Debbie Byrne, from Ireland, will stop at nothing to get her son the services he needs.

Byrne’s 3-year-old son Aaron has nonverbal autism. Before attending his previous school, Jonix Educational Services, from Sept. 2014 to July of this year, Aaron did not walk, feed himself or interact with others, Breaking reported. Byrne says the special school and small class sizes “brought him from his own world into ours.”

Despite this, the Department of Education has decided to end the grant Aaron needed to attend the school and instead are trying to send him to a new school 30 miles away. Byrne feels this school is not equipped to handle her son’s needs. Now, she’s taken action– Byrne has chained herself to the Department of Education offices in Athlone, Ireland.

As his mother, I refuse to accept this,” Byrne wrote on the Justice for Aaron Facebook page on Thursday, Oct. 15. “I am his voice and I fully intend to chain myself to the gates of the department of education in Athlone tomorrow, Oct 16th, at approximately 11:00 a.m. to prove the measures I will go to to get justice and equality for my precious non verbal 3-and-a-half-year-old boy with autism.”

A statement from the Department of Education and Skills (DES) said it has received an application in Aaron’s case for home tuition. They say the application is currently incomplete, but the parents will be contacted for further information and a decision on the application will be made early next week, Breaking reported.

My son can’t speak for himself,” Byrne said, according to the outlet. “If I don’t stand up for what I believe is right and what is just for him, it’s all for nothing.”

Visit the Justice for Aaron Facebook page or follow the hashtag for updates. 



Real talk. Halloween is fun and all, but it can get kind of annoying if you’re not the one dressed up, ringing doorbells and collecting a pile of fun-sized candy bars. Maybe it’s not your favorite holiday. We get it. Kids can be loud. Some ring the doorbell many, many times, scream “Trick or Treat” at an unnecessary volume, grab too much candy or take forever to choose between a Milky Way and a Snickers.

You’re allowed to not like Halloween, of course, but the Facebook post below brings up one important point we’re going to try to keep in mind this year. The Asperger’s Syndrome Awareness – Bryan’s Advocacy Facebook group shared this valuable lesson this morning:


The post reads:

With Halloween upon us, please keep in mind, a lot of little people will be visiting your home. Be accepting. The child who is grabbing more than one piece of candy may have poor fine motor skills. The child who takes forever to pick out one piece of candy may have motor planning issues. The child who does not say trick or treat or thank you may be non-verbal. The child who looks disappointed when they see your bowl might have an allergy. The child who isn’t wearing a costume at all might have a sensory issue (SPD) or autism. That BIG boy, might ‘appear’ to be an adult, but may be developmentally delayed. Choose your words wisely. Be nice. Be patient. It’s everyone’s Halloween.

It’s a simple little reminder even the most patient person can benefit from. Happy Halloween!

In September we shared the story of Granderson, a boy with autism whose obsession with microwaves resulted in one of the most amazing Halloween costumes ever last year. That inspired us to ask our Facebook community if they or a loved one with autism had ever incorporated an “obsession” or unique interest into a costume. Turns out, Granderson isn’t the only one who takes pride in what others may consider an unusual interest. Below you’ll see 17 kids with autism whose out-of-the-box Halloween costumes are proof that different is cool.

1. A deck with stairs


“I thought maybe this year for Halloween he would come up with something I could actually buy at a store. Well I was very wrong! I asked what he wanted to be… and guess what he told me? He said he wanted to be a deck! A deck with stairs and a railing! Seriously? I have no clue where he gets these ideas from, but I am all for embracing his creativeness. So I grabbed my trusty cardboard box and set off to work. Grandy is actually standing up and the legs are ‘fake legs.’” — Brittany Van Arman-Miller

2. Pizza


“My son dressed as a piece of pizza for Halloween one year because he was obsessed with opening and closing the doors in the freezer section of our local grocery store. We go to our local Hy-Vee store several times per week because he loves the store and the shopping experience.” —Tyann Sheldon Rouw

3. A scuba diver


“A trip to an aquarium where we saw a man wearing scuba gear in a giant fish tank giving a presentation prompted my son’s obsession with scuba divers. So I created this, complete with air tank, mouthpiece, swim fins, goggles and dive weights. He was a hit!” — Stacy Enloe Kucera

4. Oscar the Grouch


“Ryan, now 7, used to have an obsession with trash cans. So at age 2, Oscar the Grouch seemed to be the logical choice.” —Kelly Lendman Stoeber

5. Lightning McQueen from Disney’s ‘Cars’


“Disney ‘Cars’ obsession translated with all of his favorite logos (another fascination).” — Amy Kenny

