If you are currently a pediatrician or dentist, or are working to pursue a career in pediatrics or dentistry, have I got an opportunity for you!

Would you like to pay back all your student loans in a matter of months?

Would you like to make your own hours and be able to avoid health insurance companies entirely?

Have you always wanted to give back but just weren’t sure how?

Well, today is your lucky day!

Pediatricians and dentists — meet the autism mom.

She’s been scrambling for years, trying to find just the right doctor and just the right dentist for her little one.

She probably doesn’t have health insurance that will actually cover autism anyway, so she is accustomed to paying paying out of pocket and often cash up front.

She speaks highly of you to her friends, her neighbors, the folks at church, other moms at the park — really anyone who will listen — if you’re willing to take just a few steps to help her out.

She already has several therapists, developmental pediatricians and neuropsychologists doing the heavy lifting. She only needs you to complete the check-ups.

She is loyal to you, knowing that her child can’t tolerate a change in routine anyway, which guarantees you years of future business.

She is always so thankful, often bringing treats for your office staff, writing letters and including you in Christmas card lists.

Sound too good to be true? Well, it isn’t.

This autism momma does all this and more and expects relatively little in return.

“What’s the catch?” you ask.

What does the autism mom need from her child’s pediatrician and dentist?

Someone who will listen to and respect her knowledge of her child.

Someone willing to have a quiet room option for a waiting area.

Someone who will not judge her or make passive aggressive comments when her 140-pound, 12-year-old son hides under the table because he’s terrified of getting a shot.

Someone who won’t shame her when it’s clear for the fifth visit in a row that her son does not brush his teeth well, nor will he let anyone near him with a toothbrush or toothpaste.

Someone who will not pull out the body-mass-index chart (again) when the subject of sensory issues and eating problems comes up.

Someone who will encourage her son to talk more about the aquariums he loves instead of shushing him in order to ask developmental questions.

Someone who actually reads a bit about autism, knowing that 1 in 68 children are currently diagnosed with it.

Someone who genuinely loves kids, has a sense of humor and can see the big picture.

This opportunity is not for everyone and it won’t last long.

If you think you have what it takes, please contact us today!

Shawna Wingert the mighty.1-001

Follow this journey on Not the Former Things

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.


My perfect Elliot,

It was late Monday evening when Dr. Ball came into my hospital room. We knew you had to come out within 24 hours, and we had to decide between that night or the next morning. I had a cold grilled chicken sandwich and chocolate chip cookies staring me in the face that I desperately wanted to eat. My nerves were on fire. I was so scared you would be six weeks early, but right then, your dad and I discussed how 7/7/14 had a nice ring to it. We looked at Dr. Ball and said, “Let’s go for it.”

The rest of the night is a blur of operating rooms, beeping machines and hushed voices. Your dad hovering over me, telling me you had Down syndrome. There were unanswered texts and missed calls. I finally fell asleep.

Over the next several weeks, months even, I dealt with many fears, questions and doubts. I learned to find happiness and comfort in the small things. I believe God has worked overtime on my heart the last 365 days, and I’m grateful. Those early days with you, I was terrified and I cried a lot. Looking back, there are few a things I want to apologize for.

I’m sorry for grieving over you those first couple of days. While I know that grief was a natural human reaction, I wish I could look back on how joyfully I received the news. Instead, I was emotionless, trying to stay calm so my blood pressure wouldn’t rise and I could leave the hospital. When I went to see you in the NICU for the first time, I looked for all of the markers the doctors said pointed toward Down syndrome instead of looking at how adorable you were. What I failed to see were all the markers that proved you were a fighter. You grew stronger every minute.

I’m sorry for basically yelling at the hospital chaplain who came to see me the day after you were born. He was the first person I saw the next morning, and I think there was a part of me that hoped I’d heard wrong or was dreaming the night before when I learned about your diagnosis. That if I just didn’t see anybody, maybe I could just hang on to my old life. When the chaplain entered my room, it felt like a punch in the gut. Seeing him made it real. I just wasn’t ready to face it yet, so I asked him to leave before he ever said a word. He politely obliged and said he would pray for you. I wish I would’ve prayed with him because that’s exactly what I needed at that moment.

