Jennifer Cook O'Toole is bubbly and spirited -- exactly the opposite of what many people think of when they hear the word, “Aspergers,” but her expertise (and the strong personal endorsements of greats like Drs. Temple Grandin and Liane Holliday Willey) proves she’s the real deal.
She is the winner of the 2012 Temple Grandin Award, a recipient of GRASP’s 2012 Distinguished Spectrumite Medal, and a nominee of the 2012 Autism Society Book Award and Godiva’s Woman of the Year. TV actress/Activist Holly Robinson Peete even listed Jennifer among her “Autism Parent Superstars.” Most recently, she has been added to the “Who’s Who” list of International Aspie Mentors -- along with Temple Grandin, Stephen Shore, Liane Holliday Willey and Anita Lesko - to contribute to Dr. Tony Attwood’s “Been There. Done That. Try This.” anthology. But it’s Jennifer’s unique “have a cup of coffee with me” conversationalist presentation of useful insights which has touched hearts, lightened spirits and even led to the founding of Asperkids, LLC, a multi-media social education company.
O’Toole was diagnosed as an Aspie in adulthood, is the mother of three Asperkids, the wife of an Aspie, an award-winning Special Educator and two-time author of brand-new books for and about Asperkids (Asperkids: An Insider’s Guide to Loving, Understanding and Teaching Children with Asperger Syndrome, and The Asperkids’ (Secret) Book of Social Rules: The Handbook of Not-So-Obvious Guidelines for Teens and Tweens, from Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2012). Both books were chosen by Autism Speaks as “Main Resources for Families,” and Autism Asperger Digest selected Asperkids to the “Top 12 Books to Read When a Loved One is Diagnosed with ASD.”
O’Toole speaks domestically and internationally, keynoting in October 2012 for the United Kingdom’s National Autistic Society and Ireland’s SHINE Charity. She is also the public voice for Autism Brainstorm (Dr. Stephen Shore, co-director) on the crowd-sourcing platform, Indiegogo. Jennifer has appeared on television shows in the USA, England and Ireland, is a new recurring columnist in “Autism Asperger’s Digest,” part of Autism Brainstorm’s “Panel of Experts,” the international spokesperson for their third-world autism education efforts, and has written for magazines from from Autism Spectrum Quarterly in the USA to “Special” Magazine in the United Kingdom. Her energetic humor has delighted and informed radio audiences on National Public Radio, “It’s Your Health,” Autism Empowerment Radio, the Special Needs Network and others.
O’Toole graduated with honors from Brown University and has since studied at the Graduate School of Social Work at Columbia University and Graduate School of Education at Queens University. Subsequent initiatives with young people garnered her an invitation to serve on North Carolina’s Governor’s Commission on Domestic Violence, and a nomination for Disney’s American Teacher of the Year Award in her first year of teaching.
With a background in advocacy and education, O’Toole found herself “walking the special needs walk,” as she struggled to achieve a diagnosis for her first child, whose early life presented one medical challenge upon another. But it was O’Toole’s “Aspie” hyper-focus on otherwise seemingly disconnect details that doctors agree saved the child’s life, and led to her service on the Levine Children’s Hospital’s Family Advocacy Council. Since that time, all three of her young children have been identified as “Aspies,” as has her husband -- and eventually, O’Toole herself.
Uniquely prepared in social work, education and by her own Asperger’s, she was encouraged to document her unique teaching strategies, parenting perspectives and Aspie insight in her upcoming books, and has since won some of the world’s most coveted prizes for the outstanding contributions she has made to the lives and families of “Asperkids” the world over.