Reddit user kaz_a has a 7-year-old daughter with autism, who for homework one day had to write down what qualities she’d like in a friend. She penned a list of four traits, which her parent later shared on Reddit.


For homework my 7 year old had to write what she'd like in a friend.- understands me- knows I have autism - smiles all the time- keeps me company when I am sad


The list says “Wanted, a friend. Somebody who…” followed by:

Understands me.

Knows I have autism.

Smiles all the time.

Keeps me company when I am sad.

The photo, posted in the r/autism subreddit on Monday, September 21, struck a cord with redditors.

That’s what we all want,” Reddit user zombiepunch said.

I wish I knew I had autism at that age,” Reddit user bobtheengineer314159 commented. “Not only would have it helped me to understand why I was treated so differently than the other children, but I also would never have felt like my life before knowing was a lie.”

 Related: 10 Truths About Making Friends When You Have Autism


Photo courtesy of Olive PR Solutions

During the weekend of September 26 and 27, hundreds of people will gather in San Diego for the second annual Love & Autism: A Conference With Heart conference. The event centers on love and relationships as they pertain to people of all ages on the autism spectrum.

“My goal is to start the social movement to break down the misconceptions that people on the spectrum do not want and need relationships,” Dr. Jenny Palmiotto, a marriage and family therapist and the founder of Love & Autism, said in a press release for the event. “Autism is always there and love is always there; it’s nothing that an individual needs to overcome.”

But this year’s conference is special for another reason. On September 26, Anita Lesko and Abraham Nielsen, two adults on the autism spectrum, are getting married. And they’ve chosen the Love & Autism conference as their wedding venue.

Abraham Nielson and Anita Lesko. Photo courtesy of Olive PR Solutions

The event, dubbed the “First All-Autism Wedding” by its organizers, will feature notable figures in the autism world, including bestselling author Dr. Temple Grandin and global autism ambassador Dr. Stephen Shore, according to the event’s CrowdRise page. Additionally, Lesko and Nielsen’s entire wedding party is comprised of adults who identify on the autism spectrum.

Lesko, 56, says she and Nielsen, whom she met at her Asperger’s support group in 2013, decided to marry at the conference because they wanted to give people with autism who aren’t often invited to anything the chance to attend or participate in a wedding. But they hope the event goes deeper than that.

“The big picture is to reach as many people as possible to start changing the world’s views of autistic people,” Lesko told The Mighty. “Abraham and I want to give hope to the millions of people with autism and their families that love, relationships and marriage are possible for those of us on the spectrum.”

Photo courtesy of Olive PR Solutions

Dr. Palmiotto, who’s planning Lesko and Nielsen’s wedding in addition to organizing this year’s conference, says the couple is already bringing people together. Over the past few months, many people on the autism spectrum have contacted her asking how they can participate in the big day.

“The message is so positive and this community wants to stand by our message,” Palmiotto told The Mighty.

“I’m hoping [this wedding] will do what most weddings do [and] provide a moment in time to celebrate what life is really about: love,” she added. “This wedding and the conference as a whole is not about becoming more ‘normal,’ whatever that word means — it’s about learning to love yourself and open yourself up to the beauty that loving others may bring.”

Lesko agrees, adding that for her, it all comes down to acceptance.

“Every human being wants to feel accepted and loved. That’s just basic human needs,” Lesko told The Mighty. “We want to be included in our classrooms, our communities, our neighborhoods and simply everyday life. We are capable of giving and getting love. Abraham and I want to help our autism community, and we want to help the rest of the world to understand and accept us.”

Photo courtesy of Olive PR Solutions

To learn more about the Love & Autism conference, head here. To learn more about Anita and Abraham’s wedding and help fundraise the event, head here.

Fundraising Websites – Crowdrise

Despite never learning to read or write, Emma Lynam has her own business.

The 21-year-old from Queensland, Australia, has Down syndrome, autism and a cleft palate, according to the video below. Her mother, Jo Lynam, often worried about her daughter’s future and lamented the fact that she never learned to read or write, but what appeared to be her daughter’s limitation turned out to be a strength. Emma Lynam now has her own business shredding papers — her inability to read makes her an ideal person to handle confidential documents from companies and credit unions.

Her mother went from worrying about her daughter’s future to watching her “Master Shredder” blossom and succeed on her own.

I just cannot speak enough as a mom about how gratifying it is to see my daughter want to get up and go to work and feel fulfilled,” Jo Lynam says in the video below. “She’s doing something. She’s helping and making a difference in her own life, making her way like an other 21-year-old.”

Get the full story from the video below: 


h/t Reddit Uplifting News

I’m so proud of you for your bravery and strength. Opening up to a professional about how you were doing wasn’t easy, and you did it. You took what could be the first step towards finding joy again.

