Westchester County teen Nick Lombardi has spent the past eight years advocating for autism awareness, his efforts reaching local and national families alike and benefiting Autism Speaks. And it all started with a trip to the mall.
In real life, heroes don’t wear capes or fly, they simply see a person in need of help and lend a hand. That’s exactly what Nick Lombardi of Ardsley did. At the age of 9, Nick saw others discriminating against his younger brother Joey, who has autism, because they didn’t understand his behavior, and he found a solution that ultimately helped not only his family, but families across the country who are affected by the disorder.
Nick remembers one particular shopping trip with his brother and mother Phyllis Lombardi that sparked his passion for autism advocacy. As they were walking through the mall, Joey started making funny noises, taking off his shoes, and running around. “People were looking at him like he was just some brat not listening to his mom,” Nick recalls. “As the people stared, I found myself very angry. Not at him, not really at them, but maybe at autism.” It was in that moment that Nick turned to his mom, saying, “Ma, I really wish there was a button that said ‘I’m not misbehaving, I have autism, please be understanding.’ It would be a voice for Joey.”
Realizing that no such badge existed, Nick created one, teaming up with Autism Speaks to help raise awareness for the disorder. Now 17, Nick has expanded his line to include T-shirts and reusable patches and has donated more than $60,000 of his sales to autism research. “Wearing the button helps,” Nick says. “The button gets the word ‘autism’ [out there] and spreads understanding to other children.”
Nick, a junior at Ardsley High School, is also a co-host of "Siblinghood," a series of seven-minute shows aired on FamilyNetworkTV.com that allow siblings of those with disabilities an opportunity to express themselves. Nick says he loves volunteering with kids and wants to become a speech pathologist.
For more information on Nick and his products, visit autismbutton.com.