Meet the First Comedy Troupe Entirely Comprised of Men With Autism

1k
1k

These four men with Asperger syndrome simply refuse to take life too seriously.

Jack Hanke, New Michael Ingemi, Ethan Finlan and Noah Britton comprise the first-ever comedy troupe made up entirely of people with an autism spectrum disorder, according to their IndieGoGo page. They call themselves “Asperger’s Are Us,” and they’re the subjects of an upcoming documentary (trailer below).

The film aims to teach the world more about autism — and make people laugh in the process –according to a post on the Asperger’s Are Us Facebook page.

The four friends met at a summer camp for kids with Asperger syndrome, according to the video below, and have since formed a comedy troupe that often addresses their shared condition.

“You can do things that are really, really great, not in spite of having autism or Asperger’s, but through it,” a member says in the video below.

Over the summer the troupe raised funds for the upcoming documentary. The first cut of the film will be available in December, according to their Facebook page.

While we all eagerly await the full-length documentary, enjoy the preview below:

Smile more. Like us on Facebook.

1k
1k
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

RELATED VIDEOS

What Makes These Wedding Photos Special Is the Story Behind Them

251
251

When I came across the wedding photos below on Style Me Pretty, I knew I wanted to feature them on The Mighty. To me, they perfectly represent “in sickness and in health.” So does the story behind them.

Walnut Grove Wedding-59
Timon & Liz Wang / Liz Wang Photography
Walnut-Grove-Wedding-Liz-Wang-Photographer-Huffington-Post-11
Timon & Liz Wang / Liz Wang Photography

Hollie and Adam Caldwell met in 2009 in Thousand Oaks, California, while Adam was being treated in for what doctors thought was Lyme disease. Hollie was his nurse. By the time Adam was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or “Lou Gehrig’s disease), the two had fallen for each other. He proposed to her on the spot, and the couple was married on May 6, 2012. (All photographs are by Liz Wang Photography.)

Walnut Grove Wedding-46
Timon & Liz Wang / Liz Wang Photography

As Adam’s symptoms progressed, Hollie took on the role of wife and primary caretaker.

“I was his arms and legs,” she told me in an email. “I transferred him from bed to chair, dressed him, bathed him, fed him, brushed his teeth, cut his hair, combed his hair.”

On October 10, 2013 — 4 years after onset symptoms — Adam passed away. But when photos of the two are still shared online, Hollie hopes for two things: that they’ll make people believe in true love and they’ll reveal the joy that Adam possessed, even as the ALS crept on.

“We got through tough days with humor and love,” Hollie said. “Adam was always cracking jokes, even when he could barely speak. He also painstakingly wrote poems with the one finger he could still use to press a key on the keyboard.”

Walnut Grove Wedding-91
Timon & Liz Wang / Liz Wang Photography

Photographers Timon and Liz Wang didn’t know much about ALS when they agreed to shoot Hollie and Adam’s wedding. After meeting with the couple six months before the ceremony, Timon began researching the debilitating disease and realized its gravity.

“I was so inspired to shoot because I knew I was freezing a moment in time that the two would always have,” Timon told me in an email, “and that my photos would be the memories even when all other memories had begun to fade.”

Walnut Grove Wedding-26
Timon & Liz Wang / Liz Wang Photography
Walnut Grove Wedding-27
Timon & Liz Wang / Liz Wang Photography
Walnut Grove Wedding-65
Timon & Liz Wang / Liz Wang Photography

If you’d like to make a donation towards ALS research, Hollie suggests ALS Guardian Angels or ALS TDI. You should also read Hollie’s statement on Style Me Pretty, where you can find even more beautiful wedding photos.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: If you could write a letter to the disability or disease you (or a loved one) face, what would you say to it? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post [email protected]  include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

Want to end the stigma around disability? Like us on Facebook.

And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.

251
251
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

When a Pet Shop Owner Didn’t ‘Get’ My Daughter With Special Needs

483
483

I usually shop at one pet shop. The owner is awesome. She is kind, caring and supportive in the community. This one day I was in a rush and knew I wouldn’t make it to her shop in time to pick up what I needed and get to my 5-year-old daughter’s school for pick-up. So, I hesitantly went to a closer pet shop instead. I felt so guilty, like I was cheating on the good pet shop. But, knew it was an act of Mommy-survival. I needed to pick up two Betta fish to donate to my daughter’s school for the classroom. I was in a time-crunch.