I know your feet are still heavy (It’s like elephants are sitting on them, isn’t it?) but just keep taking one step at a time. Your feet will get lighter and lighter. For me they did, at least. One day, you might notice you’re speed walking, then jogging then finally running again.

When I was where you are I was scared, confused and exhausted. I remember going to sleep at night sobbing. I remember laying on the floor unable to move. I remember feeling like every full breathe I wanted to take was choked by fear. I never imagined things could turn around, which is how you might feel now.

Even though it’s difficult, there can be a lot of peace in knowing you have an illness. You know now why the “picture of life” you’d always cherished stopped looking beautiful. It was the same picture you’d always seen, but suddenly everything was tinted with pain. It was like someone mixed grey with all your favorite, vibrant colors. You tried looking from every possible angle, but nothing changed.

No matter how funny the joke was, you could’t laugh. No matter how much you love your friends and family, you couldn’t be present with them. You couldn’t get out of bed in the morning and make eggs. 

You now know this had nothing to do with your strength or character. You can’t smile away an illness. And I know it seems impossible right now, but you can get better. You will see those beautiful colors again; they are still there.

The diagnosis helps professionals figure out the best treatment program for you. You may have to try different medications and treatments to find out what works best, but don’t give up. I remember the period of trial in error with medication. It was difficult, but finding the right one was worth every minute. I got my life back. I was able to be myself again. It takes tremendous bravery to get and stay with treatment.

Know there will be people who won’t “get” your depression. They will say ignorant things because they’re misinformed and uneducated about what mental illness really is. They might tell you about a time they were really sad, but got through it with berry smoothies or willpower. This is like someone saying, “Oh, I wear glasses so I know what it’s like to be legally blind. Just try harder to see.” It’s offensive and just plain wrong.

You can’t shut depression off because things are going right; depression isn’t a choice.

Don’t feel any shame or guilt for having depression. Would you shame a friend for having a broken leg? No, you would have compassion for her. Would you see her as worthless because her leg is broken? No, because she is so much more than a broken leg, just like you are so much more than your diagnosis. No one is depression or bipolar just like one is cancer or cystic fibrosis. Change your perception of yourself. You can live a great life regardless of a having a mental illness.

Don’t let the media and stigma tell you who you are, because they’re wrong. That’s for you to decide. Don’t see yourself as a monster, see yourself as the next Mozart or Lincoln. (Both had mental illness!) You are in good company. 

It’s possible your care might not be excellent. A lot depends on where you live and your insurance. Know that so many people and organizations are fighting for your care to improve, but also learn to advocate for yourself. You deserve the best care possible. If you’d like, join a mental health organization to connect with caring, bright people like yourself. Find purpose in helping others.

Just because you are different doesn’t mean you are broken. And “different people” can change the world because they can imagine beyond what is.

Please hang on. The world needs people like you. 

We need your voice. We need your story.

You are here for a reason.

Follow this journey on We Have Apples

Unwanted commentary by strangers about my 8-year-old son who has Down syndrome is a common occurrence. I understand noticing difference; that in and of itself is not objectionable to me. What is objectionable is how my son’s difference is somehow seen as an invitation by strangers to make comments that — whether they know it or not — are offensive and hurtful.

These comments reflect society’s stereotypes about children with Down syndrome and fall into categories that are not only false but share the overriding belief that my son is only his Down syndrome.

My son is not unaware of these observations. He can be confused, hurt and often scared by them. I am then left to explain to him the unexplainable actions of strangers.

Public awareness and restraint of the following would make life a little easier for my son:

1. The Specials:

These people think other-worldly when they see children with Down syndrome. Sometimes it’s a sweeping generalizing like, “They are special children.” It’s at times like this I wish we would do away with the term “special needs.” I believe it’s just fueling the fire with these folks.

These comments can be perversely specific in nature. Take the one that happened in the juice aisle at the grocery store. A woman pushing her cart on the opposite side of the aisle stopped to beam at my son: “You know what you are? You’re an angel on earth.” I set her straight: “Yeah, actually he isn’t.” My son then howled like a wolf and we went on our way. I’m sure she thought he was exhibiting some special behavior rather than typical boy behavior.

2. The Overly Familiar:

These people think a child with Down syndrome embodies the powers of Lourdes or the celebrity status of Justin Bieber. I have had untold strangers ask for hugs from my son. I’m guessing in their mind they think: “I’m not some creepy adult. I just want to hug a boy with Down syndrome.” This request causes my son to run to me and hide behind my back. I had one woman repeatedly insist: “Please, please can he hug me?” “He really can’t,” I said putting my arm around my son as we walked away. She yelled: “How about a high-five then?” Another woman sidled up to us at a coffee shop and said, “Oh, I will just die if I don’t get a hug from this boy.” “Well then, prepare to die,” I countered. She giggled nervously and walked away looking over her shoulder.

