A few bloggers were contacted and asked to be a part of a private round table telephone conference interview with Holly Robinson Peete. Thank you to my favorite girl, and true Special Needs Comrade at Just Writing for advocating for us!
Ms. Peete is a Mother, a Wife, an Activist, an Actor, and Tv Host. She, her family, and most important, her daughter Ryan are very respected in many of our Spectrum Families hearts. I am proud that Autism in Long Beach was included in this exclusive interview! The picture here is of Rodney, Holly, Ryan, and my son Tafari.
A decade ago life in the Spectrum was a whole different world. I know the history of Autism and Parenthood. I relish in, and feel blessed that I am part of Autism today. I give my hat off to women like Holly Robinson Peete, and my friend and mentor, Amalia Starr. Amalia wrote "Raising Brandon". She was also a part of Ms. Robinson Peete's show "The Talk" last Friday.
I don't know if I could handle that time period when parents were frowned upon as insignificant and unintelligent in child-rearing. A time when Meltdowns were considered our fault. A time when we were looked at as incapable parents.
There was a time when Spectrum Mothers were called "Refrigerator Moms". I don't know what I would have done. I am sure I would've been locked up under the jailhouse like Sophia in the Color Purple. Can you say Sybil Brand early 80's.. yikes!
Refrigerator Mom: The term refrigerator mother was coined around 1950 as a label for mothers of children diagnosed with autism or schizophrenia. These mothers were often blamed for their children's atypical behavior, which included rigid rituals, speech difficulty, and self-isolation.
However now, with the help of people like Holly who have forums much bigger than ours, we now have a place where our Children, our Youth, our Spectrum Adults voices are heard and respected.
Our Round table Q & A:
Holly Robinson-Peete starts off with a bang.....
"We have so many more avenues and ways to get information on treatment now. Social media has been key. I remember trying to find a support group online and there was nothing." ~Holly Robinson Peete
and it goes on....
Emily: Our next question comes from Jane of Autism in Long Beach -- How do you balance working, being an Autism Advocate, Family, and attending to your Special Needs Son? What's your Secret? Please share for us moms in the same situation!
Holly Robinson Peete said.. "First I'd like to give a big shout out to Jane and Autism in Long Beach!" I don’t believe in balance. There really is no balance. You have some good days, and you have some days where you drop the ball. There really is no sense of pure balance. From my perspective, there are days I really achieve what I want to and then there are days I don’t do so well and I have to keep encouraging myself and patting myself on the back to move forward. In essence though, I feel so motivated by the change I see and the change I can affect. I think if you can find something you’re passionate about, that is what helps you move forward everyday. Advocating on behalf of the children and families affected by autism has become my therapy in a way and makes me feel like I am making a difference in other peoples’ lives and not just wallowing in my own situation.
The main issue that most parents have in dealing with Autism is finances and being able to pay for treatments. I want to make sure that other people know that I understand how much more difficult this journey can be when you don’t have the resources that I do to pay for these things. It’s therapeutic to talk about these things and to be an advocate who helps others families."
She asked how we keep the balance from our Adult youth becoming advocates without giving to much of their personal life and struggles.
"I feel like you must be eavesdropping on the Peete house -- that’s where we are right now. My son is 13. He’s very cognizant of the fact that he’s an autism advocate. He loves that. But he approached me when we did this segment for the show the other day that we pre-shot and he asked me not to talk about autism and puberty. I really wanted to talk about it because it’s such a big issue. Teenagers with Autism really go through puberty much differently and sometimes its harder for them. He asked me not to talk about him. There are definitely moments where he asks me to pull back and now I always ask him ahead of time how he feels about something."
I really loved that last line because we spend so much time trying to raise awareness to others that sometimes we tend to forget to stop... and just ask our kids. Holly Robinson Peete reminds us that our kids are the same as typical kids... they do get embarrassed!
