Applebee’s Employee With Autism Reportedly Unpaid for a Year

Caleb Dyl, from Middleton, Rhode Island, has been working three days a week at a local Applebee’s for about a year, but he is reportedly yet to be paid for any of his work.

The 21-year-old has autism and was placed in a training program by a state-funded organization called Resources for Human Development (RHD), WPRI 12 News reported. His initial placement in the training program at the restaurant was without pay to see if he took to the position of prep cook, however, Dyl was supposed to start receiving minimum wage in August of 2014 for the part-time job. His job coaches reported that he was a “capable and tireless” worker.

Despite several inquires by Dyl’s parents to RHD, the checks never came and Applebee’s says they were completely unaware of the matter until WPRI 12 News called to inquire.

Eleanor Clancy, regional director of operations for the Applebee’s chain, said a check will be mailed to Caleb Dyl for 166 hours of work as soon as possible. Dyl did not clock in for work, so the 166 hours is an estimate based on records kept by RHD for the job coaches who went to the restaurant with him. Dyl’s parents estimate their son worked about 350 hours.

He was enjoying the job, so we really weren’t focused on the income so much,” Caleb Dyl’s father, Bob Dyl, told the outlet. “But after that amount of time, you kind of wonder what’s going on.”

WPRI 12 News reached out to RHD for comment, but we were told confidentiality regulations restrict any comment about the case. The Mighty has reached out to the Applebee’s for comment but have not yet heard back.

Get more on the story from the video below: 




7 Ways Having a Child With Down Syndrome Makes My Life Better

We have celebrated three incredible years with our son, Knightly, our little knight in shining armor.

As I look back, I’ve discovered a simple truth: having a child with Down syndrome makes life better. Here are some of the ways:

1. I’ve enjoyed the baby stage longer.

Sometimes my jaw drops when I hang out with kids the same age as Knightly. When did they become these running, talking, complicated little adults having full on conversations, driving cars, buying houses and getting jobs?! Or whatever the other typical things 2-year-olds do nowadays.

Usually around the time I start to dwell on when Knightly will get to that stage, Knightly happily babbles and waddles over to me to give me a hug. He’s quite content at his pace of development. And I’m filled with joy holding my little cuddly marshmallow for more time than a typical parent might.

2. Every milestone is a big party.

When Knightly finally rolled over for the first time, it was like winning an Academy Award. Whenever your child shows a new skill, as small as it may seem to anyone else, you know how hard they’ve worked and how hard you’ve worked to get there — and it’s truly amazing. My heart jumps with joy every time, and I’m in awe of how much a miracle each milestone is.

3. My child changed my worldview and constantly pulls me out of the rat race.

Hello, I’m Drexelle and I’m an overachievaholic.

I believe one of God’s greatest gifts was giving me a child with special needs to rock my worldview and constantly pull me out of the rat race I so love to join in on. 

I’ve heard this from many other parents and have found it true for me. Greater than any education or class I’ve attended, Knightly has been my best teacher of what it means to be a better human. He slows and steadies me. He makes me stop and smell the roses (or, more likely in his case, grab for all nearby living things and objects).

At times, I’ve found strangers staring at his inability to do something, and as I grow self-conscious about how they feel about him or what they think, he’ll surprise them by blowing them a kiss. And they smile. And inside I couldn’t be any prouder.

4. My child has made me a fighter.

I was a hopeless people pleaser ’til Knightly was born. Confrontation felt so impossible for me. But becoming a mother makes you stronger (biologically and emotionally). And becoming a mother to a child of special needs pushes you into scenarios where you become a fighter.

Whether it’s at the doctor’s office, with insurance, with schools, with specialists, with random strangers or even family, you learn to have a voice and to use it loudly when needed. You have to fight for your child, and you’ll get opportunities to practice and get better at doing so.

5. I’ve gotten awesome parenting advice.

As a first-time parent, I can’t rave enough about how helpful all the therapists, doctors, nurses and specialists have been in teaching us how to become better parents and how to raise, grow, discipline and challenge our child.

