Honoree Amy Gravino, self- advocate, autism coach
Honoree Lesli Cattan, LCSW
Honoree Ron Suskind, father, author of Life, Animated, founder of Sidekicks
Alison Singer, President, Autism Science Foundation
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino
Thank You to Our Sponsors
Lisa & Randy Siegel Doris Perez
Meet Our Honorees
Meet our honorees
Ron Suskind is a Pulitzer-winning journalist, bestselling author, and the founder and CEO of Sidekicks. Ron’s latest bestseller, Life, Animated (2014), chronicles his family’s twenty-year journey raising and connecting to their autistic son. The Suskind family is also the subject of an award-winning documentary feature of the same name (2016). Their story has driven activism and research about compensatory strengths of those with autism and others who are “differently-abled” due to distinctive neurology or sociocultural backgrounds. Ron’s company, Sidekicks, is leading efforts to build a next generation of augmentative technologies to lift and support these communities.
Ron’s other works include Confidence Men (2011), about the fall of the U.S. economy and the presidency of Barack Obama; The Way of the World (2008), about the forces fighting the global “hearts and minds” struggle at a time when awesomely destructive weapons are available to the common man; The One Percent Doctrine (2006), about how the U.S. government frantically improvised to fight a new kind of war after 9/11; The Price of Loyalty (2004), about the inner workings of the American government and Presidency of George W. Bush; and A Hope in the Unseen (1998), a nonfiction narrative that helped redefine national debates on race, class and achievement.
Ron often appears on network television and has been a contributor for The New York Times Magazine and Esquire. Ron was the Wall Street Journal’s senior national affairs reporter from 1993 until his departure in 2000, and won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing. He currently lives in Cambridge, MA, with his wife, Cornelia Kennedy Suskind, and lectures about narrative and justice at Harvard Law School.
Lesli Cattan, developed her professional interest as a college student volunteering in a service organization that took young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities on outdoor adventure trips. Working with the residential staff, other students and the young adults with disabilities, together they figured out how to prepare for and enjoy cross-country skiing trips in frigid weather in Northern Minnesota, rafting trips on the Current River in Missouri and numerous local camping and hiking trips. These experiences were lessons in resiliency and integration and finding joy in the face of challenges.
Lesli worked as a direct care professional and house manager for several group homes, later acquiring a clinical social work degree. At Westchester Jewish Community Services, she founded and lead the mental health clinic for individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities. She has led social skills groups, socialization groups, parent support groups; provided individual and family therapy; taught numerous classes on understanding co-occurring disorders, sensory integration, stress management and secondary trauma.
For the past 10 years Lesli has overseen a case management program, transition and forensic services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities at Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health. She launched and co-facilitates the Westchester Autism Advisory Committee and serves as a resource to individuals, families and providers in the field of developmental disabilities always looking to use those early lessons in her endeavors to connect, support and advocate for individuals with autism and their families.
Amy Gravino, is a Certified Autism Specialist and the president of A.S.C.O.T. Coaching. Amy offers autism consulting, mentoring, and college coaching services for individuals on the autism spectrum.
Amy is a professional national speaker who has given two TED talks and presented to numerous audiences on a variety of topics, including autism and sexuality; preventing and ending bullying; issues related to girls and autism; growing up on the spectrum; and autism and transitioning to secondary education.
She also currently serves on the Board of the Golden Door International Film Festival of Jersey City, the Self-Advocate Advisory Board for the Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation, and co-facilitates the Morris County chapter support group meetings for ASPEN-NJ.
Amy’s writing has been published in a variety of outlets, including the textbook Exceptional Children: An Introduction to Special Education, the Reader’s Digest book The Best Life Stories, “Autism Spectrum Quarterly” magazine, the official blog of Autism Speaks, and more. She is now authoring The Naughty Autie, a memoir of her experiences with dating, relationships, and sexuality from the firsthand perspective of a woman on the autism spectrum. Learn more about Amy at AmyGravino.com