Mom explains that if her severely autistic son can get used to wearing a mask, anyone can
Joan Dukovic

As the coronavirus pandemic continues sweeping its way through the world, public health officials everywhere are scrambling to figure out the most effective ways of mitigating it. One of the measures that's proving to be helpful is universal mask-wearing. Though wearing a cloth mask doesn't offer much protection from getting the virus, it does prevent you from spreading the virus—which you may be carrying and not know it—by catching droplets as soon as they leave your mouth. That means we can significantly slow the spread of the virus in public places, but only if everyone wears a mask.

Though the idea is simple, it would be wrong to say that wearing a mask is easy for everyone. As a commenter on one of our recent posts about mask policy protester pointed out, masks can be extra challenging for people with autism or other sensory issues—but that doesn't change the public health reality of the pandemic.

"My son has autism and lots of sensory issues," wrote Joan Dukovic. "He's having a real hard time wearing a mask. I could probably get a medical exclusion from his doctor, but I wouldn't dare!! He will have to learn to deal with it. I've raised him to be a responsible citizen, which sometimes requires sacrifices."

"Today we were buying some plants at an outdoor vendor," she continued. "He let me put his mask on him and wore it as we shopped for about 15 minutes. Then he wanted to take it off. We were nowhere near anyone else, but I gave him the choice of wearing it or going to wait in the car. He chose the car. Which is where this woman belongs, in my opinion. We're all in this together. If you can't wear a mask to help keep others safe, stay home! Order delivery. Kindness matters, especially when it might keep people from getting sick or dying!!!"

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Upworthy reached out to Dukovic to learn more about her and her son's unique perspective and experiences. She is a single mom to her 30-year-old son, Chris, who has severe classic autism and is functionally non-verbal. Dukovic mentioned that her son is prone to meltdowns, which can include yelling and physical aggression. She claims it's been difficult getting him to wear a mask in public. But she knows it's important to teach him to do it anyway.

"When I first realized that he would need to wear a mask, I knew I would need to help him develop the skills and tolerance he'd need," Dukovic says. "That's basically what we've been doing for his whole life whenever a new challenge presents itself."

She consulted with her network of friends—her "village" she calls it—and got some great ideas. Some were using visors for their adult children, but Dukovic knew that would also be a challenge for Chris because of his sensory difficulties.

"But I totally believe in him, and he believes in himself," says Dukovic. "So, we're doing it incrementally. I started by wearing a mask in his presence but not asking him to try. Then we had a graduation drive-by parade where I knew his peers would be wearing masks. Before we left the house, I told him everyone would need to wear their masks if they got out of their cars. And we tried it out, but he wouldn't put one on. But when we got to the meeting place and he saw friends wearing them, he agreed and let me put one in him. Peer pressure at its best!"

Joan Dukovic

Dukovic says that she believes Chris will build up a tolerance to mask-wearing over time. "I'm not sure how much he understands about the virus," she says, "But he knows germs can make us sick. And he knows it's important to be kind and respectful to others."

"I believe in the Golden Rule," says Dukovic."I believe we all have a responsibility to look out for each other. This virus is highly contagious, and a lot of transmission involves pre- or non-symptomatic folks. People are suffering and dying from it. If my son and I can do something as simple as wearing a mask, I believe it's our civic duty. And, well, it's really not simple for my son. Not at all, but he's still a member of society with the same responsibilities as all citizens."

The same responsibilities as all citizens. That truly sums it up. This is an act of collective solidarity we're being asked to participate in to protect our fellow Americans. What could possibly be more patriotic than making a sacrifice for the greater good of your country?

For the folks who resist wearing a mask even though they are perfectly capable of doing so, Dukovic has some advice:

"I guess my message to anyone thinking about not wearing a mask is to think hard about your decision. Think about the essential workers and all the nurses and doctors and people on the front lines. Think about the vulnerable older population in nursing homes who would most likely die if one of their caregivers brought the virus into their facility. Think about them gasping for breath, alone and scared. Ask yourself, is it more important to be 'right' or "'free' or 'comfortable,' or is more important to be kind and considerate in order to prevent the suffering of others and possibly save someone's life? If my son can do it, anyone can do it. And should."

Well said, madam. And well done raising a responsible citizen who can serve as an example to others.

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Of the millions of Americans breathing a sigh of relief with the ushering in of a new president, one man has a particularly personal and professional reason to exhale.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has spent a good portion of his long, respected career preparing for a pandemic, and unfortunately, the worst one in 100 years hit under the worst possible administration. As part of Trump's Coronavirus Task Force, Dr. Fauci did what he could to advise the president and share information with the public, but it's been clear for months that the job was made infinitely more difficult than it should have been by anti-science forces within the administration.

To his credit, Dr. Fauci remained politically neutral through it all this past year, totally in keeping with his consistently non-partisan, apolitical approach to his job. Even when the president badmouthed him, blocked him from testifying before the House, and kept him away from press briefings, Fauci took the high road, always keeping his commentary focused on the virus and refusing to step into the political fray.

But that doesn't mean working under those conditions wasn't occasionally insulting, frequently embarrassing, and endlessly frustrating.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.