NASSAU COUNTY, N.Y. (PIX11) — A Long Island girl with autism stepped up in a big way when she saw her uncle fall unconscious. The girl was honored Monday for her bravery.

“Thank you so much. God bless you. You did a great job and we are so proud of you,” said Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman.

Blakeman presented a special honor for the fast-acting little girl, 7-year-old Gabriella Smith. Gabriella, who has autism, is being hailed a hero for helping to save her uncle.

Gabriella was with her uncle at Memorial Park in East Rockaway when he fell unconscious. The second-grader sprang into action, grabbing his phone to call her father for help. 

“I really want to thank Bruce and his staff for putting this together and making her feel better with the traumatic situation she went through. But she had a very quick response. Her uncle was lucky she did what she did at the time,” said Gabriella’s father, Kenny Smith. 

Gabriella was awarded a Nassau County citation and a stuffed lion for her act of bravery during a special ceremony marking Autism Awareness Month. The county also illuminated the dome of the Theodore Roosevelt Building in blue. Autism advocates say it’s an opportunity to put a spotlight on the needs of people with autism and their families.

“The families get caught in what we call a gap, when school services end and adult services begin. That happens at the age of 21. And very often families are left holding the bag. They don’t know what to do,” said Tina Moreno, the director of development for Life’s WORC, which provides resources for people living with autism. 

Legislator Michael Giangregorio has been an autism awareness advocate since his son Nicholas was diagnosed. He is nonverbal and will need lifelong care. Giangregorio is vowing to work with other leaders in Nassau County and the state government to make it more accessible and welcoming.  

“If you see someone with autism, ask what you can do. If you see a child showing challenging behaviors, don’t look, don’t scowl, what can I do to help, what can I do to understand,” said Giangregorio. 

Advocates say one major way to help is by providing employment to people living with autism so that they can achieve a sense of purpose and independence.

The Life’s WORC organization is planning a workforce initiative. If you want to get involved, email or visit the Life’s WORC website.