This Little Boy With Autism Has a Support Kitten Named Toilet Paper

This is the sweet story of a boy and his kitten.

Oscar is a 5-year-old with autism. His mother, Ambra King, writes eloquently about her journey raising him on a Facebook page and blog called “Letters From a Spectrum Mom.” Several of her posts have also been featured on The Mighty.

Recently, the Letters From a Spectrum Mom page added a new face to its frequent posts — a little furry face.

Oscar has a kitten named Toilet Paper.

Via Letters From a Spectrum Mom

On July 22, King called animal control about a cat that had been hit by a car and killed on a street near her home. As it turned out, she was a mother cat and animal control located some kittens not far from the body. One of those kittens was a scrawny, white “sickly looking” female kitten estimated to be about 5 weeks old, King told The Mighty.

Oscar chose her, and after she had been given a flea bath and dried off, he said she had beautiful white fur and named her Toilet Paper. The pair have been inseparable ever since.

Via Letters From a Spectrum Mom

When it came time to leave Toilet Paper’s side to go to therapy, Oscar was distraught. Now, King is working to get the kitten licensed as Oscar’s emotional support animal so he doesn’t have to leave her behind when he goes places.

An emotional support animal is a pet (typically a cat or a dog) that is part of the treatment program for a person with an emotional or psychological disability, according to the National Service Animal Registry. They are often prescribed by a doctor, a psychiatrist or some other mental health professional.

Via Letters From a Spectrum Mom

Oscar and Toilet Paper have sweet conversations, which Oscar’s mom sometimes posts, like this one that she overheard from outside Oscar and Toilet Paper’s blanket fort.

“‘And see? That’s my butt,'” Spectrum Mom transcribed. “‘It do not have a tail. That is your butt. It do have a tail. That is how you are a cat and I am a boy. God made you like that, sweet little tail-butt kitty cat.'”

Via Letters From a Spectrum Mom

“The calming effect on my son, who is a bolter and responds negatively to strangers speaking to him, has been amazing,” King told The Mighty. “When they ask about his kitten he lights up and speaks, which is a rare treat.”

Toilet Paper has quickly become a bit of a star — she already has her own Facebook fan page.

Check out more photos of Toilet Paper and Oscar below: 

Via Letters From a Spectrum Mom
Via Letters From a Spectrum Mom
Via Letters From a Spectrum Mom
Via Letters From a Spectrum Mom
Via Letters From a Spectrum Mom
Via Letters From a Spectrum Mom
Via Letters From a Spectrum Mom

Check out the Letters From a Spectrum Mom Facebook page to keep up with Boy and Toilet Paper.



How to See My Child’s Invisible Disability

There’s that old saying, “Seeing is believing,” and once we’re able to believe in something, we begin to understand it. But some things are hard to see, and in the last six years, I’ve come to realize my daughter’s disability is one of them.

Prior to being diagnosed with ADHD and sensory processing disorder (SPD), my daughter was labeled everything from spoiled to attention-seeking. I was called overreactive and lacking in discipline. When I finally got her diagnosis, I thought I finally had the proof we needed for people to understand her. But even with a diagnosis, I still find people struggling to understand, and that’s because her disability is hard to see — unless you look. Not just glance, but really look.

Here are some of the subtle signs of her disability you might never notice unless you take a good, long look:

If you watch my daughter enter a room, you will notice her eyes dart around trying to take in everything around her. She may walk away and explore, taking inventory of all the things her heightened senses have to process. She may be standing on her toes, stiff and rigid because it’s her body’s natural instinct to be on high alert. If she can tolerate what is around her, she will slowly relax and her body will soften. Her eyes will adjust and become focused on what she’s doing or who she’s talking to.

If the environment is too much for her to process, she may stay close to my side. She is social and friendly, and engaging with peers is often enough of a distraction away from any discomfort from the surrounding environment. If she experiences downtime, her attention often shifts back to the things around her she can’t process.

She will continue to participate but may self-soothe by chewing on her shirt, hair or fingernails. She may ask me for gum because she’s learned it’s a more appropriate way to provide herself the comfort she needs. If she becomes overstimulated, you may notice her talk loud and fast. She might run around, jump or climb on something she isn’t supposed to as an attempt to satisfy the cravings for input that her sensory system needs.

