This Boy's Extraordinary Talent Stunned Experts at the National Dog Show

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When Cory Gould’s mother told director Tim O’Donnell she was bringing her son to the National Dog Show Presented by Purina, O’Donnell had one response.

“What?”

A convention center full of people and dogs seemed like an odd place to bring an 11-year-old boy with Asperger syndrome, O’Donnell thought. So much noise and chaos may make for an uncomfortable setting.

But for Cory this isn’t the case – he has a passion for dogs, and he can tell you pretty much anything you need to know about them. In fact, when Cory is talking about canines, he has less trouble in social situations.

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When Cory’s parents, Heather and Jonathan, realized their son’s fascination and talent, they called O’Donnell and asked if he’d be interested in making a film about Cory. He was.

“For the Love of Dogs,” which screened in April 2014 at the Independent Film Festival of Boston, centers around Cory’s trip to the dog show, but really, O’Donnell says, the 25-minute documentary is about much more. [Update: The full film can now be purchased for viewing here.]

“Autism isn’t easy. It’s hard,” O’Donnell, 30, told The Mighty. “[Cory] and his family work hard every day.”

The director hopes “For the Love of Dogs” will show people the highs and lows of autism, how difficult it can be and how beautiful it can be, too. Maybe, he says, it will raise awareness about the realities of the developmental disorder.

“If you see a kid throwing a tantrum in, say, a grocery store, maybe hold off your judgment,” O’Donnell told The Mighty. “That kid’s been working hard all day and maybe this is just the moment it got to be too much.”

Take a look at the trailer for “For the Love of Dogs” below.

h/t The Boston Herald

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What I Learned From a Little Boy Who Fell Off His Horse

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Last year I began volunteering at a place called We Can Ride. It offers therapeutic horseback riding for people living with disabilities or special needs.

I originally began volunteering there because I loved the idea of being around horses every week and getting to hopefully help some really cool kids learn to ride.

I started in the spring session and immediately realized how amazing the riders truly were. Originally I was worried I wasn’t qualified to work with the kids or help with their riding lessons, but I soon discovered the biggest component of the program was just stepping aside to let the riders truly shine and demonstrate their abilities.

It’s a blessing to get to watch these kids come week after week and master something they were struggling with the week previous or see the smiles on the parents’ faces as their children go trotting around the arena.

One week in particular I was working with a young boy with autism when his horse suddenly spooked. The horse reared, and the woman leading the horse fell over. The boy held on but when the horse came back down he gently fell off the side. We caught him before he hit the ground, but the damage was done. He was completely frightened.

Luckily his mom was there to soothe him. She had ridden as  young girl and was understanding of the situation. She didn’t blame us leaders or even the horse. She simply told the boy that the horse had been frightened and instead subtly implied that the horse’s feelings would be hurt if the boy didn’t get back on and continue riding.

At this point most other parents probably would have cursed, or yelled, or headed for the car, but she didn’t. It took a while, but after enough encouragement the boy got back on the horse and tentatively finished his ride.

The next week the boy came back for another lesson. Shocked, I watched as he confidently mounted the horse and told me, “It wasn’t the horse’s fault last week – he got scared.” And if that wasn’t enough he went on to say, “If I fall again this week, I will just throw my head back and laugh.”

Wow. It was enough for me to realize that the things that throw us off balance every day are actually much smaller than they seem. Maybe we can even laugh our way through them.

This post originally appeared on “that’s so denver” as a part of Carly Reynolds’ “40 days of good news.”

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Dear Friend Whom My Autistic Child Just Rebuffed

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I know.  I saw.  You, friendly person that you are, walked up to my autistic child in public and tried to say hello.  And he got really, really upset with you.  I saw your concern.  Felt your embarrassment.  Knew you never meant to upset him.

When I see you, you ask about him.  When you’ve met him before, you always make a point of speaking directly to him – even when it seems he’s not paying attention.  You’ve even had really positive interactions with him in the past.  You did everything right.  You didn’t go rushing up or speak too loud to him.  You didn’t put your hands on him without being welcomed to do so by him.  You follow me on Facebook, read about the cute things he does, and celebrate his successes.  You’re a good friend and a great cheerleader.  I appreciate you.

And because of that, I don’t want your apology for “upsetting” him.  That’s because you didn’t.  It’s likely several things did, but it wasn’t you.  He was just overwhelmed a bit by the world – new sounds, sights, and experiences.  He was busy trying to process all of those when you happened to innocently walk up and try to interact.  For whatever reason, that’s when his pot boiled over.

