People with autism and law school are two things people don’t usually associate together.
Haley Moss was advanced for her age. At just 3 years old, she could read and do 100-piece jigsaw puzzles, but there was one thing she couldn’t do – speak. This prompted a visit to the doctor, and her family learned that she had high-functioning autism.
Doctors feared that she may never be able to live independently or gain meaningful employment because of her condition. But ever since her diagnosis, she has been defying expectations – proving to everyone that there was nothing to fear about her future.
Last month, she just made history as the first openly-autistic person to be admitted to the Florida bar. But this is not her only accomplishment.
At age 4 – one year after her diagnosis – she was moved from special education to mainstream curriculum when she began talking and thriving in the classroom.
She has authored three books, the first of which was released when she was just 15 years old. The first two tackles navigating middle school and freshman year of college while on the autism spectrum. The third talks about growing up as a female with high-functioning autism, aptly titled “What Every Autistic Girl Wishes Her Parents Knew.”
After high school, Haley went to attend college at the University of Florida, where she graduated with two degrees – psychology and criminology – just after three years. This girl is definitely an overachiever!
Haley told The NY Post that she pursued a degree in psychology because she believes that as a person with autism, there is no better way to better way to understand and communicate with people than to understand how the human brain works.
But Haley wasn’t done yet. After earning two degrees, she enrolled at the University of Miami School of Law.
“I wanted to go to law school because I wanted to make a difference for other people,” she said. “Lawyers help their community. What better way [to make a difference] than to become a lawyer.”
During her second year of law school, Haley was hired as a summer associate at Zumpano Patricios. She did so well that the company offered her a job before she even graduated, which of course was contingent on her passing the bar exam.
As expected, Haley passed the bar and was sworn in on January 11 by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Lisa Walsh. She is now practicing law at the Coral Gables-based law firm Zumpano Patricios with a focus on health care and international matters.
“When I was introduced to Haley by a former lawyer at our firm, I immediately picked up on the fact that she was obviously brilliant — brilliant and a good person.”, Joseph Zumpano, co-founder and managing shareholder of Zumpano Patricios, said of Haley.
“As a core value, we wanted to be the first firm to bring in an openly autistic lawyer and make the point that if you align people to their strengths then given the chance, they excel,” he added.
While being a lawyer, Haley plans to continue writing and creating art, with the goal of inspiring others with her success.
She says that even if she makes a difference in just one person’s life, her advocacy is worth it.
“Whether it’s somebody on the spectrum that says ‘Thank you for sharing your story,’ or it’s a parent of a newly-diagnosed child that tells me, ‘Wow, you gave me so much hope for my kid. I can’t wait to see what my kid’s going to be able to do when they get older.’ Yes, it’s definitely an impact.”
As for the parents of children with autism, this is what Haley has to say:
“Even with parents of young children, I always tell them, ‘you’re going to be amazed at what your child is able to do. Their journey is just beginning when you get a diagnosis. They’re going to be so talented and you’re going to be constantly surprised and amazed,’ and to really embrace that and embrace what makes them who they are, and what they’re good at and what makes them special.”
Watch the video below from CBS This Morning featuring Haley’s triumphant journey.
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