In a group, she’s quick to jump in but may slowly find her way to the outskirts, playing on her own. She will keep herself at enough of a distance so she can blend in without getting too close to any unpleasant sensations. Typically, she can get through most situations successfully, but there are times when she begins to lose hold and, rather than meltdown, she slowly unravels.

You may hear her say she’s hungry or tired. This is her way to disguise that she’s had enough and wants to be removed. She may suddenly start to get frustrated with her peers and complain she isn’t getting her way. This is not a child simply being bossy but a sign that she’s grappling for external control because she’s losing her internal control.

None of these things sound alarming, and separately they aren’t. They are all behaviors that any child may display. But for my child, these behaviors are parts of a disorder that can disrupt her life at any moment.

She’s learned to make calculated decisions based on her level of tolerance so she can participate in things that may be difficult for her. There are some environments she’s learned to tolerate because we’ve had to expose her to uncomfortable situations little by little so she can build an immunity to the sensations that alarm her. If she does eventually meltdown, it will be long after you see her. This is her release from all she has reigned in that particular day.

At the age of 6, my daughter has learned enough about her disorder that is appropriate for her age so she can be confident in who she is and how she feels. She’s worked hard to manage the role her disability plays in her life. It may be small and subtle, but it can get big and loud. It takes a lot of energy for her to reign supreme against her body’s natural “fight-or-flight” reaction to her environment.

There are millions of people in the world who live with an invisible disability, and I believe my daughter is one of them. These are people who struggle with something that isn’t easy to see on the outside. They have to consciously manage this extra set of needs just to get through the average day. That’s a large responsibility for anyone, especially a child. Some days are better than others and, when they struggle, they are easily misjudged. They are also the people who don’t always get the support and acceptance they need from others to be successful and confident with who they are.

Everyone wants to be embraced for all they are, the good and the bad. Yet we’re all guilty of judging something simply because we don’t understand it. So, in writing this, I hope we can open our eyes to our own challenges, and in turn open our eyes to the differences in others. As my daughter puts it, we all have our “tricky thing.” Her’s is SPD, and she’s OK with that. So am I, and although you may not fully understand it, we hope you are, too.

Follow this journey on My Sensational Girl.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: What’s one secret about you or your loved one’s disability and/or disease that no one talks about? 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 “Share Your Story” page for more about our submission guidelines.

5 Ways to Support Special Olympics If You Can’t Attend the Games

Athletes from all over the world will participate in the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles from July 25 – August 2. One way to show the more than 6,500 athletes that you care is to be a “Fan in Stands,” cheering for participants throughout the competitions. But if you can’t make it this year, you can still support the Games.

Here are 5 ways you can help out.

1. Eat dessert

If you have a sweet tooth, why not satisfy those cravings with some cheesecake? The Cheesecake Factory will donate 25 cents from every lemon meringue cheesecake to the Special Olympics World Games through July 29. Go ahead and indulge — it’s for a good cause!

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 2.15.10 PM
via The Cheesecake Factory

2. Share this video

For every share on social media of this #ReachUp video, Coca-Cola will donate $1, up to $100,000, to Special Olympics. The music video features O.A.R. and Cody Simpson accompanied by singer Breanna Bogucki, who’s a decorated Special Olympics athlete with Autism and Madison Tevlin, a young woman with Down syndrome whose cover of “All of Me” went viral this year.

3. Get a ride

Through July 26, the transportation company Uber will donate $1 to Special Olympics for every INSPIRE ride. Through the app, users in Sacramento, the Bay Area, Los Angeles and San Diego can request an INSPIRE ride (at the uberX rates) to help raise money for Special Olympics athletes.

4. Pledge to never say the R-word again

Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden is the first professional football player to be named a Special Olympics Global Ambassador. Haden is close with his brother, who has a cognitive disorder that limits his language and speech (see video below). Recently, Haden called on everyone to eliminate the R-word from their vocabularies. “Open up your vocabulary, people,” he told “The R-word is hurtful, hateful and ignorant.” You can join Haden and take the pledge to end the word here.

