“Never lose your focus for what is really important. It will be a light in the dark. We keep the focus on each other, that’s always our guiding light and everything pivots from that.” Sharon Rosenbloom
Sharon Rosenbloom’s early life showed no indication that she would be a woman that would help to change the world for the autistic community. She studied speech pathology in college, and then decided to garner some life experiences that would fuel her desire to become a journalist. But life threw Sharon a challenge when her first son Joey, now 23, was diagnosed with autism. Sharon naturally went through all of the frightening emotions that only a parent of a child with autism can understand, but was determined to provide Joey with as normal and loving an upbringing as possible.
When Joey was a little boy, Sharon took him to a professional photographer to have his picture taken. Sharon did her best to help the photographer by explaining to him how best to work with Joey. Soon after, he called Sharon with a book idea and in 2003, Souls: Beneath and Beyond Autism was published, a photographic and narrative insight into the autistic world.
Sharon also became involved with Autism Speaks and a number of related ventures while befriending a highly involved teacher of Joey’s. After witnessing how these kids struggled in the public school system, the two women sought to help by opening a summer camp for autistic children. The camp started off in Sharon’s basement, but the staff was determined to make a difference. In the past three years, the camp gained notoriety and has been run in conjunction with Sharon’s next big undertaking; The Turning Pointe Autism Foundation, a cutting-edge school for students severely-affected by autism. Turning Pointe opened their doors in Naperville, Illinois in January 2011. The school is still growing, providing students with the undivided, specialized attention they don’t often find in other education systems.
All of Sharon’s projects are heavily influenced by the environment which she has created in her own home, where the family is a total unit. “Joey’s always been pulled very strongly into the family, but this is unfortunately not the norm. Kids with autism just don’t often have this opportunity.” This approach is also why her family has been observed as a prototype in multiple research studies.
Her work has taken Sharon across the U.S. to places she’d have never imagined. At a Hollywood event, Dustin Hoffman asked her opinion on the validity of his autistic representation in Rain Man. Last year, Sharon watched proudly as Joey stood on Capitol Hill revealing his dream of learning on a normal university campus. All of these accomplishments have placed her on the cusp of autism research, and that is her number one goal.
“I just share my experience, that’s it. At the end of the day…I come home from work, and I start my next job: spending another 12 hours in Joey’s world.
Sharon can be contacted at Sharonrosenbloom@aol.com
by Maggie Gilbert