Encouragement speaker Derrick Hayes gives an AUTISM Interview by asking six questions through each letter in the word AUTISM to offer readers an insightful perspective from parents, experts, entrepreneurs, and other leaders in the field.
John Hale was born in Dallas, TX. He is 52 years old and has a wife and three kids, all under five years. His daughter Rachel is a twin and she is autistic. John is involved in the Foundation for Fighting Blindness. He was voted a board member for Firefly Autism in April 2019 and loves participating in the organization. John enjoys the outdoors, hiking, traveling, fitness, and spending time with his family.
A is for Awareness – When and how did you first become aware that something was different?
When she was six months old, we noticed she did not make eye contact. At around 12-18 months we knew something was off and we looked for guidance and started researching how to get her evaluated.
U is for Unique – How has this experience been Unique for you and your child?
Rachel has taught me that which I take for granted. Moving in and out of transitions is easy for me, but can be uncomfortable for her. The anxiety causes her has taught me how to strategically plan for an outing, some as small as going to the store, others as big as a trip to grandma’s.
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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?
The key is doing your research. Raise your hand. Get and apply for CO Medicaid early. We used “Child Find” which is free until the child is three. This gave us a weekly touch-in with a speech and occupational therapist. Don’t be afraid to push for your child; you are his/her voice!
I is for Inspire – As a parent, when you look at your child or children, what inspires you?
Where do I begin? She is sweet, sensitive, and the things that bother me do not even phase her. I have learned to look at the world using her perspective, and it has taught me so much about human interaction.
She is a fighter. Her work ethic would put some working adults to shame. Early on she was getting 30 hours of ABA therapy and going to preschool 14 hours a week! She is also fiercely protective of her younger brother Max.
S is for Support – Are there things you struggle with or have struggled with, and what types of support do you still need?
Struggling is hard. It is also relative to where your child is in the cycle of things. Have they been diagnosed? Are you still waiting to get treatment? My advice is don’t wait, and you must do your research concerning programs and support groups.
I wish there were more parent groups that would collaborate and mentor each other. My wife and I started one, but there should be a central hub where we can all connect.
M is for Manage – What keys to success can you leave with parents so that they can better manage their day-to-day efforts?
Know that there will be good and bad days. Being flexible and understanding about where your child is on the spectrum (and fully understanding his/her progress in therapy) will help your mental state.
Try to not be too hard on yourself. Autism happened to your child, not you, so get over it! The sooner you move from: “I don’t know, maybe we wait, no, they are fine” to taking action is the smartest thing you will ever do for your child. Get him/her early intervention as soon as you can.
You are not alone. Fight for your child; you are their voice. Lay down your reservations or inhibitions about autism and focus on your child.
This article was featured in Issue 125 – Unwrapping ABA Therapy