Recently, I was in a big box retailer picking up an online order at customer service. After the desk clerk assisted me and called for the stock boy, she began talking with two other employees less than two feet away from me. It was hard not to hear them as they gossiped and made fun of other employees. When the stock boy arrived, he came right up to me. He was tall, quite thin, messy hair, mismatched clothes – but poised and professional. He said to me, loudly and nearly scripted, “Ma’am, I am here to serve you! Is this order I’ll be locating yours?” I said it was, to which he replied, “Ok, ma’am, you got it. I’ll be back quick as a lick!” and he did a military style about-face move and headed off to retrieve my order.

I smiled as he walked away, unsure if he was just being silly to get a reaction or if he was being the best he knew how to be. But I smiled because he made me smile, no matter the reason. No sooner did he leave the desk, the clerk exclaimed “Ugh, that kid is so retarded!” as her two coworkers nodded and giggled in agreement. Her statement physically knocked me backwards and I noticeably gasped for air. They all turned to me and I could feel my face start to burn red. My mind was racing in the seconds following her statement. I wanted so badly to smack her right across the face but I knew that wouldn’t make her understand my shock.

I managed to say to her, through gritted teeth, “Excuse me, what did you just say?” Her two friends quickly scattered. I took a step closer and repeated myself, “What, exactly, did you just say?” She rolled her eyes and stepped back before saying, “Um, I said that kid was retarded. Why, do you know him?”

I gasped again.

“No, I don’t know him. Does it matter? You don’t know me! I could be his mother, his sister, his aunt, his friend. Do you know him?”

“Well, he works here so –“

“What’s his name? Do you know his name? Do you know anything about him?”

“Well, um… No.”

“I do and I’ve only been here for ten minutes! His name is Jacob. Do you know how I know that? He has a name tag that says ‘Jacob!’ What is your name?”

“I’m Carol.”

“Carol, what gives you the right to call Jacob that awful word? You don’t even know his name! How dare you. How dare you?

“Well, I didn’t say it to you! Or about someone you know!”

Again, I was physically knocked backwards by her ignorance. What Carol didn’t know is that she was talking about someone I knew. She didn’t know the struggles my daughter had gone through over the last 14 months. The therapy sessions, the speech classes, the meltdowns, the doctors, the pain, the confusion. She doesn’t know.

“Carol, I need to speak to your manager. Immediately.”

I began shaking and, once again, considered a physical altercation. She then pulled back her sweater to reveal her name tag: Carol – Customer Service Manager. I may have blacked out at this point as I said to her, “You cannot be serious. You are the manager? You are the one that is supposed to lead that young boy? And you are the one using that ugly word in front of a customer? No. Absolutely not. Give me the store manager’s number, district manager – give me the CEO’s information! I don’t care who – just so long as it’s not you.”

She quickly started to apologize. “Ma’am I am extremely sorry. There is no need to make any phone calls. It won’t happen again.”

“You know what, Carol? Jacob is coming back now. I think we’re going to chat with him. And I think you owe him an apology.”

Before she could leave or say no, Jacob arrived with my item, put it right in front of me and saluted as he said, “Ma’am, here it is. Lickety split, just like I promised!” “Thank you, Jacob, thank you very much.”

His face lit up in that instant. He towered over me but he seemed so small and innocent as he looked down at the floor and muttered, “You know my name? Wow.”

I couldn’t help but choke back tears. I wondered if anyone in this wretched store had ever addressed him beyond calling for a stock boy. I turned to Carol who was pale as a ghost, and I asked Jacob if he knew her name. He quickly replied, “Yes, yes I do. That is Carol the manager. She is the boss of all of the people,” as he waved his arm in a dramatic arc. I asked him another question but still glared at Carol, “Jacob, is she nice to you?” He didn’t hesitate in his reply, “No, ma’am. She is not a very friendly Carol.” She quickly hung her head and sighed.

I continued, “Carol, Jacob doesn’t think you’re very friendly. What do you think about that?” I could see her face turning red and her eyes welling up with tears; I wasn’t sure if they were tears of remorse or embarrassment, but I didn’t care. She softly said, “Jacob, I’m so sorry I haven’t been friendly. I will try harder.” Jacob’s eyes bulged out of his head and a smile that seemed too big for his face radiated the room. Before he could say anything, I said, “Thank you, Carol. Good evening. Now, Jacob, are you ready to help me to my car?” He switched right back into professional mode and said, “Abso-tutey-lutely!”

We walked into the parking lot silently. He seemed reflective and proud. When we got to my car, I asked if I could help him lift the item into the backseat but he insisted he do it himself. After, I said, “Whoa, it fits perfectly! Thank you!” He stood next to me and dramatically said, “Like a glove!” I giggled because I knew the movie he was quoting. He noticed and said, “Do you know that’s from a movie?”