Since Knightly was 6 weeks old, we’d see at least five therapists in specialized playtime at early intervention every week. And every week, we were able to bring up any parenting question we had — whether it was on teething, sleep training or behavioral issues, they’ve been absolutely invaluable.

And even more importantly, the people who have helped us along the way have been there with so much love, inspiration and encouragement. They’ve held my hand and kept my head up high through some of my toughest moments of grief. I know if we have other children, we’ll be putting to use everything we’ve learned from Knightly’s therapies to our next child.

That poor child.

6. I’ve joined a community that became my family.

It’s been called Joining the Club You Never Knew You’ve Always Wanted to Be a Part Of — and it’s true.

The parents we’ve met through Knightly’s therapies and through the support groups we’ve joined have been walking answers to prayer. They’ve become like family. We’ve seen each other go through incredible ups and some horrendously hard downs. We cry over each other’s hardships. We scream and cheer when each other’s kids accomplish a milestone. We understand each other’s journeys. And we’ve made lifelong friends (in fact, we’re already arranging marriages among our children).

It’s incredible to watch these kids and to know these families have watched Knightly grow since he was just a few weeks old.

7. I get to be my child’s parent.

Since the first heartbeat, baby belly kick and moment I held him in my arms, I couldn’t believe this child was mine. But he is. And this baby has taught and challenged me more in life than I ever would’ve imagined. As he waddles and falls down and gets back up and smiles with wonder at the world, I get to view his world more closely than if he were just some kid I’d heard about or someone else’s kid I knew. Every day, I get to see his journey and watch him grow. And I thank God that I get to be a part of it — that I get to celebrate it.

I thank God that, at the end of the day, I get to hold him in my arms, sing a lullaby and tuck him into bed at night to sleep. And that every morning, as soon as I open his door, I’ll see him standing up in his crib, smiling and reaching his arms out for me to hold him again.

When I first heard his diagnosis of trisomy 21 two years ago, all I could do was cry, praying to God that He would cure my baby and take it all away. But if it weren’t for Knightly having Down syndrome, I wouldn’t have met so many people who’ve moved, inspired and encouraged me and become dear friends to me. I wouldn’t have developed the panic disorder that caused me to be challenged, faced fears, get fit and ultimately start pursuing my lifelong dream of writing and speaking. My husband wouldn’t have turned his life upside down. He, a man who never cared to exercise before Knightly was born, now works out seven days a week to train for an Ironman.

I believe so many of the great things God has brought our way these past three years were because we got to be Knightly’s parents. And despite the hardships you might have to face as a parent to a child with special needs, your story will have those great moments, too. And those moments would’ve never happened if you hadn’t walked this path as your child’s parent.

This is dedicated to parents who have just found out their child has a special need. You are in for an incredible journey.

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Most Strangers Show Ignorance Toward the Child I Care For. One Man Didn’t.

Just a quick pre-post note. I didn’t use the true name of the girl I am caring for in this post in order to protect her identity. Instead, I have referred to her as P. Secondly, this is a highly personal post to me, and I realize my opinions are hugely subjective, but this man inspired me so much that I just had to write something. And finally, in referring to “we,” I mean myself and the other young lady who cares for P. We work longer shifts every other weekend together.

My name is Kirsty, and for the last three years, I have been working with disabled children. I started this work for a wonderful charity called PLUS, where I had the honor of meeting many amazing children and their families who truly taught me the meaning of resilience and happiness.

With a lot of heartache, I had to leave my job at PLUS so I could move back to England to start my speech and language therapist studies. I looked for a new job and applied for about six posts as a care assistant for families. But one opening, from the very beginning, stuck with me:

“We are looking for a personal assistant for our 14-year-old daughter who has severe learning difficulties, with some challenging behaviors.”

