#110: Autism Parent Interview
with Eileen P.

autism parent interview

For this autism parent interview, Eileen is here to talk about her experiences with autism.  Eileen P. has a set of twin girls followed by a son. As her son’s second birthday began to approach, Eileen had a good idea of what speech milestones her son should of been meeting. She knew he didn’t have the amount of words that he should have, but it wasn’t until the words stopped, he began banging his head, and showing repetitive behavior that she knew she had to push for a referral for a diagnosis.

As a parent advocate, Eileen was able to wrangle speech therapy and OT services even though there was a general reluctance from the pediatrician to prescribe services. While this should never happen, it can be common in areas where there’s a shortage of providers or where services are stretched thin. Eileen started looking on the internet for how to supplement her son’s therapy, and that’s when she found my course.

The skills assessment from my course was a revelation for Eileen. She thought her son was doing great until she realized how much her daughters were talking or helping him. His language skills were the same as a six-month-old, and my course helped her see that she needed to teach her son more prerequisite skills.

Eileen took on the challenge of teaching the family how they needed to communicate with her son. She knew that by pairing up words with signs or pictures, it would increase the odds of speaking. Soon her twin daughters were keeping their words simple too so that he could understand what they were saying.

I really believe that by teaching parents, they can become the captain of the ship. My courses and workshops are designed to teach parents of young children with early signs of autism how to deal with some of the more difficult topics like eating, sleeping, potty training, and speaking, and that in turn helps them build stronger, happier families.

YOU’LL LEARN

  • How getting an assessment at twenty-four months can make a huge difference in the kind of recommendations you’ll get from the doctor than if you go a month earlier.
  • Eileen’s team are all familiar with my work, so they’re able to coordinate better care across all of her son’s caregivers because they’re all on the same page.
  • How parents with different strengths can work together to support each other as they adjust to life as the parents of a child with autism.
Want to get started on the right path and start making a difference for your child or client with autism?
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Transcript for Podcast Episode: 110
Autism Parent Interview with Eileen P.
Hosted by: Dr. Mary Barbera

Mary: You're listening to the Turn Autism Around podcast episode number one hundred and ten. Today, we have a mom, Eileen P, on the show. But before we get to her introduction, I want to give a listener a shout out to Mary from Hershey, Pennsylvania, which is only about an hour away from where I live. She said,The podcast is brilliant. I am a mother of a phenomenal two point seven five-year-old son. He was recently diagnosed with autism. Your podcasts have empowered me to seek second private evaluations to get as many experts recommendations and supports in place for him as early as possible. She said she listens to the episodes on her treadmill and she can't thank me enough for sharing my expertise tailored to parents. She said the advocacy you are promoting leaves a far-reaching legacy with your name behind it. We appreciate you.

Mary: Well, I appreciate you too, Mary. And if anybody's listening and hasn't subscribed to this podcast or left a rating and review, I would love it if you would do that, especially on Apple podcast. That really helps me spread the word to more people. So let's get to this important interview with Eileen, who is the mother of three children, including five year old twins and a four year old son with autism. Eileen lives in Pennsylvania and works as a crisis management employee in an emergency department. So she really shares in this interview what it was like when Ben was starting to show signs of autism. She was a really great tip right in the very beginning that I don't think has ever been mentioned in any of the podcast. So you definitely want to tune in. Her son Finn has made great games in the past two years, and we talk all about how autism has affected our family and her hopes for the future. So let's get to this interview with Eileen P.

Mary: Thank you so much for joining us. I mean, it's just great to get to know you a little bit better.

Eileen: Oh, thank you for having me.

Mary: So you've listened to some of the podcasts, so you know that we always start the same way. So describe your fall into the autism world.

Eileen: Well, I have twins that are fourteen months older than my son, and they were born a little early. So we had some early intervention. And I was noticing that he wasn't meeting milestones of getting enough words, but we didn't have any of the other like signs. Yet going into his second birthday, the early intervention came out to do an assessment right before his second birthday, and he didn't qualify for anything. So in hindsight, like they've explained some more of it to like there's a major threshold that he has to meet and we just scheduled it at the wrong time.