5. Flood the internet with acceptance

The Circle of Inclusion is part of the Special Olympics World Games’ symbol and represents the acceptance and inclusion of all people with intellectual disabilities. There are a few ways you can join this social media campaign. First, take a photo. Then if you’re tech savvy, you can add the Circle of Inclusion to your photo around your face. You can also download the free World Games app through iTunes or Google Play and add the circle with just a click. Share the photo on your social media accounts with the #ReachUp hashtag.

Photo courtesy of Darren Inouye

Posted by SOBC - North Shore on Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Watch the Opening Ceremony of the 2015 Special Olympics World Games LIVE on July 25 at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT on ESPN and on WatchESPN, the official broadcast partner of the 2015 Special Olympics World Games.

Related: 25 Things Everyone Needs to Understand About Special Olympics


Moms Who Experienced Postpartum Depression Have Powerful Message for New Parents

Despite the fact that one in seven new moms will live with some form of postpartum depression or anxiety, it’s a topic that can be difficult to discuss — especially considering the pressure and expectations moms are under to be perfect parents. What’s worse, postpartum depression’s stigma can prevent women from seeking necessary help. They’re left to feel like terrible mothers.

In the video below, produced by blogger Jill Krause and the nonprofit Postpartum Progress, women who’ve lived with postpartum depression or anxiety come forward and share their stories. Several new moms reveal the scary thoughts and feelings they experienced before seeking treatment.

“I felt like I could finally be able to rest if I would die,” one mom says.

The video sends a message that postpartum depression and anxiety are real illnesses that deserve treatment. But more than anything, the video sends a message to all moms living with the condition that they’re not alone.

“We are strong, we are fighters, we are good moms,” the video’s description reads. “And we are here for you if you are struggling, too.”

Watch the moving video below.

For more information about and resources for postpartum depression, visit Postpartum Progress.

h/t HuffPost Parents

3 Reasons You Should Never Underestimate My Child With a Disability

My daughter, Lily, recently aged out of our state’s early intervention program. As a result, she now attends preschool at our local elementary school, getting physical and occupational therapy as part of her school day. The initial process of qualifying for therapy and establishing her IEP was overwhelming and confusing. However, once we got past that hump, things progressed relatively smoothly. Until now.

Overall, there’s a lot that’s going well. Lily transitioned beautifully to the new school. She seems happy and is making friends. The teachers are nice. The curriculum is great. Communication with the lead teacher and the nurse has been better than I expected.

So what am I worried about?

When I picked her up the other day, the after-care teacher told me she let the kids have a treat because they helped clean the classroom. She gave them paper towels and they wiped down the tabletops, legs and chairs. At first I thought, “That’s great! They are teaching kids responsibility to help with chores.”

But then she said she didn’t ask Lily to help clean because all that bending and getting down on the floor would have been too hard for her.

I was shocked. How could she think that? Lily uses her walker to run and jump and crouch, she can crawl like the wind and she doesn’t have any trouble getting from kneeling to standing and back. What about wiping down a table is too hard for her?

After taking a deep breath, I took the opportunity to kindly and patiently assure her that those activities are well within the scope of Lily’s ability. I also asked her to please include her in chore-like tasks in the future.

Our vision for Lily includes her being expected to do everything other kids are expected to do. The way she accomplishes the task may look a little different due to adaptations for her ability, but the expectation is paramount.

Why is this so important to me?

1. It will help her build confidence. Children build confidence when they successfully accomplish something through hard work. When someone looks at a child with braces and a walker and assumes they are incompetent because of their disability, they are robbing that child of the opportunity to build confidence.

2. It helps her gain independence. The primary role of teachers and parents is to teach children the skills they need to be independent. Sometimes adults think they’re doing a child with a disability a favor by doing things for them that they can actually do for themselves. In their mind, they’re being kind. However, the hidden message to the child is that he or she needs the adult’s help and cannot accomplish these tasks on their own. I believe a better approach is to teach children how to adapt activities so they can accomplish them independently.

For example, Lily can use the basket on her walker to take trash from the table to the trashcan. If other kids are expected to dispose of their own trash, she should be expected to as well.

3. It avoids encouraging a sense of entitlement. When a child has a disability, there can be a fine line between providing the special treatment the child requires due to their disability, and teaching the child they are inherently deserving of privilege because they are disabled. My goal is always to avoid the latter for my daughter by having Lily do as much as possible for herself.

