I love talking to adults who are on the autism spectrum and went beyond breaking the limitations of an autism diagnosis. My guest on this episode, Ron Sandison, is an accomplished author, mental health professional, husband, father, and autistic adult despite school experts and teachers telling his mother he will be unable to read past seventh-grade level, go to college or excel at sports.
Ron shares his story of developmental delays, changes, and diagnosis. Back when he was diagnosed, autism was believed to be caused by parents, mothers specifically who were cold, but this wasn’t the case! His mom was what I call a Gung-Ho parent, ready to find resources and work hard to turn things around and find the best outcome for her son. Ron was formally diagnosed at age 7 but was supported by his parents before and after his diagnosis, such as parent-led art therapy, advocating for his visual learning style, and ideas like budgeting and earning money. When it comes to Ron’s developmental growth and adult success, Ron credits his mom for two really important things.
- She believed in him. This seems overall simple but is so important that you believe in your child and the realistic goals they can achieve.
- She taught him to market his skills. Regardless of your child’s abilities, they have strengths and skills that they can use to participate in the world around them. Determine how and where they apply and teach your child to take their skills and passion to be productive as a member of their society.
Percentage of Autistic Adults Employed
We get into the numbers that drive Ron’s passion for helping autistic adults. In the US alone, only 10% of autistic adults are employed, and of that, only 3% are gainfully employed. 80% of people with autism have never had a job or are unemployed. Ron’s ultimate goal is to change the employment status of people with autism.
Books Written by Autistic Authors
We discuss Ron’s first two books, A Parent’s Guide to Autism and Thought, Choice, Action, as well as his upcoming book in 2023. While still untitled, Ron’s new book will focus on autism growth and transitioning to adulthood. For this book, he interviewed over 100 gainfully employed autistic individuals. Increasing the rate of gainful employment for autistic adults is a passionate project for Ron because he first hand understands the struggles of young teens and adults with autism.
Love, Dating, Marriage, and Parenthood
Ron celebrated 10 years married to his wife last year, and has a 6-year-old daughter. He met his wife on the dating website, Plenty of Fish and shared the skills and ideas he taught himself to understand dating, and being a good partner. When he met his wife, who is not on the spectrum, they “just clicked”. Ron explains that being a husband and a father with autism is not without struggles, but he has learned a lot and manages his family life very well.
You can hear all of the details from Ron Sandison’s story by listening to the full episode. You can also learn more about him and his books at his website, Spectrum Inclusion.
Ron Sandison on the Turn Autism Around Podcast
Ron Sandison works full-time in the medical field and is a professor of theology at Destiny School of Ministry. He is an advisory board member of the Art of Autism and the Els Center of Excellence. Sandison has a Master of Divinity from Oral Roberts University and is the author of A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice, Biblical Wisdom published by Charisma House and Views from the Spectrum. He has memorized over 15,000 Scriptures including 22 complete books of the New Testament. Sandison speaks at over 70 events a year including 20-plus education conferences. He is the founder of Spectrum Inclusion which empowers young people with autism for employment. Ron and his wife, Kristen, reside in Rochester Hills, MI, with their daughter, Makayla. His website is www.spectruminclusion.com. You can contact him [email protected].
- Ron Sandison’s Autism Story.
- Two important things Ron Sandison’s mom did for him.
- Higher needs vs lower needs in autism.
- How learning styles can affect learning in autism.
- Why is the rate of gainfully employed individuals with autism so low?
- Ron Sandison’s books and advice for parents across the lifespan of people with autism.
- The importance of gainful employment for autistic teens and adults.
- Love, Dating, Marriage, and Parenting as an autistic adult.
