MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Parkland Native Haley Moss is just 24-years-old and already incredibly accomplished.
She has two Bachelor degrees in Criminology and Psychology from the University of Florida, a law degree from the University of Miami and has published multiple books, including one titled A Freshman Survival Guide for College Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Stuff Nobody Tells You About!
Haley was diagnosed with autism at age 3. It was a different time, said Rick and Sherry Moss, Haley's parents.
"They didn't have what they have now," said Sherry. "Autism. People didn't know what the word was."
Sherry says the University of Miami Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) was tremendously helpful. It was tough for Haley in school, and she attended three middle schools in just the span of three years.
But despite the difficulties, Haley called autism "magic like Harry Potter."
"I found [autism] as an awesome thing," said Haley. "It was something to be celebrated in our house."
"People need to know kids with autism are capable of so much," said Sherry. "You need to explore the child's capabilities."
That's exactly what it allowed Haley to do.
Even though her parents had hesitations about her going to college in Gainesville, they wanted her to be able to decide for herself if that is what she wanted.
Haley would quickly discover she wanted a law career. Helping people was a priority for her.
"It dawned on me that lawyers do a lot of writing, a lot of talking and they have a potential to help somebody every day," said Haley.
Haley was the commencement speaker at her law school graduation last May. She passed the bar exam on her first attempt in July.
This January, she was sworn in and hired by Zumpano Patricios, a law firm in Coral Gables.
"She came to us as a clerk, and she wasn't in anyway reticent to talk about her autism," said managing shareholder Joe Zumpano. "She was very open about it."
For Zumpano, it was very personal as his own son has autism.
"I remember when she had become a lawyer, I was so proud," said Zumpano. "I said 'I wonder if you're the first?' and she was the only one we could find who was openly autistic to have been sworn into the Florida bar."
Zumpano believes Haley could even be the first lawyer open about having autism in the country.
As a partner of a law firm that practices anti-terrorism law and complex manage care litigation, he says having Haley is a valuable asset.
Just last month, Haley made national headlines, around the time she received the Occhigrossi Family Youth in Service Award at the Unicorn Ball in Boca Raton.
The award recognizes young people who raise awareness and acceptance for individuals with special needs.
"I thought it was really cool and I think it's really important being openly autistic," said Haley. "I realize we don't have enough openly autistic professionals, let alone women."
Haley believes there is a negative stigma surrounding autism and that some don't share because they fear discrimination or comfortable. It's an issue and conversation she, her family, and employer hopes to push forward.
"How can I make this better for everyone else," wondered Haley. "When one of us moves up, we all move up."
They plan on using this new platform to do just that.
"I want to see where neurodiverse people doing great things is the norm, not an exception," said Haley. "I think what I want parents to know is don't set limits on your child. Only you can set limits."
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