Justin Timberlake Interrupts Concert to Sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Fan With Autism

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When the parents of an 8-year-old boy with autism learned that he wanted to go see a Justin Timberlake concert for his birthday, they had no idea that JT would give their son the best surprise he could have imagined.

Earlier this week, during the show in San Jose, California, Timberlake asked the whole crowd to join him in singing “Happy Birthday” to Julian.

In a blog post describing the moment, Julian’s mom, Marika Rosenthal Delan, wrote that she was concerned about bringing a young boy — especially one with autism — to an adult concert. She said she was worried about her son’s “obsessions, his volume, his repetitiveness, his clumsiness, if he would spill someone’s drink and if they would be unkind to him.”

Her fears were put to rest when the girls sitting in front of them, whom she thought Julian had been annoying the most by constantly kicking their chairs and yelling loudly, got the singer’s attention and kindly urged him to give the boy the birthday gift of his life.

The touching moment can be seen in the video below, which the family posted to Facebook.

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Epilepsy, You Picked the Wrong Dad

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Liv_Dad

A long time ago, I made a promise to Livy that I would always be there for her. I have kept that promise. Now it is time to take it one step further. It is not enough to just be there for her, something must be done. Lemonade for Livy was inspired by Livy and her amazing spirit. Its foundation is built on a sister’s love and a mother’s devotion. It is also based on my promise. Lemonade for Livy is fulfilling that promise by bringing people together from across the country to be a part of something meaningful, to create epilepsy awareness and to raise funding for research so that a cure can be discovered. If you have not yet registered your stand or party, I encourage you to do so. And please share with others so that we can spread epilepsy awareness.

This is the first time I have written about the promise I made to Livy years ago and what it means to me. Livy’s epilepsy has changed me. And now it is time to fight back.

A Father’s Promise

Livy, from birth I have watched you.
Stiffening, shaking.

Everything new.
I am scared.
What do I do?
I am not ready.
I look in the mirror, eyes glossed.
Tears, I wish they were happy.
Why, why is this happening?
Spirit crushed.
I am lost.
Doctors, EEGs, surgeries, shunts, oxygen machines, hospitals, medicine pumps.
Beeping, would someone please stop the beeping?
I hold my breath when you do.
When will it stop, when will the seizure stop?
Ashen, you are ashen.
Finally, it breaks.
You are back.
Where did you go?
Do you know?
Do you know what happened?

Time is stolen.
Tick-tock, lives torn apart
10 seconds, 10 minutes, 10 hours, 10 days, 10 weeks.
Stolen.

But look at you, Livy.
You amaze me.
Your smile. Your gorgeous, beautiful smile.
You light the room, you light my life.
I know you are back when you smile.
It is your signal that all is clear.
The monster is gone.
For now.
Back to the closet, under the bed.
Hiding, lurking in the shadows.

Epilepsy, you are the nightmare.
You terrorize our children.
Waiting, always waiting.
Constant vigilance.
I know every move you make.
I thought…
Did you see her flinch? Is that a new twitch?
Changing, morphing.
Always one step ahead.
But someday, somewhere, I will catch you.
You think you are free.
Turning lives upside down.
Striking whenever you please.
No more. No longer.

I was afraid.
I saw eyes that were not Livy’s, quivering, bouncing.
That look. It was not her. It was you.
Now I see through the fog.
I am emboldened.
The fear I once felt, tucked down deep
Now burning, boiling, a yearning to do more.

Epilepsy, you picked the wrong dad.

I did not ask for this.
But I accept it.
I accept your challenge.
You give me purpose.
Was that your intent?
I do not think so.
You may have her now, but I am coming for you.
You have stolen from me.
My daughter’s innocence.
A life of peace.

I will not give up.
I will not relent,
I will never give in.
You have awoken me, a passion I never knew.
As long as I am here, I will fight you.

Yet you are a coward, you attack our youngest and most at risk.
No matter sick, hurt, asleep in their beds.

At night I check, chest rising, skin warm,
What would I do if she took her last breath?
It happens, the ultimate price.
I have read stories, so many stories.
The pain, the anguish.
I hurt for them.
I am angry.