- Interview with Dr. Temple Grandin on How to Turn Autism Around
- Ron Sandison on Facebook
- Books – Spectrum Inclusion
- Spectrum Inclusion
- My Story with Epilepsy, Autism, and Depression with Rachel Barcellona
- Autism in the Media, Dating & Love on the Spectrum | Interview with Dr. Kerry Magro
- PANS and PANDAS Disorders: Interview with Beth Maloney
- Sign up for a free Workshop
- Mary Barbera
- Mary Barbera on TikTok
- Mary Barbera on Instagram
Ron Sandison – Turn Autism Around Podcast Transcript
Transcript for Podcast Episode: 212
Ron Sandison: Jobs for Autistic Adults
Hosted by: Mary Barbera
Guest: Ron Sandison
Mary: You're listening to the Turn Autism Around Podcast Episode number 212. I'm your host, Dr. Mary Barbera, and today I'm interviewing Ron Sandison, who is an adult on the autism spectrum. And he's filled with a lot of wisdom, a lot of quotes, a lot of good ideas for both parents and professionals. He's the author of a few autism books and has a new one coming out about autism and employment. He is also married for over a decade and has a six year old daughter. So we talk about his early journey, some of his gifts and talents, his help that he got from his mother, his work as a mental health professional, and some advice for kids and adults both on the lower end of the spectrum as well as the higher end. So let's get to this important interview with Ron Sandison.
Narrator: Welcome to the Turn Autism Around podcast. For both parents and professionals in the autism world who want to turn things around, be less stressed and lead happier lives. And now your host, Autism mom, behavior analyst and bestselling author, Dr. Mary Barbera.
Mary: Hi, Ron. It is nice to meet you. I don't think we've ever met in person or online, so thanks for your time today.
Ron: Thanks so much for having me on your show today.
Mary: Yeah. So I've interviewed quite a few autistic adults and I'm excited to hear your story and your tips because you're not only an adult with autism, but you also are a mental health professional and a minister. And you go all over the country and the world speaking on autism and you really have great advice for both parents and professionals. So before we get into that advice, let's hear about your fall into the autism world.
Ron Sandison’s Story
Ron: So my development began normally, I said my first word, mommy, nine months, then 18 months. I went through the time of regression. I went from being able to say Mommy going, Mom, mom. I went from being very perfect eye contact, to no eye contact. My mom knew there was something drastically different between me and my brother Chuck and Steve, so she immediately took me to pediatrician, pediatrician and said, men are like fine wine. You got to give them time. We're like flowers. They blossom quickly. And that's good advice for a woman dating. But for a person with autism, that's the worst advice you can give, because immediate intervention is the best way to develop those skills. And my mom knew time was the essence. She immediately got me an intense speech therapy, and I was intense speech therapy all the way from age 2 to 16. When I was seven years old, my brother Chuck would introduce me to people saying, You need to meet my brother Ron. I think he's from Norway. Yeah, I talked and no one knew what I was saying. So I became an expert on Norwegian languages at age seven, and entered kindergarten. They wanted to diagnose me, emotionally impaired my mom's. It's not emotional, it's neurological. And if you can't tell me what's going on, I'll get them tested and come back to you. I went to Henry Ford Hospital in 1982. I was diagnosed with autism and at the time I was diagnosed as only one 10,000 children were diagnosed with autism. Now it's one in every 44. And the school experts and teachers told my mom, If your son's autistic son never reads beyond seventh grade level, I will never attend college and never have meaningful relationships and never excel in sports. My mom was determined to be a great mom. She quit her job as an art teacher, became a full time Ron teacher, working with me, using art, using pre-ABA therapy methods. And at that time there was very little known about autism and there is the refrigerator mom and the child is stuck in his own little world. And my mom was determined to get in my world and bring me out. One of the main things to use was a prairie dog named Prairie Pup, Prairie Pups gone on to meet Isaiah Thomas. He met Muhammad Ali in 2002. He's met many celebrities, including Screech, from, Saved by the Bell. When I met. Kurt Armstrong, who played Booger in Revenge of the Nerds. I said, Can you have a picture with a Prairie Pup and your finger up your nose? He said, I'll do better than that. So Prairie Pops was up to the nose of Booger from Revenge of the Nerds. And my mom used my interest and worked with those and helped me to succeed. She believed in autism. Refine, not cured. Autism is refined. You're walking on the hot black pavement to a big lake of water like the ocean, and all of a sudden you feel something sharp on your bare foot. It's a piece of glass. It wasn't refined. It was Miller Time for one person who was drinking in a glass. Now it's tetanus for you. But autism, refined, is now you're walking along the ocean, along the shore, and you feel something good against your foot. It was a piece of glass. It was refined by something better. And it's greater. And self is refined by the ocean, refined by learning social skills and speech therapy and occupational therapy. Now, that piece of glass you don't throw out, you put on your neck as jewelry or you put it on a wall as art. And that's what my mom was determined to do with me is teach me the way I learned I was a visual learner. I am still a visual learner. I can't learn anything phonetically, so I have to see things. And then by teaching me the way I learn, I'm able to grasp massive amounts of information.