As far as P’s disabilities go, this was all I had to go on. Within a week, I received a beautiful email from P’s mom, which provided all the details. P has Down syndrome, autism and ADHD. In the words of her mom, it’s “a lot of diagnoses for a girl to handle.” But after a phone interview and a trip down to meet P and her mom, I agreed to the challenge because I really thought I was prepared.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Working with and caring for P has been, at times, one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I’ve finished a shift only to start crying as soon as the door shut behind me. I’ve held back tears in public, since I’m not only dealing with P’s meltdown but also the people around us and their judgmental glares. I have come home aching, scratched and exhausted to the point where the rest of the day is wasted. Everything I felt I was prepared for in working with P, whether it was signing, personal care or dealing with meltdowns, has been a whole new learning process.

But honestly, the hardest thing about working with P has been learning to deal with and accept the attitude of the general public. We’ve had parents vacate an entire park because P wants to go on the swings. I’ve seen the looks of disgust as we sit next to P lying on the pavement. Does P notice all of this? I really hope not. But I do, and it infuriates me.

I’ve had several perfectly nice conversations with parents in the park as their children play and P sits on the swing. But they only address me. I’m more than happy to answer questions and satisfy the innocent curiosity P brings out in people. But she’s there, too. She can’t say anything to you, but she knows you’re there. And until we saw this one man the other day, no one even bothered to acknowledge her other than through a conversation about her with me.

It was a fairly usual shift. It had been raining all day, but it stopped long enough for the swings to dry off so P could swing to her heart’s content. I decided to get her home, because it was beginning to get dark. Although it was only a two-minute walk to her house, I knew that with P it would take at least 20 minutes, including all of our stops and starts.

About halfway home, P was crouching on the ground, pulling at the grass and (as always) being lovely and noisy. I could see him coming down the path, his hat tipped and waistcoat fastened with his dog trotting along freely in front of him. I smiled at him from a distance before returning my attention to P. She remained blissfully unaware. His dog came first, sniffing and circling P. And then he came by with a grin as wide as his whole face. And he smiled not just at me but P as well. Surprised by the genuine warmth he showed, I said, “Hello.”

“Hello,” he replied, “and hello to you,” looking brightly at P. He tipped his hat, smiled even wider and off he went.

This moment may seem insignificant to most, but this man’s warmth and interest in P meant so much to me, and it almost made the general ignorance we witness regarding P melt away. Despite how hard my job can be, I love it more than anything. If more people could be like him, then I know my job and the world at large would be a much brighter, more accepting place.

Is a smile and a hello to P and others like her really so much to ask? Because no matter what P’s difficulties are, she’s still just a 14-year-old girl who loves to laugh and smile. She’s really not so different at all. She doesn’t deserve to be treated as anything less than the shining light than she is.

To the man walking his dog who smiled at us — thank you. Thank you for restoring a little bit of faith within me and making me appreciate my job even more than I thought possible.

Kirsty Flynn.2-001

What No One Tells You About Getting the Diagnosis You’ve Searched For

I’m a special needs mom; I have 6-year-old twins who have an array of medical and developmental diagnoses. On a number of occasions, we’ve sat down with doctors, specialists and psychologists to receive spoken, and later written, diagnoses, and each time brings a huge array of different emotions. But over time, you realize professionals may give you a “name” for what your child is experiencing, but there’s so much they don’t tell you.

Here are a few things no one told me when my children were diagnosed:

1. This won’t just affect your child. It will affect the entire family.

Having a child with a genetic condition or a developmental disability, or who requires on-going support, can put a huge strain on everyone in the family. Parents have to walk through their own private journey to come to terms with, and hopefully eventually accept, that life is not going to be quite how they planned it. And siblings have to cope with perhaps not getting the same attention they need or facing seeing their brother or sister go through things no child should ever have to. Grandparents, uncles, aunts and extended family members don’t always know what to say or how to support, so sometimes they appear to criticize or be upset when perhaps they never intended.

It is like dropping a pebble in the ocean and seeing it ripple out way beyond where it first dropped. No one told me that at diagnosis. I wish they had. I may have been more patient with family if they had.

