Steve Harvey (Sister Odell) Made Fun of Adults With Special Needs. And His Apology Doesn't Make it OK

It's been a hectic week at work and I haven't had much time on social media. So last night while scrolling through my FB feed and catching up with group, I came across this video: "Autism Mom FURIOUS over Steve Harvey's comments.

Steve Harvey, another celebrity who thinks its okay to use individuals with special needs the punch to his joke. The joke was made during his morning talk show on March 26th and Harvey has since apologized on his Facebook & shared via Twitter. 

But I'm not impressed with his apology. Not in the least. Because it's not really an apology...he's not really owning his words. And I don't believe he thinks he did anything wrong. 
It was not my intent to hurt any one. Sister Odell is a made up character, she's not real and my intent was not directed at any other real person. And most certainly was not directed at any one you know. Again my apologies. The problem with comedy is ALL subjects can offend someone.  
He's passing the buck and blaming the character, rather than himself. And then he says that comedy offends everyone. That's not really true. You can be funny without having to use special needs and/or disability as your punch line. 

But I love the response written by Autism with a Side of Fries. Mama Fry writes: 
"Not directed at any one you know" That attitude right there is the problem sir. Because it seems you feel that the only folks that MAY be offended are the ones that have a special needs child. Or that you are protected by the "laws of comedy." Because next month is Autism Awarness month and I suspect you will slap on a puzzle piece lapel pin or rerun your show where you had some autistic child on it being adorable. Don't tout us out when you need it and then throw us under the bus when you are lacking material for a skit.
Oh sure there have been comedians, celebrities and rappers who have used the r-word and made fun of individuals with special needs before. But I think my biggest issue is that the joke came from Steve Harvey.

Steve Harvey. Let's talk about him for a moment. 

His Twitter bio is: Proud husband, father, comedian, daytime show host, philanthropist and author. God has blessed me with more than I could have asked for! He has 2.73 million followers on Twitter.

Steve Harvey's Facebook page has 3,244,752 likes - he is listed as a public figure.

The Steve Harvey TV Facebook page has 3,027,252 likes.

Steve Harvey's Morning Show can be listened to live and on Soundcloud - he has nearly 4ooo followers. (Conveniently, the tracks for 3/25 & 3/36 have been removed but someone recorded it & posted the skit on YouTube.)

Steve Harvey is also a NY Times Best Selling author.

He's also part of the Coca-Cola Pay It Forward Campaign - to nominate teens win a college scholarship.

It's fair to say that Steve Harvey is someone people listen to. When he says something, when he insults an entire community - it's heard by millions. It's talked about in cars and at the office, retold at parties and shared across social media. Millions of people laughing at Steve Harvey's Sister Odell making fun of individuals with special needs. While Steve Harvey laughs all the way to the bank... 

And Steve Harvey is black. Autism among minorities specifically African Americans and Latinos is often diagnosed later (after four years of age). There is still so much stigma within our community about autism and intellectual disabilities. Children are being bullied at school and in the playground due to lack of understanding and ridicule. 

Special needs isn't a topic usually discussed among people of color. In main stream media, our stories are rarely shared. When a celebrity like Steve Harvey ridicules the special needs community - it hurts so much more than it helps. While he says his joke wasn't directed at any "real person" - it was. It was directed at millions of people. His joke was cruel and insensitive. Sister Odell jokes about a "32-year-old woman being slow and blowing bubbles and wearing bobbi socks, even though she's too damn old." 

And if someone like Steve Harvey - the loving husband, father, philanthropist, the church goer - can make fun of individuals with special needs, it throws the door wide open for anyone else to do the same. 

I love to laugh. Sometimes I need to laugh. I look for the humor in our day-to-day because it's the laughter that gets me through the worry.  And Steve Harvey is capable of making so many laugh. But like that mom said - this is my life

Living with special needs is our life, and the lives of so many families. We are real.

If You See My Son In The Ladies Room

Having a son with autism, I don't even blink when I see other boys in the ladies bathroom. Norrin is 9 and still comes into the bathroom with me when Joseph's not around to take him to the men's room. The older Norrin gets, the more self-conscious I am about doing this. Because there will be those that judge and call your parenting into question.