Mary: Well, it sounds like you had quite an early journey. I do have video blogs and podcasts on a couple of things. You mentioned regression, so we can link that in the show notes. This is episode 212. I also did a show on Refrigerator Mothers, and that was an old theory that autism was actually caused by mothers who, you know, like your mother. I'm sure she and I would get along great because she was what I call a gung ho mom who rolled over sleeves and just figured it out. Even before there was, you know, systematic ABA programing or anything like it, you know, Temple Grandin, who I've interviewed for the podcast, who did the foreword for my book, Turn Autism Around. We can link that in the show notes. But her mom was the same. You know, she didn't do it herself. She hired a nanny to engage her daughter. So what age were you diagnosed with autism, Ron?
Ron: I was diagnosed at age seven with autism. Okay. And my mom also used artwork. In fact, I'm in a movie that's narrated by Temple Grandin called Fierce Love in Art. And it's done by Dr. Lawrence A Backer. And they share about my artwork there and how my mom uses it. So when I wrote my name as a child I also had dyslexia. You can see I wrote it backwards, but my mom knew that I had great artwork abilities, so she had me draw artwork like this when I was five years old. She had me tell her stories to break down the stories and rewrite the story. Within two years, I went from dyslexia to absolutely no dyslexia, but it was by working with my neural pathway of visual learning. One teacher actually told my mom, What if 50% of Ron's education is visually, this 50% phonetically? And my mom said they only get a 50% education because he can't learn anything phonetically. And to this day, I can't learn anything phonetically. I have to see it to process it. And one of the interesting things is when I was in high school, I had to take Spanish and I got a D in the class. And it was only by the grace of a Spanish teacher because I couldn't learn any, because they taught it with song and they taught it with phonetics and learned the sounding words. But then when I got to Oral Roberts University, I took three years of Biblical Greek and I got a 4.0 in the class, and I took three years of it. And I've been a professor of biblical theology now, or biblical languages or Greek for over 20 years. The difference is this: you go to Spain, you're talking Spanish, you go to Mexico, they're talking Spanish, but you go to Greece, they're not speaking. Koine Greek, which is biblical Greek. So it's a dead language. And since it's a dead language, you can't teach it phonetically, but only visually. So I was able to master the Greek language. It's the biblical and translates two thirds of a New Testament from Greek into English, because you learn everything on cards, note cards, whether it's the rules of grammar, it follows better rules of grammar than English, or what are the words. You learn them visually, because we don't know how it sounds because it's dead. And I was able to master that. So if you can find out the way the kid learns. And teach them the way they learn. They're going to be able to process that information much better in a lot of times in schools. We want to make everyone learn everything, with autism we're specialists, not generalists. In fact, we have a very difficult time generalizing things.
Mary: So you're extremely bright, extremely fluid with conversational language. So a lot of people listening to this podcast are parents and professionals who work with kids on the other end of the spectrum who are more impaired. And so can we talk about that and what advice do you give for parents and professionals working with kids then when they're two and three, we don't know what their functioning level is going to be.
Mary: I've done the podcast very early on on high functioning versus low functioning, and I don't like those two terms because within each child or adult are their strengths and needs. And so yeah, you don't like those terms either. What do you use?
Autism: Higher Needs vs. Lower Needs
Ron: So I say higher needs, lower needs. And also one of the things that really helped me and you can see my shirt is a honey badger. I call my meltdowns honey badger moments. So a lot of time with the higher needs, you need to know what in their environment is affecting them. You need to know the antecedent of what happened before they had that meltdown. And one of the things that I think it's really important is a lot of the ones who have higher needs who are actually thriving in life. There's a I think of this young kid who's on the autism spectrum, who's much higher needs, but his dad takes him out running. He takes him out in this society. And exposure is one of the best things you can do with any kid with autism, especially higher needs. Because more things are exposed to more, their body learns to adapt to their environment. And one of the things I say to is develop the skills needed to be able to adapt to their environment. So for higher needs, kid, one of the things that you may need to work on is just so they don't have a meltdown, just so they don't bite the worker they're working with. And that can create a higher quality of life because once the parents are unable to care for them, if they end up in a group home and they're always biting and scratching, it's going to sometimes cause conflict with the person working with them. They'll say, I worked with them last time, though. You're going to be working with this guy. I don't want scratches all over my hand, but if you can develop those most simple needs of basic communication so they know what the kid needs, meltdowns, outbursts, those are all communication and behaviors, communication. So learn how they're communicating, learn the things in the environment that's going to make them have that meltdown and learn to teach them coping skills even at their higher needs. That can help out a lot.
