastering my instrument; the bass.  My father has always been my big support providing lessons with some of the best music teachers.  Countless hours of classes, practice and concerts have made me what I am today; a professional bass player.

All of this hard work gave me the opportunity to become the person I am today; a man of faith and dreams.  I am disciplined, honest, hardworking, mature, can hold a job, drive, play tennis, workout regularly and go out with friends.

The production of the CD “Alex & Friends” is my father’s idea.  My father is involved in the music industry as a singer.  He wanted to give me a gift to remember him and his love for music.  He and I provided our talents in this production; him as a singer, and I playing the bass.  The immense talents of the other musicians, singers, arrangers and producers have made this the best musical production ever!  I am so very grateful to them and to God for it.

We pray that the “Keep On Working” message provide motivation, encouragement and hope to families having loved ones with Autism or any other disability .  Please, never give up!  Reach out to the experts and you will see results.

Enjoy the film!


Speaker and Authors


Ron Sandison works full time in the medical field and is a professor of theology at Destiny School of Ministry. He is an advisory board member of Autism Society Faith Initiative of Autism Society of America. Sandison has a Master of Divinity from Oral Roberts University and Charisma House is publishing his book on April 5th, 2016 called A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice. Biblical Wisdom.  

He has over 10,000 Scriptures memorized including 22 complete books of the New Testament and over 5,000 quotes.  
A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice. Biblical Wisdom, teaches parents practical methods to help their child with autism to thrive in life by developing his or her unique gifts. 

Ron and his wife, Kristen, reside in Rochester Hills, MI with their daughter, Makayla Marie, pet rabbit, Babs, and cat, Frishma. Checkout his website Spectrum Inclusion at You can contact Ron on Facebook or email him at


John Miller was born in Montreal, Quebec in 1968.  During his childhood he worked hard to overcome many academic and social obstacles.  He decided to get a Masters in Special Education to help young people succeed academically and in life.  During this period he was diagnosed with autism, which answered many questions.  For over a decade he has taught students with varying degrees of autism and settings.  Beyond teaching, he has consulted, creating pragmatic and organizational programs for individuals with autism.  For over a half a decade he has presented on a variety topics that deal with pragmatics, inclusion, transition, among others throughout the United States.  Presently, he sits on the Florida board of the Autism Society and Florida Atlantic University CARD Constituency Committee.  In September, he became a member of an education and programming committee at Autism Society of America.  John received the Dr. Temple Grandin Award for Outstanding Literary Work of the Year for his book, Decoding Dating. Earlier this year he was named to the Autism Society of America Panel of People on the Spectrum of Autism Advisors.


Merrick Egber has been a writer for 15 years. My High School years were very transformative years for me. I got addicted to The Beatles, addicted to my own sense of depression and addicted to proving myself as more than just a student, and as such I was able to channel all of these forces into writing song lyrics with my own sense of style and vision.  Currently, I am a recent college graduate who lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and I hope that I can continue my dream of a lucrative lifestyle as a writer. The Best of Merrick Egber is a collection to allow first-time readers an easy go at the themes and ideas that have shaped my previous 9 books, along with a few exclusive works to give the collection greater relevance in my library.


Joshua Deer is a 21-year-old from North Richland Hills, TX and the first Spectrum Award winner.  He will be leading the #GameON clinic today.  He first started playing golf when I was 8 years old.  His favorite golfers are Ernie Els and Jordan Spieth.  His nickname among friends and family is Deersey.  He attends the Golf Academy of America-Dallas and is working towards an Associate’s Degree in Golf Management.  Joshua wants to be a PGA Certified Golf Instructor.


Taylor Raines is a 23-year-old undergraduate student at the University of Central Florida. She was diagnosed with high-functioning autism at the age of 22, after many years of misdiagnoses and personal struggles. Now, she is dedicated to educating the public about autism, with an emphasis on explaining the differences between women and men with autism.