Mary: Right. So if you're one year, 11 months, you get a test and you only need this many words. But he actually was the week after his second birthday, he said, yeah. And I don't think that's ever come up on a podcast. So I just wanted to jump in there and highlight that. So you had early intervention coming in for your girls, so you knew about that. And then when you started to get concerned about him, you said, let's get it going. But you didn't think about the two-year-old threshold. So that's really important point. OK, so then what happened?

Eileen: So I even remember my brother's family came for Christmas and they didn't notice anything more than he just wasn't really talking as much. But at that point we were still getting some words and some imitation. And then January came and the words stopped and he all of a sudden was just like showing a lot of repetitive behaviors. And he started hitting his head against a wall, like just would be walking and then slam his head. And I remember calling the pediatrician and they're like, we'll give it some time. And I was like, no, we're not giving you time. Like, I'd rather be the mom that they're saying you are overreacting than the mom that, like, regrets missing six months of help. And so they reluctantly kind of gave me the referral because they were like, just call early intervention again. And I had already and they came out and also we like only qualified for special instruction because they were like, he's not even trying to talk, so we're not going to do speech or OT. And I was like, how does he not get occupational therapy? Like like how could he not qualify for this?

Mary: Or speech therapy? Yeah, he's delayed, clearly delayed. And so common is like people are just trying to almost ration or triage services. And unless you know how to advocate, they can really sell you a swamp, you know, and they're not trying to be detrimental. But it is really detrimental if they're just throwing a little bit like one hour of special instruction a week. And that might be related to a shortage in your area of speech therapist or a shortage of OTTI or a host of other reasons. But the services should not rely on what's available. It should rely on what your child needs. So he's about, what, two year to three months at this point?

Eileen: Yeah. And I we were so lucky that our special instructor was much more blunt and honest than the evaluators. And I'm not faulting the evaluators, but when I was like I brought up the developmental pediatrician and it was just, oh, let's see what we can get done. And luckily, the special instructor like me, me, like, she was like, no, like you need like you made the right decision. He needs to see a developmental Pete. And I was like, OK, somebody like being honest. And then she was the one who really pushed like, don't let them sell you short. Like, keep going to the count, keep going, keep going. And so then eventually, like, I wore them down and he got two hours of speech a week, two hours of OT and one-hour special instruction.

Mary: And that was even before diagnosis.

Eileen: We were able to get a diagnosis. Yes. So well, we didn't have the paperwork for the diagnosis. We had gone. So on January twenty eighth, I got the referral and on February 7th he was at a developmental ped. And it was just lucky that, like, I just called every place that our insurance said and I called every morning, I call it at the end of the day, any cancelations. And we were able to get into Nemours at Dupont, but we didn't get the paperwork to submit for a diagnosis until I would say the end of March.

Mary: And this is two thousand nineteen. Yes. OK, so OK. So that that sounds like a very well. You were persistent, so you had a lot of places, not just your one local hospital. You called the variety of places you called again, you said I'll come on an emergency basis. But the waits for evaluations and diagnoses are just crazy.

Eileen: I actually got a call from Children's Hospital of Philadelphia asking if I still need it my original appointment, like right before COVID hit and I was like, oh my gosh. Like no. I forgot. One year after.

Mary: You're at the front of the line, it's a year later, probably with COVID that would have been canceled anyway. So, yeah.

Eileen: And we really lucked out with like Nemours had just expanded. So like they were just opening the Swink Autism Center down there. So it was really like timing, like it was persistence and timing. Like I remember my mom sitting there, like being embarrassed at how much I was just calling people and almost demanding help. But you feel desperate, like you feel like somebody has to help me. I don't know where to go or how to do this.

Mary: It reminds me of podcast number ninety-nine with Maria Davis, Cure for Autism and Black. She had an 18-month-old and they were like, oh, we're not going to diagnose her until she's three. And she literally in the podcast, she talks about how she went every day. She said to the neurologist or a developmental pediatrician, I'm going to come to your office and I'm going to sit here from opening time till closing time. And she literally went for five days straight and sat there in the waiting room and got to know the receptionist.

Mary: And by the end of the end, everybody that would come in, they'd be like, oh, what are you here for? Kind of thing? And she's like, I'm waiting for a diagnosis. I was like, wow. But it sounds like you were you were pretty persistent, too, which is great. Yeah. So you got the diagnosis and then so I know you found my course pretty early on. Was this right after the diagnosis or?

