An Exclusive Look at AUTISM with Gina Badalaty
Encouragement Speaker Derrick Hayes gives an AUTISM interview by asking six questions through each letter in the word “autism” to give readers insightful perspectives from parents, experts, entrepreneurs, and other leaders in the field.
Today’s AUTISM Interview is with Gina Badalaty, a freelance blogger who has been writing about raising special needs children and living a non-toxic life since 2002 at Embracing Imperfect. She brings her audience unique solutions regarding children’s health and well-being and focuses on providing parents with tools that give them hope where they have previously found none. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two beautiful daughters and an amazing cat and is currently writing a book on raising children with autism.
A is for Awareness
When and how did you first become aware that something was different?
From birth, my daughter was always a very fussy child who screamed inconsolably. We later learned that she had sensory issues (diagnosed with sensory processing disorder (SPD) at age two), and was most likely crying from her skin sensitivities and inability to communicate her discomfort. By her toddler years, she was doing self-injury, laughing in her sleep, and still unable to sleep through the night. She was officially diagnosed with autism/ PDD-NOS at age three.
U is for Unique
How has this experience been unique for you and your child?
The first time I ever solved a problem following the advice of fellow parents and NOT our pediatrician, I realized that certain problems and behaviors could be relieved by thinking outside the box! At the time,
there wasn’t a ton of peer-reviewed science on how a dairy sensitivity could impact her sleep patterns, but other parents knew.
T is for Tools
What tools are there now that were not there in the beginning that could help other parents?
There are so many tools out there now! From speech, social story apps and dietary protocols to a larger selection of sensory clothing, and CBD oil, people are beginning to understand that some elements of autism are environmental while others are behavioral. This allows our kids a much better hope for living productive, purposeful lives.
I is for Inspire
As a parent when you look at your child or children what inspires you?
Her heart and her intelligence. One of the struggles with autism is that you can have a child who is so overwhelmed by sensory and neurological issues, that it is hard— or impossible—to gage their true feelings or how much they understand. Whenever we’ve helped our daughter solve an issue, we’ve always learned something amazing about her personality, like her gift for math, or her loyalty to her friends, or her joyful heart!
S is for Support
Are there things you struggle with or have struggled with and what types of support do you still need?
My daughter is going through puberty, and this has upended things. It has made some things that previously she had learned to deal with difficult for her again. We have pretty good support through friends, school, aides, doctor, neighbors and a large online community.
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M is for Manage
What keys to success can you leave with parents so that they can better manage their day to day efforts?
• Address ONE issue at a time. For us, when our daughter was five years old and STILL sleeping in short shifts, it was harmful for the whole family. So we focused all our attention on solving that. Once we got that solved, we looked at what else was most important for her to thrive.
• Some days you have to just let everything go. Even adults take a sick day for feeling bad now and again; it’s okay to recognize that sometimes a bad day means just spending it in bed.
• Be vigilant and grateful for ALL your child’s “small” achievements. I’ve learned that sometimes I’m looking for one thing, and it blinds me to little improvements she’s made in other areas, like a tiny bit more speech or suddenly not being upset in certain situations. The little things are valuable for our kids!
• Take time to rest, even in small ways, and get support. It’s one of the MOST important things for parents, to prevent burnout.
• ALWAYS remember your child is a blessing and has a purpose. Your job is to help her see that, and give her support and confidence no matter what she is going through. Don’t forget to challenge her too, even when what you want to do is make her life easier.
Derrick Hayes is a paraprofessional who works with students who have autism and is also known as the “enTIEtainer” when he tells stories through neckties to empower others to greatness. Please visit his website, email, or call him for more information.
This is article was featured in Issue 74 – Every Voice Matters