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He wasn’t judging you, disliking you, or even declaring how he feels about you in the future.  He was simply over capacity and expressed it the only way he knows how to – with a big fat “no more right now.”  Only he doesn’t yet have those words.  He isn’t able to convey exactly what was too much.  He meant to say, “I have had enough.”  But it wasn’t you.  It just seemed like it.  And I could tell by your red face that it felt like it too.

So, I’m begging you.  Please don’t slink away and give up on getting to know him.  Please don’t feel that he just doesn’t like you.  Please don’t feel like you did anything wrong.  He may have been overwhelmed emotionally and sensory-wise, but his mind is quick.  He knows the difference between someone who is good to him and someone who is not.  If you continue to gently engage with him when you see him, he’ll learn that you’re not to be feared –and you’ll learn there is nothing to fear from reaching out to him.  Before you know it, you’ll have a little buddy who expands your world – just as you will expand his.

I want you to know that your efforts to engage with my child are beautiful to me.  Too many people are afraid to try – afraid to “upset” him.  Afraid to simply ask what’s the best way to get to know him.  But you?  You put yourself out there and sent a message to our family, to him, and everyone in the immediate area – that he is worth knowing.  Not everyone knows that.  But you do.

And that’s why I want so very badly for him to get to know you.  Because clearly you are worth knowing too.

This post originally appeared on Flappiness Is...

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Your Tears Mean the World to Me

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Sweet Grace.  I saw that.  You watched as Kate sat beside a little girl and the girl moved quickly away.  Likely, she was fearful of a bite or the confusing way Kate speaks.  Either way, it crushed you.  Kate didn’t notice her little friend maneuver quickly away; one of the rare perks of autism, I guess.  She wasn’t the least bit affected.  You were, though.  I saw it in the way you cast your eyes down so the little girl would not see the tears in your eyes.  I saw it in the way you stopped coloring and instead stared at your page and twirled your hair.  I saw it in the way you glanced to me to see if I saw the interaction.

I smiled at you because I wanted you to know that it was ok and because your tears made my heart burst with pride.  There was no malice in that little girl’s heart when she moved away from our Kate.  She may be unsure and afraid of how to interact with Kate.  She may have even received a bite or a pinch from our girl at one time.

This is where you and I come in, Grace.  We are going to teach people how to adore Kate as much as we do.  We are going to teach people how to understand the way Kate tells you something with her actions when she cannot produce the words.  We are going to teach people that being different can be wonderful and exciting and scary, too.  We are going to do that for Kate because of everything she has done for us.  

IMG_4634 Remember when Kate gave you her turtle, Michelangelo, when you were crying because you were afraid to get on the school bus for the first time?  Remember when Kate offered you her popcorn when you dropped your whole kids pack at the movie theatre?  Remember when you cried your little heart out because Kate sobbed when she had her first haircut?  

Do you see how tears can sometimes mean something wonderful?  The tears you shed that day made me smile, not because I wanted to see you sad, but because I can see that Kate means everything to you and that means everything to me.

This blog originally appeared on GoTeamKate.com.

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These ‘Champions of Autism’ Want You to Hear Them Roar

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“I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar.”

In the video below,  a group of champions, brought together by the Autism Council of Utah, lip-synch those inspiring lyrics from Katy Perry’s “Roar” to celebrate National Autism Awareness Month this April.

“Autism can be a heavy diagnosis for a family to bear,” Amy Baker, of the Autism Council of Utah told The Mighty in an email, “BUT it can also bring a refreshing sense of innocence [and] open our minds as we try to look at life through their eyes and give us moments of pure joy. For every tear, frustration and worry, we need a good dose of laughter, a glimmer of hope and a fun video to put a big smile on our face!”

To get involved in the autism community, visit the Autism Society’s website.

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College Basketball Player Doesn’t See His Younger Sister as ‘Different’

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When Devin Oliver, a senior on the University of Dayton’s basketball team, first learned his younger sister, Miya, has Down syndrome, he knew more than ever that he’d always have to look out for her. But Miya looks out for him, too.

Even on Saturday, when Dayton lost to the University of Florida in the Elite 8, ending their season, Miya stood in the stands, cheering her brother on.

Before that game, Devin, Miya and their parents sat down with CBS Sports to talk about the incredible family bond they share. You can view that conversation below.

Dayton may have lost Saturday’s game, but the Oliver family didn’t lose anything.

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