Apple Store Employee's Moment of Compassion for Boy With Autism Goes Viral


One Apple employee’s kind deed has earned him praise all over the internet.

LynnMarie Rink and her son James were at the Apple Store in Green Hills, Tennessee, on Thursday, Jan. 21, buying a new iPad. James, 9, has autism and Down syndrome, and the iPad helps him communicate.

All of a sudden, something caught James’s attention outside the store and he tried to run outside but ran straight into a clear glass wall instead. He hit his head on the glass and then again on the floor when he fell, according to LynnMarie Rink’s Facebook post. Everyone in the store witnessed James’s fall.

That’s when Apple employee Andrew Wall came over and asked what he could do to help. He joined Rink and James on the floor where he proceeded to set up the boy’s new iPad.

Rink posted a message of gratitude on Facebook, along with a picture she took of Wall and James together.

And then this happened….Nashville Folks – can you help me find this guy on FB? Or do you know any big-wigs at Apple… Posted by LynnMarie on Friday, January 22, 2016
  “There are no words to accurately describe how grateful I am that he took the time to ‘meet us right where we were,’” Rink wrote in her Facebook post. “He didn’t have to sit down on the floor with us. He could have easily waited for us to stand. [He] could have easily waited for us to come back another day. But he hung out with us in the midst of our pain… That moment reminded me that there are good people in this world and that there will always be people to care for James.” Rink was eventually able to connect with Wall via Facebook and she says Wall told her he hopes to pursue a career in youth counseling some day.

A photo posted by @lynnrink on

Since Rink posted the message and photo to Facebook, it’s been shared more than 9,000 times.



The Word That’s Important to Focus on as a Special Needs Parent


When you have a child with special needs, you might hear these words: limitations, impairments, disabilities, delays or challenges. And in the beginning you might think, What does this mean for my child? What does the future hold? While it may be easier to to frame your child’s potential within these limitations provided by doctors or schools, I believe it’s better to focus on one word: potential.

Potential means possibilities. Potential means progress. Potential means we as parents can believe in our child more than anyone else. Potential means opportunities to succeed, to make goals and help our child take steps to reach them. Here are four reasons why goal setting is essential for any child with special needs:

1. Goals are individual and personal, not for comparing.

Whenever I hear the word “individual,” I think of IEPs: Individualized Education Plans. The thing I love about IEPs is that they are made just for my child and no on else’s. They’re not comparing my child’s progress to any other child’s. And that’s just what goals should be: individualized.

There was a meeting about five years ago where I requested that a goal be added to my daughter’s IEP (one involving a life skill). One person was astounded we would even consider this goal and explained that many children in school do well despite not reaching it. She said that the school district could not promise success but could help her do some small tasks in the school setting.

I didn’t settle for that answer — I didn’t want to compare her to any other child, because as her parent, I know her better than anyone. I found a new way for her to reach this life skill. She learned it in our home with a trained professional in just three sessions.

Don’t be afraid to dream the outside the so-called boundaries for your child — he just might achieve it.

2. You will never know until you try.

When I was a younger mom, I got trapped in the mindset that Julianna, my daughter on the autism spectrum, just wouldn’t be able to do certain things. One day my husband decided it was time to teach our two older kids to ride bikes.

“You don’t mean Julianna, right? How is she going to learn?” I asked him.

“We have to try!” he replied.

So we spend the entire winter break that year in a parking lot. Our middle child, Blake, who was 6 at the time, caught on right away. Julianna, our 9-year-old, was struggling. But my husband didn’t give up. Day by day, she made more progress. It was like a miracle unfolding before our eyes. By the end of the break, she was riding independently. To me, she achieved what I before thought was impossible.

I believe in trying, and it doesn’t even have to end in success. Either way, you will learn something valuable about your child.

3. Every child can progress in some way.

As a younger mom, I also felt overwhelmed by the many therapies my daughter was involved in. Most times it seemed like she wasn’t making any progress at all because I couldn’t see results. If I could go back, I would have kept at some of these therapies longer. Progress is hard to measure at times. Looking back now, I can see how the different therapies we did stick to have helped her. She learned to walk through physical therapy. She has improved her speech through speech therapy. She learned fine motor skills and self-regulation skills through occupational therapy. She’s learned and is still learning life and social skills through ABA therapy.

