+
Family

Meet Jordan, whose love of black cats helps her speak.

Black cats are definitely lucky for this girl.

Superstition, according to most people, says black cats are unlucky. But Jordan is not most people.

Jordan is 22 years old and on the autism spectrum. It's rare for her to express herself through speech. Rare, that is, until she's face-to-face with a furry feline, especially if it's a black one.


Jordan meeting a black kitten. All images via PAWsitive/YouTube unless noted.

Jordan gets to be around fluffy black cats regularly thanks to Mychal's Learning Place, a nonprofit organization that helps give adults and children with learning disabilities the tools to build self-esteem and independence.

Through Mychal's Learning Place, Jordan has the opportunity to work with Adopt and Shop, a rescue organization and not-for-profit retail store that's never lacking in cats who need love and attention.

"[Jordan] gets to give love and affection the way she wants to. On her timeline," explained Ed Lynch, founder of Mychal's Learning Place.

Play time.

In many ways, Jordan's relationship with the cats is incredibly reciprocal. Jordan provides the cats with mental and physical stimulation, and they do the same for her, which in turn helps her be more vocal and outgoing in the world.

Her bond with black cats in particular is special.

"We first discovered her love for cats when she began to draw pictures of black kittens," said Alicia Galindo, director of the Culver City branch of Mychal's Learning Place, explaining that Jordan called all the kittens "Gracie" after a black cat she had growing up who passed away.

After starting work at Adopt and Shop, Alicia said Jordan was noticeably happier. Caring for the shelter cats seemed to give her a greater sense of purpose.

Ed said that when Jordan does speak without a cat around, she usually just repeats the last thing someone else said to her. When she's with her favorite black cats, however, he said Jordan speaks much more freely, spouting off a lot of her own phrases.

Jordan eagerly awaits the new black kittens.

"When Jordan is around cats, she just begins to talk to them as if they could understand her," said Alicia. "She always greets them and ask if they are OK."

A 2015 study conducted at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Purdue University found that animals can ease social anxiety in people on the autism spectrum.

A little girl nose-to-nose with her kitty. Photo by Patrick/Flickr..

The researchers studied the behavior of children with autism both with and without a guinea pig nearby and noticed the children were significantly less withdrawn in the presence of the animal.

Another study conducted at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine observed 70 families with children with autism, some who had pets and some who didn't. They found that the children of families with pets were much more socially outgoing and interested in bonding with their families than those without.

Because some children with autism don't like loud noises or sudden, large movements (aka dogs), the leader of the study, Gretchen Carlisle, recommends cats as the perfect companion.

Obviously Jordan agrees.

Ed and the rest of the staff at Mychal's Learning Place are thrilled that Jordan has found somewhere she can be productive and feel fulfilled and loved all at the same time.

People with autism are often labeled as "different" by society, but they're just like anyone else trying to figure out what works for them and what doesn't. When you discover something that clicks for you, it can be like a light going on.

Black cats also come with a label — bad luck. It makes people think twice about adopting them.

Looking at what black cats have done for Jordan (and she for them in return), you realize just how meaningless that making assumptions about individuals just because of a certain label truly is.

As Ed said, "Let’s take those labels, throw them out the door, and let them go."

Check out a video about Jordan and her cats here:

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

True

Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

Keep ReadingShow less
via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


Middle school has to be the most insecure time in a person's life. Kids in their early teens are incredibly cruel and will make fun of each other for not having the right shoes, listening to the right music, or having the right hairstyle.

As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

Keep ReadingShow less
All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

People share experiences with intrusive thoughts.

When I was younger I used to think I was dying or that I would get kidnapped by a random stranger, but I kept it to myself because I thought something was wrong with me. I thought that telling people would confirm this fear, so I kept it inside my entire life until I was an adult and learned it was part of ADHD and other disorders, such as OCD and PTSD. But it doesn't have to be part of a disorder at all—a vast amount of people just have intrusive thoughts, and a Twitter user, Laura Gastón, is trying to normalize them for others.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

'90s kids share movies that will 'take you back to a better time'

It was a magical time when animals played sports and yet somehow things were just simpler.

YouTube/Upworthy photo illustration

Honey, I shrunk the kid named Matilda while jamming in space!