3. The Gift-Givers:

The first time someone offered my son money — I saw before me a lonely, elderly woman whose grandchildren must live very far away, like in Iceland, and she wanted to give her spare change to a little boy with blond hair and blue eyes. This should let you know I do really think the best in people. Then she said, “He’s so precious and special, I want him to have this.” I can’t quite figure this one out. Is it an offering to the angels walking among us, or do they want him to put in a good word with The Big Guy Upstairs? If the person doesn’t have cash on them, they offer whatever is in their handbag, like the lady who tried to pawn off a package of crumbled saltines to him, explaining: “It’s not much, but I would like him to have them.”

4. The Do-Gooder:

The absolute worse offender in this category was a woman who waited on us in a convenience store a few days ago. Fortunately, my son was several feet away picking out juice with my husband when she engaged me in conversation. She pointed toward my son: “Do you mind me asking, but does he have Down syndrome?”

“He does,” I said.

“I’m in graduate school to become a physical therapist. Does he see a physical therapist?”

“He does. Do you work with children?” I asked.

Ignoring my question, she said, “He’s very retarded.”

“What? No.” I honestly could not believe she said that.

Before I had time to process her statement she asked, “Does he get upset easily?”


“They get upset a lot.”

I thought, I just spent 10 seconds with you — and you very easily upset me to the point I want to key your car.

I said: “That’s not true. Any of it.” That was wasted on her, though, as I saw her stare at my son, supreme in the knowledge she was educated.

5. The Happy Contingent:

This one is an across-the-board favorite from all quarters. In fact if I had a quarter every time someone said, “They are always happy,” to me, I could hire a bodyguard to run interference in public. This belief is ridiculous and infuriating because it implies cognitive challenges flattens the human experience of children with Down syndrome rather than the reality, which is that they, too, live rich and complex lives.

6. “What Kind of Boy Is That?”

In public other children often stop to stare or point my son out to their parents. This one is tricky because they are children — and they are someone else’s children. I usually position myself between the child and my son and loudly say, “Hello!” hoping to break their trance.

I am dependent on the parent to do the right thing. This week that fortunately happened. A girl pointed at my son and asked her mother, “What kind of boy is that?”

The mother said: “What kind of boy? He’s a small boy.”

That is a true statement. My son is quite small for his age.

Follow this journey on A Typical Son.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability and/or disease, and what would you say to teach them? 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.

Dear Mr. Fallon,

You may not know it, but you have many people who look up to you as a role model. A great deal of my inspiration has come from your career both on- and off-screen. When I was 4, I was diagnosed with autism. During my life I had to overcome many obstacles to get to where I am. One of my biggest obstacles was public speaking.

While growing up, watching movies helped me build confidence. Watching the different characters opened me up to learning things from other people’s perspectives. Seeing people do things I wanted to do on-screen made me think one day I could do them as well.

This was around the time I watched your movie “Taxi” with Queen Latifah. I truly admired your confidence. You seemed comfortable in your own skin, and that’s something I wanted for myself. Being bullied in school for being different was always tough for me. On “Saturday Night Live, you inspired me by being able to take on many different characters. This is something I always wanted to do, too  trying to understand other people and their perspectives. Seeing your energy in the show really had an impact on me.

As years passed, I acted in several plays, and once I got to college, I became an autism advocate. I used the courage I built after watching many of your movies (along with your hilarious SNL skits) to do things I wanted to do in my career. Thanks to you, years later I even started my own TV show right after you premiered “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” With the “Tonight Show,” you also gave me more confidence when it came to things like talking to others and making eye contact. That’s something I’ve strived to do with my show with every single guest I have.

I think all of this played a part in why I wanted to become a public speaker. The confidence you showed in movies and television made me try to reflect that in my own abilities.

After seeing the popularity of your talk show, my hope with my TV show is to do the same for those who’ve been bullied for being different. I called the show “Different is Beautiful” to let people know that “normal” in our society is just a dryer setting.

If you ever read this letter, I hope you reach out to me one day just to say hi. I always wanted someone to look up to growing up, and you were there for me when there weren’t many autism advocates in the mainstream media I knew of.  Now I hope one day my show can become as popular as yours to share the beautiful stories we have in our community.

Keep being yourself and doing the things that got you to where you are, because I believe that message is going to help a lot of people. I know it helped me.

Your friend,


For the readers at The Mighty, if you would share this on your social channels in the hopes of Mr. Fallon seeing this one day, that would be amazing. Thank you.

Real People. Real Stories.

150 Million

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.