“I do! And I even know what movie it is!”

“Ok, ma’am, I’ll give you a hint: Jim Carey, 1994, Name that movie.”

“’Ace Ventura!’”

“That was amazing.”

“I love that movie, Jacob!” And I laughed with him. With him.

“Ma’am, you’re friendly. Can I tell you a secret?”

“Sure, Jacob. What is it?”

He took a step closer to me then and said, “I have autism. But I can work and learn and stuff! I just like to be goofy because it makes people happy. Then they will have a reason to laugh.”

I have no idea how I managed not to sob right there in front of him. I managed to say, “You’re awesome, Jacob. You. Are. Awesome! Can I have a high five?”

He stretched his arm high above his head. He smirked and said, “Jump! You can do it!” I laughed and I tried to reach but came nowhere close. He brought his hand back down to my level and said, “My mom said it’s OK to be different because that makes me special. But sometimes, I like to be normal. Let’s just do a normal high five, ma’am.”

So we did. Then he did his about-face move again and off he went, back into the store.

And he never looked back.

This post originally appeared on Mommy Needs a Martini.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a moment you were met with extreme negativity or adversity related to your disability and/or disease (or a loved one’s) and why you were proud of your response — or how you wish you could’ve responded. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


So often we hear about fallen athletes — football stars who fail to exhibit even the most basic skills of humanity, individuals who consistently put themselves before anyone else, role model, who were once held up on a pillar, fall in a fiery spectacle of disgrace. What we should be be hearing about are the athletes who put others before themselves — football players who think beyond the field and recognize the power that their position in life has on those that struggle. As a society we should be shining a light on teams and coaches who push their players to do good. Teams that provide their players an opportunity to reach out into their own communities to establish relationships with kids that look up to them.

This past week I had an opportunity to meet the angels of Notre Dame football. The men that play under the Golden Dome are more than just superb athletes. Football is a way of life in South Bend, Ind., and the players are idolized by many local kids. Notre Dame has shown their strength and abilities on the field time and again and have demonstrated that they have what it takes to be successful collegiately and professionally. But that is not what impresses me about this team and school.

My son is 10 years old. He loves history and can tell you even the most remote fact about Ancient Egypt, regardless if you want to know it. He struggles in school and has attended more schools in his short life than an adult does in their entire life. He has problems connecting with kids his age and often this leaves him shy and discouraged. His heart is the same color of the Notre Dame dome – Gold.

He has attended the Notre Dame football camp for three summers now. It is a fantastic program that the team runs for three half days in June. The players and coaches run the camp. They shout words of encouragement, they bolster the kids’ self esteem, they high five the kids when they catch the ball or get a tackle. It is an amazing camp that hosts more than 600 children every year. Most of the kids are excited to be there — they are outgoing, they seek out the players to talk and they have no qualms asking for an autograph. Most of the kids joke with their idols and are in awe that they are working out and learning next to a top collegiate athlete. Most of the kids smile and want to soak up every second.

But not my kid.

He keeps his head down. He barely talks to the kids in his group. He moves from one drill to another as if he is doing a death march. He wants to be at the camp — we would never force him to go — but he struggles with the pace and the loudness of the horns, the interaction with the players and kids his own age.

Until this year.

The week before camp, two Notre Dame players took time from their own lives to come and have dinner at our house to meet our son. They talked to him, threw a ball with him and joked with him. I haven’t seen him smile this much in a very long time. He held his head high when he came out and asked the gentlemen if they would like to see his room. He looked them in the eyes when he politely asked them, “Um, excuse me would you like to throw the ball with me?” He laughed and giggled when they missed a throw and wasn’t embarrassed when he did too.

Jake ND1 (1)

The same two players told their coach about my son and on the first morning of camp that coach came up and introduced himself. He took the time to make my child feel comfortable. A simple gesture that went so far, he could never really understand. My son went to camp this year and for the first time ever he laughed with the other kids. I watched him talk to the players, and he made it his quest to get every one of their signatures. I watched the players high five my guy, and I saw happiness reflected in his face. I saw pride and excitement.

Notre Dame Football players are a group of gentlemen that have left me grateful to be a part of this community. They have gone out of their way to make this camp successful for my son, for no reason other than the fact that they are an amazing team. Regardless of what you want to say about some athletes, I have to say that Notre Dame are truly golden both on and off the field.

Jake Smiling ND (1)

This post originally appeared on Herzig’s personal blog.