Eileen: They might have even been in the week that like I found your YouTube videos because I think I barely slept for a week. Like if I was laying there, I was like I had to be looking at something because I felt like I had to be doing something like I couldn't just. Relax, because my son was struggling so much and I didn't know what to do, so I found, I think, videos of yours on YouTube. And then I looked I went to your website and I saw the course and I took the toddler course.

Mary: And so what kind of changes did you see in the first few months of taking the online course and participating in the online community?

Eileen: So we first it gave me a direction of where to start because like, I literally just wanted to teach him everything in one day. Like, I was like, we're just going to have to just fix this right now. And that's not possible. And so we address, like, the interest behavior and like him, like going after the girls, because at this point he started biting the girls. So he had to be like we were he was never more than 10 and feet like near them because he was just bite them or he would hit them. And we couldn't you couldn't see exactly when he got upset because he didn't acknowledge them until he was upset. So we started like that was where we first went. Like the headbanging had to be addressed in the otti that we were working with at that time, gave us like a huge sensory diet to help him with that. And then we started, you know, even just doing the assessment, I realized how much I didn't notice skills he didn't have because when I had two other little helpers that if I would say, oh, go get your cup and I turn around, he had his cup in his hand.

Eileen: Well, here they were getting it for him and handing it to him. And I'm thinking to go get the cup. And it wasn't until, like, I slowly, like, broke down everything. And I was like, oh, wow, we are in a lot more trouble than I realized. So then we got the items on the checklist of what we needed to do and then we just worked it, having him attend even for the slightest amount of time. And then we were like saying everything three times, like, oh, shoes, shoes, and even to the point where the girls would pick up stuff and just three times. And I was like, oh well, maybe I should make sure they know they don't have to say everything three times. So it gave me an idea of how to start breaking down skills because like, you don't think about prerequisite skills and that he didn't have it, like many prerequisite skills to start anything. And I had to break them down so much further. His first, like he was diagnosed level three and like a six-month level on a lot of things.

Mary: So like three for the listeners that aren't aware of it, the DSM five came out in twenty thirteen and it now categorizes everybody under autism spectrum disorder. But level three is the most severe needs and level one is milder and then level two is somewhere in between. So you got diagnosed with severe. He got diagnosed and then you're saying he also had like the language ability on standardized testing of about a six-month-old, even though he was two and a quarter by this point.

Eileen: Yeah. Like there was nothing to have in tested in one percent, like everything was under the Olin percentile. And like reading the evaluation was like a heart wrenching because he there was like a social like he always smiled when you entered the room, like he did, like there were certain things that I felt like, oh, this is great. Like he does smile. And we did eventually figure out how to build on that. And we actually just got his this yearly report from the psychologist through the center, both through the agency he works with now. And they actually have, like said, he's more of a level two at this point, like he's gained a lot of communication skills, a lot of his tests, like he was testing actually on age with some things and still communication and socially struggling with.

Eileen: But so discovering your course allowed. I watched the course and talk to my husband and talk to my parents about, like, how we had to, like, you know, maybe cut out the extra words were saying, you know, because he was just hearing like he wasn't hearing it, like it was all mumble to him. It was just not. And I talk fast to begin with. So we were already, like, struggling there. And then I remember, like his speech therapist, a special instructor would be like, oh, you just said Bubbles. And I was sitting there like, he didn't say bubbles. Like I wasn't ready to allow myself to even believe he was saying it because I was afraid to get excited. And I honestly thought he was just babbling, I was like, oh, yeah, he's saying bubbles, no, it's not OK, but he really was. And then I'll never forget the one day we paused the count on Sesame Street and he counted to eight like and I was like, but that's eight words, you know, like what?

Eileen: And that was all from like just getting him to be able to attend and getting him to be able to understand and expectation and like and even getting to like asking for a drink was like so broken down. Like he didn't know what a cup was because the sisters were just handing it to him and he was getting it like he didn't know it was called a cup. So that word was like nothing to him until it was broken down and it required us to go with him, get the cup, bring it over. And then then we started having him sign and he doesn't want to do anything extra. So he started to be like, fine, I'll just say it like that. Like, that was his. Like, if we were teaching him a new sign, he was like, no, I'm just going to say it like, yeah, yeah.

Mary: And then a lot of parents are scared to use signs or pictures or a system because they're afraid that that's going to take away from speech. But pretty much all the studies show that if you pair the words with sign or you pair the words with pictures or a system, that it actually increases the odds of speaking. So, you know, all throughout my course is just methods like a shoe box and inset puzzles and potato head where we say simple words up to three times.