You made me.
I am your enemy.

I am not alone anymore.
I will gather determined mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers.
Warriors in your throws aching to break free.
You have no idea what you started.

Think Livy is your victim?
You are wrong, very wrong.
She is a Hero, my Hero, with the power to inspire and give hope.
She is stronger than you could ever dream.

You used to make me cower, retreat.
But now I am emboldened.
The scars burn and I remember.
Oh do I remember.
Livy bears her scars, physical, emotional.
What you have done to her.
Her little body.
You broke her so many times.
My God, what I have witnessed.
My heart and soul are changed.

But you will not beat me.
I will chase you and never stop.
Wherever you are, I will be there.
You have found refuge in the shadows.
But no longer.
I will bring you to the light and show your true colors.
My color is purple through and through.

If our Warriors falter, I will be there to lift them up.
To tell their stories.

This is your last warning, Epilepsy.
I am here to make my stand against you.
I made a promise to my daughter.

This post originally appeared on Livy’s Hope.

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Captivating Photo Series Shows What Autism Looks Like Around the World

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In the last two years, Debbie Rasiel has traveled through six countries to photograph families affected by autism. She’s met children across the spectrum — some don’t talk; some have physical, maybe even violent, outbursts. She’s met their parents and siblings, too — with a translator, she’s spoken to many of them. She’s watched and learned about different types of therapies available in countries like Mexico, Iceland and Indonesia. She’s experienced differences in culture and language, in weather and in class.

“The thing is, it’s always so similar,” Rasiel, 53, told The Mighty. “At the end of the day, even with the cultural differences, it’s the same. It’s a mother who is worried about her child’s future. It’s a special needs family. It’s autism.”

The New York City-based photographer calls her two-year endeavor, “Picturing Autism.” This past May, it debuted at SOHO20 Chelsea Gallery, but the project is ongoing — Rasiel is currently planning a trip to Vietnam. With the help of autism Facebook groups and the Global Autism Project, she’s found ways to connect with families from all over the world.

She’s comfortable photographing autism because she’s familiar with the disorder; her 23-year-old son, Lee, is on the spectrum. So when she talks to families, she’s talking as an artist and photographer, of course, but she’s also speaking as a mother.

“I’m not rattled,” Rasiel told The Mighty. “I’ve seen it all.”

When someone affected by autism, either directly or through a loved one, sees her photos, she hopes, above all, they feel less alone.

“[Autism] is in every country. It’s a global village we’re in. It’s everywhere. No one is alone,” Raisel said. “You’re a part of something larger.”

Take a look at “Picturing Autism” below and view the full series here.

Queens, New York

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Cuzco, Peru

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Oaxaca, Mexico

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Lima, Peru

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East Harlem, New York

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Reykjavick, Iceland

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Hveragerði, Arnessysla, Iceland

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Jakarta, Indonesia

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Woman Sheds Her Clothes and Insecurities to Show What’s Truly Underneath

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Jillian Mercado doesn’t mind when she gets attention. Especially when it’s for her style.

“I’m here, I’m present,” the model and editor says in the video below. “This is me, deal with it.”

Mercado, who was born with muscular dystrophy, shakes her head at the notion that someone with a disability cannot be fashionable. She thrives in her clothes — and she doesn’t use them to hide her insecurities anymore. That’s why she became a model — most recently for Nordstrom. And that’s why she participated in the video below — an interview for the “What’s Underneath Project,” where she sheds an article of clothing after answering each question.

“I think I woke up and was like, ‘I’m so over this. I’m not going to sit in a corner all my life just crying about something that I really can’t change,” Mercado recalls when asked about turning her struggles into strengths. By the video’s end, she sits, smiling and confident, in her underwear.

Then she says this:

“If you’re different, that’s sunlight in somebody’s world.”

