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Thriving in the Midst of Chaos: Parenting With Special Needs Kids

Oct 1, 2020

Episode 57 : Opposite Ends of The Spectrum With Guest Michele Doss


In this episode, we discuss opposite ends of the special needs spectrum: from nonverbal to giftedness. Guest Michele Doss's oldest child is gifted, her youngest child has autism and epilepsy and is mostly nonverbal, and her middle child has oppositional defiant disorder, has been kicked out of school twice, and is currently homeschooled.

Her youngest son was born with a lot of health issues. He had severe allergies to most of the foods Michele ate during breastfeeding. Once, after she ate cheese dip, he went into anaphalactic shock. Then, when he was 10 months old, he started exhibiting unusual movements and he was later diagnosed with epilepsy (myclonic epilepsy). For the next 2 years, he had up to 30 seizures a day. Her son started in early intervention very early. Because he was involved in early intervention, the state paid for his autism evaluation. He was diagnosed with autism around age 2. He started speech therapy very early through early intervention. At the time, he would repeat what he heard, but would not communicate in any meaningful way. After turning 3, he was enrolled in public school. While at school, he started eloping frequently, but due to not being able to communicate, he couldn't tell anyone his name or the name of his mother, which was very scary to Michele. After that, they started working heavily on speech to improve safety. Her son is now able to say a few important words. He has worked very hard in speech therapy and applied behavioral analysis. Her youngest son has been in both public school and home schooled, but ended up requiring a private school for his special needs.

In order to help with eloping while he is at home, she made sure all of her doors at home lock from the inside, and in order to get out, one needs a key. Their backyard is fenced in and there are padlocks on their gates. Now when they go out, they use their service dog, who is attached to her son. However, they don't go out a lot due to the risk of elopement.

For language, they initially tried the PECS system, but it wasn't a good fit for him. They used proloquo2go for a long time. Now, to help make sure he can communicate his needs, they talk with him face to face and make sure they take the time to let him say what he needs to say. ABA helped them realize they needed to give him time to process what they are saying and use fewer words, so that he understands what is being asked of him or said to him. It is hard to take him to the doctor because he can't communicate that he doesn't want to be there, doesn't understand why they are there, and that he is afraid. So she takes her other 2 children as well in order to help. When they go out in public and he has a tantrum, it has been hard for the family because other people don't understand why a teenager would have a tantrum. Other people have said things to her under their breath.
Her son's epilepsy is now well managed, although it took 5-6 years to find the right medicine for him. During COVID, he has started having more seizures. He now has a different type of seizures, call gelastic seizures, where he he starts laughing hysterically out of nowhere and when they stop, he falls right asleep. Due to the seizures, they limit where they go, because certain things, such as the lighting, can trigger seizures.

Her 16 year old son is gifted. He started putting letters in alphabetical order at 8 months old and was reading at 2. In elementary school, the teachers suggested he be assessed for giftedness. During testing for school placement, he passed the giftedness test. He started on the gifted route in 5th grade. When he was young, they needed to keep him busy because he was always thinking. He led the boy scouts for his age group, did sports for a while (until he got a concussion). To help keep him stimulated, he has taken all honors and AP classes. In middle school, he took 4 high school classes, so he was essentially a year ahead when he started high school. This upcoming year, he will be dual enrolled in high school and college. Although he also has sensory processing disorder, he never needed an IEP or 504 plan.

If you suspect your child is gifted, Michele recommends keeping in touch with the teachers to see if they think the child should be tested or keep them involved in different activities in the classroom to keep stimulated and engaged in school. As they get older, make sure they are challenged, so they can stay on task.

Michele recently got involved with education consulting, where she talks with parents who have kids with different needs, and helps them find out what is going on and how to tailor education to the child's needs. She guides the parents through the steps to find out what the child needs help with and to find different pathways for the child to learn. She helps find options for the children. She recommends finding a support network for you and your children as well as finding activities and groups for your kids to try out and become engaged in.


Links for Michele:

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Show Music:
Intro Outro: Intro Outro 2 by Mattias Lahoud under CC-BY 3.0 License (
Theme Song: 90s rock style by monkeyman535 under CC-BY 3.0 License (
Self Care Song: Green and Orange No Water by Duncan Alex under CC-BY 3.0 License (

Hosted by: Jessica Temple and Lewis 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 2020 Jessica and Lewis Temple