Flashing lights, screeching noises, disorienting colors.

That is what 10-year-old Alex Marshall saw, heard, and felt — not while playing an intense video game or watching an action flick on the big screen, but while standing in the middle of a shopping center with his mom. 

Many people on the autism spectrum — people like Alex — have varying issues with sensory input. That is, they may be over- or under-sensitive to sights, sounds, and other stimuli around them. An everyday experience like walking down an aisle in the mall can be overwhelming. 


The U.K.-based National Autistic Society recently set up a virtual reality experience to give mall shoppers a taste of what someone like Alex may experience during an everyday errand in public:

A virtual reality experience doesn't mean others can truly know what having autism feels like, of course. And not every person on the autism spectrum experiences sensory sensitivities the same way (or at all). But still — this video can make a big difference.

The National Autistic Society wants more people to have a better understanding of what life is like for people like Alex.

When our understanding of another person's experience deepens, so does our empathy for them.

"Autism is complex and autistic people and their families don’t expect or want people to be experts," Mark Lever, chief executive of the organization, said in a statement regarding the campaign. 

Lever noted that while many people don't want to be judgmental of those with autism, they often fail to "see the autism" in others. Instead, they simply see a "strange" man acting out in public or a stubborn child who refuses to listen to their parent. 

As the shoppers concluded after trying out the virtual reality simulator, however, we shouldn't let preconceived notions about "normalcy" dictate how we view others who may be simply experiencing the world differently.

The simulation "just shows you the panic," one woman said. "How they feel. You don't realize how they feel." 

Learn more about autism and how you can help the world become a more welcoming place for people like Alex at the National Autistic Society's website.

Joy

Meet Eva, the hero dog who risked her life saving her owner from a mountain lion

Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva when a mountain lion suddenly appeared.

Photo by Didssph on Unsplash

A sweet face and fierce loyalty: Belgian Malinois defends owner.

The Belgian Malinois is a special breed of dog. It's highly intelligent, extremely athletic and needs a ton of interaction. While these attributes make the Belgian Malinois the perfect dog for police and military work, they can be a bit of a handful as a typical pet.

As Belgian Malinois owner Erin Wilson jokingly told NPR, they’re basically "a German shepherd on steroids or crack or cocaine.”

It was her Malinois Eva’s natural drive, however, that ended up saving Wilson’s life.

According to a news release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva slightly ahead of her when a mountain lion suddenly appeared and swiped Wilson across the left shoulder. She quickly yelled Eva’s name and the dog’s instincts kicked in immediately. Eva rushed in to defend her owner.

It wasn’t long, though, before the mountain lion won the upper hand, much to Wilson’s horror.

She told TODAY, “They fought for a couple seconds, and then I heard her start crying. That’s when the cat latched on to her skull.”

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Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy asked his Senate colleagues the questions millions of Americans have after a mass shooting.

Another school shooting. Another mass murder of innocent children. They were elementary school kids this time. There were 18 children killed—so far—this time.

The fact that I can say "this time" is enraging, but that's the routine nature of mass shootings in the U.S. It happened in Texas this time. At least three adults were killed this time. The shooter was a teenager this time.

The details this time may be different than the last time and the time before that, and the time before that, and the time before that. But there's one thing all mass shootings have in common. No, it's not mental illness. It's not racism or misogyny or religious extremism. It's not bad parenting or violent video games or lack of religion.

Some of those things have been factors in some shootings, but the single common denominator in every mass shooting is guns. That's not a secret. It's not controversial. It's fact. The only thing all mass shootings have in common is guns.

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Joy

Man uses TikTok to offer 'dinner with dad' to any kid that needs one, even adult ones

Summer Clayton is the father of 2.4 million kids and he couldn’t be more proud.

Come for the food, stay for the wholesomeness.

Summer Clayton is the father of 2.4 million kids and he couldn’t be more proud. His TikTok channel is dedicated to giving people intimate conversations they might long to have with their own father, but can’t. The most popular is his “Dinner With Dad” segment.

The concept is simple: Clayton, aka Dad, always sets down two plates of food. He always tells you what’s for dinner. He always blesses the food. He always checks in with how you’re doing.

I stress the stability here, because as someone who grew up with a less-than-stable relationship with their parents, it stood out immediately. I found myself breathing a sigh of relief at Clayton’s consistency. I also noticed the immediate emotional connection created just by being asked, “How was your day?” According to relationship coach and couples counselor Don Olund, these two elements—stability and connection—are fundamental cravings that children have of their parents. Perhaps we never really stop needing it from them.


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