Watch her full interview here:

h/t Upworthy

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I’m Just an Ordinary Mom in Extraordinary Circumstances

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There has been a few videos in the past few months about my daughter, Pip, Happy Soul Project and my little family that I honestly can’t watch without shedding a few. Awhile back this tear-jerker from Station 14 Kingston came out, and then, well, there possibly will never be anything in my life again like the Indie88 Billboard reveal video:

I adore that my family gets to have these keepsakes, if you will… these moments in our lives captured so beautifully to remember, be proud of and have a good cry at.

But I wanted to address one small thing in all of this…

Since all this media attention, be it videos or articles, I’m constantly getting messages about what an amazing momma I am. And while it’s always nice to hear and really lifts me up, I want it noted that I am indeed just a ordinary, everyday momma. It’s just, in my case, I am in extraordinary circumstances in which the very best of me is being being showcased.

These videos, news articles, even my own pictures or blog posts, show me kissing my babies, laughing and dancing, fighting for advocacy and awareness. It doesn’t show me yelling, “Dammit!” after my toddler son refuses to eat the eggs he just demanded I make or my eyes having their own pulse because I am so bloody tired. It doesn’t show me crying in my minivan when Pip has a discouraging appointment or sobbing in my pillow when I find out another babe with Down syndrome didn’t make it. It doesn’t show me texting my girlfriends when I’ve spent hours trying to get Noal or as I refer to him “my demon” to bed, frustrated as all hell. It doesn’t show me in my pajamas having a day filled with Dora and Franklin because just the thought of lugging all of us out is beyond exhausting. And it certainly doesn’t show me making beans and toast again for dinner or stepping on yet another dinky car while swearing & throwing it, marking up the wall.

It shows the best of me — or so I like to think.

Take yesterday… Pip and I were on Cityline (Hello amazing!!!), and what you saw was a momma who loved her daughter and was fighting the fight to spread #differentisbeautiful a little further.

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And while that is the case, what you didn’t see was:

  • I got lost and missed my exit coming into Toronto — I drove around downtown in traffic for two extra hours with Pip losing it, me needing to pee like it was my job and swerving my big momma van to avoid you fearless Toronto bikers.
  • I stayed up too late with my cousin drinking too much wine and scarfing down the most garlic of all garlic-tzatziki sauces as if I didn’t have an uber important TV interview in the morning.
  • I was up four times with Pip from 1 to 6 a.m. and was at my wit’s end about to lose it from lack of sleep, a teething baby and nervousness at the day ahead when she woke me up with this:


  • My hair started out curly — then Toronto humidity beat it down, and I was worried it was going to get all big and bad for the interview. Instead of thinking about what I was going to say or what questions I might be asked, I was wondering how I was going to manage the frizz.
  • I waited in a parking lot outside Cityline for almost 45 minutes begging Pip to sleep because it was gonna be prime nap time when we were supposed to be filming. No such luck, which in turn caused hair pulling and glasses rip-offs live on air.

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  • I chatted with my husband numerous times before I walked in because he somehow in his straight-forward-way calms me the heck down.
  • When we had the Today’s Parent shoot, I desperately wanted them to do my makeup but they said I looked fine. This time I was making sure it happened, and I looked a bit “rougher” coming in, blame the wine or the baby up all night. Either way I wanted to see what I could/would look like done up by a professional.
  • Not only did the makeup artist have to work around and with Pip in my lap reaching for her brushes, but she had to endure my still rancid tzatziki breath — so sorry about that.

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  • They had trouble getting the microphone in my dress because it was so bloody tight – that’s a whole other blog in itself… I mean what does one wear on TV? We all know I struck out big time live with the Huffington Post. So you’d think I’d learn to step it up a notch, but no — went big with an Old Navy Dress and Ardene’s belt.
  • One of the first things I did when I sat in the chair to be interviewed was nervously ask if the mug full of water was “for real” and could I have it so that I felt like I was on a “real talk show” — I’m seriously such a twonk. The audience laughed and they played along with me but who knows what they thought when I announced and then stole the mug as a souvenir.

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  • Everything happens so fast — one minute you are watching the show in the greenroom, next you are watching a few steps away and then wham — you’re in the chair and the camera is on. And the whole time I was wondering, how the heck are my legs supposed to be in this scenario? I looked over and the lovely Sasha, Editor-in-Chief of Today’s Parent had her legs crossed all lady like, but I had Pip on my lap, so quickly made the decision to cross at the ankle. Bad call, but y’all gotta realize that was honestly what was going through my head.

