An Exclusive Look at AUTISM With Katherine Sanger
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 Katherine Sanger who is a mother with a son with autism. Katherine was a Jersey Girl before getting smart and moving to Texas. She’s been published in various e-zines and print, including Baen’s Universe, Spaceports & Spidersilk, Black Petals, Star*Line, Anotherealm, Lost in the Dark, Bewildering Stories, Aphelion, and RevolutionSF, and edited From the Asylum, an e-zine of fiction and poetry.
Her poetry has won numerous awards, including first place in Byline’s Autumn Poem contest, first place in Lucky Thirteen contest sponsored by Sol Magazine, and Honorable Mention in The Houston Chapter Award, The Hap Fulgham Prize, and The Varoom-Varoom Award.
She writes non-fiction for various websites, including Examiner.com, Hubpages, and Demand Studios. She’s a member of Broad Universe, Science Fiction Poetry Association, SFWA, HWA, Bay Area Writers League, and Gulf Coast Poets.
She’s earned an associate of arts in general studies, a bachelor of science in information technology, a master of liberal arts, a master of arts in English literature, and a post-master’s certificate in education/college teaching, as well as 48 doctoral hours in post-secondary and adult education. She is currently working on her MFA in creative writing with the University of Tampa.
A is for Awareness
When and how did you first become aware that something was different?
We realized there was something different very early on. Simon did not meet milestones, including learning to talk at a year old. Luckily, we had an excellent pediatrician who called Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) when Simon was 15 months old. He worked with a speech therapist and an occupational therapist. He was diagnosed with PDD-NOS at the age of two.
It was only after Simon started working with ECI that I really became more aware of some of those differences.
The defining moment for me was when he and I were at a local library in the children’s area. They had toys scattered around, wooden puzzles, Little People toys, and a huge stuffed Clifford. A little girl, probably no older than a year old, was playing with her mother. The girl put a chicken on top of a farmhouse, then looked up for approval. Simon was almost two at that point, and I realized that he had never done that. He played with toys, but whether or not anyone approved, or even acknowledged his actions, had never been a part of it. He had not purposely shared any of his experiences with me.
U is for Unique
How has this experience been Unique for you and your child?
Everything. I honestly believe that every human being’s experience is unique, and that is especially true for people on the spectrum. They have a lens that lets them view the world in a way that we will never be able to.
Specifically, however, one of the most unique aspects of our life is Blue’s Clues. Since Simon started watching it when he was two, he hasn’t stopped. It has been 14 years of our life spent watching Steve (because no one likes Joe) and Blue. Simon carries a Handy Dandy Notebook everywhere he goes and can—and does—recite episodes any time he wants.
T is for Tools
What tools are there now that were not there at the beginning that could help other parents?
Facebook is an amazing tool. It’s the place to connect with other parents, find local groups, and learn about events and conferences. I run a parent support group for local parents and have a Facebook page for my son. It’s a great way to connect with people all over the world and share experiences. For any parents who haven’t checked it out yet, do a search. Find people who are living similar lives and link up with them. They are your people. You are theirs.
Click here to find out more
I is for Inspire
As a parent when you look at your child or children what inspires you?
The future is what inspires me.
Simon is 16 years old. He hasn’t learned to drive. He hasn’t gone on a job interview. He hasn’t gone on a date. But he’s 16 years old. He has his future.
S is for Support
Are there things you struggle with or have struggled with and what types of support do you still need?
Transition is, without question, the hardest thing we’ve had to work through.
It wasn’t that everything else was easy: there is nothing easy about seeing your son meltdown because he can’t communicate, struggle because he can’t understand that he has to wait or repeat a grade because he can’t figure out the work. All those things, though, can be worked through. Time passes. The problem is that it keeps passing, and, right now, there are very few options to help adults with disabilities.
Simon needs options. He needs someplace to live, someone to live with, something to do. What are these things? We have limited time to find out, and we’re racing towards the cliff of transitioning to adulthood. The drop is going to be steep.
M is for Manage
What keys to success can you leave with parents so that they can better manage their day to day efforts?
The most important thing to remember daily: you are the best at what you do. Yes, some days you may feel like you’re failing, but you’re not. Write it on your mirrors, paint it on your walls, make it the background of your phone. You are the best at what you do.
This article was featured in Issue 90 – Practical Ways to Build Skills for a Lifetime