I work to create support groups and coaching for families who have children on the spectrum. Being an Autism myself, I understand the struggles, and obstacles that sometimes may come with parenting a child on the spectrum. I have also recently written a book, #1 Best Selling AU-MAZING GIFT: A Journey to Autism Acceptance.
This past month, I have had the pleasure of interviewing some Au-mazing moms from all over the world to get an idea of what their experiences have been like. I find that when we can connect through each other’s experience, we can also find ways we can help each other.
This week, I spoke with Au-mazing Parent Shantea Lankford. Here is her story:
What were the first signs/symptoms you child has Autism?
I have 2 children with Autism, both presented a little different. My daughter was always different from birth, she did a lot of headbanging at a really early age. At around 2 years we noticed she couldn’t follow directions, wasn’t answering really to her name and daycare brought up that she did not play with her peers. My son started off developing well, answering his name, trying to sing, and pointing. Suddenly it stopped and it was always frustrating and was not speaking at all.
What was your first reaction to your child’s “Autism” diagnosis?
For my daughter it was really like the stages that you go through with grief, I went through them all. However, I am in an education mode right now. My son, I was taken by surprise and the manner of timing was even earlier for him. I took it a lot harder with him.
If you could give one piece of advice to another parent what would it be?
I would say that you should always try to keep a fresh mind even though it is hard to do with all the responsibilities. However, even if it’s the 5 minutes in the shower take that time to recuperate.
What is one of the hardest parts about being a parent of an Autistic child?
The hardest part would be the not knowing their thoughts and feelings. Definitely, for my son who does not speak at all, we have communication devices but I would not know if he is harmed or emotionally hurt by someone.
What is one the most rewarding part about being a parent?
My time to learn my children and get to know them is slowed down a bit. So we have a lot of celebration for the things that we otherwise to take for granted.
How did this autism mom expert end up on Good Morning America?!?
This morning, as I sat in the car service that picks up the Good Morning America guests and experts, I reflected on how the heck did I even get here!
Initially I was hesitant to say “YES” because the invite!
Do you believe that I thought of saying no, because I was already scheduled to be in St. Lucia for vacation! Plus, I was not being asked to come as the guest expert or anything even related to being an autism expert, autism parenting strategist or even as the author of my #1 best seller Au-Mazing Gift: A Journey to Autism Acceptance! Then the reality HIT ME…after I spoke to my coaches and mentors, that this was a BIG DEAL!
1. It was an amazing honor to be selected.
2. It also allowed me the visibility to many other “autism moms” to SHOW them about au-mazing opportunities that are possible as an autism mom.
3. It was an opportunity to learn behind the scenes and to meeting actual producers and other behind the scenes key people in GOOD MORNING AMERICA. My “YES” as a model for this segment came from these three applied success lessons that are in Au-Mazing Gift:
Accept being different: The Good Morning America segment was a spin off from responding to a model call for a magazine, First for Women for a summer makeover. I have never done professional modeling before, but decided to accept that I was a different type of model, an autism mom expert with an edgy look! First, I had to accept my own differences before I expected anyone else, especially AMERICA, to see and accept me.
Unique Strengths: Even though I wasn’t the average size 2 or 4 model sizes desired for magazines or television, choosing the do a makeover entry and appearing on Good Morning America was going to require GUTS! Identifying my beauty and the fact that I have a beautiful, smile, personality and was READY as I have from been a motivational speaker, trainer and positioned in front of audiences in different ways. These were some of my unique strengths.
BE a Noise Maker: In Au-Mazing Gift and the masterclasses I teach autism moms, caregivers and families is to use every moment and access as an opportunity to educate, raise autism awareness and transform the world into accepting the beauty and gifts across autism. Years of hard work, consistency and thinking outside of the box, especially as an autism mom and communication expert, lead to my reaching on Good Morning America. To learn more about the actual steps to the “how” I created this experience and many more sign up to receive updated information, autism parenting strategies and more.