I’m sorry for worrying about your sister. I felt bad for your sister in those first few weeks. We went back and forth to the NICU, leaving her at daycare or with friends. I felt terrible she was without us, without you. I constantly fretted over her future, worrying about how she wouldn’t have a “normal” sibling relationship, concerned she would ultimately become your caregiver one day, anxious over whether she’d have to endure people teasing you. But I believe God gave you a sister with a cheerful heart, quick wit and tough-as-nails attitude. And I believe he also knew she needed you because you would teach her compassion and patience. Because of you, she will know at an early age what truly defines success, what truly is the heart of life. You two are the perfect match.

I’m sorry for being impatient. I thought patience was a virtue I possessed, and I’m learning maybe I was wrong. I’m sorry for wishing you’d get out of the NICU sooner, roll over sooner, eat sooner. I’m sorry I’m still wishing you’d sit up sooner. I can promise you I’m learning every day to accept your timeline and your pace. I’m getting better about living in the moment and meeting you where you are.

But through it all, Elliot, I can tell you this: after spending an entire year with you, I’m not sorry you have Down syndrome. I’ve grown to love your extra chromosome because it makes you the perfect, smiley, loving, opinionated little boy I have the privilege of calling my son. Watching you grow up this year, I’ve felt a mix of pride, joy and thankfulness at each of your accomplishments, from the first bottle you finished in the NICU to sitting up for 30 seconds while playing with a toy.

Seeing how loved you are by family, friends and neighbors has been humbling. Hearing how the ladies in the church nursery fight over who gets to hold you warms my heart. Spending time as a family with you, our youngest member (but probably the mightiest), shows me how blessed we are that you’re here. I believe God knew we needed you.

Happy birthday, my sweet son. I have more love in my heart than I ever thought I could hold. Thank you for bearing with me.

– Your Mommy


The Mighty is asking its readers the following: Describe the moment someone changed the way you think about disability and/or illness. 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.

July is Minority Mental Health Month! It’s dedicated to creating awareness and discussion about mental health in minority communities in order to increase their access to mental health care and treatment. We know mental illness affects everyone despite their differences, so we want everyone to work towards equality among mental health care.

Here are 10 facts about Minority Mental Health to get you thinking:

1. Teenage Latinas are more likely to die by suicide than African American and white, non-Hispanic female students. 

2. Less than 1 in 11 Latinos with mental disorders contact mental health care specialists.


3. In 2009, suicide was the second leading cause of death for American Indian/Alaska Natives between the ages of 10 and 34.

4. LGB youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide compared to their straight peers.


5. Native American males ages 15-24 account for 64 percent of all suicides among Native Americans.


6. Among women aged 15-24, Asian American females have the highest suicide rates across all racial/ethnic groups.


7. In a 2006 study, suicide was cited as the third leading cause of death for African Americans ages 15-19.

8. Only 1 out of 3 African Americans who need mental health care receive it.


9. In 2012, 14 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives age 18-plus had co-occurring mental and substance use disorders. 


10. Recovery is possible for everyone.


If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention LifelineHead here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

If you want to learn more about minority mental health, here are some resources:

Native American mental healthThe National Center for American Indian and Alaska Native Mental Health ResearchMental Health America: Native American CommunitiesIndian Health Service Division of Behavioral Health

Hispanic mental health: National Resource Center for Hispanic Mental HealthThe National Latino Behavioral Health Association 

African American mental health: National Leadership Council on African American Behavioral HealthBlack Mental Health Alliance for Education and Consultation, Inc.

Asian American mental healthNational Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association

LQBTQ mental healthThe Trevor Project

A version of this post originally appeared on the Active Minds Blog. To join the discussion about Minority Mental Health Month on social media, use #MMHM.

Sometimes, hearing a good quote can make a hard day a little easier. The Mighty wanted to know what phrases and quotes inspire our special needs community, so we asked our readers to share a mantra that resonates with them. Check out some of their responses below, and add your favorite mantra to the comments at the bottom.

1. “It’s not ‘handicapped,’ it’s ‘handicapable.'”

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Photo and quote submitted by Jennifer Owen

2. “It takes a village to raise a child.”

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Photo and quote submitted by Bridget Thompson

3. “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” — Dr. Seuss

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Photo and quote submitted by Kerri Munro

4. “One day at a time. We’ll worry about the future when we get there!”

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Photo and quote submitted by Melissa Giambastiani

5. “I am not alone.”

Photo and quote submitted by Renee Wendy

6. “You will celebrate every milestone. What others see as mundane will be cause for celebration in your family.”

