As a parent of a kid with autism, this is what I have to lose if Trump becomes president.

Just a few short years ago, I was sitting in the family room with my husband, entertained by Donald Trump’s aloof presence in the boardroom.

We were laughing over the crazy antics of the contestants on his television show, "The Apprentice."

Now it’s 2016, and Donald Trump is running for president of the United States of America. And I’m not laughing now.


Photo by Sarah Rice/Getty Images.

In fact, I’m terrified. I’m terrified that Trump — an ableist, a man who openly and publicly discriminates against people with disabilities (or the perception of disability) — is potentially weeks away from holding the highest office in the land.

Now, Trump is laughing.

He was laughing as he openly mocked Serge Kovaleski. Kovaleski is a New York Times reporter who was born with arthrogryposis, a physical disability which noticeably impairs the joints in his body. "The poor guy, you ought to see this guy," Trump boomed over the adoring faces in the crowd.

Carried by the rising fire in his words, the people in the audience were swept up in the message. They laughed, too.

As a mother of a disabled child, I watched this on television in my living room. And I cried.

I wrung my hands in fear, questioning how this man and his supporters could possibly find any compassion for my son. My son has severe autism, and at almost 13 years old, he can barely speak. He often makes strange sounds and delivers odd jolting gestures at awkward moments. He is smart and sweet, complicated and mysterious.

Image via iStock.

I watched in paralyzing fear as Trump honed his relationship with radio host Michael Savage.

He has delivered one troubling, disturbing message on Savage’s show after another. Savage, in turn, has made a bid to be Trump’s head of the National Institute of Health. This is a man who, in 2008, claimed that "nearly every child with autism is a brat who hasn’t been told to cut the act out."

I watched in horror as Trump contributed to the dangerous anti-vaccine movement.

He tweets destructive messages that strengthen the already dangerous fear of autism in this country. "Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn’t feel good and changes—AUTISM. Many such cases!" he disjointedly tweeted in 2014.

As a mother of a disabled child, I know Trump in the White House means four years of few real solutions for my son, and that is terrifying.

It likely means no empathy for the plight of families contending with autism in this country. It likely means no support but lots of fear.

If Trump wins this election, he will undoubtedly continue to spread misinformation about autism and developmental disabilities. He cares much more about being right than he does about the truth. And so as Trump’s version of how autism is caused permeates society, I fear we will have a nation of under-immunized children.

Image via iStock.

I lie awake at night in fear, wondering if a Trump administration will again take us back to the days when even talking about my son’s disability felt like a punishable offense.

Those were days when mentioning "autism" as an insurance code was enough to have the doctor’s visit immediately rejected by our insurer.

If Donald Trump becomes president, I believe my family has so much to lose. And I’m scared.

Now, as a family, we have made peace with autism. My son is part of autism, and autism is a part of him. I do not think we would change it — it’s been part of us so long.  

But I'm worried because you can tell a lot about a person by how they treat those who need help: the temporarily infirm, the disabled and the elderly, the sick and the poor. Those who have a path harder to walk than most. It’s an idea that goes beyond Republican and Democrat and floats in the soft space of humanity: taking care of those people in our country that cannot, through no fault of their own, care for themselves.

As Trump laughs at disabled reporters, mocks a deaf actress, and questions essential foundations of national health, I worry about the future — my future, my son’s future, your future. Trump's lack of empathy is what truly makes me afraid.

I worry that if Trump is our president, there will be a dangerous shift in tolerance toward children and adults like my son.

If the president of the United States makes fun of disabled persons, who will stop the children on the playground? Will my son be the victim of taunts and harassment from kids or even grown adults who are just modeling the behavior of the most powerful man in the country?

I can’t vote for the school-yard bully. So, world, I have a simple request: Think about your own children. And if you can, think about mine.

Electing Donald Trump will speak dangerous loud volumes — far more than a parent’s words could ever say. That kind of president is not one I want.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

4-year-old New Zealand boy and police share toys.

Sometimes the adorableness of small children is almost too much to take.

According to the New Zealand Police, a 4-year-old called the country's emergency number to report that he had some toys for them—and that's only the first cute thing to happen in this story.

After calling 111 (the New Zealand equivalent to 911), the preschooler told the "police lady" who answered the call that he had some toys for her. "Come over and see them!" he said to her.

The dispatcher asked where he was, and then the boy's father picked up. He explained that the kids' mother was sick and the boy had made the call while he was attending to the other child. After confirming that there was no emergency—all in a remarkably calm exchange—the call was ended. The whole exchange was so sweet and innocent.

But then it went to another level of wholesome. The dispatcher put out a call to the police units asking if anyone was available to go look at the 4-year-old's toys. And an officer responded in the affirmative as if this were a totally normal occurrence.

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