2. This will put a huge strain on your relationships.

Even couples who are incredibly close and resilient struggle when you add in the complication of a diagnosis. Blame, jealousy of the child’s needs, extra financial pressure and lack of sleep make it so difficult to maintain a healthy relationship on top of caring for a child with special needs. Then there’s the strain put on friendships when you can’t make as many social events or you cancel things at short notice. Social gatherings such as weddings, parties and christenings become quite a burden to a family who can’t readily get a babysitter for a child with additional needs. I wasn’t prepared for how a diagnosis would affect my marriage and my friendships. I wish someone had told me. I may have been more understanding if they had.

3. This will stretch your finances beyond recognition.

Raising children is expensive. Raising a child with any sort of diagnosis is even more expensive. Hospital visits cost not only in travel and parking costs, but often in food, treats for your brave soldier and perhaps time off work. For many families, giving up work to become a full-time carer is the only option, and that brings with it a drop in income that never seems to get replaced. Private therapies cost, and toys with the words “special needs” in front seem to double or triple in price. Extra heating to keep a sick child warm, ongoing clinic and therapy appointments, carers, equipment, specialist clothing, continence products and replacing broken communication devices all put a huge strain on the financial situation of a family. I had no idea about this when we first had a diagnosis. I wish I had known. I may have been more prepared for it if I had.

4. Everyone you speak to will now be an expert.

When I had no “name” for my children’s challenges, people were happy to listen, offer a hug and at the most, perhaps suggest a few things they thought might help. But mostly people just felt sorry for me or my children. But once we received that all important diagnosis (especially for some reason when one of the diagnoses was autism), suddenly everyone seemed to become an expert! We needed to start this therapy or that therapy! It was because we had the kids vaccinated! It was the stuff we fed them! They knew someone who had the same thing and they took this vitamin or read this book and now their child is cured. And so on. We were judged, and corrected and criticized for everything from the moment we mentioned the diagnosis. No one told me that at diagnosis. I wish they had. I might have developed a thicker skin quicker if they had.

5. A diagnosis is the start of a journey, not the completion of one.

When you’ve spent months and years fighting to get your children’s needs recognized and acknowledged; when you’ve been on waiting lists for so long you can’t even remember the person’s name who referred you in the first place; when you’ve put your heart and strength and fight into this one thing, you can easily see the diagnosis as the end of a long journey. It’s been three years since we were told my son had classic autism, global developmental delay and severe learning difficulties. Three years on and I’m still fighting in his corner, still trying to get people to listen and still pushing for more support. I naively thought everything would “fall into place” after we had a diagnosis. Sadly that never happened, and I’ve discovered it rarely does. They never told me that at diagnosis. I wish they had. I would’ve saved some of my strength and stamina if I had known.

6. There will still be days, even years later, when you’re sad.

I expected to cry the day we were given the diagnosis. What I didn’t expect is that years later, there would still be days I’d look at my child and cry. That doesn’t mean I’m not a happy person. My children fill me with pride daily. They are achieving in their own way all the time. But some days I watch them struggle. Or see something another child does easily that they have yet to master (like talking or waving goodbye), and the tears come easy. And I’ve realized I’m not alone. Some days I relive that diagnosis day and it stabs me in the chest as much as it did the first day I heard it. I don’t live there anymore, but I still hurt. And that’s OK. It’s just no one told me that on diagnosis day. I would’ve kept some tissues with me had I known.

7. Diagnosis doesn’t change your child. Love does.

I looked at my child differently the day they were diagnosed. I saw a child struggling with medical issues or developmental issues and I worried for the future. I saw a life mapped out for them I never planned nor wanted, and that broke my heart. I thought the diagnosis would somehow define them. But years later, I realize that has not happened. As time has gone on, people see my children simply for who they are, not the name given to their communication difficulties or social struggles or medical challenges. When I introduce my children, I just call them by name. That is who they are. That is who they will always be. They never told me that at diagnosis. Maybe if they had, I would’ve realized it would all be OK.