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Photo and quote submitted by Doris Glass-Heckert

7. “Tomorrow is a new day to start again!”

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Photo and quote submitted by Heather Smalley

8. “Just keep swimming!” —  Dory in “Finding Nemo”

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Photo and quote submitted by Cara Delaney

9. “It’s all about finding joy in the journey.”

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Photo and quote submitted by Brenda Powell Hunter

10. “Always hope for the best while expecting the worst, and be happy with the middle ground.”

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Photo and quote submitted by Christine Faressa

11. “The beauty of a flower exists only because of those passionate enough to nurture it.”

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Photo and quote submitted by Jamie Awtry McClintic

12. “This is your path. You wouldn’t be on it if you couldn’t do it.”

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Photo and quote submitted by Jill D. Powell

13. “Never give up. Never back down. Never lose faith.”

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Photo and quote submitted by Julie Enlow Craig

14. “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” 

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Photo and quote submitted by Nina Viator Guthrie

15. “Be there today. Be there 100 percent. That’s all we have — today.”

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Photo and quote submitted by Geraldine Renton

16. “Bring it on.”

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Photo and quote submitted by Raquel Bercovich Wadler

17. “A diagnosis doesn’t change who your son is.”

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Photo and quote submitted by Jason Sims

18. “What’s normal?”

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Photo and quote submitted by Pam Piper

19. “I wouldn’t change you for the world, but I would change the world for you.”

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Photo and quote submitted by Britney Gardner Masucci

20. “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

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Photo and quote submitted by Monique Kassi

21. “A caterpillar never lets you know the beauty it will unveil.”

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Photo and quote submitted by Joy Sexton

22. “A smile makes the world a better place.”

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Photo and quote submitted by Laura Sloate

23. “Life will be different than you imagined. Sometimes scary, sometimes amazing, but always worth it.”

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Photo and quote submitted by Michelle Louise Whitehead

24. “Our life may be different, but it’s a beautiful life.”

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Photo and quote submitted by Noelle Broschart Kei

25. “You never know how strong you are until strong is the only option left.”

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Photo and quote submitted by Ari Dennis

26. “All behavior is communication. Different, not less.”

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Photo and quote submitted by Heather Zink

27. “Learn to laugh.”

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Photo and quote submitted by Megan Taylor Watts

28. “The mighty oak was once a small nut that stood its ground.”

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Photo and quote submitted by Jaclyn Kulfan

29. “We don’t live like most families, but we are not alone.”

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Photo and quote submitted by Sophy Chaffee

“She’s doing so well,” his mom says to me.

We sit under a huge tree with a blanket beneath us and a cool breeze around us. I watch from behind my sunglasses as my 2-year-old daughter runs laps around the playground. Her blonde pigtails bounce with each step, and her giggles dance through the air. Her playmate walks a few steps behind her. He smiles as he inches closer and closer to where she stands. When he reaches her, he trips. She bends down to comfort him, and just as quickly, they’re off again.

“Thanks. She really is,” I respond. I’m filled with gratitude as I think back to this time last year when we attempted a park play date with other kids her age. She couldn’t keep up. They climbed fearlessly up the playground steps as she stumbled just to walk on the uneven, mulch-covered surface. They went down the slide with relative ease while she tried to hold her head and body upright. As the other mothers talked and stood a safe distance away from their children, I was right by my daughter’s side trying to help her navigate the playground equipment and doing my best to help her physically interact with her friends. I went home that night and cried myself to sleep.

I normally dread play dates. Park play dates are the worst. For me, they often resurface old worries and insecurities about my daughter’s progress and future. They remind me of the permanence of hypotonia in both of our lives. But when the opportunity to have a park play date arose with another mom and her son who also has hypotonia, I couldn’t pass up on the chance.

“Watching her really gives me hope. If she can do all of this, maybe he will, too,” his mom whispers, as she brings me back to our current reality. “She is just doing so good,” she repeats with a wishful smile on her face.

I know what his mom wants and needs: reassurance. She reminds me so much of myself, searching for other hypotonia success stories, promising myself that if that kid could walk, run, jump and dance, my daughter would one day, too.