I am amazed at how far she has come, and how much my perception of her potential has evolved. Limitations cannot rob any child of potential. Progress is happening, even when you can’t see it.

4. You will have more purpose as a parent, and your child will have more self-worth.

Parents are hard-wired to relish in the milestones of their children. We love high-fives, sticker charts, giving awards and certificates. Seeing our child accomplish a new skill is rewarding and often worth celebrating. And guess what? It’s just as rewarding for our children. I believe they love the high-fives, hugs, and pats on the back even more.

Last summer, we made a goal for Julianna to stop a troubling behavior, something she had done for years. We reached out to a child psychologist for help and adopted a method to help her reach this goal. It took many weeks of trial and error, but in the end, she achieved it. The psychologist knew this was a big milestone for her, so she invited the whole family to her home to have a party for Julianna. We had a cake and small gifts, and she was given a fancy certificate. This moment gave my daughter confidence and self-worth, and it gave me a memory to cherish forever as a parent.

As parents, we are walking down the path beside our child. We might wish we could walk the path for them, be in their shoes, but we can’t. It’s their path, and we are the guides. We can’t force progress, but we can foster it. We can’t create success, but we can channel it. We can help them find the right path to take.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

— From “The Road Not Taken,” by Robert Frost

As special needs parents, we have to be open to “the road not taken.” The “road less traveled” might be a little more lonely, but I can promise you, you will make new friends along the way. It really will make all the difference. Never cease to dream about what your child can do. What is your child’s destination? How will you help him get there?

Follow this journey on The Special Reds.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images


When Friends With Disabilities Make Disparaging Remarks About Others With Disabilities


Throughout my educational career as a person with autism, I have been in several different programs with people of varying levels of ability. Having this experience, and a mother who worked in the disability field who explained how things worked, taught me to embrace my differences while simultaneously encouraging others to do the same.

Unfortunately, not all young adults with disabilities have that mentality. I know people who have an “I’m disabled, but I’m not like them” mentality towards people with more “significant” disabilities, or see themselves as being “less impaired.” For example, when I went to the movies with my family and a friend who has Asperger’s syndrome for my birthday, a van from a group home and some young adults were outside. One of the youths greeted my friend with “Hi, honey!” My friend shook his head and said “Lots of obnoxious kids out here.” Of course this comment hurt me deeply, but I didn’t know how to properly call him out on his hurtful remark.

God bless my mother — she simply stated, “Sometimes the best reaction is no reaction at all.” And then there are acquaintances and peers of mine also on the autism spectrum who casually drop the R-bomb or use the term “special needs” in a condescending manner when referring to someone with perceived lower intelligence. It’s like, even in the world of disabilities, there is a level where people who are more impaired are lumped into a category of inferiority.

This casual ableism is petty and hypocritical. Regardless of our level of functioning, we are all the same at the end of the day — and not just because people with so-called “higher functioning” disabilities also struggle with being perceived as “different,” just like people with more significant difficulties. We are all human. People without disabilities still to this day are struggling to grasp this concept. We do not need this internalized ableism. Not everyone is not going to feel the same about their disability. Some people (like me) enjoy talking about their disability and viewpoint of life through that lens, while others dislike the anxiety component of autism or disability or are uncomfortable talking about it. That’s OK.

But it is never, ever OK to demean others. That’s not cool.

Spread the Word to End the Word! You can head here to pledge to stop using the R-word. It’s a step toward creating more accepting attitudes and communities for all people.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one commonly held opinion within the community surrounding your disability and/or disease (or a loved one’s) that doesn’t resonate with you? 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 Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


A Mom’s Response to That New Yorker Article About Autism


The following passage is from an article recently published by The New Yorker:

For parents of autistic kids, awareness is desperately important. It’s a searing experience to have a child who doesn’t talk, who doesn’t want to be touched, who self-harms, who demands a regularity and an order that parents can’t supply, whose eyes are not windows to their souls but black mirrors.”

Many throughout the autism community have been offended by the complete insensitivity and demeaning nature behind a statement that equates the eyes of autistics to black mirrors.

