If you told me 10 years ago I would be writing about bipolar disorder on the Internet, I wouldn’t have believed you. I know having lived my childhood and coming out the other side as delightfully suburban average is nothing short of amazing.

Now, I feel compelled to say something to those kids who want direction. Who feel lost, unloved and uncared for. This is for them.

Dear kids of bipolar parents,

If you’re Googling this topic, I’m going to assume that you’re old enough to start realizing things aren’t adding up. Maybe you’re around 10 like I was. Maybe you’re older. Either way, you’re questioning what’s going on with your parent.

Maybe one day they’re nice as pumpkin pie only to turn on a dime into something that scares you.

You just don’t understand.

I came up with this saying that I say to myself to this day:

“If I understood it, then I would be it.”

Say it. Say it out loud. Repeat it.

I had to accept I might never understand why my parent was that way.

Why they seemed irrational.

Why they sometimes seemed uncaring.

Why they were so unattached.

Listen to me — it’s not about you. Your parent’s brain does not and will not work the way yours does.

So what can you do to survive?

Decide to survive.

Decide you’re worth saving. You’re worth living a life filled with whatever you want.

When I was young, it felt like I was caring for myself. Maybe you feel that way, too. Make the best choices you can. Feel your decisions with every cell of your being. If you feel like you’re making a wrong turn in life, immediately turn back. You have to have your own back.

Stay in school. Do well in school.

I took a job in high school just so I was out of the house more. Do what you have to do to survive.

Look for good role models. Maybe you have a friend who has a stable family. What makes that family work? Look for those examples.

Learn to love. I felt like I grew up without love, and that experience can make you hard and cold.

Open up to people who will listen without judgment. Even though you have your own back, look for those in your life who can offer even a little emotional support.

Learn to trust. I felt like I had parents I couldn’t trust, and I know that becomes ingrained in who you are. Trust those who have your best interests in mind. This might take a while, even years to do.

Don’t stop believing you can do it. Because you can.

If you understood it, then you would be it.

But you’re not. You’re you.

Follow this journey on The Martha Project.


11800578_937292316330919_4795062672357280864_n The National Autistic Society (NAS) has recently conducted a study on what to call people on the spectrum. You can read about it here. There seems to be a lot of debate as to whether one should say, “He or she has autism” or “He or she is autistic.” I’m on the autistic spectrum myself, and people have sometimes asked me, “Do you want me to say you’re autistic or do you want me to say that you have autism?” I decided it might be a good idea for me to write an article about my views.

There are many people (mainly neurotypicals) who say you shouldn’t describe someone as “autistic.” It’s better to say they “have autism.” Some say the term “autistic” is offensive, that it defines a person and that it means they’re nothing more than their autism.

Personally, I don’t see anything offensive about the term “autistic.” I use it quite frequently to describe others and myself on the spectrum. First, let me ask a rhetorical question. Would it be offensive if someone said, “the man is tall” or “the girl is blond”? Does that sound offensive? Would it be better to say, “he’s a man who’s tall” or “she’s a girl who has blond hair”? The answer of course is no. Nobody would find it offensive to say somebody is blond because there’s nothing wrong with being blond, and saying “she has blond hair” really means the same thing as “she’s blond.” The same applies to whether you say “he’s tall” or “he’s a man who’s tall.”

Would it be offensive to call a fireman a “fireman”? Would it be better to say, “he’s a man who fights fire”? Would it be offensive to say, “Jack is a cool guy”? Would it be better to say, “Jack is a guy who’s cool”? They both mean the same thing, don’t they? So why is it considered offensive to say someone is autistic? And why is it better to say that they “have” autism? To me, that kind of implies that autism is an illness that needs to be cured — which it isn’t. It’s not simply something someone has that needs to be fixed. Autism is a part of what makes a person who they are. I’m not saying autism defines a person entirely, but it is part of who a person is. It’s not like a common cold that someone simply “has.” It’s a rather big part of a person’s life. It affects the whole way someone thinks and processes the world. I know this is the case for me personally. I undoubtedly am autistic. I believe “autistic” isn’t an offensive term unless it’s used in an offensive context.

I’ve heard certain terms that do offend autistic people, but “autistic” hardly ever seems to be one of them, and if it is, it seems to be because someone has a problem with the term “autism” in general and don’t like to consider themselves “autistic” or as “having autism.”

I’ve also heard of a few people with autism who find the term “having autism” offensive because they feel that autism is a part of them and they want to be referred to as “autistic.” Even parents feel this way because they feel like autism is what makes their child who he or she is.