This may not seem like much but in our world, THIS IS A BIG DEAL! 

The picture of the sign went viral and sparked a debate about when a child should enter a public bathroom alone.

Personally I think 6 is way too young, even 7 or 8 is too young. And what is the big deal anyway? There are stalls and doors with locks and privacy. Women brings boys into the ladies room really shouldn't be that big a deal. Apparently it is. 

It makes me wonder if Norrin were a "typical" 9-year-old boy, would he still come into the bathroom with me or would I allow him to venture into the men's room solo. 

But Norrin's an atypical kid. He cannot be left unsupervised. He needs constant redirection and prompting. And while Norrin is verbal and can communicate his needs, he cannot tell me if someone has touched him inappropriately or hurt him. He has difficulty picking up social cues. Left unattended in a public bathroom, he could easily bang on the stall doors, reach into the garbage, eat something off the floor, walk out without pulling up his pants or not clean himself properly. 

I you even know what it takes to get a child with autism potty trained? Let alone alone, trying to train them to go into a public bathroom on their own. 

Norrin's Spring Break is in a few weeks and usually I pick one day to bring him into the office to hang out with me. I've been at my job for 10 years. Norrin's been coming to work with me before he could even walk. And during the potty training years, I didn't even think about bringing him into the ladies room with me. But he's 9. And it's my office. It's supposed to be a safe environment. Yet I still don't feel comfortable sending him into the men's room alone. Most people know that Norrin has autism. Some people don't. After years of bringing him into work with me, I feel like it has to come to an end - because of the whole bathroom thing. Because I don't know if every woman in my office would be okay with it. And if I sent him into the men's room alone, I don't know if they'd be would be okay with it either. I fear that they may quietly complain.  

Parents of typical kids know that one day their kids will be able to navigate a public restroom independently. For special needs parents, it’s a goal, a hope, another milestone among many. 
Some perspective: You know why I stopped to take the picture of Norrin drying his hands in the ladies room? Because there was a time when he wouldn't even enter any bathroom if he saw one of these in there - he was that scared. He'd fight his way out if he saw it. He'd cry and scream if it went off. When he learned to tolerate the noise, he refused to use the dryer. On this day, he put his hands under the dryer on his own. It took us years to get to this. YEARS. (The day he enters the men's room alone, I'll probably take a picture of him walking out.)
Last year I wrote about why we need more family bathrooms. Family bathrooms make life so much easier. I could waltz right in and not have to worry about a thing. It would be a great way to practice going into the bathroom alone - I could send him in and follow a few seconds later to make he does what he's supposed to. Whenever I see them, I use them.

Because when I bring my son into the ladies room, it's a reality check. It's a reminder of the gap between typical and atypical. The older Norrin gets, it becomes less of a choice but rather a necessity. I would love to give him more independence but he's just not ready and I know he's safest with me. But I will not always be around - what then? And that thought spirals into every why, when, how come and will he question possible.

So until there are family rooms everywhere and until Norrin is able to enter a men's room alone - he will continue to come in with me. And if you see my son - or anyone else's son - in the ladies room, don't question, stare or shake your head in disgust. Don't let your daughter laugh or point at my son for using the ladies room. Don't judge me or wonder about him without putting yourself in our shoes and thinking about why we're both there.

Autism Parents Share Why Their Kids ROCK

Having a kid with autism isn't easy and the future can feel uncertain. But if there's one thing I know for sure - before and after the autism diagnosis - is that my son is a great kid. And I love him no matter what any piece of paper says.      

Maybe you've heard that expression, "If you've met one kid with autism, then you've met one kid with autism." And while that is true, our kids share one similar trait. They ROCK! And their parents are eager to share why.

The parents I reached out to - have another thing in common. They are all Bronx parents and their kids are part of the Bronxchester Challenger League. A baseball league for kids with autism - you can learn all about it and the amazing woman, Lizzette Hernandez, who started it  HERE

On Friday April, 3rd Lizzette is hosting her Annual Fundraiser and all proceeds will go towards the Bronxchester Challenger League. (Details at the end of the post.) 