Mary: And it sounds like, you know, because I know your story a little bit from your posting within our community. And it sounds like he really started to take off. And usually when a child really takes off is when you get what we call a quick control. And I did do a whole podcast on ACOA control. We can link that in the show notes. So eventually he started talking more. And you also were able to really get to his problem behaviors as major ones at near zero.

Eileen: He still will get he'll still get in little tussles with his sisters. But it's more like if they sit on him, he gets them off. But like, he doesn't go after them. Like he will yell, no, no, no. And like, tell them, give it back. And like, he now has that ability to, like, give them an indicator of what is frustrating him. And he's present more in a way that we understand, like what is upsetting him. Like before we weren't even understanding what upset him. But he loves playing with the sisters now. He loves playing tag with them and chasing them and like he's doing better with taking turns. But he didn't even recognize like he didn't even acknowledge them when we started this journey other than to bite them or hit them.

Mary: Yeah, which is so now he just turned four. And so you're like two years into therapy, two years after you took the toddler course and you had told me that he is doing really well, like holidays and seeing and so like, how have like holidays changed for you and your family?

Eileen: So it's been like nice to be able to. We went on vacation this summer, even in a pandemic. We went up to the mountains and like he's able to kind of like through preparing them and like explaining like, oh, look at this over there's a pool we're going to go swimming in. Like, he adjusted and was happy there. There was no like. Off routine, I mean, he didn't sleep as well, but that kind of is expected on vacation. The twins didn't sleep great either. And so we were talking about Santa leading up to Christmas. And the second we put a Santa up, he was like, oh, Santa, ho, ho, ho. And he was like retaining like what we were talking about, even though when we talk about it, he doesn't necessarily, like, say anything at that moment.

Eileen: And he said hi to Santa when we went to see him. Now, mind you, we were on a bench 20 feet in front of Santa because of Covid. So that probably also made him happy that he didn't have to sit on someone's lap. But like he said hi to Santa, like Santa was going to bring presents like he was checking under the tree for them. And I kept thinking they were lost leading up to December twenty fifth and then Halloween. We just practiced trick or treating at home like this is what we're going to do. And he did great. He was saying trick or treat. If they said pick one candy, that's what he did. Like I was shocked at how well he did because I was so nervous going that like it was going to take away from the girls experience. And I don't want ever for their life to not be everything that it can be, but. They always want their brother there. So it worked out well, he did well, that's great. He wore his costume, which I thought for sure was not staying on. But he, like, surprises me all the time. Yeah.

Mary: Which is awesome. And his SIB is still way down. His aggression's way down. So, you know, in a lot of ways, your family has really managed to overcome some of the struggles. But how has autism affected your life, your marriage, your sibling relationships, like it? Or do you feel like now it's kind of back to whatever normal is these days?

Eileen: I think it definitely strained our marriage in the beginning, because I just wanted everyone to be as, as you say, gung-ho it was I was and nobody was all in.Nobody was. Everyone didn't want to hear that he had autism. They were like, why are you why are you borrowing trouble? Oh, relax. He's fine. And I was like, why is everyone so laid back now? This is not the time to be laid back. We need to. And then I realized our different skill sets could come in handy because, like, I'm willing to do the structured stuff and, you know, this is what we're doing now. Put up a schedule. This is what we're doing. And my husband's really good at getting outside, running around, getting them in a swing and like pulling language out other ways. Like he closes the swing and makes Finn say open and like so that.

Eileen: I think once I was able to accept his strengths in it and not like want him to just be as gung-ho as I was because I was reading constantly. I was watching every video I could watch. I was I probably was an extreme on one side, like felt like if I wasn't doing something, then I was failing him. So I think we balanced each other out in that way. And I probably didn't really get better with the communicating probably for a year. Like I mean, we were like a happy like we had a happy day to day, but like there was definitely probably some resentment, like, I want you to be as excited to try this and do this as I am. And why aren't you calling every agency to put him on a wait list?