What a heartbreaking reality we are faced with when we live in a society that is still so quick to further perpetuate such negative stereotypes associated with individuals with autism. That they are some how less than. Vacant and devoid of the ability to experience rich thoughts and emotions…


When my son, Leo, was born, and he was placed into my arms, the very first thing I noticed were his eyes. I stared into those big, expressive eyes in wonderment — blue at the time, they have since turned to a beautiful shade of green. And each time I look into those eyes, I see his soul — and everything that is precious and unique about my sweet boy.

Leo may have limited speech. He may have trouble communicating and expressing himself in the way we as neurotypicals are accustomed to and expect. And Leo does have autism — but his eyes are not black mirrors.

They are a gift I marvel at each time I peer into them.

Ellie's son Leo

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, 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 Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


42 Things Parents of Kids With Autism Would Tell Parents Who Just Got the Diagnosis


Your child has just been diagnosed with autism.

You, the person who loves that child most, are probably feeling a lot of things right now.

Maybe you don’t know what to expect, and maybe that scares you. You’ve talked to doctors and therapists and loved ones, and they all have a lot to say. You’ve Googled and Googled and Googled. But have you talked to other parents who have been in a similar position? That’s where we come in.

We asked our readers who have a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to share one thing they’d tell a parent who’s just received the diagnosis. Of course, every child and experience is different, but we hope something below resonates with you.

Here’s what they told us:

1. “Getting a diagnosis does not change your child. Your child has always had autism, but you just got the name for what’s been going on. I was so scared of that diagnosis until I realized it changes absolutely nothing about who my child is and will be.” — Emily Matejic Souders

2. “There is nothing ‘wrong’ with your child; his brain is only wired differently. You will be his best advocate in all things!” — Jodi Shenal

3. “Take a moment to take it in and express whatever emotions you feel; it’s OK and doesn’t make you a bad parent if you feel devastated by the diagnosis. That will soon pass as you educate yourself as much as possible. Surround yourself with other autism families; they will be your best friends and a kind of therapy for yourself — they get it. Access whatever supports are available for your child that you feel will help. And know your child will completely change the way you view the world and make you a more compassionate, kind person. Celebrate every milestone and never give up hope. Encourage your child, and they will amaze you. Some days will be hard and other days will be triumphant; you will all be OK.” — Kim Hall

4. “Just like with neurotypical children, no two [children with autism] are the same. Take it one day at a time. I know it seems daunting, but it’s a beautiful ride.” — Sam Thayer

5. “Believe in your child and believe in yourself. Use your resources… Remind yourself often that you’re a good mom/dad and you know your child best.” — Katie Ortiz

6. “Just remember to go with what works for you and your child. Other people may not understand, but that’s OK; they don’t need to.” — Rebecca Engelmann

7. “You are the one who will make the biggest difference. Educate yourself and don’t let anyone limit what your child can accomplish.” — Susan Rood

8. “It doesn’t change the love you have for your child. It won’t stop them from achieving in life, but the journey might be a little difference. Embrace your child and try to enter their world.” — Gemma Lyons

9. “Get to know what supports and services are available in  your area. Find someone who has been on this journey to talk to. Don’t be afraid to ask questions; ask for help… Remember to take care of yourself.” — Tricia Brown

10. “Focus more on bringing out the good in them… Most ‘bad’ behaviors are ways of them expressing and speaking to you. Just look and listen. Also join support groups because you’re not alone in this.” — Barbie Rivera

11. “A diagnosis doesn’t change your child; it just gives you more of a window to understand them.” — Cassandra Coogan

12. “Just because the words coming out of your child’s mouth don’t necessarily make much sense to you doesn’t mean they aren’t meaningful for your child.” — Cheryl Soltero Egher

13. “No two children are alike, but many parents feel the same. We understand, and sometimes friends and family won’t, but that’s OK; you can ease them in. You’re the only expert on your child.” — Ronda Landes

14. “Take time to wrap your head around the diagnosis. Then, when you’ve come to terms with it… read, read, read. Do all the research you can.” — Theresa Beaudry

15. “Embrace this journey; shed tears, be mad, get frustrated… but above it all, learn to embrace. Learn and always love.” — JoJo Agnello