Chantel - My son is a true example of the saying "if at first I don't succeed I'll try and try again." He's always willing to try...and as a parent I can't ask for more than that.

Christina - My kid rocks because she lets nothing discourage her. She will always say "I can do it.”

Dee - My son rock's because he’s unique in his own little ways.

Erica - The Almodovar Brothers rock because just when I think they are falling behind, they surprise me by making it all the way to the top.

Debbie - My amazing Jason rocks because he amazes me with each new milestone, a new skill and maybe not in words but in his actions he his telling me "Mommy I can and I will."

Jennifer - My Daniel rocks because he shows me to never stop fighting.

Leton - Hakeem rocks because even though he struggles, he is so happy and affectionate. His happiness makes me know everything will be ok and helps me get through the day.

Chantay - Stephon rocks because he happy, affectionate, lovable, strong and determined.

Nell - My sweet Dan rocks because he teaches me that I just need to let the negative stuff roll off my shoulder. Honestly, this kid never gets offended. I might yell at him because he is doing something dangerous or wrong and he will ALWAYS give me a big smile chuckle, I love him so much for that. My oldest rocks because he teaches me to enjoy the stillness of life. He doesn't enjoy motion, amusement park rides and swings are a big no no for him, he teaches me to enjoy the moment.

Lizette - My Donovan rocks, because whenever I think he can't, he does! He inspires me to be a better person, to judge less, to do more, and to love more. He taught me to look for the best in people.

Janine - My Nicholas rocks because he doesn't see every day as a challenge... Life is full of fun & happiness to him... His smile towards life is so uplifting... He's my #1 teacher in life

Melissa - Eli rocks because he is the most amazing young man. His kind heart and gentle soul are what I treasure most. He wears his heart on his sleeve and lets me know daily how much he loves me.

Shirley - My Niko rocks because he has this amazing sense of humor. He knows what he likes and dislikes and marches to the beat of his own drum. Not a follower, not a leader but definitely a smart, young individual.

Veronica - CJ rocks because he is a kind and loving kid. He's compassionate and loves to put a smile on everyone's face!

Jennifer - My Donnivin rocks because he is the sweetest kid, always happy, makes everyone smile. He is so friendly and outgoing which makes me want to be better for him.

Veronica - My Noah ROCKS because he is an amazing child who is caring, funny and full of life. He loves to be around people he loves and surprises me every day. I am proud of who he is and who he will become. Like the swimmer he has become, he keeps his head above the water with a smile and breaks through the challenges.

Estela - Davery is amazing because he always knows how to put others before him and always makes sure they are okay. He will not hesitate to give you a hug and assure you everything will be okay. 

Brenda - Kaleo is amazing to me because he's been a fighter from day one. From having a stroke in utero and surviving even when the doctor said he might not make it. To then being diagnosed at 2 with autism and fighting at every speech therapy to find his voice which he eventually did at three and a half. To then being diagnosed with epilepsy and having to take 20 pills a day to control it. Eventually finding out he has a huge brain cyst caused by the stroke and with all that he continues to blossom. Now he's a chatterbox who is extremely funny, smart and caring. All these obstacles have not stopped him. He's made me discover strengths and patience I never knew I had.

Emily - My kids rock because regardless of their daily struggles, they greet the world with a smile. It takes a lot of bravery to go through life trying to figure things out. 

Maria - My son is 6 and autistic, he is loving, caring and likes to play it safe. He uses logic to figure things out and always asks tons of questions. He does not like to change his daily routine and is just the perfect kid for me.

Carol - Ralphie rocks because he can find the humor in just about anything (even things that aren't supposed to be funny - LOL) and that keeps the rest of us from taking ourselves too seriously. He challenges us to take risks (like with the highest, fastest roller coasters possible). At 13 years old he still loves hugs and cuddles, and also frequently rocks out to his favorite music - hard rock and heavy metal from the '80's (long before he was every born!). He's our "Retro Ralphie", our "Rock 'n Ralph", and we love him!

