Encouragement Speaker Derrick Hayes gives an AUTISM Interview by asking six questions through each letter in the word AUTISM to give readers an insightful perspective from parents, experts, entrepreneurs, and other leaders in the field.
Today’s AUTISM Interview is with Carol Basile, PhD, who doctors told to put her six-year-old-son in an institution and move on with her life. It was 1972, and little was known about autism.
Carol, refusing to see her son as a diagnosis, fought to help Joe thrive. Now he is in his fifties, holds a master’s degree, and has a community around him.
Carol is a psychologist and author of the new book, Against All Odds: Our Life’s Journey With Autism, A Guide For Parents And Teachers.
Against All Odds is a gentle and touching resource for parents and educators to look beyond the diagnosis and focus on a child’s abilities so he/she can ultimately thrive.
A is for Awareness
When and how did you first become aware that something was different?
I realized my son was different in the first few months of his life. He did not like to be touched, cuddled, or held. He did not fall asleep well. He seemed happy to be in his own world, observing but not interacting.
U is for Unique
How has this experience been unique for you and your child?
My autistic son has changed my life for the better. Our journey began in the “Dark Ages” of autism in the 1970s. Doctors, teachers, and psychologists did not know what to do with a child with these autistic characteristics. Therefore, I went to college to learn for myself what to do to help my son achieve and reach his potential.
I became a teacher, both in the regular classroom and with special education credentials. I achieved a master’s degree in counseling psychology and a PhD in humanistic psychology. I focused on children with special needs and at-risk adolescents. I was in a group that developed a wish list that became Public Law 94-142, which was the first federal special education law in this country. I like to believe I have helped many children and families who have been in a situation similar to mine.
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T is for Tools
What tools are there now that were not there in the beginning that could help other parents?
There are autism organizations and parent networks that assist parents today. There are informative conferences and social groups that impart valuable information for families of autistic children. There are therapies such as Applied Behavior Therapy that help autistic children and families. Schools, including universities, have special needs departments that assist autistic children and adults develop their abilities and achieve their potential.
I is for Inspire
As a parent, when you look at your child or children, what inspires you?
My son’s courage to continue functioning in our society despite his struggles. My son’s tolerance and patience with non-autistic people despite their lack of tolerance and patience with him. My son’s motivation to continue to achieve in the face of diversity. I was told to put my son in an institution when he was seven years old. Today, against all odds, he has a master’s degree. He is truly an inspiration.
S is for Support
Are there things you struggle with or have struggled with, and what types of support do you still need?
I have struggled with people dismissing the abilities my son possesses. I struggle with his physical health issues. He is receiving assistance for his physical problems. However, the lack of affordable housing is a MAJOR issue for those with disabilities.
M is for Manage
What keys to success can you leave with parents so they can better manage their day to day efforts?
Every child, special needs or not, should have the opportunity to reach his/her potential. In order to achieve this, a parent or teacher must focus on the child’s abilities, not his/her disabilities. Focusing on his/her abilities allows children to feel competent, confident, and capable. It is these qualities that motivate both childrenand adults to achieve. Achievement based on true abilities is the foundation for reaching one’s potential.
This article was featured in Issue 103 – Supporting Emotional Needs