6. Buzz Lightyear + Tinkerbell wand + magician’s hat


“He loves all things magical and purple, so this is Buzz Lightyear with a Tinkerbell wand and purple magician’s hat… love his ‘no rules apply’ motto.” — Cari Mckinley

7. Pirates


“My boys both have autism and lots of sensory issues that prevent them from wearing a traditional costume. I made their double stroller into a pirate ship with the help of some cardboard boxes and old curtains. I put a striped shirt over the sweater to give their clothing a pirate look without resorting to polyester costumes (because they have trouble with anything other than cotton). We were new in our neighborhood and both my boys can’t have candy, so I made them a treasure chest out of an old box and filled it full of little gold chocolates that we handed out to the houses we went to, meeting our neighbors.” — Jennifer Andresen

8. Skittles

Rhiannon Dean

“Favorite candy!” — Rhiannon Dean

9. Beauty and the Beast


“My daughter has an on going obsession with “Beauty and the Beast.” Last year for Halloween we decided as a family to embrace her love of the movie and dress up together.” — Jill Kingery Hodge

10. A cat


“My son is obsessed with cats. So naturally, this will be his costume this year.” — Amanda Harter

11. The million-dollar wedge from “Wheel of Fortune”


“My son was obsessed with “Wheel of Fortune” when he was 7 years old. He watched the show every night after we ate dinner. His costume was the Million Dollar Wedge, which was new on Wheel of Fortune that year.” —Tyann Sheldon Rouw

12. Super martian robot girl


“Any [‘Yo Gabba Gabba’] loving parent should recognize this one.” — Angie Wiencek-Ashe

13. A vintage car


“My son loves cars. He was in love with a Chevy 57 so for Halloween two years ago, this is what happened. Kuddos to my hubby who worked on the box and duct tape to make it happen.” — Lisbeth Carolina

14. An elephant


“This was supposed to be my daughter’s costume last year but her social anxiety prevented us from going out with her brother. She has severe sensory processing disorder with her autism spectrum disorder so we kept it homemade with clothes she was comfortable in already. She’s always been obsessed with elephants.” — Alameda Dianna Plenger McElraft

15. A Lego 

Rhiannon Dean

16. Santa Claus


“My 6-year-old old daughter has always had an obsession with this Santa costume that’s size “12 months.” She would wear it year round 24/7. This is her last December still squeezing into it.” — Jill Kingery Hodge

17. Spy vs. Spy

Amy Kenny

A special thank you to the Autism Society of Southern Wisconsin for contributing to this piece.

Have you or a loved one with autism turned an “obsession” or unique interest into an awesome costume? Send us a photo of it to [email protected]

Related: How I Learned to Embrace My Son’s Quirky Obsession

Autism has been a part of my life ever since my son was diagnosed six years ago. It was a word I knew nothing about, and I had no idea how much that word would change my life. Three years later, my second son was diagnosed too, both of them at only 18 months of age.

As a parent, you go through a whole range of emotions immediately after a diagnosis. Anger, sadness, jealousy, grief, confusion and fear, to name but a few, as you desperately search for information to try and make sense of what your life and your child’s life will become.

I tried to learn as much as I could about autism. I read books, attended courses, tried different therapies, diets, anything to find the best way to help them.

I spent hundreds of hours online, reading blogs of other parents, blogs of those on the spectrum, differing expert advice and participated in various online communities. You look for answers, you look for support, you look for people who understand what you’re going through. When you find the courage to reach out, you can find and meet others who are in your situation and just get what’s going on in your life.

In general, I’ve found the online community to be full of support, advice and real compassion for each other. What I’ve learned, and the people I’ve met, has even inspired me to make my own contribution to the quest for greater awareness and understanding as I now write my own blog, sharing stories about our lives.

During the last few months, I’ve also come to realize what a minefield the autism community can be. It’s full of different opinions, which is great, and one of the reasons it can be so interesting. A good, well-argued debate never hurt anyone.

But I never expected to find so much anger, judgment and vitriol these differing opinions can inspire. There seem to be so many people firmly rooted in certain camps, unable to accept anyone’s right to an opinion different to their own, full of anger, hate and abuse.

I know we live in a time of the “internet troll,” with keyboard warriors determined to upset others. I just never realised this would apply within a community discussing a disability that they all have a common link to.

The recent publication of Steve Silberman’s book “NeuroTribes” is one such event that has divided opinion and led to people clamoring to support or denounce his work. Again, by itself this is fine, but watching how these debates escalate into personal attacks is sad.