I had my 3-year-old with me, as she had just gotten off the bus from her autistic Pre-K class. She was, as I like to say, “all fired up” —  happy, wild, a mile-a-minute, non-stop chatter, singing and repeating in the car. We got to the pet shop, and I told her what we would do, as I’ve found routine and patterns are key. I said, “Stroller, pick up fish, get your sister.” I said stroller first to prepare her for sitting to be strapped in the stroller. This is so she wouldn’t run away. She looked at me and said, “Fishies?!” I said yes. I said the pattern again: “Stroller, pick up fish, get your sister.” I got the stroller and she went right in – she was intrigued by where we were, as we haven’t been here before. (She knows the other pet store well.)

This pet store was different: Spotless, fancy; it had a candle burning, and it even had homemade dog gourmet treats to buy. The pet store we normally go to is free-to-be. It’s laid back, and the owner’s cat roams the place.

Once we were inside this posh place, I found the fish, and we picked two. Betta fish are so pretty. I let my daughter pick the fish, and she did so by color: “Blue and red.” Simple and easy enough. Or so I thought.

beta fish (1) Betta fish are deceiving. So pretty on the outside. So fancy. But put one in tank or bowl with another Betta fish, and they will fight until one of them dies. Not. Very. Nice.

I put the Betta fish on the counter to purchase, and next to the register was a bird cage. The bird  inside of it was carrying on. My daughter was scared and fascinated all at once. She didn’t like the bird making that noise and told the bird how she felt: “No, bird!” “No, bird!” “Stop!” She then did these brief yells at the cage as if it would make the bird stop  chattering. The owner came to the register and said — appalled — directly to my daughter with her finger pointed out, “No! You can’t do that! You will kill her! She could have a heart attack or a stroke! You can’t scare birds like that, now please stop it!” I was immediately annoyed. Do I have to get into a fish bowl with you, lady? Because I’m suddenly feeling like our friends “Blue” and “Red” here.

I immediately shifted my tune because of my daughter’s response. She just yelled louder, which was at the moment, comical to me, because she knew this lady didn’t “get” her. I said to the woman, “My daughter doesn’t understand a word you’re saying to her. She has special needs. She isn’t doing any of this to intentionally hurt your bird. I promise you. If you can ring us up, we’ll be out of here.”

She then said, “Really? She doesn’t look sick. She’s beautiful. She doesn’t look at all like a special needs child. She looks fine! She talking and  looking right at me!”

Now I’m really getting all Betta…

I hear this all of the time, and it’s so offensive. I know that people mean no harm but what exactly does a special needs child look like? Are they supposed to not be cute? Are all autistic children exactly the same? It kills me when people say this. Kills me.

She then said, “The bunny behind you is really tough, nothing bothers it, if you want to put her in front of the bunny yelling instead.”

At this point, I’m just completely entertained by this whole experience. The woman then started to talk low and soft to me, as if she is trying to console me and keep my secret.

“You’re daughter is just so beautiful. What’s wrong with her exactly? I will pray for her.”

I asked the woman how much the fish are and paid her. She gave me an informational sheet on her store and said to “Like her store on Facebook.” (Oh. My. Goodness.) Behind me I heard my daughter talking to the bunny. It was really funny. She threw her blankie at the cage, and the bunny was just staring at her. What no one realized was that my daughter was actually being sweet. Giving her blanket to any person or animal means she likes you. She was trying to give the bunny her blankie.

addie pic (1)

I turned to my daughter and said, “Ready to get your sister?” and she screamed in delight “Yea! Sisters!”

The owner than said to me, “Now remember, those Betta fish can’t be together in the same bowl.”

I had to bite my tongue as I wanted to say to her, “Neither can you and I, sweetheart. Neither can you and I.” But I nodded my head and smiled and walked out past a lit candle ironically named: “Peace.”

