tony hernandez, autism speaks, autism spectrum disorder
via Tony Hernandez

Tony Hernandez as a child in Puerto Rico and today as an advocate for people with autism.


When Tony Hernandez Pumarejo was a young child growing up in Puerto Rico in the early ‘90s, his family felt there was something “different” about him. At the age of three, when most children are uttering full sentences, Tony did not speak.

Tony’s family sought out more information regarding their son, but they received conflicting opinions about his condition. Teachers asserted that there wasn’t much hope for Tony’s future, with one telling his mother that he was “never going to do anything in life.”

“There was a lack of education, there is still to this day, especially in the Hispanic community, about autism,” Tony told Upworthy. “Stereotypes and other misconceptions are obstacles many families face in seeking answers, making it difficult to get the help and resources we need.”

Finally, Tony’s family found a doctor who diagnosed him with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The diagnosis was a huge relief for them because it meant he could finally get the correct therapies and enroll in special education classes.

According to Psychology Research and Behavior Management, early diagnosis and treatment with evidence-based interventions “can significantly improve the quality of life of individuals with ASD as well as of their caregivers and families,” as it lays a strong foundation for better outcomes and will help a child improve mentally, emotionally, physically, and socially.

via Tony Hernandez

After obtaining the proper diagnosis, Tony received speech therapy from the ages of four to eight, and over the course of his lifetime, received vital support and assistance from teachers and therapists.

“Getting the right therapies was crucial in improving my verbal skills. I still faced a number of challenges over the years, including struggles with social communication, short-term working memory, anxiety disorder, and building relationships,” he said, “but an early diagnosis made all the difference in my life.”

In 2012, at the age of 21, Tony moved to Florida where his mom was living.

Since then, Tony has excelled in academics and professionally. He graduated from Seminole State College with a bachelor's degree in Business and Information Management with Magna Cum Laude honors.


Tony has worked in customer service for companies such as Sherwin Williams, Sam’s Club, and Home Depot and has been a tireless advocate for people with ASD for the past decade. He’s also regularly appeared on Univision Orlando for the past two years where he hosts a segment called “Tu Proposito” which in English translates to “Your Intention” and delves into the obstacles people on the spectrum regularly encounter and how they can rise above them.

Additionally, Tony is an accomplished author who released his memoir, “An Autism Unscripted Life,” in 2018, which was translated into Spanish in 2019 as “Una Vida Autista Sin Libreto.” In his free time, Tony loves to go hiking, explore new places, attend church, and exercise. He is currently working on putting together a 1,000-piece “Star Wars” puzzle.

Tony now works full time for Autism Speaks, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the needs of individuals with autism and their families, as a member of their Autism Response Team where he helps to support people with ASD and their families.

Although it probably seemed impossible at the time, the young kid in Puerto Rico who had a hard time finding his words would flourish into an in-demand public speaker in both English and Spanish. Tony regularly does presentations for schools, businesses, and other community organizations on the topics of autism, disability rights, and neurodiversity.

He believes that being diagnosed early played a huge role in his success.

“I was fortunate to have been able to get an early diagnosis. It led me to getting the support I needed to overcome challenges in the early years of development in my life,” Tony told Upworthy.

Learning that your child has ASD can be daunting at first. However, there is nothing more fulfilling as a parent, than to experience and support your child in reaching their full potential.

“An autism diagnosis can trigger feelings of panic and uncertainty for many families,” Tony told Upworthy, “but it is important for parents to take a deep breath and focus on the next steps to take to help their child achieve a better life."

Tony lives by a simple, but powerful motto, “Each person has a purpose in this world. Never give up on achieving your dreams.”

If you have questions about your child’s development, Autism Speaks offers access to a free Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT-R) test on its website. The test can help assess whether your child needs further evaluation, bringing them one step closer to unlocking their full potential and realizing their dreams.

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement


We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.


Woman left at the altar by her fiance decided to 'turn the day around’ and have a wedding anyway

'I didn’t want to remember the day as complete sadness.'

via Pixabay

The show must go on… and more power to her.

There are few things that feel more awful than being stranded at the altar by your spouse-to-be. That’s why people are cheering on Kayley Stead, 27, from the U.K. for turning a day of extreme disappointment into a party for her friends, family and most importantly, herself.

According to a report in The Metro, on Thursday, September 15, Stead woke up in an Airbnb with her bridemaids, having no idea that her fiance, Kallum Norton, 24, had run off early that morning. The word got to Stead’s bridesmaids at around 7 a.m. the day of the wedding.

“[A groomsman] called one of the maids of honor to explain that the groom had ‘gone.’ We were told he had left the caravan they were staying at in Oxwich Bay (the venue) at 12:30 a.m. to visit his family, who were staying in another caravan nearby and hadn’t returned. When they woke in the morning, he was not there and his car had gone,” Jordie Cullen wrote on a GoFundMe page.

Keep ReadingShow less
via LinkedIn

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21

A dad from Portland, Oregon, has taken to LinkedIn to write an emotional plea to parents after he learned that his son had died during a conference call at work. J.R. Storment, of Portland, Oregon, encouraged parents to spend less time at work and more time with their kids after his son's death.

Keep ReadingShow less

10 things that made us smile this week

Grab your boost of serotonin here.

Polina Tankilevitch/Canva

Upworthy's weekly roundup of joy.

Holy moly—it's fall, y'all!

As pumpkin spice swoops in and we start unpacking our cozy sweaters and cute boots, we can practically taste the seasonal change in the air. Fall is filled with so many small joys—the fresh, crisp smell of apples, the beauty of the leaves as they shift from greens to yellows, oranges and reds, the way the world gets wrapped in a warm glow even as the air grows cooler.

Part of what makes the beauty of fall unique is that it's fleeting. Mother Nature puts on a vibrant show as she sheds what no longer serves her, inviting us to revel in her purposeful self-destruction. It's a gorgeous example of not only embracing change, but celebrating it.

Keep ReadingShow less