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For more than 35 years, Lance Rice spent hours studying beer. His photographic memory has helped him become a beer historian whose knowledge on the subject would impress any brewery owner. But Rice’s autism makes it difficult for him to comfortably navigate social situations. Often, he’d prefer not to leave his home. For more than 35 years, he kept his passion from the world.

Until now.


A year ago, Rice’s nephew, Aaron Rice, decided it was about time his uncle toured some of America’s greatest breweries. The trip throughout the Midwest would help Lance Rice finally write a book about the history and culture of American beer. Thanks to the generosity of strangers, Lance’s Brewery Tour extended past the Midwest — in the last year, Rice and Team #BeerAutismHope have visited breweries from California to New York. Now, his journey is being turned into a documentary.

“The idea that this could help someone with autism to relate to the world and to step into the world in a fuller way gives me goosebumps,” Brooklyn Brewery President Steve Hindy says in the trailer below.

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Brian Costello had his brother in mind when he recommended starting a CrossFit program for people with intellectual disabilities.

Costello, whose brother was diagnosed with autism at age 2, owns CrossFit Long Island, where he coaches the intense but popular core strength and conditioning program.

In the video below, you can see how he adapts the workout style to fit the needs of children and teens with intellectual disabilities. Safety and comfort are Costello’s main priorities, but he doesn’t go easy on these kids.

“They didn’t reject the hard work,” he says in the clip. “They seemed to embrace it a little.”

“I want them to walk out with a smile,” he adds.

That certainly seems to be the case:

We’ve been going to the Starling Meat Market for years. It is one of the places in the neighborhood where we are greeted by name. And that is always a nice feeling. Because even in a large community like ours, people still take the time to know you by name.

On Saturday afternoon as we ordered a few cuts of meat for the week an older white man walked in.

He wore khakis and a tan jacket zippered all the way up, the collar of his button down shirt peeking out. The laces on his black rubber sole shoes were neatly tied. His thin white hair was combed back. And around his wrinkled alabaster wrist was a silver bracelet with his name and two phone numbers. His name was “Timothy.”

Timothy greeted Benny the butcher like an old friend. And Benny joked backed the way he does with all his regulars. Their banter was familiar and yet somewhat off. “How loud does the lion roar?” Timothy asked Benny. Benny responded with a roar and Timothy laughed.”He’s big. How old is he?” Timothy asked me, looking at Norrin. His question caught me off guard but I smiled and told him Norrin’s age.

“2006. He was born in 2006. When is his birthday?”

I told him the date and within seconds Timothy told me that Norrin was born on a Friday. He then asked about my birthday, then Joseph’s. And he told us the days we were born.

Timothy then asked where we born. And with each answer, he told us the address and nearest train station. In between all of our questions, Timothy asked Benny how loud the lion roared.

After about 10 minutes of talking, Timothy walked out without saying goodbye.

I knew in our brief interaction that Timothy had some kind of special need — maybe even autism. Our meeting left me with mixed emotions. I don’t meet older people with special needs often, but when I do it makes me think about Norrin’s future.

I don’t know what Norrin will be like when he grows up. I can only hope. I hope that he can be as independent as Timothy. I hope Norrin lives in a neighborhood that he can walk around on a Saturday afternoon and run his errands. And I hope there will be a market owner who greets Norrin by name.

This post originally appeared on Atypical Familia.

When 8-year-old Conor Corrigan experiences change, he’ll sometimes scream and fling himself on the floor. Autism makes it difficult for Conor to adjust his routines. But now, thanks to his new sidekick — a service poodle named Peyton — it’s easier for Conor to calm down.

“Even if he does [have an episode] Peyton will lie on top of him, give him that deep pressure and that episode will last seconds rather than 15 minutes,” Conor’s mom, Shelly, tells KXAN in the video below. The friendly poodle also helps Conor interact with his classmates — a feat that was challenging before.

On her blog, Shelly Corrigan explained:

One of the great things about Peyton being at school is that it gets kids and adults talking about autism. Not many knew what was up with Conor and why he wouldn’t talk to anyone. It broke my heart seeing kids trying to engage with Conor and when he didn’t respond they gave up and looked like they thought Conor was being rude and not talking to them. Now everyone knows that Peyton is there to help Conor in many ways including communication. Kids are curious about autism and thankfully ask a lot of questions. Conor is gaining a lot more confidence, and Peyton is helping bridge the gap between a “kid with special needs” and a “kid who gets to bring his dog to school and needs extra help talking.”

The Corrigans are still fundraising to fully pay for Peyton. But Conor’s mom told KXAN that she later hopes to start a nonprofit so other families with autism can afford service dogs.

Watch Conor and Peyton attending Barton Creek Elementary in West Lake Hills, Tex., in the KXAN video below:

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