The Autistic Gardener,” a television show in the U.K., uses the term “Autists.” I don’t mind this term, but I don’t want to alienate myself as a totally different type of human being. I’m different, and I do process things in my own way, but I also belong to the human race. I thought it was a fantastic program though.

The NAS research on how to describe autism concluded that adults with autism prefer “autistic” and “Aspie” (usually referring to someone with Asperger’s syndrome). However, family members didn’t like the term “Aspie.” Professionals preferred “autism spectrum disorder,” but I think “condition” is better than “disorder.” All groups preferred “on the autism spectrum” and “Asperger’s syndrome.” I think what people with autism want to be called should be listened to more than parents’ and professionals’ preferences.

Personally though, I couldn’t care less if someone says I’m autistic or that I have autism. They both mean the same thing in my eyes, and I use both terms. So honestly, you could say I have autism because it is a condition that I was born with and is something I have. I’m also autistic because autism is a part of me. Which term I’d use would really depend on which term sounds better in a particular context. In fact, I’d never even thought about which term was better until I saw all the controversy about it.

I’d say no matter which term you use, you’re going to offend some people, so I don’t think it’s anything to worry about. However, you should respect the wishes of a person with autism. If you meet people with autism and they want you to say they “have autism,” then say they have autism. If they prefer you to say they’re autistic, then say they’re autistic. It’s important to respect the individual’s wishes. In my experience, the majority of people with autism don’t seem to care which term you use, just like I don’t, but please get to know the individual.

This post originally appeared on Alex Lowery Speaks About Autism.

On July 26 and 27, athletes from all over the world headed to Huntington Beach, California, to compete in the 2015 Vans U.S. Open of Surfing, the largest surfing competition in the world. The annual two-weekend-long event, which also includes skateboarding and BMX biking competitions, regularly draws more than half a million spectators who come to see memorable performances.

But those who attended the first weekend of the event this year may have found the competition memorable for a different reason.

Take a look at the extraordinary adaptive skateboarding athletes in the photos below. Andrew Hale is a below-the-knee amputee as the result of a MRSA infection. Justin Beauchesne lost both arms and a foot to meningococcemia, a potentially life-threatening blood infection, and Oscar Loreto was born without his left foot due to a congenital birth defect.

Andrew Hale
Andrew Hale. Photo credit Chris Sanchez, Adaptive Action Sports
Justin Beauchesne
Justin Beauchesne. Photo credit Chris Sanchez, Adaptive Action Sports
Justin Beauchesne1
Justin Beauchesne. Photo credit Chris Sanchez, Adaptive Action Sports
Oscar Loreto
Oscar Loreto. Photo credit Chris Sanchez, Adaptive Action Sports
Oscar Loreto1
Oscar Loreto. Photo credit Chris Sanchez, Adaptive Action Sports

Each of these athletes proves disability doesn’t have to stand in the way of some serious shredding. Hale, 29, says he hopes younger athletes with disabilities internalize that perspective rather than viewing their conditions as hinderances.

“My advice to younger athletes is to not let anything hold you back; you should always set goals for yourself,” Hale told The Mighty in an email. “Small goals are always good. Believe in yourself!”

The Vans U.S. Open of Surfing final competition rounds will be held in Huntington Beach the weekend of  August 1 and 2. For more information, head here. For more information about Adaptive Action Sports, head here.

I was inspired to write this list after reading 10 Things Autism Parents Don’t Want You to Say on Autism Speaks. When I speak about growing up with autism to different organizations, schools and businesses, it’s often a surprise for people to hear that I’m on the autism spectrum. When I was a kid, I was considered on the severe end of the spectrum, from things such as being nonverbal until I was 2 and a half to having severe sensory integration difficulties and emotional challenges. Almost 25 years later, I’ve been able to turn my disability into an ability through interventions and supports that have led me down the road towards being a motivational speaker.

With that, I wanted to share some things I’ve heard on my journey that I hope you will try to refrain from saying the next time you talk to someone on the autism spectrum.

1. “You don’t look like you have autism.”

Kerry Magro.4-001

2. “You have autism? I would have never known.”

Kerry Magro.1-001

3. “Was math always your strongest subject?”

4. “Is your autism similar to that of Rain Man or Temple Grandin?”

5. “I’m sorry.”

6. “But you seem so normal.”

Kerry Magro.3-001

7. “Really? You can talk though…”

8. “Are you cured from autism because you can talk?”

9. “You’re pulling my leg right?”

10. “You must be very high-functioning”

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11. “Do you take any medicine to help you with your autism?”

12. “What’s it like to have autism?

