"People on the spectrum are so talented and diverse," says Haley Moss

By Caitlin Keating
February 22, 2019 06:31 PM
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CBS News

A Florida woman who is believed the first openly autistic woman to become a lawyer in the state, if not the country, is speaking out about both her immense struggles and triumphs that led her to where she is today.

Haley Moss, of Miami, was just three when doctors diagnosed her with autism, CBS News reports. As a toddler, she wasn’t able to speak until she was 4 years old but was able to read and put together a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle.

But it didn’t take long for her to turn those first difficult years into motivation to succeed.

“I first shared my story at a conference when I was 13 years old,” Moss told the news outlet. “I’ve always enjoyed getting to connect and share.”

Just two years later when she was 15 years old, she wrote her first book titled Middle School — The Stuff Nobody Tells You About: A Teenage Girl with ASD Shares Her Experiences and has continued to advocate for people with autism.

After graduating from the University of Miami with a law degree, she is now working as an associate at Zumpano Patricios, a firm that specializes in anti-terrorism and healthcare, TODAY reports

The firm says that Moss is “one of the first documented autistic attorneys to join the Florida Bar and a major law firm,” according to USA Today. Co-founder Joe Zumpano told the outlet that he believes “she may be one of the first nationally.”

When Zumpano met Moss he hired her immediately because he saw “a brilliant person with a brilliant mind,” he told USA Today.

“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,” said Zumpano. “And Haley brings that to the table.”

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Moss remembers being a little girl when her parents told her that her diagnosis made her special like Harry Potter’s scar.

“Harry Potter lived with the Muggles and he was different from them, and that wasn’t a bad thing,” she told TODAY. “I was able to see it through the lens of Harry Potter, and it really connected with me that it was a positive thing.”

It’s that moment that stands out today is what she remembers when she meets — and educates — other people about what she’s been through.

“I have an opportunity to change the conversation for the better. I can really shape things,” she said. “They see me and think, ‘This is what my kid might be like. People on the spectrum are so talented and diverse.”