Mary: Yeah. My son is 26 and he needs 24/7 supervision. But my goal as his parent, as a registered nurse, as a behavior analyst, it has always been for him and for all my clients and my online participants is is really to get the ability for children to request their wants and needs in some way and to get major problem behaviors at or near zero and to strive to get to help them get toilet trained and participate in as many self care tasks and get those as independent as possible. Because I know as a parent and as a professional that if like you said, if you have a child or an adult who's biting and scratching, they are not going to be as able to be included in general education or in life, or go to restaurants or go on airplanes. If you can't trust that they're going to be calm and they're not going to be aggressive. And so that's my life's work, is getting kids to be as safe as possible, as independent as possible, and as happy as possible. And so it's not about double digit addition. It's not about talking in full sentences or reading or anything. It's about helping kids and, like you said, like developing their interest if they really, you know, seem to be talking to. So even scribbling with crayons, it could mean that they would like to develop some art skills and those kinds of skills. So looking for clues and you and you do go around speaking and you also speak to ABA centers. And so this is the kind of message you speak about when you go to ABA centers?
Ron: Yeah, I share about finding that interest, finding ways of refining autism, helping them understand meltdowns and in ways that create coping skills. I have the eight keys to helping a kid with autism thrive. One of the biggest ones to where people are lower needs is developing a hope complex because a lot of people with autism, young adults, have developed a hopeless complex through learned helplessness that Dr. Martin discovered in 1967, the University of Pennsylvania. And they lack that self-sufficiency. The belief that when I begin something, I'm able to accomplish it. And it's a lot of failure in relationships, failures in jobs, failures in learning social skills and seeing that they're development isn't the same as everyone else. A lot of times autism develops, it's not linear. It's more like a jack and box extent that you're trying all kinds of things that then nothing seems to be working. Then today and all of a sudden full sentences come out where normally kids learn in a linear one or two words. Now a sentence here and then paragraphs with autism, it can all of a sudden just begin out at paragraphs. My development was much like that. It was very dormant four times. And then all of a sudden there was huge growth. Even later on in life, I didn't have good eye contact until about 2007 and I was already about 30 years old before I developed eye contact. And I wasn't gainfully employed until 15 years ago and I had a masters degree, two bachelor's degrees. And I still wasn't until I learned those skills and those skills when they started developing, they do it very quickly instead of that linear progress.
Mary: So, yeah, let's...
Ron: Delays are not denials with our milestones.
Mary: Say that sentence again?
Ron: So delays with autism aren't denials in our development. So there may be delays, but doesn't mean they're denied, they will happen.
Mary: Yeah. Yeah, I like that. Okay. Let's talk about your books because you have a couple of autism books and you have one coming out in 2023. So why don't you tell us about your two autism books that you have now, what they're about, and then your new book.
Ron Sandison’s Books
Ron: So my first book was A Parent's Guide to Autism: Practical Advice, Biblical Wisdom, published by Charisma House, which is a third biggest Christian publisher on top selling Christian books all time on autism. And while writing, I interviewed 52 most famous people working in the autism field and 50 real unique people on the autism spectrum. I see your advice on parenting and also how to help a child thrive on the spectrum. And I use the insight I got from the professionals I interview and the parents and the young adults I interviewed people like Alexis Wineman, Miss Montana, and Clay Mazo the Surfer and Temple Grandin. All that great advice I've gotten from her over the years, and my goal with my three books is to cover every age period of Life. This begins with diagnosis, and even though it goes on to adulthood, it focuses more on developing those skills while the child is young.
Mary: So that first book is A Parent's Guide to Autism, is that the name?