Carmen - Addison rocks because even at her worst she tries her best. Her infectious smile and drive in everything she does reminds my husband and I how important it is to continue to advocate for her and the entire autism community.

Angela - Because he is uniquely unique. Honest. And as innocent as anyone I've ever met. He is able to genuinely love

My kids are always willing to try new adventures. Dancing, soccer, running and now baseball. 

John - My daughter is one of the toughest people I know. Even though she is only 5 her eyes tell a story that only an adult could understand. I pray for her to be verbal one day but she has made me so strong that I am prepared if she never does. I enjoy laughing and giggling with her more than with anyone in the world but I also hurt more when she is sad than I ever have. I always said my oldest daughter made me an adult but its Khloe who made me a better person. When I think of my Khloe I think of hope and I'm thankful to have her as my daughter. 

Tara - ZJ rocks because he conveys so much emotion and charm without ever saying a word. The fact that he is nonverbal has never taken away from his character, if anything it has added to it.

Although my son does not understand my frustrations when I have a bad day sometimes he is the first one to say "Mommy I'll Take Care of You" I am often called a hero, a warrior or strong but in reality he is the hero; he is the one who is strong.

AND then I asked parents to describe their kids in one word. Here's what they said:

And NOW it's time to talk about the Autistic Kids Rock 5th Annual Fundraiser. It's an amazing event. It's free and it's for an amazing cause. So I hope you come out and show your support because it will be a great time!  If you cannot attend the event but still want to donate - you may do so here 

Kids with Autism & Potty Training: The 9 Things That Worked for Us

Having a kid with autism, potty training is often a topic of discussion among parents. When to start, how long it takes, what to do... For some kids it can take weeks, others years. It took us a few years.

Norrin was diagnosed with autism at 2-years-old, right around the age most kids start potty training. But at the time of diagnosis, he couldn’t even point his finger.

Or clap his hands.

Or wave hello/goodbye.

Or speak.

Potty training should've been at the bottom of the list of things I wanted Norrin to learn. But like so many new special needs parents there was this desire for my kid to be "typical." And I wanted to start potty training Norrin at the age the other parents did. 

So a few months into ABA therapy – we started. And then a few weeks later we stopped.

Because potty training a kid who couldn’t speak, stand still or have the motor coordination to point or pull his pants up/down was challenging.

I learned that with everything else, I needed to take potty training step by step. By the time Norrin started Kindergarten, he was (day-time) potty trained. 

Here are some tips and things to keep in mind if you're thinking about potty training your autistic child. 

1. Ignore what the other kids/parents are doing. Parents of typical kids love to talk about potty training – how they did it and how long it took them. I remember talking to one mom (of a "typical" kid) who expressed her frustration with the process because it took a whole two weeks. And I felt like a failure because we had been working on potty training for months (with little success). I couldn’t think about other kids. I had to concentrate on mine. 

2. Start when your child is ready. Aside from being emotionally ready, they need to be physically ready. One of the things our ABA therapist stressed was Norrin learning how to pull down his pants and underwear. Think about all the physical movement required to use the bathroom especially for boys. Potty training requires a certain amount of independence and if a child cannot remove his undergarments to go to the bathroom then it may be best to hold off until they can.

3. Everyone needs to be on board. When we started potty training Norrin, we started at home. We communicated with his teachers about potty training and asked for tips. We used to send Norrin to school wearing underwear with a pull-up underneath. (We used Huggies.) Once he got to school – the pull-up was removed and his teachers took him to the bathroom throughout the day. Pull-ups that have side openings worked best for potty training as it allowed teachers to remove it without removing all the clothing. It was a collaborative effort.

4. Consistency! You need to be consistent. Once you determine your child is ready. Once you get everyone on board – teachers, caregivers, grandparents – whoever. You need to be consistent. So even when you’re out and about on the weekends, even if your child has a pull-up on (just in case), take them to the bathroom – get them accustomed to public restrooms.