What she sees on the playground is my daughter running enthusiastically, walking almost effortlessly and exploring her surroundings excitedly. What she doesn’t see is my own doubt. My concern over the fact that my daughter still can’t climb the playground steps unassisted. My bruised and bitten arms from one of my daughter’s meltdowns. My own desperate need for reassurance that things will turn out OK in their own way.

I decide to share with her my hidden fears and concerns, and together we search for reassurance. We question the impact hypotonia will have on the lives of our children. Will other kids be accepting of our children? Will friends include our children despite their differences? Will people value who are kids are over what they can’t do?

As we share, I watch as her son puts a bucket on his head and makes a silly face. Laughter erupts. He has an awesome sense of humor. When he scrapes his knee, my daughter lovingly takes his hand and walks him over to his mom. She has such a nurturing heart. They both smile and laugh throughout the entirety of the play date. There’s no doubt they’re happy kids.

What more could a parent or a friend ask for? Humor, kindness and happy spirits. Sure, they aren’t going to be swinging from the monkey bars any time soon or racing down the playground fireman’s pole with ease. But does that really matter? I’d rather be an expert at kindness than be an expert slide climber.

As the play date comes to a close, I give his mom a hug. I want to promise her that in a week, a month, a year, her son will be wildly dominating this playground — running, climbing and exploring — but I can’t make that promise. I wish I could tell her what the future holds for her own son, but the only truth I know about the future is that there are no guarantees. The one thing I’m certain of right now — in the present, sitting in this park — is that one’s worth can’t be measured solely on a park playground, and for that, I am thankful.

Ali Cummins the-mighty-07152015-004

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.

Last night I was wandering down the produce aisle when my phone buzzed with a text from my husband: “4 min seizure. this sucks!”

Our son, Bunz, is failing his meds.

He’s had seizures every night for the past week. And the ones we see are only the tip of the iceberg, eruptions from the electrical static always simmering in his brain.

Failing a medication looks messy and exhausting and frustrating. And it is. For everyone.

It looks like panic at 3 a.m. as we reach through the darkness to feel for Bunz’ trembling face.

It looks like a child’s red-rimmed eyes and pale cheeks. He’s so tired.

It looks like a lady choking back tears at the grocery store, trying to hold it together over stacks of neatly bundled asparagus. Remembering her son playing schoolhouse with farm animals on the living room floor, the afternoon sunlight streaming through the windows as a tiny cow tumbled down the toy slide. Why did she wait so long to get down and play with him? Why did she say she needed to finish her work first? What was wrong with that woman?

This morning we drove across the city for a hastily scheduled appointment with Bunz’ neurologist. For the first time since we’ve been coming here, the assistant didn’t lead us back to an exam room. She seated us in a conference room and asked us to wait a few extra minutes; the doctor was running late dropping off his kids.

I wondered about his kids — how it must be to have a home brimming with health and happiness. And a nice fat paycheck. All of this imagined, of course. Nobody’s life is perfect.

From a window overlooking the bay, Bunz counted one ship, two shuttle buses, one train.

The doctor came in. We looked at each other.

“So,” he began.

“Yes,” I said.

There was a silence.

Then, in what might be the most productive neurology appointment of all time, we scheduled a video EEG, an MRI and an MEG to try to pin down the location in his brain where the seizures begin. We discussed the possibilities. “Our new insurance provider will love us,” I thought.

The neurologist asked Bunz some questions; Bunz gave real answers. I felt proud, remembering a few years ago when Bunz didn’t understand the concept of a question – that you were actually supposed to respond. He’s come so far.

We must have seizure control, I decided.

We demand it.

After the appointment, Bunz and I sat on a bench outside the hospital and shared a blueberry muffin from the coffee cart. I told Bunz I was proud of him for working so hard, for learning so much and never giving up. Even when it’s not easy.

He nodded.

“I love you, too, Mama. Where are my Pop Chips?”

I drove him to camp. His beloved shadow aide is gone for the rest of the summer and a new session started today, so he had a different classroom. Change is hard on Bunz. “Don’t drop me off here!” he wailed, his lower lip trembling.

I left him on the playground.

He stood near the teachers and watched two girls play with the steering wheels on a play structure. When they walked away, he ambled over to take a look.

I watched him through the window. My stomach hurt.

When will this get easier?

Do you have a story about your experience with epilepsy? Please send it to [email protected] and include a photo for the story, a photo of yourself and a 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our “Share Your Story” page for more about our submission guidelines.


Real People. Real Stories.

150 Million

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.