This month is all about independence – more specifically on how to move your child towards independence and open communication.
This week we are talking all about REALITY CHECKS. Being real with yourself, being able to look back at and see what past things that your child has made progress in. The reason why it’s important is that before we can move forward and know where we want to go, we sometimes have to look back on the past and see where they were. Identify some of those areas where we have wanted to see growth, and look back and see how far our child has come in those areas. How they have made some progress in those areas.
I always think back to when Zachary couldn’t have a conversation back and forth with me. So before I could move forward and continue to ask him for what I want NOW, I need to first take a look at the past and just praise the past, and know what he’s been through and see where’s he’s come. Past Progress Check.
Then look at the current level. Where we are right now. What is that your child is able to do? What is your child not able to do? Do a quick reality check so you’re not thinking, or verbalizing more than what’s really happening. We sometimes get a bit overzealous, sometimes we get so controlling of the situation, we think they are achieving less than what they’re actually doing. So we miss out on a lot. So take some time out, and appreciate and write down where their current level is.
Next, we want to look at our objectives. Where do we want them to get to? Not by next year, but by the end of this week even. Identify some nice, short-term goals. Let me know what that one thing is that you’re working on this week. Sometimes we always look at that end of the race, and we’re not seeing the different milestones and checkpoints we need to pass through to get to that end of the race.
This week we’re going to have a REALITY CHECK. We’re looking at the past, where they currently are and start placing our steps for what’s coming next.
As most of you are enjoying the Fourth of July and Independence and all the great things that happened this month I want you to remember that this is our mid-year IGNITE. So some of you have been around, and some of you who have not learned about my IGNITE formula it’s time for you guys to turn on and turn into what it is.
So the first thing I’m going to speak about is your communication with your child on the autism spectrum. I know I have so many people reaching out to me asking, “How do I get my son to communicate more?” or “How do I get my daughter to engage more with others?” or “How do I engage with my child when I’m feeling so disconnected from them at times?”. So this month, I’m going to help you get IGNITED. Get yourself back towards, moving towards connecting with them and helping you towards forging that better communication.
This week is WEEK 1: EASE
Tip 1: Making sure your communication you’ have with your child is happening naturally. I know some of you so so super anxious about getting your child tot hat next level that sometimes you begin to lose the naturalness about the way you want it to be received. I always say, when you’re in your most natural environment, when you’re the most comfortable, guess what? you want to communicate more. because you’re feeling comfortable. The first important tool I want you to remember is to stay natural.
Tip 2: Ease into making steps towards communication. What do I mean by EASE? I mean don’t be in front of their faces and overwhelming. Becuase you have such a passion for it to come so quickly you want to be right here. Yes, be excited. Yes, bring fun and energetic. But ease into how you want to imitate after you. How you want them to model, and then imitate what you are doing.
This can start first with actions. This week, let’s just start with getting them to imitate with actions. So the first thing we’re going to do is be natural. The second thing is ease into that communication mode that we want to get them towards.
Tip 3: The third thing I want you to do is keeping stepping into your “next”. Keep making your moves into your next, so if you want them to imitate certain actions think what’s going to be your first action, and then after that’s completed, what’is going to be your next action? So for example, you want your child to grab that dirty cup from across the room into the sink? How do you get that done? Do it naturally, Let them know that this is just where it goes, show them and give them a demonstration. Do it with ease.
Now, remember you may have to break this down into steps. This may be something as simple, imitate/model cup, do all the great things, bring it to your face so they know, and show them where the sink is. After it is in the sink, what comes next? How about we help them start helping us wash the dishes? It can be as simple as getting some soap on the sponge. Or turning over the water to let the water run over it. We can start simple, and over time build on this. In the end, we are moving towards independence so they are doing it by THEMSELVES.
Quick simple rules. Quick simple tips on how you are going to move towards independence and how you are using communication to be FUN.