5. Patience. It took us more than two years to potty train Norrin. Don’t think potty training will take a week, two weeks, or a month. Do not put your child (or yourself) on a deadline. Start when you start and finish when you finish.

6. Have a sense of humor. Potty training is messy. There will be accidents. Accept it and laugh it off whenever possible. Maybe you won't laugh in the moment, but one day you'll look back and laugh. I wasn't laughing on this day, but now it's one of my funniest parenting stories.  

7. Be preparedStock up on paper towels, Fabuloso (because it smells good!), detergent, sheets, underwear and pull-ups. Always bring an extra outfit, extra underpants, extra pull-ups. Have an emergency bag in the car, just in case.

8. Be respectful. We live in a social media world where excited parents are quick to post milestones to Instagram and Facebook. I get it, I love to do the same but you will never see a potty-training photo in my feed. Yes, I have cute pictures of Norrin sitting on the potty, feet dangling, with a book in his hand but they're for us only. I wouldn't post a picture of myself sitting on the toilet - so why would I post one of my kid? That's just my 2 cents...

9. Praise and/or incentive. Norrin loves being praised and he seeks our affection. So when he had a good potty day - we celebrated. We cheered. We clapped. We made a big deal because it was. And it made him feel proud. Give your kid a treat or offer something special to show that they are doing a good job. For Norrin, the praise was enough but other kids like sticker charts or a piece of candy. Find the thing that motivates your kid and go with that.     

Norrin is now 9-years-old. He’s fully potty trained during the day. He still needs some assistance and he still needs prompting to wash hands. And I'll admit, sometimes I get frustrated and I wonder WHEN he'll get it completely on his own. And I have to check myself. 

Night time potty training is a whole other ball game. And I stopped trying. B because I’m sure Norrin will get it. In his own time.

I'm sure your kid will too. 

*** This was originally posted on ***

Oh! To Be Cinderella for a Day {a #Cinderella Sweepstakes}

Have you heard there are some moms refusing to take their daughters to see Cinderella? Some of the reasons include: dead parents, unrealistic body image and mean girl behavior. I mean is it me or can we just chill out? 

Because I've seen Cinderella twice already and I LOVED everything about it. I loved it so much, I wrote why moms should let daughters see Cinderella

Cinderella is the fairy tale of all fairy tales. It's one of the first Disney movies I remember watching and falling in love with. And while I loved her, I could never truly identify with her - not the way some other girls could. She didn't look anything like me. She has blond hair, my hair is black. She has blue eyes, my eyes are brown. Even at an early age, I knew that Cinderella represented a culture that was not my own. It's part of the reason why I now love the idea of Latina Disney princess

But I still loved her. And like most little girls, I wished that I could be Cinderella for a day... Heck, I still have that wish! (And I'm almost 40.)

images courtesy of Disney
In honor of Disney’s CINDERELLA, Disney is hosting a sweepstakes fit for a Princess! Enter today for your chance to win a 5-day, 4-night enchanting vacation for four to the Walt Disney World® Resort including one special night in the Cinderella Castle Suite! 

Obviously, I've already entered. Because it's a chance to stay in Cinderella's Castle! Why wouldn't I enter?

The sweepstakes ends 3/27/15 and to enter you must be 13+ and a resident of US or CA (excluding Quebec). Limit one (1) Entry per day, per person. There is only one (1) prize available to be won. Entry/Full Official Rules visit Void where prohibited.

When It Comes To Laundry Pac Safety Remember #ArribaYLejos

Disclosure: This is a compensated campaign in collaboration with Tide® and Gain® and Latina Bloggers Connect.

Norrin has always been a curious and sensory seeking kid. He likes to squeeze and, at 9-years-old, he still puts inedible objects in his mouth (i.e. coins, small toys, tiny pebbles, staples). So we are always cautious about the items we bring into our home and how we store them - especially our Tide Pods and Gain Flings.

The pacs’ concentrated, multi-chamber form is uniquely designed to offer a convenient, yet more powerful clean, which is why the safe handling and storage of this product is such a high priority.

