What 'Finding Dory' taught me about my son with autism.

My son, Tate, and I just got home from the new Pixar movie, "Finding Dory."

Dory's character is a blue tang fish. Image via iStock.


It’s been on our calendar for weeks, as are most animated films. Movies are Tate’s "thing," and we rarely miss one he shows an interest in.

I had not seen the trailer for "Finding Dory," so I only knew that it was a Pixar film and a sequel to "Finding Nemo." "Finding Nemo" was a favorite of Tate’s when he was young, so much so that he has a lot of the dialogue memorized. I knew Tate was going to love the movie, but I did not expect to be overly interested myself. I had no idea that three blue cartoon fish, a couple of clown fish, and a grumpy octopus (make that a septopus) would draw me in and cause me to feel gut-wrenching empathy and compassion.

I found myself comparing Tate and autism to Dory and her own disability.

In the movie, Dory was unable to remember the things she needed to do to be successful and to keep herself from harm. I saw myself in the caregivers who surrounded Dory and tried to keep her safe.

As a very small fish, Dory’s parents tried so hard to surround her with rules and plans to keep her safe and ultimately, lead her toward success. They taught her rhymes and songs to help her remember the safety rules, how to repeat her name and her diagnosis, and they showed her how to get back home by creating a special marked path.

Still, Dory’s mother cried and worried because it might not be enough.

Image via Lisa Smith, used with permission.

I remember all the discrete trial programs we had for Tate, such as memorizing his parents’ names and his address. Those things meant nothing to him, but he could spout them if asked. In the autism community, we have T-shirts that help our kids tell others they have autism. There are ID bracelets available. We can buy signs for our cars and even stickers to put on their bedroom windows for rescue workers to see. Some of us also have service dogs and special locks on our doors. We are extremely careful.

And we still worry, too. What if?

Dory, as a young fish, could not advocate for herself or find help once she was lost. As an adult fish, she depended on others to keep her safe. At 14 years old, Tate cannot communicate well enough to advocate for himself among strangers nor would he know who to turn to and ask for help. Through no fault of her own, Dory made tremendous mistakes at times, and she felt guilty because she could not do the things she felt she should have been able to do.

I hear Tate constantly apologizing for things he cannot do because of his autism. And while I assure him that there is no need to apologize, my heart aches for him.

Nemo is a character that didn't give up on Dory, much like Tate’s friends at school. Nemo knew Dory was capable of more than she was being given credit for. He was supportive and patient, ready to help but willing to wait to see if Dory could do it herself, similar to how Tate’s friends encourage him and know just when to step in to help.

Nemo is based on a clownfish. Image via iStock.

Dory’s caretakers were understanding and patient with her most of time, but occasionally when things were tense, someone snapped at her, making her feel like a failure. At one point in the movie, Marlin criticized Dory, and it crushed her. This scene was telling of our own lives. It rarely happens in our home, but I’m not perfect. Marlin spent a few minutes in denial that he had said anything wrong, then much longer beating himself up for what he said. Once again, I saw myself in the animated character on the screen.

Marlin underestimated Dory several times in this movie. While she had special needs, there were some things she could do well. There have been many times I have doubted Tate and he has shown me just how wrong I was. At the end of the film, we saw Marlin trying so hard to trust in Dory like Nemo does. But even after he had learned his lesson, he still followed and spied from afar to make sure Dory was safe. And Dory knew.

Dory knew that Marlin was watching and there for her if she needed him, just like I will always be there for Tate.

It is such a fine line we walk — or swim.

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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.

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

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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.

Welcometoterranova 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 "Welcometoterranova-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.