Mar 4, 2021
Episode 79: Living With Autism While Parenting Special Needs Kids With Guest Danielle Sullivan
In this episode, we discuss inclusivity, organizational tools for special needs parents, and living as a parent with autism. Guest Danielle Sullivan discusses that all places should be as accessible and inclusive as possible, even for invisible disabilities. The world needs to consider light, noise, and visual clutter as well as physical disabilities. Listen to others when they suggest ways to be more inclusive. Awareness is key. Acknowledge and expect that people will behave differently. Model acceptance of different kinds of behaviors. Remember, differences are not harmful, they are just differences. Consider doing presentations in your child’s classroom about neurodiversity to assist with open-mindedness for the other children. Get involved in your local education system to see what change you can make toward inclusivity. Advocate for sensory friendly times and activities in your area. Suggest that paces offer sensory friendly bags with headphones and other sensory friendly objects. Clinics that offer autism evaluations could provide more evaluators to ensure it takes less time to get an autism evaluation.
Danielle was diagnosed with autism as an adult, as once her oldest child was diagnosed with ASD, as she began to see a lot of herself in him. She experienced depression and anxiety and sensory meltdowns (which she thought were panic attacks). It was helpful for her to find out that she was autistic. As far as having a leg-up on parenting, she feels that she understands her son well, and can figure out why he gets stuck and how to help him through it. She understood him better when he was learning to talk. They both have sensory processing and auditory issues, think in certain similar ways, are sensitive to certain stimuli, and have similar difficulties with social niceties, which helps her to be closer to her son and be able to parent him with more understanding.
She finds it helpful to be able to hyperfixate when needed. She finds it helpful to notice what is absolutely necessary and not necessary for interacting with others, prioritizing, and maximizing her use of her energy with her kids, prioritizing their sensory needs. The biggest challenge of having autism and parenting is the amount of noise, touch overwhelm, the effects of sleep deprivation hits her differently, and more difficulty adapting to changes in routine. Coping skills that have helped her include neurodiversity resources, focusing on scheduling, prioritizing basic needs, reducing sensory input, setting up signals to her partner that she needs a break, getting headphones and earplugs for herself, having sensory fidgets, and explaining her triggers to her kids. To help her child with auditory processing disorder, she may touch him or physically guide him to help him follow instructions, touch him on the shoulder, get in his space to make sure he realizes she is there, get closer to him, make sure he sees her mouth, repeat herself as needed, slow down, enunciate, turn off other noise, and make sure he has noticed that she is talking to him.
For creating household systems for neurodivergent individuals, she uses a loose routine, smaller routines that she can use at points during the day but are adaptable, breaks things down based on their priority to the family, focuses on what the kids need, builds in breaks, and has helpers like a list of food options, a list for every room she needs to clean, a shared google calendar, communication apps, and lots of lists. These systems can from trial and error and figuring out where she ran into problems the most.
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Intro Outro: Intro Outro 2 by Mattias Lahoud under CC-BY 3.0 License (www.freesound.org)
Theme Song: 90s rock style by monkeyman535 under CC-BY 3.0 License (www.freesound.org)
Self Care Song: Green and Orange No Water by Duncan Alex under CC-BY 3.0 License (www.freesound.org)
Hosted by: Jessica Temple
Disclaimer: Our show is not designed to provide listeners with specific or personal legal, medical, or professional services or advice. Parents of children with health issues should always consult their health care provider for medical advice, medication, or treatment.
Copyright 2021 Jessica Temple