Mary: And it definitely, you know, in two parent households, it definitely can be one parent in denial, one parent not in denial. One parent more optimistic, one parent more pessimistic. Sometimes they go hand in hand. I mean, I was the one in denial for over a year, but then I was also the one much more optimistic. And it definitely can cause marital strain. And then especially if you also, in addition to having lack of talking and social skills, if you have those severe problem behaviors, if you have if the child has trouble sleeping or eating or those kinds of things, so did he did and also have some issues with that.

Eileen: Oh, sleeping. Oh, I remember thinking it's not humanly possible to go this long without sleep. Like how are we not sleeping at one point like it was so awful and it took that. I think once everyone was getting a little bit more sleep too, it calmed him down and he got off schedule just recently with like the holidays and different things. And I'm quicker to be like, oh, my gosh, this we're doing it again. Where my husband will be like, OK, we just have to tighten up bedtime routine and like, just get back on the horse. Yeah. Whereas I, I sometimes like, jump to that terrible feeling and I almost like self-preservation. Like I want to go there before someone puts me there, like I'm going to say it, it's awful.

Mary: I'm going to plan for the worst because I don't want to be disappointed. And we had quite a bit of sleep issues. I have a whole podcast on sleep and my new book, Turn Autism Around, has a whole chapter on sleep. It's called Stop Playing Musical Beds, Solving Sleep Problems because our family was a big musical bed type of family for ten years. So I didn't know how to solve sleep issues for many, many years. But now I figured it out. So happy that you feel like you've figured it out for the most part and there were going to be setbacks. And you do if a child gets sick or has an ear infection or is an upset stomach or, you know, you're on vacation and you're all sleeping in the same hotel room, and there's various ways that sleep can get messed up. And then you just like your husband says, just get back on it and tighten up your routine. And when my book comes out, but it's available for preorder now at turn autism around dotcom. But, you know, read the book, reread it, listen to the podcast on sleep. I mean, there's just so many so many options. Is Finn struggling in any area now or is there something that maybe I could help guide you a little bit?

Eileen: So it seems like every time he gains more skills, something else gets harder. So like I didn't realize when he wasn't engaging with us, he was really easy to manage outside. A house or manage anywhere else, because he was just like he would just occupy himself, like he didn't care about anyone else. So a little bit like now it's more like teaching him how to appropriately interact. And like, you don't just tackle your sister on the beanbag. You, like, let her know you're going to play. So, like, different issues come up and it's positive in the fact that he wants to play with the sisters and he wants to do different things. But every time he gains skills, I find something else gets harder because now he's trying to navigate a new part of our life. And like the other day, he was asking me to help him climb over the gate that I have up to stop him from going upstairs. I was like, well, at least you asked, but no. OK, but he's now so interested in things.

Mary: And as kids come kind of out of people say kids are in their own world. And once they do come out and they start exploring and they start being interested and they're also taller and bigger and have more dexterity to open doors and those sorts of things and becomes safety concerns. I mean, do you have any safety concerns for him?

Eileen: So, yes. And we were like trying to work on navigating the community before covid. And now I'm afraid he doesn't even remember what like a grocery store is, because it's almost been like a year that he hasn't been one. And like we were working on, like, how far we could get in a store before we got in the cart, because he's not always going to be able to be in a cart. And we were trying to be as proactive as possible with that. And so there's a lot of safety concerns. He does not have any. Like really safety of a street, like we work with them a little bit on it with when his staff comes over, but it's winter, so we have been doing it quite as much. And but that's something that we always. Yeah, and we always are kind of looking at. And he's in swim lessons like that was something we even did through covid. If the Y was open, he was in swim lessons because I am very aware of those statistics of people on the spectrum.

Mary: It is the number one cause or number one cause of death in children with autism is drowning. And I had a former client that drowned. And we do have like a safety bonus video podcast. We have an episode on teaching kids to swim and like the important eight skills to teach. And there is a whole chapter in my new book on safety as well. It's a it's a huge concern and it sounds like he's much more aware and that's good. And unfortunately, COVID has put a wrinkle in things. And I'm sure with three young children, when you get your girls are five and he's just turned four and is delayed still, but it sounds like you're doing your very best. So what is one or two things that you would tell a parent who has a child with a new diagnosis or a child like your son who is showing signs of, you know, any tips for them?