Whenever someone asks me about that last one, “What’s it like to have autism?” it feels slightly odd because I’m just who I am. Autism is a part of who I am in many ways and my experience will vary completely to the next person you will meet on the spectrum.

To continue the conversation towards acceptance, here are some things you should say to someone with autism:

1. “How are you?”

2. “Want to hang out sometime?”

3. “Can you tell me more about the spectrum of autism?”

4. “What do you like to do in your spare time?”

The list goes on and on, but regardless the conversation and what you say or don’t say, just know that I’m Kerry and that’s exactly who I was meant to be.

Follow this journey on KerryMagro.com.

Dear Mom,

I’m not writing this to berate you, judge you or curse you out. I’ve been there so I get it. Honestly, when I was told upon arrival at pick-up that there had been a biting incident and I needed to sign a report, I had assumed my child was the biter. I know when you heard the news that your precious angel had bitten someone, you immediately felt a bit of shock and probably a little guilt. I get it because I’ve felt it, too. I’ve been through numerous discussions over my child’s behavior, and I’ve felt the immediate need to declare that I didn’t teach her to hit other children.

I know you want me to know he doesn’t do this at home and you didn’t teach him this. Not to worry. I know there are many reasons why children bite, but it would be a rare occasion when it’s because they were taught to do it by their parents. I know you aren’t teaching your kid to bite, hit or be aggressive to other kids because that would be weird. This might be the first time it’s happened or maybe it isn’t. I don’t know. I’m sorry if it isn’t an isolated incident because I’m sure you’re trying to figure out what’s going on and you might be feeling a little overwhelmed.

Briann Harms the mighty.3-001

What I do ask of you is that if it has happened before or continues to happen, please don’t ignore it. Children bite for many reasons, including speech delays, sensory input issues, to get attention or out of frustration. Sometimes kids grow out of it and sometimes they need a little help. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help if you don’t know how to fix it.

Our little prince and princess were fighting over a red cushion called a Disc’o’Sit, which has been incredibly beneficial for my child and for me. I donated the cushion to the classroom for Bumbi to use when she’s seeking sensory input through bouncing or rocking. It also helps her stay seated for story time and lunch. But it’s bright red and has a cool texture on one side so I get why your kid took an interest in it. Now I’m not saying anything is wrong with your child or that a Disc’o’Sit will solve all your problems. My daughter happened to have a few issues that we continue to work on, but it doesn’t mean yours does, too. It is actually common for kids around the age of 2 to bite, and they usually grow out of it. I’m sure that’s likely the case here.

So cut yourself some slack. I won’t be the mom demanding your child go somewhere else because of this one incident. I promise. And if you need some help or an ear to listen, I’m here. Don’t worry about avoiding me because you’re worried I’m going to unleash the fury of an upset mom on you. I know it isn’t your fault and I know this whole motherhood thing is tough enough without being judged and criticized by other moms.

Here if you need me,

Bumbi’s Mom

Follow this journey on Bumbi’s Mom.

The Mighty is asking the following: Share with us the moment you stood up for yourself or your child in regards to disability or disease, or a moment you wish you had? 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.

More than 6,500 athletes from 165 different countries headed to Los Angeles for the 2015 World Games this week and with them came fans from all over the world. On Thursday, we attended the Cycling and Open Water Swimming events in Long Beach, California, and met people from all different backgrounds. We wanted to know: What does it mean to be a Special Olympics fan? Here are some of our favorite responses:

1. “It’s good for us as a family to support our athletes. We are proud of them. We are proud because we are Belgian.” — Johan Van Derwelk, Belgium


2. “I’m a very proud mom. She won the gold yesterday. All her dreams have come true. She said she wanted to make new friends, new memories and win gold, and that’s what she’s done.” — Jacqui Byland (left), England


3. “We’re here on holiday, so it’s a coincidence we’re here. [The athletes] love to do this, and it’s great fun to see them doing their sport.” — Rick Van Aarle, Holland


4. “It’s so beautiful.” — Marjanca Lukani (middle), Slovenia


5. “It’s a blessing to me to be able to encourage someone.” — Ray Thompson, USA (left)


6. “My daughter Sandy went to [the World Games in] Athens, and she wanted to come to the next one. She won gold in the relay with her three friends. It’s better to celebrate as a team than an individual.” — Norman Freeman, Australia


7. “I love them for who they are, even if they don’ win. [Watching them], it feels like my heart is going to explode.” — Angela Dorelli, Costa Rica 


8. “I’ve never seen him as happy as he is here.” — Claire Connell (left), Ireland



Real People. Real Stories.

150 Million

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.