If there's one thing Marc Carter's son Ben loves, it's his blue sippy cup.

Ben is 14, and he has severe autism.

He's almost completely nonverbal, but that doesn't mean he can't communicate his dedication to this simple, blue cup.


It might not look like much, but Ben has been drinking from it almost exclusively for his entire life.

Marc says he replaced it, once, with an exact replica, but even that took great care. First he swapped in a new base, then a few weeks later, he added a new top. Ben was skeptical, but he eventually adjusted.

The National Autistic Society reports that it's quite common for people with autism to become attached to or obsessed with certain behaviors, interests, or even specific objects, like Ben's cup. The organization writes: "The interest can ... provide structure, order and predictability, and help people cope with the uncertainties of daily life."

So, to Marc and Ben, the cup is also a little more than just a cup.

Unfortunately, Marc recently found out that the manufacturer, Tommee Tippee, is no longer making this model of sippy cup. That's a huge problem for Ben.

Marc's not kidding around when he talks about how important this cup is to his son. He says Ben has been hospitalized twice from dehydration after refusing to drink out of anything but his sippy.

The cup, he says, literally keeps his son alive.

As a father, he knew he had to do something. The current cup Ben uses is three years old and falling apart at the seams. It would only be a matter of time until it was unusable, and what then?

So Marc put out a call on Twitter, hoping that someone, somewhere, might have an old cup like Ben's laying around.

Before long, his tweet was retweeted thousands of times. The hashtag #CupForBen was flooded with kind offers from strangers who wanted to mail Ben their old sippys.

Tommee Tippee, the manufacturer of the cup, even heard about the campaign and offered to look through their warehouses to see if they still had some left.

(According to Marc's latest update, they've found one.)

One user even mocked up a digital model of the cup in case Marc wanted to have it 3D-printed.

To call this heartwarming response overwhelming would be a massive understatement.

"I've got some coming, some as in enough to last us a few years," Marc wrote. "If that's all I get then that's great."

He says Ben's behavior is unlikely to change at this stage, and he'll likely rely on his blue sippy cup for the rest of his life.

Thanks to the unending kindness of some random Twitter users, Ben and Marc won't have to worry about running out. For a long while, at least.

Despite all the attention, Marc insists he's not a "hero dad." He's just doing the very best he can for his son.

"In all this it's so important to realize this isn't about me, it's not about a little blue cup, it's about autism," he told the blog Rainbows Are Beautiful Too.

"My heart goes out to all of the carers who have to struggle daily with things that seem so trivial to the rest of the society — I think you are all fab parents and I admire you all."

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

That first car is a rite of passage into adulthood. Specifically, the hard-earned lesson of expectations versus reality. Though some of us are blessed with Teslas at 17, most teenagers receive a car that’s been … let’s say previously loved. And that’s probably a good thing, considering nearly half of first-year drivers end up in wrecks. Might as well get the dings on the lemon, right?

Of course, wrecks aside, buying a used car might end up costing more in the long run after needing repairs, breaking down and just a general slew of unexpected surprises. But hey, at least we can all look back and laugh.

My first car, for example, was a hand-me-down Toyota of some sort from my mother. I don’t recall the specific model, but I definitely remember getting into a fender bender within the first week of having it. She had forgotten to get the brakes fixed … isn’t that a fun story?

Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share their own worst car experiences. Some of them make my brake fiasco look like cakewalk (or cakedrive, in this case). Either way, these responses might make us all feel a little less alone. Or at the very least, give us a chuckle.

Here are 22 responses with the most horsepower:

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It’s the kind with a top lid, making it her private cave. Meaning anyone who comes close is a trespasser. She aggressively swipes at anyone who dares approach.

The man taking the video is a professional animal rehabilitator of some sort and clearly knows what’s up. He’s seen warning passersby to “don’t go near there! There’s a raccoon in there!”

Despite the handler’s smooth talking and gentle maneuvering, Miss Raccoon is not happy as she wriggles and screeches. But still, she is successfully removed from her post.

And then, small chirps continue from the bin…

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"Veteran" mom and "new" mom parent differently.

When a couple has their first child, they start out with the greatest of intentions and expectations. The child will only eat organic food. They will never watch TV or have screen time and will always stay clean.

But soon, reality sets in and if they have more kids, they'll probably be raised with a lot less attention. As a result, first-born kids turn out a bit differently than their younger siblings.

"Rules are a bit more rigid, attention and validation is directed and somewhat excessive," Niro Feliciano, LCSW, a psychotherapist and anxiety specialist, told Parents. "As a result, firstborns tend to be leaders, high achievers, people-pleasing, rule-following and conscientious, several of the qualities that tend to predict success."

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