Social media comes to aid after dad's plea for life-saving sippy cup for autistic son

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A father's desperate effort to locate a very special sippy cup for his autistic son has gone viral.

Earlier this month, Marc Carter of Devon, England put out a call for help on Twitter.

Along with a photo of a double-handled blue cup that’s no longer being manufactured, the 42-year-old father explained how that cup keeps his son alive.

"Ben is 14 and has severe autism," Carter wrote in a tweet. And the dad went on to share how his child will only drink out of that specific cup.

Carter says his teenage son has been using the cup since he was two-years-old and refuses to take in any liquids unless he is at home and with that cup in hand.

"Not a big deal right? We can just get something else!" wrote Carter. It's not that simple, he explained.

Carter says his son would rather suffer from dehydration "than use ANY other cup."

"People say he will drink when he's thirsty, but two emergency trips... with severe dehydration say otherwise," the father wrote.

“Ben only drinks when he eats, and he only eats when he wants.  If it's hot he doesn't want to eat - we just want a big cold drink right?  So Ben isn't hungry, he won't eat, therefore he doesn't drink.  So he dehydrates,” Carter explained to KTVU Fox 2.

It can be a matter of life and death.

“… it isn't a game, Ben happily withdraws from fluids if he wants, 5 days / 120 hours without food or fluid is about as scary as it gets as a parent, we genuinely thought we would lose our son.”

Carter says his partner has spent years training as an emergency nurse “mostly so she would know how and have the confidence to keep Ben safe in an emergency.”

Three years ago they managed to replace his son's "very old and disintegrating cup with a new one... He was suspicious but we survived," the dad said. 

But that one started falling apart too. So Carter took to social media on his hunt for another replacement, which he explained had to be identical to the one his son was used to.

His plea was met with responses far and wide. With the tag #CupForBen, people from Australia and other places around the globe have sent Carter messages and many have mailed off replica cups for Ben.

Last week Carter sent out a message of thanks saying he has been moved to tears by the incredible response from those who have wanted to help.

He said this has been a "huge deal" and now he expects to have enough blue cups for his son to last a few years and beyond.

“I'm well on my way to getting enough cups for Ben for life,” he told KTVU Fox 2.

But it appears the initial mission to find one replacement cup has grown into something much larger.

“I want to do something with the new found support and the interest it's generated… I want to get people talking about autism, it's good to start a debate,” Carter explained.

He sees this as an opportunity to help people understand the multi-dimensional complexity of autism and has launched a new campaign.

“I'm setting up a project called 'LittleBlueCup' that will do all sorts of things around awareness, including helping other parents with their own 'Ben' who needs their own version of a LittleBlueCup - it may be a blanket, a toy or indeed a cup.” 

Carter says that while the outpouring of support he’s received has been overwhelming, he also says that unfortunately there was plenty of advice and criticism that came his way.  

“There is a lot of negativity around the story... a lot of 'experts' are coming out saying how terribly wrong I've got it and I should have transitioned Ben to another cup years ago,” he said.

Carter, who has two other children with special needs says he and his partner “spend every single day challenging Ben and pushing his boundaries.”

But the dad said, “unfortunately Ben is very steadfast and we make the teeniest of gains per year.”

Carter says he has spent years not only caring for his own special needs kids, but has also worked with hundreds of children on the autistic spectrum.

“For parents autism is many things, depending on the severity,” he said.

“It's a little unfortunate that such a wide spectrum of conditions all have the same umbrella term, as someone who is able to hold down a job, drive, manage their own affairs and live independently in theory then has the same condition as someone who needs support with eating, drinking, personal hygiene, personal care, communication and much more,” Carter explained.

Carter’s story has resonated with parents around the globe, and many have shared their own experiences and stories about their autistic child.

The California-based Center for Autism and Related Disorders posted Carter's story on its Facebook page.

In sharing that post, Kelly Zambo-Smith wrote, "... people will never understand the urgency of finding those items Asap if they ended up missing!!!"

Catanna Garcia commented, "The struggle is real and to watch your child not drink at all until they get their cup. It hurts."

Carter’s one request for a replica cup has opened up a chance for autism awareness and an avenue to discuss some of the challenges facing families with autistic children. 

And for some of those families, this father’s effort to go to the ends of the earth for his son may have also offered a reminder that they are not alone.

“Families need a supportive network of close family and friends, they will struggle if people have their own opinions of they way they are parenting and don't understand the complexities the parents face,” said Carter.