Everyone knows that '90s movies just hit different. From sports movies to rom-coms to even horror, there was an undeniable innocence, without being overly simplistic or juvenile. They didn’t have nearly the amount of money going into production as they do today, but somehow managed to transport us to magical places.

Movies of the '90s are so iconic that there have been several attempts to reboot beloved titles. Which, let’s face it, tends to be a fool's errand at a cash grab. These movies are so timeless that simply viewing the original is more than fine.

Not sure which movie to start with? You’re in luck—a Reddit user by the name of YouBrokeMyTV asked ’90s kids to share movies that took them “back to a better time,” and because the internet can be a wonderful place, tons of people responded with some beloved classics.

These answers certainly don’t make a definitive list (there are just so, so many gems) but they're a fun glimpse into what made '90s cinema so special. A nostalgic romp through memory lane, if you will.

Enjoy these 14 titles that just might leave you jonesing for a rewatch:

1. "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids"

via GIPHY

A perfect example of how '90s movies were silly, but smart at the same time. And oh so wholesome.

2. "The Sandlot"

via GIPHY

It taught us nothing about baseball, but everything about friendship, rooting for the underdog and (most important) how to make s’mores.

3. "Drop Dead Fred"

via GIPHY

Critics might have run this cult classic through the mud during its inception, but audiences fell in love with the bizarre charm of this story about a mischievous little girl and her anarchist imaginary friend. So take that, snotfaces!

4. "The Goonies"

via GIPHY

Everyone just wanted to set off an epic quest with their friends for pirate treasure after seeing this movie.

5. Tim Burton's "Batman"

via GIPHY

Before the superhero genre was the behemoth it is today, a quirky director and the dude who was best known for playing the creepy demon in "Beetlejuice" breathed new life into comic-book movies. Marvel might be the leader on creating stories with adult themes that are digestible for kids nowadays, but this DC film was the first of its kind. Plus, that soundtrack … forget about it.

6. "Hook"

via GIPHY

Pretty much any '90s film starring Robin Williams was an absolute gem, but this one in particular is timeless. His gift of balancing childlike humor with emotional gravitas lent itself so well to playing the now grown and cynical Peter Pan, who must learn to reclaim his joy (relatable, millennials?). It was a bang-a-rang-er, no question.

7. "Space Jam"

via GIPHY

It had Looney Tunes, it had aliens and it had Michael Jordan. That’s a winning combination.

8. "Matilda"

via GIPHY

I don’t think I’m out of line when I say that this movie helped a lot of kids make their way through difficult childhoods.

9. "The Parent Trap"

via GIPHY

Even '90s reboots were awesome. And how fun it is to see that Lisa Ann Walker—the actress who played Chessy the housekeeper—is not only yet again gracing the screens in NBC’s “Abbott Elementary,” but is also being revered as a style icon on TikTok for her ultra casual looks in the film. We all knew she was onto something with long button downs and shorts.

10. "The Land Before Time"

via GIPHY


No cartoon, not even “The Lion King,” was a better depiction of childhood grief. And yet, despite encapsulating tragedy, director Don Bluth still left viewers hopeful. The subsequent 14 (yes 14) sequels definitely pale in comparison to the original, but "The Land Before Time" continues to stand the test of time nonetheless.

11. "Richie Rich"

via GIPHY

The scene where they play tag on four-wheelers is simply iconic.

12. "Dunston Checks In"

via GIPHY

Man, the '90s were the golden age of animal-centered films. And not just monkeys either—we got sports playing golden retrievers and not one, but two movies starring talking pigs. What a time to be alive. These films were made before CGI had reached the levels it’s at today, and the authentic interactions between humans and creatures reached right through the screen.

13. "George of the Jungle"
george of the jungle, brendan faser

Watch out for the tree!!!

Giphy

Have I seen this movie at least 20 times? Probably. It doesn’t get any better than this in terms of silly action films with bird puppets. It’s crazy to think that this role would eventually lead Brendan Fraser to "The Mummy" franchise, turning him into a household name. Though his career has had some tragic ups and downs, we are all grateful for the glorious comeback he’s been having.

14. Anything involving Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
mary kate and ashley

Yes, they were professional detectives.

Giphy

Whether vacationing in London, Paris or Rome, whether playing magical witches or making a huge billboard so their father could find love … Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen offered zany, whimsical entertainment while wearing fun outfits. Sometimes, that’s all you need.