Ron: Yes Practical Advice, Biblical Wisdom.
Mary: Okay and now your second book?
Ron: My second one was on Theology St Augustine and its Thought, Choice, ACTION. So it sounds more like a movie than a book on theology. And then my third book, which is on autism, is Views from the Spectrum A Window into the Life and Faith of Your Neurodivergent Child. And for this book, I focus more on the teenage years and I share 20 amazing people on the autism spectrum, their stories with devotional, because a lot of times is a kid with autism can have I hopeless complex when parents are told their kids are autistic, a lot of times they feel hopeless and my books offer hope. This book is Parenting Advice in a series of 20 unique people on the autism spectrum, people like Armani William a NASCAR driver, Tarik El-Abourl pro baseball player, Rachel Barcelona, who is Miss Tampa and many others.
Mary: Rachel has been on our show too. We can link her in the show notes. She had a really great interview, so that's awesome. .
Ron: Yeah she's an amazing person. I got to go out to Tampa in August of last year.
Mary: Oh, neat. Yeah, she seems really nice. So. And now your newest book that's coming out in 2023, what's that called and what's that about?
Ron: So I never know the titles of my books. Oh, I just know what the topic is because every time I write a book, the publisher comes up with a new title for my book. So it's on autism growth and transitioning into adulthood. I interviewed over 100 people who are on the autism spectrum and gainfully employed, and I interviewed over 50 professionals who work with young adults with autism and helping them gain those skills for employment. And Dr. Berry, the author of Uniquely Human A Different Way of Seeing Autism. He did the foreword already for the book, and I got endorsements from well-known people who work in the autism spectrum. But my goal with this book is to change the employment status of people with autism. In the United States currently, only 3% of people with autism are gainfully employed, as I am, 80% of people with autism have never had a job or they are unemployed. And only about 10% currently in the United States are employed at all. And many of those, about 7% of them are not gainfully employed. So you're saying that there are very few people employed.
Mary: 3% are gainfully.
Ron: Gainfully employed, making good money.
Mary: Wow. Okay.
Ron: So you could have a house where you could have a family.
Mary: And that's where 10% are employed in some respect.
Two Important Things Ron’s Mom Did for Him
Ron: In some capacity. Yeah, like working, bagging groceries. And that's another story. My mom, you, she was inspired by Proverbs 22:29. Do you see men skilled in his labor? You serve before kings, you will not serve before obscure men. And when I entered kindergarten in special education, they had a two teacher rule. You had one in the back of the room, one at the front row in the front. Make sure you won't escape through the front door. One in the back made sure you didn't make a MacGyver exit through the back door. My mom said, You're not educating people. You're babysitting young adults with autism. And she said if he's babysat and not taught, the best he's going to be is bagging groceries. Best he is going to be is a bellboy when the door opens, or washing dishes. And he said, if I can get those skills, he'll serve before kings and not obscure men. And even when I did my internship in college, I did it under the world renowned Dr. Jack Van Impe who had more Bible verses and memorized the world than anyone else at the time of his death. He has spoken live to over 10 million people, and he took me right under his wing when he saw my talent. Temple Grandin says it best, talent attracts mentors and I have over 15,000 Bible verses memorized, and that's what made him mentor me and let me be his first intern for his international ministry. So my mom did two things that every person on the autism spectrum whose super successful parents did or someone did in their life, Number one, she believed in me. She saw a gift and said, If I can refine that gift, he'll be serving before kings, not obscure men. Number two, she knew how to market my gifts. She taught me how to market and be an entrepreneur. And that helped me to be able to go away to college and get my master's degree. And you look at people like Temple Grandin, Grant Manier the great artist. Their parents saw that gift and they realized how to market it. Armani Williams, a NASCAR driver, his dad and mom were able to market that passion for NASCAR driving. And now he has sponsors, which good marketers get, Clay Marzo the surfer.
