At 24-years-old Haley Moss Became The First Openly Autistic Lawyer in Florida
Plus: She Has Written 3 Books Every Parent Raising A Child On The Spectrum Should Read.
Because autism doesn’t disappear when children turn 18, this new series explores what it’s like to navigate a career as a young adult on the autism spectrum.
By PJ Feinstein
When Haley Moss was diagnosed with autism at age three, doctors warned her parents that she may never be able live independently or hold a minimum-wage job. Today, the 24-year-old Florida native not only lives on her own but also practices law as the first openly autistic attorney in the state -- and possibly the country.
Haley learned she was on the autism spectrum when she was nine years old. “My parents described it much like being Harry Potter; I had magic in me. Different was not bad, it was just different, and different could be extraordinary,” she says. “So I always had confidence surrounding my diagnosis.”
Growing up, Haley’s parents encouraged and nurtured all of their daughter’s interests, always making sure to emphasize the positive in order to build her self-esteem. “My parents are my biggest cheerleaders and supporters. We’re incredibly close,” says Haley. “They were my earliest advocates, who taught me how to be a self-advocate too.”
Despite their support, Haley faced certain challenges growing up with autism. “I did not necessarily struggle academically but always struggled socially. I made maybe one or two friends at any school I was at. I wrote about my middle school and college experiences more extensively in my books.”
Haley is the author of Middle School: The Stuff Nobody Tells You About - A Teenage Girl with High-Functioning Autism Shares Her Experiences and A Freshman Survival Guide for College Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. She also contributed to What Every Autistic Girl Wishes Her Parents Knew from the Autism Women’s Network.
At the University of Florida, Haley initially thought she wanted to be a psychiatrist -- until she realized “the sciences weren’t quite for me,” she says. Still, she decided to stick with her psychology major. “What better way to understand people and behavior when it isn’t natural than to understand the logic of how the human brain works?”
Realizing her true passions included writing, speaking, and serving others, Haley decided to apply to law school after graduation. She’s now an associate at a law firm that knows about her autism and is accommodating of her special needs, such as sensory overload and executive functioning.
“Sometimes it’s having headphones in to block out noise. Sometimes it’s getting a ride home with a colleague because I don’t drive,” she says. “The managing shareholder has a son on the spectrum. We consider neurodiversity an asset in the workplace and have continuing conversations and dialogue about it.”
Earlier this year, Haley won an award from Unicorn Children’s Foundation for her work as an advocate for neurodiversity. She considers herself lucky to “work in a really supportive environments alongside wonderful people.”