I am extremely excited to be able to bring to you a Q and A with our guest blogger for November, Amalia Starr who is a mother, an Autism Family Consultant, Motivational Speaker & Author of Raising Brandon: Creating a Path to Independence for Your Adult “Kid” with Autism & Special Needs.
1) What advice do you have for parents that just found out their child has a developmental disability?
It is important to be aware that negative feelings will arise. Try not to get attached to those feelings, don’t numb them out, and don’t bury them. They will shift over time. Remember, it is a process. We are all different, but I have found that surrendering to “what is” helps one to move through this stage more quickly, as resistance to “what is” will only prolong it. When you are able to face the diagnosis head on the negative feelings will begin to fade away, and acceptance is right around the corner.
Gather as much information as possible.
Join support groups.
Talk about your child’s disability.
Keep a journal,and write down anything and everything.
Find one person you can share your innermost feelings with.
When you are ready talk to other parents. They can be a great source of information and support.
Try to live and stay in the moment as often as you can.
Be courageous, and believe in yourself.
My son, Brandon was diagnosed with epilepsy and learning disorders at age nine. The pediatric neurologist told us to tell no one including Brandon that he had epilepsy, due to the stigma attached. For several years I did what she said. That was one of the worst things I could have done.
Don’t keep secrets, especially about a health condition. It causes more harm than good.
I know from personal experience that when our children are helped at an early age, they have a much better chance of changing negative behaviors, improving performance, increasing self-acceptance, and self-esteem. However, if you missed that opportunity as I did with Brandon, don’t give up. We didn’t find out Brandon had Asperger’s until he was thirty-two years old. Early intervention is key, but I know firsthand it’s never too late to get help.
2) What do you wish someone would have told you about having a child with special needs?
Don’t take it personally.
It is not your fault.
The sooner you give up resistance the sooner you can help your child.
If traditional treatment isn’t working look into alternatives.
Doctors are not always right.
Find a physician you like, and one who understands your situation.
Acceptance comes only when you are ready.
Be kind to yourself.
Get as much help, assistance and support from people who care, as often as possible.
Hold onto HOPE and never let it go.
3) What do you consider to be the most important milestone for a parent?
The most important milestones for me came when I was able to recognize and appreciate the small things Brandon was able to accomplish. Once I added them all together they were no longer small, they were grand. That is the beauty with our special needs kids they are all different and very special. Focus on what your child can do not on what he/she can’t do.
4) How did you reach that milestone?
I gave up trying to change my son, because I realized that I was the one who needed to change. I changed my perspective. I was then able to accept Brandon for exactly who he was. That shifted everything. I no longer tried to fix my son, because he wasn’t broken. I began to understand his thinking patterns, and his unique way of doing things, and I discovered what a beautiful person he was. I then gave up my expectations and Brandon began to develop and mature in ways I never thought possible. ACCEPTANCE is the answer.
5) How has having a Child with Asperger’s changed your point of view about the world?
I learned we don’t have to become victims. We are all individuals, and we are responsible for our own actions and wellbeing. We have many options and choices. I believe we have the ability to create our own happiness, and our own destiny. There are many ways to get to the top of the mountain. It is up to us, the parents, to help our special needs children carve out their own special path.
6) How can the community better help people with autism?
We need to educate our communities by helping them to be well informed. Information and knowledge can be powerful, and can help people to better understand our children and adults with autism and special needs. I hope and pray that one day we will be able to live in harmony and learn to appreciate, and even celebrate our differences.
7) What can we all do to reach that goal?
We can all be more conscious evolved human beings. Work on ourselves to be the best we can be. When we do that we are not only helping ourselves we are also helping our children, and all the people around us.
8) What made you write Raising Brandon?
I initially wrote Raising Brandon to help me work through my unwanted feelings, of sadness, anger, and disappointment. Writing was a great way to release my negative thoughts and feelings. It took nearly twelve years to write the book, because Brandon and I had to grow into the story and begin to live it. Once Brandon had twelve years of living independently under his belt I felt we had a story of great value and worth sharing. Raising Brandon is filled with answers and solutions I wished I had when Brandon was growing up.
9) How has "Raising Brandon" changed your life?
Raising Brandon has opened the doors for me to live my dream as a motivational speaker. I give presentations, workshops, seminars, and private consultations. I have met some of the most wonderful people, including parents, family members, health professionals, and educators. These people truly care and want to make this world a better place. I am proud to be included in this arena. I love helping others, and I love what I do.
As parents, we can never give up. We hold the key to our children’s future. My son, Brandon is living proof that anything is possible.
I encourage you to contact her so you can learn more about all she does!
The MSAAFinc would like to thank Amalia Starr for her time and love!