Mary: And, you know, I love that somebody that believes in you and then somebody helps you learn how to market your skills. Like even for Lucas, who needs 24 seven care, like he always had me and his father believing in him and even, you know, marketing like he goes to the food bank. To volunteer with a worker, You know, with him. That doesn't happen. Just. By chance that happens to us going us saying, Can he come here? This is how it will go. We can't really sit through the training and understand all the rules, but his hard worker could sit through the training and get certified as, you know, like there needs to be some give and take that he's a very good volunteer. But he doesn't have the comprehension skills to, you know, pass a test or or sit through an orientation for 2 hours and learn about being a good volunteer. Like, he doesn't understand that. So this really does apply. You're two things that make an adult successful even if they are higher support needs or lower functioning or whatever you want to call it. There still needs to be that belief in them and that being towards progress and, you know, like Lucas is never going to be able to go to college or drive, but that doesn't mean his life is less worthy or that there's anybody who failed him or there's any failure. It's just moving people forward.
Ron: And a lot of times dads struggle with a kid with autism because they want to fix autism. That's something you fix, something you deal with. And my dad actually helped me out a lot because he had a Protestant work ethic. Second Thessalonians 3:1,0 If man will not work, you shall eat. So from an early age, he had me cut in the lawn and my first job in God's waiting room. I worked at Bill Knapp's restaurant where the ancient clientele gave it its nickname, God's Waiting Room. And by working at age 14 as a busser, I learned how to deal with irate customers. I learned how to budget my money. My dad had a three part rule. The money First 10% goes to the God, second, 10% goes in savings, and then the 80% you get to spend the way you want. But when you want a pair of designer shoes or jeans, you look at the Kmart brand, you minus it from the designer jeans, and then you know how much you got to take out of that 80% that you can spend on your own, shoes, you go to post, you take the price from Payless average shoe, minus it from those Nike's you want or air walks you want, and then you know the price you got to pay. So I learned how to budget money at a young age. I learned how to work. So I've always been employed. And even in recession times I was employed not gainfully, but it took me a long time to learn the entrepreneur skills I use now to be gainfully employed.
Mary: Wow. Yeah, I like that. Okay, so you have been married for a decade. Yes. And happy anniversary. You just celebrated a decade of marriage. So I had Kerry Magro on the show and we can link on the show notes. So we talked about dating and relationships. And so how did you, you know, begin dating And were you kind of late to getting into a relationship or is your wife on the spectrum? Like how did that whole thing work?
Autism in Dating, Marriage, and Parenting
Ron: Yeah, So my wife's not on the spectrum. So what ended up happening is I started online dating. I met my wife with Plenty of Fish. If it was Plenty of Squid. I'd still be single. If it was Plenty of Whales. I might have gotten suffocated in the dating scene, but I had to learn those skills to be able to be successful at dating. One of them is to be interested, not hovering. A lot of young adults with autism. They'll hover around that person they like and try to cling to. And I learned it. Women are like butterflies. They like to be free and to be able to be interested in not hovering. I learned first to seek to understand and be understood and let the person talk. And I developed those social skills to be married by trial and error. I had a lot of trial and error in the day, and in fact, I met over 300 women online before I met my wife, and then we just ended up clicking. But I learned how to develop those skills to be socially sheltered. So I didn't just spew something out like Trump on Twitter. And by learning those skills, that helped me to be able to be ready for marriage. And that's very hard for a lot of people with autism, because after probably ten dates and they don't work out, they may give up. But there's a saying, Charles Spurgeon said by perseverance, the snail made on the Ark. So you could be as slow as a snail. But if you're moving in the right direction, you're going to get to your goal. And that's kind of how my dating life began. Very slow. I had a lot of pitfalls along the way where I wasn't successful. But then I learned those skills and I developed those skills and I honed in on those skills. And one of the things that really helped me was a guy named Steve Jones, who every girl liked, he was six foot three, good looking guy, had great people skills and by imitating his people skills, I learned those in the dating scene became successful being able to date, which led to me being successful and being able to get married and have a daughter who's six years old now. A daughter? Yes. Six years old. Makayla Marie.
Mary: Wow, that's awesome.
Ron: In first grade.
Mary: So does your autism, does it affect your relationships with your wife and your daughter, or do you have more difficulties or is it just kind of like every marriage and being a father, it's hard to separate out what autism is adding or making more difficult.