ScentsAbility Candles is a non-profit organization based out of Coral Springs, FL focusing on training and employing young adults with intellectual disabilities. Started in 2008 by Bonnie Schmidt and John Becker for their daughter, Jessica Schmidt, ScentsAbility has 20 young adults in their program; where they learn skills such as customer service, point of sale, data entry and workplace conduct. ScentsAbility manufactures products including soy candles, lotions, hand sanitizers, scent melts and air fresheners. The manufacturing and sales procedures are modified to match the cognitive and physical abilities of the trainees so everyone has an opportunity to learn and grow their specific skill set over time.


For more information, contact:


Chocolate Spectrum
The Chocolate Spectrum is an artisan chocolate company that trains and employees individuals on the spectrum. We make all types of chocolate products. In the spring of 2016, we are opening our first shop in Jupiter West Plaza, on the corner of I95 and Indiantown Road. We will have a chocolate café, chocolate and pastry classes for all ages.  We also have the opportunity to host parties.  The Chocolate Spectrum will have a formal Chocolate, Pastry, Barista, and Restaurant Services Training Program for individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities that have graduated from high school. For more information, log onto our website at: or email Valerie Herskowitz at


Foodies 4 Autism
The #Foodies4Autism food truck was created out of the desire and passion to establish a microbusiness that could be managed by adults with autism, while empowering the community with the knowledge on the spectrum of abilities related to people with autism.  In turn, #Foodies4Autism allows the adults with autism opportunities to engage in competitive employment activities, and build meaningful social skills, all while serving good food through a partnership with Chick-fil-A.  It is our vision that in the near future there will be a fleet of trucks that employ adults with autism, serving the community in various ways.                                    



4 Artists for Autism

Artists with Autism is a not for profit networking group helping aspiring artists on the Spectrum learn how to become successful self-employed entrepreneurs by promoting microenterprise, opportunities, and creating independence through the arts.


Josh Silver 

Native Floridian, Joshua Silver Banks has been expressing himself via vibrant abstract paintings since 2005, at age 18. Diagnosed with autism at two years old, about a year after he stopped speaking, he discovered his artistic ability when his mom packed some markers to channel his energy during evacuation from a hurricane.  These works—like Josh—are full of energy and movement. Many people who have viewed his works at one of the nine group art shows in which he has participated in the past four years, see living things from fish to seagrasses!  Josh’s mentor, Texas artist and Art Professor Mari Omori, has said that “with Josh’s work, I have experienced properties such as sound, movement, emotions, and even spirituality.” From April 1 to April 29, VSA PBC ( will host his first solo show, displaying more than 30 pieces at their gallery in Lake Worth.  


Christine Ayers
Christine Ayers is a 26 year old from Pembroke Pines, FL. She's a member of the Exceptional Theatre Company (ETC), both as an actor and mentor.  ETC is a program for intellectually and physically challenged people. In the past year, Christine has been making jewelry and donating all proceeds to ETC. Christine also volunteers at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts and at Memorial Hospital Pembroke.  Christine has faced many challenges and yet still takes on life with a positive outlook and inspires others to do the same!  


Layla and Indiana Crehan
Layla and Indiana are not only sister and brother, they are also both affected by Autism.  They have both found peace and fulfillment through art with completely different talents. 

Layla is 11 years old and loves to create!  She suffers from anxiety and finds that drawing, sculpting, painting and crafting helps to soothe her nerves, along with singing and theater!  Layla has been selling her creations for four years and donates almost all of the money to Autism foundations or nonprofits who help rehabilitate wild animals! 

Indy is nine and a half years old and nonverbal.  It has been very difficult for him to connect with others without the gift of words.  Occasionally Indy will draw a piece with black marker, but most of his art is created with yarn.  He works with over 60 different colors and creates pieces on the floor, on his leg, on his sheets!  His art is incredibly unique and captivates all who see it.  Unfortunately, Indiana destroys his pieces after they’re done, so we only have photographs of the pieces that we’ve been able to catch him making.  For years we thought his designs were simply abstract.  We were all in awe after we realized that he was actually recreating Klimt and Chagall, scenes from movies, even writing words with string!  Art has given both Layla and Indiana a way to connect with others and given them a sense of pride in themselves.  They are truly unique and passionate artists!

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