There are many topics just like this that provoke the same reaction:

  • Whether you should say someone is autistic or “has autism”
  • The pros and cons of different therapies: ABA, gluten-free diets, biomeds, supplements, medication, etc.
  • What causes autism: vaccines, mercury and lead poisoning, problems with the gut, etc.
  • The spectrum itself – the labelling of someone as high-functioning or severely autistic
  • Parents who wish their child didn’t have autism, and those offended by them saying it
  • Parents of those who have severe autism fighting with those who are on the less severe end of the spectrum

I could go on and on. These are just a few I see that regularly lead to in-fighting, anger and abuse.

I’m not here to pretend I don’t read things online and disagree with them, or even get angry about them. I’m not here to take sides and say who’s right or wrong. I’m not here to suggest that some of these arguments aren’t hugely important and that they shouldn’t take place at all.

I’m here to ask everyone to take a step back for a second, pause and really think about what you’re arguing about.

What if we invested all of that time, passion and energy into something worthwhile? What if we focused it all into what brought us into the online autism community in the first place? What if we could accept everyone’s right to their own opinions and beliefs?

We’re all on this online space because we’re on the spectrum or have a loved one who is.

We’re all active in this online space because we want to educate ourselves and others about autism.

We’re all here because we want to make the world a better place for our loved ones, and help create a more aware and accepting world that the autism community can flourish in.

Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

If we want the world to be more aware and accepting toward autism, surely we need to start by looking at ourselves, and be more aware and accepting of each other?

Follow this journey on Stories About Autism.

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.

I’m a mom to two little girls. My oldest, Anna, is 4. She’s just as funny and loud and precocious as any 4-year-old can be. My other daughter, Zoey, is 3 years old. She was diagnosed at 21 months old with autism, sensory processing disorder and global developmental delay. She was considered severely nonverbal with no guarantee of speech, but if you’ve followed our journey on Facebook, you can see by her videos that she’s proving them wrong.

We have some pretty significant challenges in our family, and we have to take extra precautions to ensure safety for both of our girls. With a 4-year-old and a 3-year-old, you have be quick and ready for anything. Zoey’s still in diapers, and I don’t know when she will be out of them. She can’t stand the way clothes feel on her, so she often strips down to nothing. Going places is almost impossible because anything could set her off. Bringing her into stores, birthday parties, county fairs and even family gatherings can trigger a meltdown. We’ve learned through trial and error what works and what doesn’t work.

My daughter is impulsive and doesn’t understand the dangers of streets, strangers, bodies of water, fire pits and big, barking dogs who may or may not be good with small children. She can’t tell me or anyone else if something’s wrong or if she’s hurt.

I see families apple picking, hiking, biking, taking trips to the circus, going to soccer games and birthday parties, and going to the movies as a family. I would love for the four of us to go out to a movie, but that’s not our life right now.

I watch all this from the inside of my own home. I’m inside, but I’m the outsider. I’m the mom watching these beautiful and fun family moments from my computer screen. I’m an outsider looking at your moments from inside my home, hoping and wishing that someday I won’t be the insider — I want to be the outsider having these moments with my family. It’s hard to explain that to friends and family who ask us to get a babysitter or come along to the circus, the fair or a birthday party.

So what’s it like to be on the inside? 

I am a stay-at-home mom and I’ve had the honor of watching my girls go from being babies to funny little toddlers with their own individual personalities. 

I’ve been here through 14 months of intensive in home therapy for Zoey, sitting on the floor, watching her learn and grow, and I learned and grew from the experience as well. She let me into her world, and let me tell you — her world is full of music and smiles. I look at her and I know she’s happy. I got to witness her “go away” and then come back in an amazing way. She has taught me what hope, faith and love — unconditional love — truly mean.

I’ve watched my beautiful and quick-witted Anna become stronger and wiser. She’s an old soul in a 4-year-old’s body. She’s shown me just how much she loves her sister, and I have witnessed their relationship turn from nonexistent to one of the strongest bonds I’ve ever seen. To watch your 4-year-old light up after hearing her younger sister say her name for the first time… well, nothing on the outside can even compare to that. 

I watch them run and play and laugh all through the house. We may not get to go to the movies, but we have movie nights at our house, and I watch my two girls sit together and share a snack. I’ve watched Anna help Zoey, and I’ve watched Zoey learn to interact and have a relationship with her sister. They love each other, and that makes being on the inside not so bad. 

Being on the inside, I have a front row seat to the biggest and best event I’ve ever seen: My children, my husband and I have become a closer family. We all love each other unconditionally. That makes being on the inside not so bad.

So for now I will be that mom watching your moments from the inside, wishing I was on the outside. But I will also be that mom who is grateful for being inside watching my family and our love for one another grow.

Follow this journey on Life of Zoey.

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