24-Year-Old Woman Becomes 1st Person With Autism to Practice Law in Florida

Hayley Moss being sworn into the Florida bar.
Hayley Moss being sworn into the Florida Bar. Hayley Moss

Doctors didn't expect much from Hayley Moss, who was diagnosed with autism at age 3. They said she probably wouldn't be able to talk or to live on her own.

But Moss, now 24, is a big talker with big dreams. Last month, she became Florida's first person with autism to pass the state bar exam. She practices international and health care law. 

At age 13, she was giving speeches on autism. "I had just finished eighth grade," she told InsidEdition.com. She had also written a book, titled "Middle School: The Stuff Nobody Tells You About."

"I have always been a writer and I've always been a talker," she said. "I wanted to give back and I knew I could make a difference."

She graduated last year from the University of Miami's law school. 

Though she was diagnosed as high functioning, she doesn't like to use that description. "The spectrum is very wide," she said, adding that people with autism shouldn't be stigmatized for being at either end of it. "Anything is possible" for children and adults who deal with the disorder's broad range of conditions that include repetitive behaviors, speech difficulties and problems with social skills, she said.

Moss' life is far from easy. "Some things are very hard for me. I'm able to communicate, I have a job." But when it comes to day-to-day things like being organized, making friends, or hearing loud noises, the young woman has difficulties coping.

She explains the latter as being in the electronics section of a department store with all the televisions turned as loud as they can go, with different stations on every TV. "It's very confusing," she said.

Likewise, chores such as cleaning her home can be difficult. "I'm not able to prioritize how to clean the house," she said. "I can't mentally sort through what to do." 

To help her focus, "I make a lot of lists," she said, laughing. She has a driver's license but finds it hard to concentrate behind the wheel because of all the stimuli and decisions that must be made quickly.

Nonetheless, she soldiers on. And she is a tireless public speaker and advocate for the autism community. "I give people hope. Things are possible. Even just being visible is a help. As a lawyer, just being out there helps."

When she was a toddler, her parents realized something wasn't right. She could do jigsaw puzzles, and she could follow what was on the television, but she wasn't saying a word. 

"They say it takes a village to raise a child," she said. "It takes an even larger village to raise a child with a disability." Her mantra is to be one of the loudest voices in that village.

"It's been a very interesting road," she said. One she couldn't have navigated without help, she said.

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