An Exclusive Look at AUTISM with Alana Mitchell
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.
“It is the strength that I see in my son every day that has kept me going.”
Today’s AUTISM Interview is with Alana Mithcwell who is a 35- year-old medical esthetician and business owner, happily married to her college sweetheart and mother of two boys (one of whom has autism).
Ten years ago my husband and I started an e-commerce, skincarebyalana.com, retailing 300+ beauty brands. This experience combined with my passion for skincare, my drive, and love for my family pushed me to start my amazing and innovative skincare line “Alana Mitchell” at www.alanamitchell.com.
A is for Awareness – When and how did you first become aware that something was different?
My son was about 15 months old. I know this is considered very early, but my mother’s intuition was telling me that my son should be making more of an emotional connection.
U is for Unique – How has this experience been Unique to you and your child?
For me, I have learned the meaning of unconditional love. I have learned to fight and persevere for what I know is right for my son. We celebrate and cherish every accomplishment, big or small!
I never compare my child to another. When you compare and contrast, you will find yourself feeling prideful or depressed. Neither of which is an ideal outcome.
My son was created and has a unique purpose that only he and his unique mind can accomplish. This really struck me when he was four years old and we were driving in the car. He asked me what color the number seven was to me, which I said I don’t see colors in numbers. He proceeded to tell me what numbers had color, five was blue, six was green, seven was red and orange. I have taught him that his brain and outlook on things is extremely important and needed in our society. I found this saying about autism a while ago, “It takes a sprinkle of autism for advances in math, science and the arts.” I don’t know who said it but, it’s a message we as parents need to keep in mind as we raise the next generation.
T is for Tools – What tools are there now that were not there at the beginning that could help other parents?
ABA (applied behavior analysis) at home is very helpful; when things can be smoother at home, everyone is happier.
I is for Inspire – As a parent when you look at your child or children what inspires you?
Hope. I have so much hope!! I have seen it, and we have been a part of it. I love being able to look back at a time I thought things were hopeless, like when my son kept biting peers. I would think to myself, I can’t wait for the day, and I will throw a party to celebrate when he stops biting his peers. That day has come. No more biting.
S is for Support – Are there things you struggle with or have struggled with and what types of support do you still need?
I am too hard on myself, and I tend to blame myself for things. Thankfully my husband is always there to remind me I am the best mom and advocate for our son!
The support of other parents with children on the spectrum, especially moms, it’s such good therapy to get together to share resources, laugh, and just vent when you are having a rough time.
M is for Manage – What keys to success can you leave with parents so that they can better manage their day to day efforts?
First of all, give yourself a lot of credit; you are doing a good job! Oh, sometimes the day to day can be so hard and taxing. But then again, don’t compare your efforts or your child to others. Take things one day and one thing at a time. I look at our day to day efforts towards a long-term goal, when my son is 18 years old he will be able to go off to college. So right now it’s OK that he is behind in a school subject because we are working towards a different goal.
Also, you will be late for things. Just accept you can’t do it all and be on time. Many of times I have had to say to myself, “Well, you can be late and have him in a good place, or you can be on time and show up as a complete disaster. Make your choice Alana. Is it worth the stress to be on time? No.”
Derrick Hayes is an author, motivational speaker, and paraprofessional with students with autism in the Muscogee County School District in Columbus, Georgia. For contact or booking information, please visit his website, email, or call him.
This article was featured in Issue 72 – Sensory Solutions For Life