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New Book by Gabelli School Professor John Fortunato Provides Inspiration in the Face of Autism

Faculty | Nov 02, 2023 |

Professor John Fortunato, Ph.D., a professor of communications and media management at the Gabelli School of Business, has established himself as an expert in sports media, sponsorship, and crisis communications and is the author of numerous books and journal articles on related topics. In his most recent publication, however, he delves into a that holds a more personal and emotional connection—autism.

Miracle of Effort: Thalia’s Autism Journey, tells the story of Thalia, a woman who was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder when she was just two years old. Thalia is Fortunato’s cousin’s daughter, and her struggle and early prognosis had an impact that reverberated throughout his entire family. “When Thalia was first diagnosed, the whole family was there to support her and her parents. No one knew then what her life would be like as a child or as an adult, or what struggles she might face,” he noted. It was Thalia’s cousin, Lisa, a board certified behavior analyst, who first delivered Thalia’s therapy sessions when she was two years old.

The book chronicles her life beginning in her toddler years to her college graduation, and eventually to achieving her dream of becoming an elementary school teacher. Through the lens of the family’s personal experience, Fortunato offers compelling insights into the challenges with which autistic children and their family members are confronted. He details how Thalia’s family navigated the complex network of education and health services required to secure effective treatment and guidance on the difficult decisions that need to be made at different stages throughout an autistic child’s life. “Thalia inspired me to write this book,” he commented. “I wanted to help share her journey and to offer hope for families and individuals who may be facing similar challenges with this developmental disability.”

Thalia and her parents demonstrate what can be achieved with perseverance and hard work, and how important it is to have a positive outlook in realizing one’s full potential regardless of the circumstances. Her success as an adult is a testament to what can be achieved with the love and support of family, and how resilience helps us overcome obstacles, no matter how big or small. “I felt this was an important story to tell,” Fortunato stated, “even if it helps just one family.” During an interview on WFUV’s “What’s What” podcast, he highlighted how powerful hope can be and what motivated him to use his skills to get this story out into the world.

Listen to the podcast here.

Written by: Michelle Miller, Associate Director of Communications, Fordham University Gabelli School of Business

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