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The Autism Spectrum Award is an award we have given annually since 2015 to the individual with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who is voted as having the most representative hallmarks of ‘character, positive, attitude, and contribution. This year, we are accepting nominations until Friday, August 12, 2022. The winner will get to attend the Grand Finale in the Bahamas where they’ll be recognized and invited to join our Advisory Board!

Nomination Link Here:

The History of the Els for Autism Spectrum Award:

In 2014, we received grant funding to create the Ernie Els #GameON Autism® Golf curriculum and pilot it nationwide. The very next year, pilot sites located in our Golf Challenge even cities were selected to host the classes using the curriculum and provide feedback. At our selected pilot site in Texas Els for Autism was introduced to Joshua Deer, an individual with ASD, who was trained to be one of the first Official Program Providers of the Ernie Els #GameON Autism Golf program.  Joshua Deer made an exemplary impact on the autism community through his involvement in golf and hockey. In addition, his family was our top fundraiser for our Golf Challenge Series that year. As a result of these accomplishments, Joshua Deer was the inspiration for and the recipient of the first Els for Autism Spectrum Award.
In 2016, Gloria Mendoza received the award in recognition of her accomplishments with the SAP Autism at Work Program. Gloria was recognized at the Golf Challenge Grand Finale Awards Ceremony and Gala.

In 2017, the nomination process evolved into what it is today – nominations are submitted by the general public and blind voting by a committee of staff, board members, and community partners choose the winner. The new winner is invited to the Grand Finale as well as the previous year’s winner who presents the award., and In 2017,we also began inviting the winner of the award  to join the Advisory Board.

OUR WINNERS – 2015 – 2021


Joshua ‘Deersey’ Deer – Certified Golf Instructor at Iron Horse Golf Course and Assistant Equipment Manager at Lone Star Brahmas

Joshua Deer, or Deersey, was the first Ernie Els #GameOn Autism® Golf Official Program Provider with ASD and to this day, utilizes our curriculum at the Iron Horse Golf Course, where he was hired after winning the Autism Spectrum Award. Whether it’s his placing of inspirational Bible verses on the equipment he works with or his determination to teach our unique golf program to others, he is of great character and he continues to inspire others!

Gloria Mendoza – Project Manager at SAP

Gloria Mendoza was, like many individuals with ASD, frustrated with the challenge of  finding suitable employment. With her tenacity and spirit, even when faced with obstacles, she kept working at it,and found her path through the support of the SAP Autism At Work Program. Ever since then she has traveled through the company considerably and serves as a remarkable friend to her peers at SAP with ASD.


Rachel Barcellona –  Executive Director of Ability Beyond Disabilities Inc.

Rachel Barcellona, too was faced with adversity as she grew up. Her diagnoses of Asperger’s, Dyscalculia (Dyslexia but with mathematics), Dyspraxia (which controls communication and speech) and epilepsy, made it harder for her to be treated fairly in her school-age years. Yet, her positive spirit and ambition has allowed her to compete in pageants, becoming Miss Florida International in 2016, and the year she won the ASA, Miss Southeast International. Rachel also started the Ability Beyond Disabilities Inc. organization, providing a host of therapies and job training to any individual who seeks the services that the organization can provide.


Adam Jones – Barn Attendant at Madison Fields – a Division of the Madison House Autism Foundation

Adam Jones is a humble and proactive individual who has spent close to two decades involving himself in his special interest of horses. Working at Madison Fields, his responsibilities also allow him to be a role model and mentor to other individuals with autism employed by Madison Fields.


Haley Moss – Speaker, Writer, and Legal Consultant

Haley Moss is the first openly autistic lawyer to be certified by the Florida Bar Association. Her interest in seeing her peers empowered is immeasurable through her broadcasts, lectures, and published books.


Jim Hogan – Vice President in Accessibility of Technology at Google

Jim Hogan serves as an elder statesman at Google, and by his example he has been very much the mentor to his fellow employees with autism. His drive to become the best he can be through Google’s accessibility resources and his anti-bullying advocacy makes him an example of the profound potential of individuals on the spectrum.


Isabelle ‘Izzie’ Piwnicki – Intern at Girl AGain

Izzie Piwnicki serves the most misunderstood population of women with ASD. Through Co-Founding Girl AGain, a part of the Yes She Can initiative, women with autism have employment opportunities and vocational training working with the American Girl Doll line. She is also employed by Sephora where she has influenced the business culture in her store with her highly competent practices.

And the person you love could be next!


Please submit your nomination for the person whom you believe embodies character, positive attitude, and contribution to the autism community.

Nominations are accepted through midnight August 12th, 2022.