This taught me two good lessons: 1. There are a lot people who still need to learn about special needs children and families and 2. Only shop at the pet store with nice lady and free-to-roam cats…

Lesson learned.

This post originally appeared on Addie’s 4Ever Friend.

Read more from Samantha Gill on The Mighty:
Why I Let My Daughter Rearrange the Chairs in the Waiting Room

Live Mighty. Like us on Facebook.

483
483
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Why I Let My Daughter Rearrange the Chairs in the Waiting Room

2k
2k

chairs Addie was on her third artistic chair arrangement. Chair arranging is a specialty of sorts. The most important element is the purple chair. There must be purple chair(s). Plural. We hit the purple-jackpot this fine Friday. When the elevator opened, the heavens sang and the trumpets played and her eyes grew wide: “Mommy! Purple!” she declared! Yes. Yes. Purple indeed. A sea of not only adult purple chairs but alas, little people purple chairs in the waiting room. There. Is. A. God.

I checked Addie in and by the time I turned around she had Houdini’d out of the stroller and was already on task. Let the art begin. She started to do the sign for “more.” Addie is all words and doesn’t need to sign anymore. She is verbal beyond verbal. But when she is excited, nervous, etc., I will see her over-do the sign for “more.” This time, she was totally doing this.

She was very happy with this situation. She began her first arrangement. I sat and watched. Literally I sat back and watched. I didn’t stop her. We were in the waiting room at the Behavioral Doctor at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). There weren’t many people there in the waiting room. Addie wasn’t running from me. She wasn’t screaming. She was focused and moving chairs. And I simply let her.

Many people would have a problem with this. As a matter of fact, I took a picture of her work of art and someone that I texted it to actually did have a problem with it. I’m sure a lot of folks have a lot of thoughts about what I do and don’t do. When I received the doubting text back that read, “Are you sure you want her to do that?” I put my phone away and wasn’t mad at the person. I was mad at myself for sharing.

Addie was working on masterpiece #3 when a doctor called another family back. The mom gathered her two children, and Addie thought she was now a part of this group so she followed. I quickly reminded her that she was a part of my group, and as I went to get her, the little boy came up to me and shook my hand and hugged me and started getting very emotional and talking very fast. The mom became very embarrassed and started to apologize. I was so confused — not because of what the boy was doing but what the mom was doing. Why was she apologizing to me? We are at the behavioral doctor’s office. Was she so conditioned to apologize that she forgot? I looked at her bewildered, then softly said, “Hey… stop… we’re in this together… We’re strangers but teammates. It’s all OK. Really. He is totally OK. I am totally OK. Really.” She was still upset, and took him back.

I went back to “Stonehenge: The Purple Chair Edition” to find Addie now crawling through it but only touching the purple parts. I thought, “How clever.” If there is one thing my child is, and she is many things – she is clever. She is a problem solver. She can get what she needs and wants. I am very impressed. When her name is called, her doctor actually comes out to get her. He knows her well. He comes out to find her design. He smiles at her and looks at it and says, “Wow! Quite a project! She is very smart.” We all agree. All three of us clean it up, and the appointment begins.

After the appointment I am frantically chasing my little one all over as she is suddenly on the Tour de France. She is fast. Once I catch her and my breath, I run literally right into the mom I encountered at the very beginning of this appointment. I apologize and pray I didn’t break her nose or any body part. She and I are intact. (Thank you, again, God.) Ironically her son is running away from her, and she lets him. We laugh at this, and then she says to me, “I am so glad I saw you again, I just want you to know that my son is very smart. He is high-functioning. He may even go into a normal classroom and then into kindergarten. He may come out of this. He is really doing so great. He is really smart.”

I couldn’t believe it. All I could do was what I knew best and that was to hug this woman, so I did. I said nothing because I really was speechless. She looked so tired and actually more upset than she did before the appointment. There was so much I wanted to say to her but I couldn’t, so we went our separate ways. We got onto two separate elevators — separate elevators with two bright, smart, adorable children both with bright futures ahead of them. We were both exiting the elevators as mommies who want nothing but the best for our kids… Yet, we both doubt ourselves… we doubt our value in different ways. Neither one of us is right. Neither one of us is wrong. Neither of us has the answers. Neither one of us knows if what we’re doing is right. One of us is frantically running after their child and one of us is watching as their child runs away.