Holly Robinson Peete seemed to really connect with her question. Mrs. Peete's son is becoming a young man and is definitely living life in the spotlight. The connection between Colorado Mom and HRP at that moment was like a firecracker on 4th of July! It was as if both of the light bulbs went on over their heads at the same time.... They were in the same place and it was full of Aut love. Those are the moments that give me goosebumps. These moms with older ones are paving the way so that my son will have an easier road to travel.
Nanette.... How do you feel about diet and as it relates to autism?
Ms. Peete stated in HER case her son had a gluten allergy...
I respect that and find it very responsible. She is stating the issue with HER son and not trying to push every child on the Spectrum into one circle. That was very powerful to me. The fact that she said her child's issue and did not go on a verbal spree of what the heck we all should do deserves two thumbs up. Thank you for that.
Nini's question: How does one support a cause without letting the fundraising drive out your energy and enthusiasm?
"You don’t have to fund raise. Fundraising is great and I’m good at it - I’m a barracuda when it comes to getting money for my organization but the key is volunteering. And really from my point of view just being a part of the community."
I loved that answer but I am still cracking up because I've watched this fab lady from back in the day (okay now showing my age... i watched her daddy G too) and I know exactly what sistagirl said on the Apprentice about fundraising, and I have adapted it and am making it my inner slogan phrase.... "It's called Creative Begging".
Tammy asked: What would you say to other moms who are experiencing those same challenges?
A blurb from that answer: I’d say to the moms be a little patient. I wasn’t so patient with Rodney. I was so focused on my son and not on my marriage. In hindsight I would be more sensitive now to how he needed to process the diagnosis on his own in his own time. Men process things differently and you need to be supportive of each other.
Gina..... You’ve talked a lot about your ‘family approach’ to autism. What advice would you give to other moms about helping siblings find and define ‘their important role’ in the family approach?
Holly replied: Siblings are key. It’s important to make sure they are part of the journey and part of the process of helping.
I really dug this answer..... If anyone knows how we do it at Autism in Long Beach.... Siblings inclusion in events, in the home, in public and respect for their place in our family is a priority.
Kathleen asked... Three of my four children are on very different parts of the spectrum. Their needs are as diverse as they are. Anyone who is involved in the autism/advocacy community understands what that means. I have found however, the rest of the world does not. How does one go about raising awareness-that this is a spectrum disorder?
"Its never going to be easy to get people to understand it but what I'd do is just be patient with people because when people don’t understand something they are afraid of it. So just be super patient and keep trying to help people understand, give them literature, send them to a website" ~Holly Robinson Peete
And because I am, I live, and I breathe Long Beach we give shout outs to all that show support in our lives.....
I would like to thank Holly Robinson Peete, The Peete Children, Rodney Peete (for being what so many of our father's hide from), Emily at Open Sky, My kids, My parents, The Mitchells & The Tiptons, LB Skate, Dr. Sherry Meinberg, L.A. Supervisor Don Knabe, Hahk Tu, 562City Life, Mike Donelon, Ask Long Beach, The Den, Julie at the UPS Store on 7th/Redondo, The Center, Cherry Corner Store, Kim Stagliano, Susan Yee, Susan Levy, Tincher Prepatory School, 8th grade Autism Awareness Speakers, Hot Java, Park Pantry, Tincher Prepatory, Autism in Long Beach Parents and Caregiver's, my fav bloggers the Brit's Brittney and Brittany, Unknown Mami who makes every Sunday a good day, For your Tears, Angel, Autism Youth Sports League, Train for Autism, Dele & Greg, Gfcf Chef Tom Dickinson and his wife Nora, Janet Sainz, The Romeyn Family, all my fellow Special Needs Bloggers whom I love and adore.
Most importantly I'd like to thank Amalia Starr, Eustacia Cutler, Susan Levy, Marisol Romeyn, Mieko Hester Perez , Elise Asperger's 2, and all the old school Autism moms who paved the way, They are my mentors and my Best Friends. Without you Advocate is just a word.
What have I learned about Autism? ~Jane