Tell Your Story


Last week I read an article about a police officer and his fiancé who left their 8-year old son with autism to freeze to death overnight in a garage.

I felt the familiar bubble of rage and sickness in my throat. Alone in my office, I shook my head.

I flashed back to my son at eight years old, when he asked everyone the color of their shampoo. He ate cinnamon toast for breakfast every morning except Wednesday. Every Wednesday, he had waffles.

At nine, my son went to summer school.

He wore blue shorts with a white t-shirt.

Carefully, he colored pictures of teddy bears and elephants. He worked on writing his name in cursive.

He asked me if stars were made of fire.

See, my son has autism.

His name is Jack.

He is different from every other person I have ever met in my life.

Whenever I read stories like this, I have to take a deep breath and remind myself that he is safe. Jack is here with me and he is safe and no one is going to leave him outside to freeze.

Not every child is safe.

The thing is, I can’t always protect him.

My brains starts to flutter around, trying to figure out what I can do so this never happens to another child again in my lifetime.

But like walking on icy pavement, my mind struggles to find purchase upon the slippery landscape that is human nature.

What would it take to remove a piece of hate from a person’s soul, and replace it with tenderness?

Petitions? Legislation? Marches on Capitol Hill?

I guess these things would work. Maybe. But they all seem to big—to overwhelming.

I need something small and manageable, that I can do every single day without even thinking about it.

I can tell my story.

I can tell my story of a boy and his breakfast, and maybe I can awaken a memory of buttery toast, or long summer mornings in a stuffy classroom.

Maybe I can ignite the warm flame of compassion, and connect the warmth back to my son, and his autism.

He wears glasses.

He hates thunderstorms.

He sleeps with six pillows.

Different is okay.

Different is good.

Is this overly hopeless in the face of such glaring inhumanity?

Is it naïve to think that living openly, and transparently about my special boys and telling people about his cursive letters and fiery stars could help lessen the pain, and suffering, and abuse of those who live misunderstood?



But it’s a start.

Words are powerful.

It’s the only thing I can think of to do.

It’s the only way I know to keep him safe.

Written by, Carrie Cariello

Carrie Cariello is the author of What Color Is Monday, How Autism Changed One Family for the Better, and Someone I’m With Has Autism. She lives in Southern New Hampshire with her husband, Joe, and their five children. 

Carrie is a contributor to the Huffington Post, TODAY Parents, the TODAY Show, She has been interviewed by NBC Nightly News, and also has a TEDx talk.

She speaks regularly about autism, marriage, and motherhood, and writes a weekly blog at One of her essays, “I Know What Causes Autism,” was featured as one of the Huffington Post’s best of 2015, and her piece, “I Know Why He Has Autism,” was named one of the top blog posts of 2017 by the TODAY Show.

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Finding Cooper’s Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you’re never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village….all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook, subscribe for exclusive videos, and subscribe to our newsletter.

Kate Swenson

Kate Swenson lives in Minnesota with her husband Jamie, and four children, Cooper, Sawyer, Harbor and Wynnie. Kate launched Finding Cooper's Voice from her couch while her now 11-year-old son Cooper was being diagnosed with autism. Back then it was a place to write. Today it is a living, thriving community of people who want to not only advocate for autism, but also make the world a better place for individuals with disabilities and their families. Her first book, Forever Boy, will be released, April 5, 2022.

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