On the car ride home, I think. I press the “Chapter One” button over and over so Addie can hear and watch her favorite part repeatedly on her favorite DVD. Each time I press that button, I press a button in myself that asks the question – “What am I doubting? Why am I letting people doubt me?” I find myself driving and talking to God while I drive. I am asking Him this question.

I get a lot of feedback from people. And by people I mean everyone: friends, family, coworkers and sometimes people I don’t even know. People mean so well — they really do. I have found that people struggle most with my level of acceptance of Addie’s diagnoses. The more comfortable I am with it, talking about it, living it — I have actually found that I have become more isolated. The better she has done, the farther she comes, the more some people struggle with it as well. It’s an odd situation.

Sometimes the feedback is through silence. People I care the most about just stop contacting me. Sometimes people can only text or email me. Sometimes people just fade away. Other times, people constantly challenge and question me… like today with “Stonehenge.” Again, that person meant so well, but I find myself saying:

“What do I do? Am I doing something wrong? Am I wrong for just accepting things as they are today and living in the now?”And by this I don’t mean being impulsive. By “right now” I mean right now. I am working our tushies off in therapy after therapy after therapy. Right now we are going to doctor after doctor to insure she gets everything she needs to succeed. Right now I am making sure she gets all her weekly medications filled and weekly therapies organized on the calendar. Right now we are two months away from meeting her service dog we’ve worked so hard to make a realization. I mean, I really can’t think ahead. I really can’t think behind as far as this situation is concerned. I just want work really hard on the now and at times that means sitting back and watching purple chairs being constructed into Stonehenge. Is Stonehenge that bad?! I mean God… can you help me here? Help me.”

With that, my cell phone goes off: Ding! Since I am driving I can’t look at it. But the noise — Ding! — tells me that I have a message on my Facebook page. When we get home and I am in the driveway I look at my cell phone and would you believe there is a message from my childhood friend and neighbor? She was the one who emailed me while I was driving. It read, “Hey Sam, I was in the area today where we grew up, and I drove past your childhood home – you wouldn’t believe how much it’s changed! I took a picture of it with my cell phone. You’ll barely recognize it except for one thing – the big white rock that you guys always had out front is still there! It never moved! It stayed strong! Love ya!”

1796727_346762405464836_2073412160_o

Oh. My. Well hello, God. I do believe you were sending me a sign. And I do believe I heard you, sir. As a child we had this huge – I mean huge – rock at the end of our driveway. We painted it white, and we could sit on it. My parents hand-painted our last name on it and our house number. It was so big it wasn’t movable. It’s still there.

So maybe that is the point. I am to stay strong. I am to be myself. As Aslan said in “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe,” “You doubt your value; don’t run from who you are.” Some things may change – time, age, houses, places, but our values, what we believe in and who we are, we must remain true to — this includes purple chairs in waiting rooms that very beautifully, to this Mommy, resemble art.

This post originally appeared on Addie’s 4Ever Friend.

Want to end the stigma around disability? Like us on Facebook.

And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.

 

2k
2k
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Supermodel With Rare Skin Disease Proves Different is Beautiful

126
126

Chantelle Brown-Young is helping to redefine the face of beauty.

The 20-year-old from Toronto, Canada, has a pigmentation disorder called vitiligo. Vitiligo creates unusual looking patches of white on her skin where melanocytes, or pigment making cells, have been destroyed, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. About one percent of the world’s population suffer from the disease.

.“A lot of people have a story and a background,” Brown-Young said in her America’s Next Top Model audition tape. “But mine is painted on my body.”

Despite her unconventional appearance, Brown-Young decided to pursue a career in modeling and got a big break when she was selected as a contestant for season 21 of America’s Next Top Model. She was encouraged to audition for the show after Tyra Banks saw her Instagram account, according to the New York Post.

Screen-Shot-2014-10-24-at-12.04.43-PM-320x251
Via Winnie Harlow’s Instagram account.

