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Haley Moss, a Florida attorney, has autism. That does not make her different; it makes her exceptional.
She is reportedly one of the first openly autistic lawyers in the state. While statistics on autistic lawyers are hard to find, Moss is not hiding behind her condition. Instead, she works at a big law firm and is a champion for disabled people.
It helps that she also has a photographic memory. Oh, you didn't know that about autism?
The First Clue
When Moss was three years old, she had a problem talking. She didn't say words like "mom" and "dad." It was the first clue she had autism. "My parents were told I would be lucky to have friends or even hold a minimum-wage job," she said. Today, she has no problem talking to people. She is an associate at Zumpano Patricios, and recently won an award for her work as an advocate for neurodiversity. It is the concept that neurological differences should be respected like any other human variation.
Joe Zumpano, who has a 16-year-old son with autism, said he hired Moss the day he met her. He could see "a brilliant person with a brilliant mind," not a person with a disability. Of course, not everybody sees it like that.
Advocate for Neurodiversity
Like any champion, Moss had to fight her way to the top. She excelled in school, but had trouble making friends. It is a common problem for autistic children who often turn inwardly and disassociate outwardly. "It is the behind-the-scenes stuff," she explained to Today. "Someone had to tell me if another person rolls their eyes, they are bored with what you are saying and you should change the conversation; normal kids, you don't have to be told."
Growing up didn't necessarily make it any easier. She still struggles with some things. "The things that are hardest for me are actually outside of the office, such as driving and daily living skills," she told USA Today. "Starting a career is a huge transition for anybody, but is monumental for autistic people as it means we have to establish new routines." Those routines are also key to their exceptional abilities. Moss, for example, is charged with handling massive amounts of information at work. She has to remember names, bank accounts, and relationships.
"So when you've someone with an exceptional memory ability and an exceptional ability to connect people, places and things, that's a tremendous asset for any law firm," Zumpano said. "Haley brings that to the table."