Eileen: Oh, to not wait, like, definitely to not wait. Trust your gut. And every day would rather someone tell me I overreacted. And I'm so glad that I didn't, because everyone there's just he's just a boy. He's going to talk later. Everyone tried to reassure you, which is your natural response when somebody has a concern as you want to make them feel better. But waiting would have done nothing but hurt him. And I guess the other thing would be to remember, he's my child first. I often any time he does something, I'm like, oh, gosh, we got to watch that. And my husband's like he's also just like he's Finn. Like he's exploring. He's doing stuff. Not everything is autism. And like, I want to be aware, but I have to keep in mind that I'm keeping myself in check, that I'm not like I can fall into a hole of we got to fix everything. We've got to do this. And that's my personality. So, like, I try to remember, if he dumps a bucket of toys that, like, you might have just dumped a bucket of toys like this isn't going into every right. It may not hangers-on like you do with them. Yeah. Yeah. And I'm always ready to tell them about this. Like we got to address this.

Mary: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And each child, I'm sure your girls each have their own personality, their temperament, their you know as well as Finn. And so it's you also let need to let them be themselves and you know is making progress. You know, I think sometimes parents want to work on everything all at the same time. And it's like it really can be exhausting, especially during covid when you also have three kids at home, like most of the time. And and just it's stressful. It's stressful for a lot of people. But I think those I mean, obviously not to wait. There's a lot you can do as a parent, even if you don't have a background. I mean, you have a background working in crisis management and with you know, I'm assuming it more on an adult population.

Mary: But you have a background. You also have twins who were preemies. So they got some early intervention. So you had a lot of things in your corner to get you primed to bolt into action where a lot of people like Lucas was my first born. So it's like, well, you know, I don't know much about child development and, you know, and it's like I didn't know it was my job to know about child development. I thought somebody told me if was delayed. And it's confusing because, you know, like I mean, I think that's the point you made in the very beginning where you got the early intervention that one year, eleven months, or what we call just so important.

Mary: Like I've seen that. I've heard that. But I've never really told people like think about it, you know, like even IQ testing is only valid at eight or after. So you really can't I mean, you can get IQ testing done for any child, but they'll base it more on, like, self-care skills and like a Vineland and those sorts of things. But. If you want to get a true standardized IQ test, even for a typical kid, you really need to wait till eight because it's it won't change too much after that. But before that, it could change quite a bit. OK, so what are your hopes for the future proofing or like how much I will do you look and do you try to.

Eileen: Oh yeah. I probably am always looking at one hundred different possibilities because he is still so young. So like you don't like we don't know where he's going to land on like, like his, his abilities. And I want him to be as independent as possible and as safe as possible and happy. Those are my three big but I definitely yeah. That's what I definitely don't want, I definitely don't want him to ever like stop learning and keep no matter where we land in like 15 years, I want there still to be like we're still working towards more independence and still working towards more. And, you know, he's already done so much in two years.

Eileen: Like he started at the lowest class at the IU and like within like two months they were like, we can't keep them in this class. Like, he has to move up. And he was the only three-year-old with a bunch of five-year-olds at one point. And I thought that was great because like when we started doing Zoom, I was like, who put you in this class? They are like talking so much. And but it was good because I think it also gave him that, OK, there's this kid doing this and like, it kind of challenged him. So I am optimistic about how things go for him. But I, I try to be cautiously optimistic that, like, not to put my dreams on him and allow him to be who he is with giving him the best tools.

Mary: Yeah. Yeah. And I think, you know, the safety, independence and happiness, those are my big three. I did a blog on the post that in the show notes and I want the same safe, independent and happy for Lucas and Spencer and Spencer's and med school now. And it's like safety for Spencer looks way different than safety for Lucas and but independence looks different. I mean, Spencer can live, lives in a condo, drives the car down there. Flies by himself organizes all old school work. So he is fully independent. But he didn't just magically get there. And it's always you always worry as a mom about those big three. And those are my big three. And we don't have a crystal ball. We don't have a crystal ball to look backwards saying, well, if I would have if I would have scheduled the appointment for two years, one week, you know, like I mean, it's kind of crazy because you got in very, very quickly, like a remarkably quick quickly for a diagnosis and you found your way.

Mary: You got in gear. You took my course. You've got early intervention professionals. You advocated for more treatment. And it sounds like you're doing an awesome job. So there's no looking back and there's also no ability to predict what's going to happen with any of our room. And so if we just keep our eye on those big three safety, independence and happiness, it'll all work out. And we also have to take care of ourselves along the way and our typical kids and not be so intertwined with autism that we can't think about anything else because that can become very confusing. Yeah. So which leads into our last question. Part of my podcast goals are for parents and professionals to be less stressed and lead happier lives. We all just have one life, too. And so do you have any self-care tips or stress management techniques that you use to help you become less stressed?