 

However, it wasn’t always so easy for the model to embrace her appearance. She was bullied and picked on as a child for the distinct markings on her skin, she told NBC Today. Kids would call her “cow” or “zebra” and other hurtful names.

The only person that can make you feel that you aren’t beautiful is you.” Brown-Young told the outlet. “You can’t let someone else lower your self-esteem because that’s what it is — self-esteem, you need to first love yourself before you have anybody else love you.”

Check out some of her photos below: 

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 11.43.10 AM
Via Winnie Harlow’s Instagram account.
Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 11.43.57 AM
Via Winnie Harlow’s Instagram account.
Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 11.44.20 AM
Via Winnie Harlow’s Instagram account.
Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 11.45.15 AM
Via Winnie Harlow’s Instagram account.

 

To check out more of Chantelle Brown-Young’s unique beauty, visit her Facebook page or follow her on Instagram.

126
126
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Why I Stopped Trying to Make My Son ‘Typical’

2k
2k

When Morgan was first diagnosed with autism, my husband and I were in “fix it” mode. Our end game was that Morgan would be indistinguishable from other children.

We wanted him to pass for typical. We wanted him to be happy at all costs, as long as those costs were within our scope of reasoning.

We were determined.

I didn’t care that the little voice in the back of my mind screamed this approach was wrong for us. Nope, it didn’t matter. My son’s voice and the atypical way he spoke? That needed to change. I completely neglected to remember that I should be thankful to be hearing words, finally. Those fidgeting and flapping fingers? Those needed to stop. All of the books said so. Typical kids don’t do that.

Scores needed to climb higher. He needed to blend with the other children. He was miserable — so were we. The more I pushed for him to be less of an individual and part of a herd, the more behaviors we saw.

This didn’t last long.

I (I say “I” because my husband traveled a lot in those days, and I was the primary caretaker) wasted time and energy. I didn’t see that this wonderful boy who had been in front of me the entire time was great, just the way he was. He needed support, not to be changed. The only changes that needed to be made were the parenting and teaching methods being applied to him.

I don’t remember when the epiphany occurred, but when it did, breathing became a bit easier. Morgan began to smile more. We, as a family, enjoyed life more. We understood each other better. There was no more suppression of autism, there was only expression of Morgan’s truest self. Sometimes his truest self wasn’t the happiest child or the nicest, but he’s been himself and not some representation of what I wanted him to pass for. This begins with allowing him to stim and extends to indulging him in his love of Thomas the Tank Engine at the age of 10. We used to fight against those things.

He’s in what is considered middle school here and with it comes clubs, a dance or two and some pressure to fit in. Morgan doesn’t really feel that pressure, I think, but he misses having friends. A teacher, when I was chatting with her, offered up some suggestions that would, in a sense, eventually allow Morgan to “fit in and pass” as a typical child. I laughed.

I told her that “being typical” isn’t possible and therefore, isn’t on our radar. I don’t want my son to pass for something that he is not. Morgan is the most genuine person I know, and I want him to stay that way for as long as possible. I don’t believe that teaching him to mask his personality, his thinking, his mannerisms or his truest self is the best way to go about things. The teacher saw my points and agreed.

I can’t wash my son typical. I don’t want to. I don’t want to compare him to his typically-developing peers and feel sad or long for something we’ve never had. I don’t want to push him to be something he’s not. Instead, I would rather push him to be the best he can be. The less I’ve pushed Morgan to “pass,” the more I’ve allowed him to play with his autistic peers, typical peers who get him and just “be,” the happier he’s been.

That’s the end game for me, right now. Happy.

I understand why, out of ignorance, I wanted my son to assimilate and “become typical.” I thought that, with enough hard work and diligence, he could figure out how to be typical and happy. My very literal brain was taught by society that my son would never be happy so long as he was autistic. That he could never be happy as an autistic.

I’m so glad that I stopped listening to what I was told. Society is wrong.

Being atypical is not easy.

Being autistic is not easy.

But you can be happy.

It just takes the right environment.

Path less traveled

This post originally appeared on Deciphering Morgan.

Want to end the stigma around disability? Like us on Facebook.

And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.

2k
2k
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Real People. Real Stories.

7,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.