Autism Speaks

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As the fastest-growing developmental disability Autism impacts the lives of millions of people worldwide. Working with Autism Cares to raise awareness and funds for autistic children and their families, top model Jacquelyn Jablonski (Supreme Management) aims to lend a bit of the fashion industry’s star power to this worthy cause – one that is especially close to her heart. Growing up with an autistic sibling gave Jacquelyn a first hand view of the difficulties faced by families with autistic children and insight into the importance of Autism awareness. In this special MDC interview, Jacquelyn shares what she’s doing to involve the fashion community and how you can get involved in helping families in need.

Photos: Eric Guillemain for Models.com
Hair: Kenshin Asano
Makeup: Asami Taguchi

Interview by Janelle Okwodu for Models.com

How long have you been working with Autism Speaks?

JACQUELYN: In the past I’ve been attending events that my mom and I would find out through their website. We got in touch with one woman from Autism Speaks and she would send us invites here and there, but in the last year I’ve really been trying to get more involved. I guess the New York Stock Exchange event was the real start for me working with Autism Speaks. Susan Wright and the co-founders said they would love if my brother and I could join them, I met so many amazing people from the charity that morning. You could really see how passionate they are about it, in one day they had to go to four events, their dedication to Autism is non-stop.

The co-founders have a grandson with Autism so just listening to them speak about the charity is amazing. There are all these people who want to help and that is very moving because for a while it seemed like Autism wasn’t getting the attention that it needed. It is the fastest growing developmental condition in the U.S right now.

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What was it like growing up with your brother?

JACQUELYN: It was definitely tough for my family and me. I remember he was diagnosed at age 2 and originally the doctors said he would never speak so things started going through our heads; will he ever get married, will he be able to just do the normal activities like play sports and making friends? At times when my sisters and I were growing up we would go through different phases and my brother would have outrageous behavior in public places. You do get a little embarrassed, but at the same time you try to play it cool. If he shouted out random things, or did something like pulling down his pants at a restaurant it was embarrassing. Some people were understanding, but to the average person my brother is a tall, handsome boy, so they at first are confused. There are people that laugh, or make fun and some others will get angry and yell depending on the behavior.

I think it made us all stronger and made us way more compassionate as people. You have to develop patience – which you need in the fashion industry. We became very independent as well, my parents devoted a lot of time to him because he needed a lot of attention and care. He’d go to school all day and come home, but he had to work constantly and have his mind going instead of running around the house or watching TV. So I feel like my sisters and I became very independent at a young age.

What would you say are some misconceptions people might have about Autism?

JACQUELYN: Some people confuse the types of Autism, it’s a spectrum disorder and there are several different types, my brother being on the more severe side. I think some people also confuse it with ADHD or Aspergers. One in 88 kids in the U.S are diagnosed with Autism, but there has yet to be a standard way of diagnosing things. When I was talking to someone from Autism Speaks they said that once everyone is on the same page with the diagnoses and figuring out the same method of determing Autism, ADHD and Aspergers you’ll find that the numbers will be different and higher.

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What would you say is the overall goal of Autism Speaks?

JACQUELYN: To raise awareness and to raise money to help the families. It’s amazing what Autism Speaks has done to get the message out there. Light It Up Blue Day was on April 2nd and it kicked off Autism Awareness month, on that day we opened the Stock Exchange and they had the Empire State Building, the George Washington Bridge and all these landmarks all over the world change their lights to blue. My aunt at home ran over to Atlantic City and it was lighting up all of the casinos blue! Somehow she got someone on the phone and they were able to do it, even my uncle at home had a blue light bulb in his house. Things like that just make people aware of how this is growing and how important this is.

Families of autistic children have to deal with a lot of extra expenses – for example my brother needed special schools and doctors, that costs a lot of money. When I think about my brother it’s like; ok he’s 17 and his school goes to age 21, but what happens after? What happens when this generation of autistic children reaches a certain age? How can we help them and their families get the assistance and money they need? You can visit Autism Speaks website and donate there and just raise awareness locally. There are many events and it is important to donate time as well as money. This is the fastest growing developmental disease in the United States and I feel like not enough people are aware of that fact.

Can you tell us a bit about the event you’re planning?

JACQUELYN: I’ve been trying to do something for a very long time but it is kind of difficult. You don’t realize how much goes into planning an event until you start. I was trying to reach out to someone from Autism Speaks, when the whole thing with Ring the Bell happened and it was a perfect start. Everyone I’ve met has been amazing and they are all so excited to help and have the fashion world involved and raise awareness to even more people. I am reaching out to friends from the fashion world to do a silent auction and Autism Speaks is helping me with the right space. Originally I was trying to make sure it was in Autism Awareness month which is April, but I want to make sure everything is perfect and I was worried that was just too soon. Autism isn’t going anywhere, the issue will be just as relevant a month from now so if I can plan a bigger, better event I want to.

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12 Comments
  1. @Milex great point, really adds to her involvement with raising autism awareness and her own personal story of having an autistic brother. Really good to see you breaking the stereotype of vacuous, banal fashionistas.

  2. Hah if it’s the real Sam Way, then I love your sarcasm and sense of irony. Aside, this was a beautiful interview. I have always been intrigued by Jaquelyn. In backstage interviews and such, she always seemed to have such a calm energy. It is really fascinating to hear her back-story, and it explains some of her demeanor. It is always great when people who assume that models are vapid mannequins, get to encounter someone so eloquent, charming, and grounded.

  3. @milex: Agree.. She looks very haunting =).. I love that she is known to work for a cause aside form her modeling career =)..

  4. I want to get my son in modeling of Autism speaks he a really good looking kids

  5. MODELS CAN START SOMETHING THAT INCLUDES AND GIVES CHANCES TO TALL TEEN MODELS WITH AUTISM, IN STILL MODELING, THAT WOULD BE BENEFICIAL. INCLUSION IS CRUCIAL FOR LIVES, SO FORGOTTEN. I AM A HOUSTONIAN, AND IT IS A LOUD, LIVELY CITY, BUT YET FEELS SO QUIET FOR OUR TEENS WITH AUTISM, AND PEOPLE WITH DIFFERENT ABILITIES. WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR MAKING A CHANGE? THINK ABOUT IT MODELING AGENCIES. LIFE WAS NOT MEANT TO BE ALL NORMAL, WHERE IS THE KICK IN LIFE?

  6. I FULLY AGREE Almana Ahmad! I have a Tall Gorgeous Daughter who is 13 and on The spectrum and her ONLY Dream is to Model… She is High functioning and Fully believes she can and Will do anything she sets her mind too..
    She has ALWAYS Wanted to Be on Tv, In Print etc.. in fact as a Baby,. She did print work for magazines though dad and I pulled her out to focus on the family. I’d absolutely Love to either help Create an Agency for the Inclusion of or Find an Agency Thats willing to add another division, Which would recognize these Amazing People as The Beautiful Characters they are…. They deserve NOTHING Less than they Can Dream, And I will continue to Push her to Pursue her dreams until she is behind Camera. Autism will Never stop affecting families from ALL walks of life, Just as I will Never stop helping her to Achieve & Succeed… No “Dream” is too Big…

  7. I am looking for modelling work for one of my students who is SLD and ASD. He has great looks and is very keen. Can you please advise?

  8. My Daughter is 6 years old and is in The Autism Spectrum. I feel she would be a Great Model in many ways, from shoes to Hair/Glasses
    She is a very beautiful girl. Hoping to hear back from you.
    sincerely Aaliyah’s Mom, Samantha

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