They gave a name that day for the collection of difficulties my child presented with. But that was all. A name. A word. Something I could learn more about to help them. They took my breath away for a moment. But they never, ever took my child.

My children are awesome. But they never told me that on diagnosis day either. That’s OK though. I tell them that every day anyway!

Follow this journey on Faithmummy.

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 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.

To My Fearless Son With Special Needs, From Your Helicopter Mom

To my son, Matthew,

You’re finally sleeping, and I’m exhausted. We’ve had such a great day today. You took a little step! You are so brave and amazing, and I’m your biggest fan.

I have to admit, I was shouting at your father when you took that step, but only because I thought he was pushing you too much, and I thought you were going to fall and break your neck — but you did it! I’m so proud.

I hope you understand why I’m so overprotective of you. It’s not because I think you can’t do it; it’s because I’m scared. I’m scared to push you too hard, and to be honest, I want to wrap you in cotton wool to make sure the world does not harm you, and I don’t know how to stop feeling this way. You’re lucky you have your father; he really pushes you.

I want you to know when you’re 16 and ask to go out with your friends, and I say, “Can I tag along?”, it’s not because I trust you any less than your brothers. It’s because I fear for you. I promise I’m going to try to let you have the same rules as your brothers — but I can’t promise it’s going to be easy for me! There will be times I slip up and say, “No, I am going with you!” And I know you will look at me like I’m an overprotective mother — but you have to know it’s because I love you.

You are my miracle, and I feel like I need to hold your hand every step of the way. But I’m really going to try not to be that parent who chaperones you on your 21st birthday. When I see you playing rugby or other sports, I’m going to look at you with such pride, but inside I’ll be making a note of every child who bumps into you and trying not to ban them from ever speaking to you again.

I hope you read this letter when you’re older, and that you’ll understand your “helicopter” mom. I hover because I want you to do it, not because I think you can’t. I want you to succeed and be the brilliant man I know you will be.

You’ve exceeded every medical opinion, and you’ve taught me never to stop charging forward. We thought we might lose you. We thought you would never sit, that you would never crawl and that you would never take that first step, and a little bit of my heart broke. I’ve stuck that broken piece of heart back on, but there’s still a crack. That crack reminds me of uncertainty and sleepless nights.

If I had my way, you would still be strapped to me in your baby sling, sleeping in Mom and Dad’s bedroom and never leaving my side. But I’m so proud of you, so in awe of you.

Please have patience with me. Sometimes I need a minute to catch up, but know I’m trying to catch up with you.


Your helicopter mom

Follow this journey on Matthews Miracle.

The Mighty is asking the following: Write a love letter to someone special in your life. What do you wish he or she knew? How has he or she made a difference? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to 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.

This Mom Wears Lipstick on Her Cheek Every Day to Make Her Daughter Proud

Jessica Hughes draws a small mark on her face just under her left eye every day using lipstick. The 24-year-old from Merseyside, England, does this to make her 7-month old daughter Madison feel proud.

Madison has a haemangioma, a collection of blood vessels under the skin that form a lump, growing on the right side of her face just under her eye, Caters News reported. One in 10 babies will develop a haemangioma, and it’s more common in girls, according to the Royal Children’s Hospital of Melbourne.

Via Caters News

At first, Hughes just thought the mark was a scratch, but in five months it’s grown into a 2-centimenter benign tumor. Doctors say it will only need to be removed if it begins to affect Madison’s eyesight.

Noticing that people often stare at her daughter and worried that Madison would eventually become self-conscious, Hughes decided to wear a lipstick mark on her own face. She hopes it will someday help Madison hold her head up high and ignore the stares.

Via Caters News

“I chose to draw a strawberry mark on my face to show Madison that when she gets older she should show hers off with pride,” Hughes told Caters news. “The red mark I’ve put on my face will make her realize it’s completely normal and that it doesn’t change who she is a person so it shouldn’t matter.”

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