16. “Talk to someone who has started this journey before you. It’s OK to take notes, it’s OK to ask the same questions over and over until you understand.” — Michelle Oldenburg Fong

17. “Take it slowly, go at their pace… Remember, if they feel loved and understood, they will be more able to understand the world around them… Remember you are an amazing, loving parent trying your best, so give yourself a break. Start each day with a new start. Love each other.” — Emma Elizabeth Sobey

18. “You know your child better than anyone. Trust your instincts. Do the research, but also listen to that little voice inside. And then make the [teacher/therapist/administrator/doctor/specialist] listen to it too. That’s how you will find your tribe, build your team and help your child.” — Chris Stormborn Krasovich

19. “They will always be your baby, and a diagnosis is only there to get them the help they need. It doesn’t change who they are.” — Leidy Jesse Garcia

20. “There is so much hope for your child.” — Meg Naughton

21. “Welcome to the tribe! You are not alone in your fear, sadness, confusion or worries about where your child will fit into this world. Those of us who have journeyed for days, months or years have had or still have those days. Reach out to your community, find local Special Olympics groups and take pride in every accomplishment, no matter how small it may seem to others. You are your child’s best advocate and cheerleader; you got this!” — Sarah DeMartino

22. “Life isn’t over; in fact, you’ve been given a key to slowly unlock his/her potential. Take care of today, and don’t worry about tomorrow. It will wait until you get there. Just keep loving your special one.” — Tabitha Truchon

23. “Educate yourself. Do the work. Together. This is a journey you have to embark on as a family with your child. All of you will learn and grow in ways you never imagined.” — Georgina L. Acuna

24. “Don’t let anyone dictate how you should feel. Don’t let anyone tell you you shouldn’t hurt. What you feel is what you feel. Honor your heart.” — Laurie Fiander Juarez

25. “You got this!” — Melissa Cote

26. “You’re about to learn a whole new language, and even though it will be hard sometimes, there’s lots of help for you. Let me give you a hug because it’s going to be OK.” — Ann Jamison

27. “Remember that a diagnosis is a starting point. You will have peaks and valleys, just like you would with any other child. The diagnosis changes how you can help your child; it doesn’t change your child.” — Lisa Kasprzak Smith

28. “Don’t be nervous. People are going to say things that are rude and disrespectful; ignore that.” — Tami Birk

29. “He may not hit his milestones on time or at all, but when he hits his own personal milestones, it makes it all the more exciting.” — Kimberly Petroni

30. “Adjust your expectations — not of your child, but of yourself.” — Meredith Smolen

31. “Look for the cues your child is giving you. It’s a puzzle, but there are clues and you don’t have to figure it out alone. There are so many great people out there who can help you. You also don’t have to immediately go do every [therapy] out there. One thing at a time works, too.” — Carrie Mamantov

32. “Discover and nurture their strengths.” — Sally Meadows

33. “Breathe and enlist help.” — Katie McCabe

34. “It is OK if you feel sad right now; in time, this will pass.” — Miriam Gwynne

35. “If someone tells you to mourn and that doesn’t sit right with you, tune them out.” — Amy Hunt

36. “It’s going to be OK.” — Kelly Renee Smith

37. “It is easy to be in denial, but all it does is hurt your child. Accepting it is hard at first, but once you do you can move toward getting the help your child needs.” — Kim Nguyen

38. “Don’t compare… Don’t compare your child to other kids on or off the spectrum. I know you want to know what your child’s life will be like, but comparing won’t tell you. Don’t compare your reactions and feelings to the reactions of your partner, your parents, other random autism parents on the Internet, anyone. Your child, your life, your feelings are wonderful, worthy and valid.” — Jessica Charlton

39. “Reach out. To your family, your friends, local ASD support groups for parents. The best thing you can do is to bolster your support system. You will need them.” — Elizabeth Campbell

40. “Never listen to anyone who puts limits on your child… ever.” — Sara Coats-Kimbrell

41. “Always presume competence… Teach your child we all have strengths and weaknesses, and sometimes we need a little more assistance… Surround yourself with others who unconditionally accept and support you… Dream big and shoot for the moon with unconditional love, and you will be amazed at how far they and you will go.” — Sara Young Spoerl