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  • But then the questions started and, not knowing it at the time, but reflecting back after watching it a mere 32 times, I talk too much with my heart and way too much with my hands.
  • Add the granola bar I gave Pip and called lunch on the way home and trying to change out of my too-tight dress in a busy parking lot and there you have it…

You see, I’m just an ordinary, everyday mom being showcased by all the best points…

Don’t get me wrong, I do really think I am an awesome momma to my two little hooligans… most days.

But I have to state — I think we all are — Being a momma is beyond anything I imagined. The happiest, the hardest and the most humbling experience by far in life.

But it’s us everyday mommas that are so awesome — It’s that momma I saw the other day who had a baby and was entertaining a busy toddler. It’s that momma who has twins and is determine to breastfeed them both. It’s that momma who just knows something is wrong and fights and pushes for her babe. It’s that momma who makes homemade muffins and baby food or who, like me, lives off those squeeze packs. It’s that momma who volunteers at school, takes on play dates or goes to a job and works her arse off. It’s that momma who, at the end of the day, kisses her sweet babes and thinks to herself, “I love you, I love us but tomorrow I am going to be an even better momma.”

Being a momma is what is amazing and inspiring. And I just happen to get this awesome opportunity to show others how I do it.

So, truly thank you for all the kind and uplifting comments, messages and words — Right back at ya though, mommas, right back at ya.

This post originally appeared on Happy Soul Project.

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Dear Special Needs Mother in the Grocery Store, I Have a Question

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I think we squash children’s genuine curiosity about differences by telling them we are all the same. I don’t think it’s just my children who regularly see the differences – in their shoes from another’s, in their skin from another’s, in their eye color from another’s. They say it in passing, like you or I might comment about the sky being so blue or the weather feeling hot. Thus far, their comments about differences and similarities are without judgment; they’re really just commenting.

I think that many times we, as parents, superimpose the judgment over their innocent comment and then hurry to rush them away or cover up their statement. The more I think about who I hope my kids will be in the future – the kid who sits next to the kid who’s being left out, the kid who stops others from mocking someone – the more I think that I need to allow comments and questions to happen without me worrying and overlaying a judgment on their comment. Kids are different. People are different. Different doesn’t equal bad.

Parents of children with special needs, I promise to teach my kids compassionate understanding. Sometimes I may need a favor, though. Can you help me?

Could You Spare a Moment?

The loud hum
of the combined voices
that fill the room
like an airplane’s engines
pack your ears
drops
in an instant
and, it seems, that all noise has stopped.
Except for one
voice
of my little boy who fills the silence
with his question,
“Does he have special needs?”

I just needed a loaf of bread.
And some eggs.
But this is it:
the moment
that mother wit
is supposed to fill up my head.
For these were the questions
before I had kids
that I was sure
I’d rise up to meet
so that my kids would be
aware, unafraid, compassionate,
if not discreet.

I glance at the child first.
Then, at the mother.

I try to read her face,
a mirror of tired and just-trying-to-get-through-the-day-ness of my own:
Are you just trying to get
bread and eggs, too?
Could you spare a moment?
Could you help me teach
my kid about your kid today,
or is today just not the day for that?

Or,
has today
only been the day for that?
Have you had to answer
this question
at the library when you just wanted to drop off books,
and at the preschool when you just wanted to pick up your other child,
and at your own home when the plumber asked, too?

I look away.
I look down at my own son.
He’s confused now.
He is confused
the way your son is confused
when he is left out
or left behind.

We are all the same in that
we are all different.

“Yes, it seems he does.”

And, “Yes, he is different than you.”
And, “Yes, he is the same as you.”
And, “Yes, we can talk about this.”

And, “Yes, I will rise up to meet
the promise I made
to try and raise kids
who are aware and accepting.”

I promise you this, Mother in the Grocery Store.
I promise you this, My Son.

This post originally appeared on AnnieFlavin.com.

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