Eileen: So I try to, like, keep myself in, like I was saying earlier, in check of, like, how much I'm letting it consume me, that like tunnel vision of must work on this, must work on this, must work on this. And we try to plan like fun activities as a family as often as possible, which look very different during combat, like we're planning our Valentine's party now, which will be the five of us. But that's OK. But that like brings me like so much joy in like I'm I enjoy when I'm planning something that just allows me to escape the moment and plan something fun and something that doesn't. If it falls apart, it's not the end of the world. I also work more than I did in the beginning because I, I get satisfaction out of working. And that was important to have something outside of this, outside of the house and outside of having a therapist in the house. And my family is so supportive of. Finn, the girls and the girls keep me laughing, and they just always think their brother is the most awesome and that that is just wonderful to me.

Mary: Yeah, it sounds like your whole family has done really well over the past two years navigating the early autism journey.

Eileen: Like your course actually helped with that a lot because we wouldn't have known to only pick, like, so many words to work on, like we were just like we're going to teach you everything and label everything in the house and your course helped me narrow down, OK, what's the most important? Like where do we start? And like, we're always kind of running that, like, triage of like what's the next important thing to work on? And it's also giving me like a voice to speak up and be like, well, now he knows his colors. But at one point they were trying to teach him colors. And I was like, yes, he knew where his belly is. Like, I need him to be able to say, like, belly out. Like if he has a stomach ache, like, let's rearrange this. And like, it's giving me the confidence to be like, wait, like I want to like, look at this goal and like maybe direct it differently.

Mary: Yeah, yeah. That has been a big part of my courses in my new book is not only assessing and planning, but also the professionals that are working with your child are all very well-meaning, seasoned, but they may be working on the wrong goals. So helping them to see. Colors can come later, he picks it up naturally, great, but let's not hyper-focus, and that's really what ended up happening.

Mary: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I like the fact that you're planning and planning actually reduces your stress in terms of fun time, something to look forward to. And I think that is a great thing. And I kid like people are like, oh, what are you doing this weekend? I'm like, no plans. Like I have no plans for the foreseeable future because of coverage know. But we can still make plans to have fun with our families, which is great that you highlight. So that that's really nice.

Eileen: And Finn's team is actually a big fan of you, like his team had all read your book and that made me feel a little bit better because I remember like in one of the courses you talked about making sure it's the right approach. And I was like, I don't know if I'm going to know if they're doing the right approach. Like I and they, like, mentioned your book. And I was like, OK, all right. So like and the communication is like so open and honest. And I think like that like it got there because I had the confidence after taking your course to speak up and say, OK, I don't understand why we're working on this or whether we like what goal are we working on and stuff on the map. Like, I knew to ask questions about that.

Eileen: And that has made it so much more comfortable knowing that like that they want to seem like they're coming from the verbal behavior approach. And that has made a world of difference. And they're all about teaching me and my husband, too. How do things and I love that. I love feeling like it's not just somebody comes to my house for a set number of hours and leaves and I'm like, oh, I hope you learn something. Like, we are very much part of the team. And I felt like I knew more about how to look for the right agency in the right fit from your course. Yeah. So I love about that.

Mary: And I think it is stress reducing when you have professionals who are coming into your home or the child's going to a center to have them be on the same page, to have them really value your input, to have the parent become the captain of the ship because you're the one that's going to you and your husband are going to be within, you know, in five years and ten years and twenty years. And these professionals, it's so important that they really value your input because it is it is definitely the most important part of really working together. Next week on the podcast, we are going to have Rhea and Kristen, who is a parent and they're professional, both of whom took my courses and found each other.

Mary: And so we're going to talk about parent and professional collaboration next week on the podcast. So that's actually a great Segway to remind our listeners that that we're going to talk all about that. But I'm so happy that your team isnot only pro, pro open and pro you, but also pro the approach and really working together. So I have no doubt that Finn's going to continue to reach his fullest potential as he grows. So thank you so much for your time today. Eileen, it's a real pleasure to get to know you better.

Eileen: Thank you.