Ron: I think it's more difficult because I'm very focused and I'm focused on something. My wife once said sometimes I feel like a single mom because you're so focused on writing your book or you're so focused on reading that book you're reading or the research you're doing or the project you're working on. And to ourselves sometimes, and my autistic meltdowns, I remember when I was in the movie Fierce Love in Art, my mom took some of the toys out of my man cave. I have a man cave with hundreds of boxes of calico critters in boxes and all these animals from around the world, all the way from Madagascar to Israel, where I've traveled. And she rebuilt this no man's valley that I'd had as a kid. And she took the animals off the shelf from where they were in my man cave at my parents house. That's the lock and key. And then I had a meltdown and I started banging my head like this and said, Doesn't make any sense. All this stuff is moved. And my daughter came in. She was three years old at the time. At times she said, sometimes you'll get a Happy Meal and it doesn't have the toy in it. But tomorrow maybe Grandma will get you a new toy. That's what she said.
Mary: So you still have meltdowns?
Ron: Once in a great while. That was the last meltdown. That was three years ago. But certain things can trigger me. They're not as bad as they used to be because I was only going about this hard. But when I was a kid, I slammed my head full force into a cement wall. So they're much milder. And I can still control myself somewhat now. But when I was a kid, I couldn't deal with those meltdowns.
Mary: Well, and regular adults, you know, without autism. I mean, we have meltdowns. I mean, yeah, crying episodes, you know, and worse, you know, slamming things on a desk or, you know, people could throw things. You know, it's, it's yeah, it's when you get completely overwhelmed. And I always say if you see problem behaviors, the demands are too high and or reinforcements too low, or you have some kind of illness which can spur on problems like strep or staph or something can actually make you exhibit some behaviors. I did a podcast episode, for instance, on PANDS, and that can make you, you know, somebody like me or you, a child or young adults could get some kind of infection and they could spur on more meltdowns or more yet more of a psychiatric issue. And you do work as a mental health professional full time, right?
Ron: Yeah, full time. 40 hours a week. Yeah. Wow. 2, 12 hour shifts and a 16 hour shift every week.
Ron: I've never missed a day at work in 15 years.
Ron: Yeah, In fact, when COVID came, I got three days in with COVID before they tested me and said you got to take a couple of days off work. So even then I was willing to work full time. I had to take five days off for it and I had to take those days off. But I was willing to work. I never like missing work.
Mary: I was amazed. So you're very passionate about sharing your journey. Why are you so passionate?
Ron Sandison’s Passionate Journey
Ron: My reason I'm passionate about sharing my journey with autism is I realize the struggles that young adults with autism have. They see all their friends having fun birthday parties, and they may not be invited. They see they get wedding invitations when they're young adults to their friends getting married and they're still single and they see their friends and their dream careers while they're still working, making just enough to get by and sometimes even still living with mom and dad. I want the young adults and the people coming after me to have that advocacy so they're gainfully employed and they're living the best life they can live in the United States. As I mentioned, 80% of people with autism are unemployed. In Europe, it's only 20%. Here's a difference. In Europe, they have universal health care. So a person with autism doesn't have to worry about their benefits. In the United States, we don't have universal health care. So you can work full time, have a health care plan for your company, and you could be losing money by working. And it's the only country in the world that your health care bills could be higher than what you're making in employment. We say autism is lifelong. What? Disability. So if autism is a lifelong disability, why don't we have lifelong benefits? Here's a second reason why so many people with autism are unemployed. And in the 30 year history of the Americans with Disabilities Act, it's never done one thing in your life that led to higher employment. And I could tomorrow make 80% of people with autism gainfully employed in the United States. I have to do two things first. I bring universal health care for people with autism. Once you're diagnosed with autism, you have health care benefits. It doesn't matter where you work. You already have those. Now a company is going to hire you. I only have to pay out benefits towards health care. Second one is privatization. I had an uncle with autism. He has Asperger's, Uncle Dave, and he was gainfully employed his whole life. But the reason he was gainfully employed is he had a job that loved routine. In fact, if your Christmas present was late in the eighties, it just might have been Uncle Dave working the postal services. But now we take these jobs that once were with the government where you had a union, you had benefits, and you had job security. And we privatized them out to other companies. So why would you hire someone with a disability who's going to make your insurance costs go up? When you worked for the government, you didn't have to worry about that and would set a price for a commodity. When something is privatized, you can cut everyone else's wages and you make a fortune. And privatization is one of the main reasons why people with autism are not gainfully employed and not having universal health care. My Uncle Dave, when he died, they said he was so slow you needed a poll to make sure he was moving. Yet he was gainfully employed because he worked for the US Postal Service and he enjoyed his job. Most people wouldn't like doing the same route over and over again for 35 plus years, but Uncle Dave loved that. Because on the autism spectrum his job didn't change.
