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Spring 2018 Issue 3

AMAB

April is Autism Awareness

AUTISM MOMS ARE BEAUTIFUL

Haley Ahart-Keiffer

Superlative, Divine & Benevolent

5 Ways

Autism Moms Can Relieve Stress at Home

PLUS, A CLOSER LOOK AT ZALYN'S BOULEVARD GO-TO STYLING TIPS



AMAB Editor-in-Chief Chief Advisor

Nichole Wilson Steve Levine

Creative Director

Nichole Wilson

Managing Editor

Ashlee Viesca

Style Editor

Nichole Wilson

Associate Editor

Jean TenBrink

Assistant Editor

Janley Coan

Editorial Assistant

Haley Ahart Keiffer

On the cover Model: Haley Ahart Keiffer Makeup: Camilia Wilson Photography by: Michelle Media www.bymichellemedia.com Clothing: Chloe Dao www.chloedao.com


Photography by: www.bymichellemedia.com

editor's note Autism Moms Are Beautiful is a magazine that reminds Autism Moms that they are not alone. Our goal is to inspire all of our readers. We appreciate the love and support from Autism Moms and the community. The theme of this issue is Devotion and Appreciation. Devotion is an essential tool in staying encouraged and uplifted. At the same time, appreciation is the backbone in building lasting friendships while bringing acknowledgment to oneself. We must continue to stay strong for our little ones. By doing this, we let everyone know that Autism Moms Are Beautiful, and we rock the universe!

Nichole Wilson EDITOR-IN-CHIEF ZALYN'S INCORPORATED

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Marilyn Hatton - Autism Mom

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The Decaf Segment

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Haley Keiffer- Cover Story

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Christal Mercier- Hair Dreams

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Zalyn's Boulevard

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Creators Corner

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5 Ways- Relieve Stress

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Jan Hargrave- Body Talk

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Joseph Gonzales- Autism Dad

AMAB P.O. Box 841428 Pearland, Texas 77584 www.amabeautiful.org autismmomsarebeautiful@gmail.com


Sirod Alfre

www.sirodalfre.com IG:sirodalfre


him at the age of five. NW: After realizing your son was Deaf, when did you recognize he was Autistic? MH: I’ve known since he was five that he had some behavioral issues. It took a lot of testing and counseling until we were told at the age of nine that he was on the Autism Spectrum. NW: How did you feel, as a mom, knowing your son was both Autistic and Deaf?

Makeup: Camilia Wilson, Photography: www.bymichellemedia.com Interviewer: Nichole Wilson

Marilyn Elaine Jones-Hatton As an Autism mom, it was great interviewing Marilyn Elaine Jones-Hatton. Our paths crossed almost 20 years ago while taking courses at Houston Community College. We both love Deaf Individuals and American Sign Language (ASL) is dear to our hearts. Marilyn's son is Autistic and is also Deaf. Nichole Wilson: When did you recognize Michael was Deaf? Marilyn Hatton: Michael was born Deaf, and we knew this when we started the process to adopt

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MH: Knowing that Michael was Deaf was easy for me because God had shown me that I would have a deaf child long before Michael was born. It prepared me for the journey of having a deaf child, but learning that he was on the Autism Spectrum with Aspergers was challenging yet enlightening. It was challenging because I then had to deal with my feeling of guilt concerning the way I had previously disciplined my son. However, it was enlightening because I now had an explanation for the meltdowns, self-inflicted pain, and other behavioral concerns. NW: How was your experience with the school district? MH: Each school district has been a different experience. Houston ISD worked with me a lot because I was an employee of the district, and they were aware that my husband and I were in the process of adopting Michael. They were supportive in many ways. Katy ISD was quite challenging, and I had to bring in advocates as well as hire an attorney to advocate for my son and get them to do what they had signed off on doing in the ARD meetings. So, after two years of constant battles, we chose to unenroll him and sent him to Texas School for the Deaf. TSD has been challenging, but it's been the best academic decision

we could have made for our son. We've seen vast improvements in his learning as well as his signing skills. We’re always going to do what's in the best interest of our son. NW: Did Michael learn oral or sign language? MH: Michael has been educated in Total Communication, which is signing and speaking simultaneously, but he's straight ASL (American Sign Language). However, he has always received speech therapy since entering Kindergarten. He is encouraged to use his voice as well as write notes to communicate with hearing people who don't know sign language. NW: Did you feel overwhelmed at times? MH: Yes, and even now, I sometimes feel overwhelmed. Life is a constant battle. You have to know which battles are worth fighting with your child, your family, and the school district. NW: What do you do to help stay calm and relieve stress in your life? MH: I pray and read my Bible a lot. I also spend time with family and friends. At times, a glass of wine and a bubble bath are the order of the day. NW: What advice can you give other Moms who are raising a deaf or hard of hearing child on the Autism Spectrum? MH: Learn your child, and do what's best for your child. Don't allow others to dictate what's best for your situation. No two children are the same. What works best for you and your particular child is what's best. Period!


Autism Moms Rock "I'VE GOT THERAPIES ARDs IEPs SENSORY CHILD IS PICKY MOMMA'S BUSY FRIENDS ARE IFFY. I'M AN AUTISM MOM AND I ROCK!"

Nichole Wilson

photography by: www.bymichellemedia.com

Autism Moms Rock Written by: Nichole Wilson Produced by: Dahrk SIty www.nicholewilson.com


The Decaf Segment

I THINK YOU’RE WRONG ABOUT HIM/HER BEING AUTISTIC? How many Autism Moms are tired of hearing this? This is how we really want to respond: So I woke up one morning and decided to label my child autistic! You figured that out by spending how many minutes with my child? Really! Where did you get your degree from? My normal is not your normal. Autistic doesn't mean stupid! When you remove the limitation you raise the individual.