Child safety is a always a top priority for us and I've partnered with Tide and Gain during Poison Prevention Week to help spread the message on the importance of responsible use and storage of laundry pods, along with all other cleaning products that a child could come into contact with in the laundry room and/or other areas of the home. 

Living in a two-bedroom apartment, our storage space is limited. And while we don't have a dedicated laundry room (it's on my wish list), we do keep laundry pods and other cleaning products in our home. Having a child who explores the world by using his senses - I know that I need to be mindful of how I store products. Creating a safe environment reduces the risk of accidents.  

When It Comes To Laundry Pac Safety Remember:

1. Keep pods and cleaning products up, up and away (Arriba y Lejosfrom his curious hands. I keep products out of reach and out of sight by placing inside cabinets or top of the refrigerator. When done doing laundry, seal pacs up, store pacs up and store them away.

2. Have emergency numbers handy just in case. The number for American Association of Poison Control is: 800-222-1222. And always have the number of your pediatrician available for caregivers and babysitters.  

For more information and to stay up to date be sure to follow @Tide & @GainLatino on Twitter. And for more tips on creating a safe home visit -
This is a sponsored campaign in collaboration with Tide® and Gain® and Latina Bloggers Connect. However, all opinions expressed are my own.

Inspiration, Admiration and Growth at #WeAllGrow

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Dove Dry Spray Antiperspirant. All opinions are my own.

It’s never easy for me to pick up and leave my family to travel across the country. But the #WeAllGrow Summit was so worth it. It was an opportunity of love, laughter, inspiration and growth. And I'm grateful to my Storyteller bestie, Claudya, and Dove Dry Spray Antiperspirant for the chance to take part in the inaugural blog conference

Aside from being excited about the warm weather, I loved every learning opportunity the conference provided. 

We had the chance to tour the LA Google office - yes, I totally had office envy - and we learned tips and tricks about creating YouTube videos. I am eager to apply what I learned as I want to do more with video. 

While at the #WeAllGrow Summit, I attended sessions on SEO and photography. I met connected with new bloggers and publishers. I left inspired to vlog more, write more and do more. 

But I think my most valuable lessons came from the storytellers - especially the stories told by Jeannette Kaplun and Claudya Martinez. 

Jeannette and Claudya are both women I admire. And hearing their stories only inspired me more.

photo courtesy of Robson Muzel and #WeAllGrow Summit 2015
During the first few hours of the conference, I couldn’t help but feel insecure. I was surrounded by so many successful women, it made all of my accomplishments seem small. I have been feeling like that more and more as my 40th birthday approaches. And then I heard Jeannette’s story. I was reminded that success doesn’t happen overnight. That it takes years of hard work and belief in yourself. She stressed the importance of believing in yourself even if no one else does. 

My blogger bestie, Claudya told her story last. She had practiced a little of it in the room for me, so I knew what to expect. But I was still just as moved hearing it the second time around. Claudya talked about her fear and how she learned to embrace it. 

I was apprehensive in going to #WeAllGrow. I was nervous about traveling and leaving my family behind. Fear is often the thing that holds me back. While Claudya has learned to embrace her fear and listen to it, she also knows when she needs to put her fear aside in order to grow.

Very, very early Sunday morning (2:30 am to be exact) I woke up, showered and applied my new Dove Dry Spray Antiperspirant, inhaling its floral fragrance. It went on instantly dry left my underarms soft and smooth. And since Dove Dry Spray isn’t like sticks or gels, I immediately pulled on my shirt without having to worry about any goopy residue. 

photo courtesy of Robson Muzel and #WeAllGrow Summit 2015
By 6:30 am, I boarded the plane ready to fly from LA to NYC. And hours later, I arrived at JFK airport. It was snowing and it took more than an hour to drive home. And by the time I got home - nearly 6pm - I felt just as fresh and dry as I had earlier that morning.

I may have had my apprehensions prior to going to #WeAllGrow but I returned more confident in my work, determined to keep telling my story and ready to embrace my fear and let it go.

Copyright © 2013 Atypical Familia