Mary: Mhm. Yeah. Yeah, I can totally see that. Well, I do think you make some excellent points about why our kids and adults are not employed as well as you are. And I can see that for both ends of the spectrum too. So before I let you go, it's been a really great interview. I've enjoyed getting to know you and I'm sure my listeners have too. So part of my podcast goals are not to just help the kids, but help the parents and professionals working with the kids. So to be happier, to be less stressed. So do you have any self-care tips or stress management tools that you use in your daily life that might help?
Stress and Anxiety Management
Ron: Yeah. So one of the things about stress and anxiety is you miss out on opportunities. There's a great book called The Luck Factor, and it looks at people who say they're lucky versus people who say they're unlucky. And Dr. Wiseman did an experiment on people who say they're lucky versus unlucky. 150 people said, I'm the luckiest person in the world, 150 set on the least lucky person in the world. And what he did in his study is he had a $20 bill in front of a coffee shop, and he had them go to the coffee shop. And the contestants in the experiment thought they were going there to meet a connection. And if you were lucky, you'd meet the connection. If you were unlucky, you wouldn't meet. But the real test would see who found that $20 bill. What he discovered in his study is that 80% of people who said they were lucky discovered that 20 dollar bill, We're only 20% of people were unlucky. And of course, it wasn't luck that made them find it or not. But it was this level of anxiety and after doing tests on them. So the people who say they were lucky, they experienced a lot less anxiety. They came, they're living in the moment. And when that $20 bill was under their nose, they found it. People who said they were unlucky were thinking about all the things they had to do. Washing dishes, going to work a job they didn't like, and they walked right past it because their minds were clouded with this anxiety. So we can learn ways to lower our anxiety and lower our stress level. We're going to see more opportunities and we're going to also experience better health and well-being. Today alone, 2300 people are going to die of heart disease and stroke caused by anxiety. So keeping calm and relaxed is number one. I take my dog, Rudy, out for a walk, walking, smelling the Michigan clean air. Pure Michigan as Tim Allen would say it helps me relax. I have my prairie dog who I still take everywhere I speak and being able to speak, I feel relaxed. So being in the zone like Michael Jordan would say, when you're in that zone, your anxiety goes down. So find things you enjoy. My grandpa had two things. It is what it is. And you got to take life as it comes to. He lived to 89 years old because he kept his stress down because of this. I just did my exercise for the day. And learning to be able to take life as it comes to and be relaxed. It's going to lessen anxiety. It's going to open up opportunities and it's going to help us be more successful and have the strength to help the children we're working with for help our own children who are on the spectrum. And that's very important. And just taking time with your family, I try to spend time with Makayla and play games. She likes the game. Sorry. And some of the others. Hungry, hungry, hippos, some of those. And being able to relax and cheer forward is good medicine. So laughter is very important too.
Mary: Yeah, I totally agree. Well, I think I am lucky to have met you. Oh, thanks. I wish you all the best. And good luck with your newest book. And. Happy New Year.
Ron: Thanks. Yeah.
Mary: We are airing this in 2023, And your book, your newest book is going to come out and. Yeah. So what's your website for people?
Ron: So it's spectruminclusion.com. And then all my books are on Amazon, all three of them. And all you got to do Google is Ron Sandison. And then those books will come right up. I'll send you the links so you can put them on there.
Mary: Yeah, we'll put everything in the show notes. MaryBarbera.com/212. Thanks again.
Ron: Thanks so much.
Mary: If you're a parent or an autism professional and enjoy listening to this podcast, you have to come check out my online course and community where we take all of this material and we apply it. You'll learn life changing strategies to get your child or clients to reach their fullest potential. Join me for a free online workshop at MaryBarber.com/Workshop where you can learn how to avoid common mistakes. You can see videos of me working with kids with and without autism, and you can learn more about joining my online course and community at a very special discount. Once again go to MaryBarbera.com/Workshop for all the details. I hope to see you there.
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