Truthfully, it is often easier to do things for her, and sometimes I catch myself taking that easier route. However, when I give her the chance, she constantly surprises me with what she can do.

When My Son With Autism Wandered Into the Middle of the Street

Two minutes. That’s all the time it took. We were distracted for two minutes and he was gone.

Our favorite babysitter, Maura, the daughter of an old family friend, was just home from college and my mom and I were welcoming her back. We were telling her how excited we were to have her home for the summer to help out with watching my son, Max, and my daughter, Stevie. She had just walked in the door. We were hugging and talking for two minutes. We turned around and he was gone.

It was mid-May and finally warming up in northern Ohio after a long, cold winter. All Cleveland kids were busting at the seams to get outside to play. We had walked the bike path to the park a few times already this season, and apparently, Max decided to make the trek all by himself. But instead of staying on the path, he was walking down the middle of the street to the park. It’s a four-lane divided road and pretty much the main drag in our hometown. He was 7 at the time.

We’ve all heard stories like this in the autism community. Especially in the summer and always surrounding holidays like the Fourth of July.  This week alone, I’ve read eight accounts of children on the spectrum who are currently missing. It’s a weekend, a holiday, a different schedule, family is visiting or there’s a barbecue going on in your backyard. Whatever the reason is, we get distracted. Parents don’t have eyes in the back of our head, and kids like Max can be slippery. He doesn’t spontaneously talk very much. He didn’t say a word and somehow slipped outside when we weren’t looking.

And I’m sorry to say, but this has happened more than once. There have been many “almost” incidents when Max escaped from me and went outside alone. Once I was running around my yard like a lunatic shouting his name with my phone in hand ready to call the local police. He was sitting in the car. It’s a good thing I have understanding neighbors.

We’ve instituted many, many safety measures to secure our home and Max since these occurrences. Safety locks for the doors, window alarms, seatbelt buckle protectors, because, yes, he’s even tried to flee from inside the car — while I was driving it! 

Thanks to my friend, Brittni, who works as an intervention specialist and a swim instructor, Max learned to swim at a young age. Since then I have not feared, as so many families do, that Max could wander and drown in a body of water. I do, however, fear he will again quietly slip out a door and make his way down a street. Max seems to have no fear of traffic. We’re working with him on crossing the street and waiting for cars, but he has yet to grasp the concept.

Through a wonderful camp that teaches kids with disabilities to ride two-wheel bikes, Max learned to ride this summer. It has given him confidence and a feeling of independence. As an almost-10-year-old, his desire for independence continues to grow, as it should with every boy his age. However, I fear as he gets older and wants even more independence, these situations may continue to arise.

When he was 7 and tried to take that walk to the park, we were lucky. My friend, William, just happened to be driving down the street on his way home from work and saw Max taking his stroll. He pulled over and scooped him up in his car and brought him back to me. We’re lucky William saw him and not some stranger. We’re lucky the cars that passed him didn’t hit him. We’re lucky he didn’t bolt into an oncoming car.

When she was the first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote a book called “It Takes a Village.” The title was based on this African proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child.” Autism families can attest to that indeed. My helpers are pretty darn solid, and I live in a village of tremendous neighbors with a fellow autism mommy just two doors down from me.

So far we’ve been lucky, but I don’t want our luck to run out someday. I’ve been researching the plethora of new personal tracking devices that have hit the market recently to figure out the best one to keep Max safe and to prevent a wandering incident. The process is overwhelming as the choices seem endless.

I’ve heard good things about SafetyNet by Lojack and Care Trak, which networks with your local police, but I was hoping to keep it simple. I want something that alerts me or his caregiver if he goes beyond a certain boundary: the yard, the playground, 500 feet away. A few other moms recommended AngelSense, PocketFinder and TrackR, which all track through a GPS app on a smart phone. I’d love to hear what The Mighty readers out there are using and hear how it’s helping to safeguard their family members.

Maureen Crotty the mighty.1

The Mighty is asking the following: Tell a story about a time someone helped you and/or your child when you needed it most. 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 “Share Your Story” page for more about our submission guidelines.

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