42. “Congratulations! You’re in for a wonderful ride. It’s going to be bumpy, so hold on tight, but you’re going to be amazed at the different perspective your child will open your eyes to.” — Christian Osborn

We wanted to end on this note:

43. “I’m autistic and I don’t have kids, but I would like to say something: don’t be sad, don’t think this is the end, don’t treat us like a disease, don’t search for a cure: just love and accept us. It’ll be hard sometimes so be strong, but in the end, it’s worth it.” — Arianna Nyswonger

What’s one thing you’d tell a parent whose child just got an autism diagnosis? Let us know in the comments below.

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3 Late New Year’s Resolutions I’d Like the Autism Community to Make


I have three resolutions I’d like members of the autism community to consider adding to their New Year’s resolution lists for 2016.

1. Let’s resolve to remove the word “blame” from all discussions of autism.

That means no more headlines “blaming” autism on genes/environmental factors/take your pick, or any more online or in-print discussions about “the autism blame games.” The word “blame” is potent, often poisonous and often intertwined with “shame.” The reason for the “blame” ban is simple: when we use the word, we send the message to autistic people that their autism is something to be blamed for and something to be ashamed of. No one wants to be blamed for their identity or their existence. Parents don’t want “blame,” either, for it can set off a spiral into guilt and other corrosive emotions. When we see the word, let’s explain to the writer or the speaker why it’s not OK to use it in this context.

2. Let’s resolve to try to treat each other with respect when we disagree.

I am not talking about censorship, not disagreeing or not standing up for critical issues, like civil rights. Civil discourse is what I’m after. I think the guidelines of civility set out by the University of Texas at San Antonio are a good start. I like the way the discussion about a thorny autism issue unfolded with respect on the blog Diary of a Mom. That said, I think it’s helpful for those of us who are not autistic to recognize that some autistics have difficulty communicating and may come off as tactless to some, but that’s not their intention. I’d like all of us to consider that when we respond in words and tone that are charged and disrespectful, we trigger anxiety (often and especially for people on the spectrum) and ignite division (often and especially between autistics and parents). When we show respect to each other, we speak from strength as we demand respect in courtrooms, classrooms, legislatures and the world at large.

3. Let’s resolve to make connections this year.

Instead of automatically hunkering down with people who share our worldview, let’s find some commonalities with people we don’t automatically agree with. While we may not agree on the role of genetics or the value of various autism therapies, perhaps we can agree that, say, providing augmentative communication devices to autistics is a good thing. Working together on some things may make it easier to fulfill resolutions #1 and #2, after all.

Another way to fulfill this resolution is to reach out to someone with a different perspective. That’s why I asked a few people (mainly writers and activists who are autistic or parents of autistic children) for their opinions before trying to publish this piece. Their responses challenged me to rethink this piece and reinforced my conviction that we need to create safe spaces online for dialogue.

These commenters expressed empathy and advocacy for people with a different perspective. A writer on the spectrum suggested I consider “that parents often feel blame when discussion turns to cause, too.”

A parent advocate reminded me, “While mutual respect is a wonderful goal and is tremendously important, it can so often be a false premise — i.e. parent or so-called advocacy organization does something horribly dehumanizing to autistic people and then autistic activists are chided for not being ‘respectful’ of those people when standing up for their own and their community’s dignity and most basic civil rights. So I’d caution that it’s far more nuanced than it sometimes appears.”

Having learned from them, I’ve asked myself two questions before commenting and posting: “Do I want to change this situation or do I want to be right? Do I want to react or do I want to learn?” I’ve also learned that when someone reacts in a way that hurts me initially, I need to pause, leave my hurt on the shelf, then come back and ask myself if there is something I can learn from them.

I realize my resolutions are idealistic, akin to asking for peace on Earth in an election year. But as I wrote them, I kept thinking of two quotes. One is from Martin Luther King, Jr.: “We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience.” The other is from a holiday hymn: “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.”

Personally, I resolve to start the new year with a dose of idealism and end it, I hope, with a larger measure of civility.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one wish you have for the upcoming new year related to your experience with disability, disease or mental 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 Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

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