Created by: Janley Coan 7


Haley AhartKeiffer

Autism to me means the journey will be different, but it will be beautiful! The diagnosis of Autism has so many different levels and not one autistic child can be categorized with another.

Superlative, Divine & Benevolent Makeup: Camilia Wilson, Photography: bymichellemedia.com, Interviewer: Nichole Wilson , Clothing by: Chloe Dao

Haley Ahart-Keiffer is filled with devotion and is respected by many in the Autism community. Haley has been an inspiration to me and a great mentor. Her charisma and sincerity is known worldwide and left lasting impressions in the community and the various boards she sit on. Haley Keiffer is an Autism Mom who Rocks and I am so excited to share her story with other Autism Moms! Nichole Wilson: What does Autism mean to you? Haley Keiffer: Autism to me means the journey will be different, but it will be beautiful! The diagnosis of Autism has so many different levels and not one autistic child can be categorized with another. You cannot just look at a kid and see autism like you would with other

diagnoses. Every child has different experiences with their diagnosis, which is why society struggles to understand. NW: How old was your child when she was diagnosed with Autism? HK: Macy was first diagnosed with Autism at 6 years old. NW: What is your preference, Autism or Autistic? HK: I personally do not have a preference for that. To me, Autism is the diagnosis, and Autistic is an identifier for the person. NW: How does your child communicate with you?

HK: We are blessed that Macy is verbal. However, during her meltdowns, we have had to learn how to communicate with her through her sensory overload moments with music. Music will always calm Macy down in ways that are indescribable. This is why we created "Music Monday's" for Macy's Miracles to help other children be able to express themselves through music. NW: What activities does your child enjoy? HK: Macy loves to sing! She also enjoys riding horses and working with her Macy's Miracles nonprofit. Her newest favorite thing to do is riding her bike. 8


I never knew the world even existed the way it did until I was able to see it from Macy's eyes. NW: As an Autism Mom, how do you feel in regards to being an Autism Mom? HK: I feel blessed beyond measure that God saw in me the abilities and worth to be the mother of one of his earth angels. I never knew pure love until I was able to receive it from Macy. I never knew the world even existed the way it did until I was able to see it from Macy's eyes. Even though I am Macy's mom, in more ways than I can count, she is the one who teaches me every day. She has shown me tolerance, beauty, love, and most of all, empathetic understanding! NW: What struggles have you had in the past? HK: I am the mother of four beautiful children. My oldest has had three heart surgeries by the age of 20. Macy has her own complex medical needs due to her Chromosome 17 partial deletion, Rare Epilepsy, and Autism. My youngest son was born at 25 weeks gestation and had to be hospitalized for 111 days. I do have to say though my greatest challenges have invested in me the greatest strength. NW: Tell me about Macy’s Miracles. HK: Macy’s Miracles is a special needs nonprofit we founded with our daughter, Macy. When I was told the best my child would ever do was wiping tables at McDonalds or greeting people at Walmart, I couldn't accept that. I knew there was more potential in Macy!


Sassy

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Teen Magazine

Haley's Corner

Millions Against Bullying is a Global Non-Profit designed to create "Safe Zones" globally and will be building call centers strategically across the US starting in 2019!  MABWOW partnered with Macy's Miracles to create special needs antibullying initiatives on both state and federal levels.  With the heartbreaking statics of 85% of our Special Needs Children are bullied and have a much higher suicide rate due to the bullying.

cont. on page 20


We created a threefold nonprofit which focuses on: STEM for kids and adults with disabilities. Special Needs Entrepreneurial and Mentorship Program. Anti-Bullying Initiatives within the Special Needs Community-partnered with Millions Against Bullying.

In 2017, we added "Music Mondays", in which Macy, her Poppy, country music singer, Seth Keiffer, and sister, Gracie Keiffer, travel within the community and sing at different restaurants to promote inclusion. Macy's favorite place to sing is "The Lost Cajun" in Humble, Texas. In 2018, Macy's Miracles is working on securing the funding for the first ACE (Adaptive Center Of Excellence) facility. It will have a state of the art Special Olympic Indoor Equestrian Center along with a complete work trade based mentorship program. NW: What do you do for fun? HK: I love to travel and make memories with my family! NW: To relieve stress, what do you do? HK: I have found the best way for me to decompress is doing daily prayer walks where I spend an hour silencing the world and raising the volume of God's voice. This has helped me greatly! NW: What advice can you give other Autism Moms? HK: My greatest advice to other Autism Moms is to find the beauty in the journey! Know that not everyone will understand the journey, and some may even judge your journey. However, God chose you to bare, love, and invest life into your child. He trusted you with this! Find out what creates the sparkle within your child and build on that. Become a champion ambassador for that. When you can pull that out of your child, you end up pulling something greater out of yourself!

My greatest advice to other Autism Moms is to find the beauty in the journey! Know that not everyone will understand the journey, and some may even judge your journey.


Autism Services and Behavior Therapy at The Shape of Behavior, we understand how much the little things matter.  It is our mission to provide treatment based on empirically validated ABA principles and shape behavior by celebrating small, everyday successes. The Shape provides applied behavior analysis (ABA), behavioral services and autism therapy. Not only do we work to help improve the quality of life for the children and families we serve, but we also conduct research in order to support and advance the field of behavior analysis.

The Shape of Behavior 12941 North Freeway Ste. 750 Houston, TX 77060 www.shapeofbehavior.com 832-358-2655


Our fifth anniversary of Holiday of Hope will be held on November 30, 2018 at 7:00p.m. at the Sugar Creek Country Club, 420 Sugar Creek Boulevard, Sugar Land, Texas 77478. www.hairdreamsbychristal.org

Creating the perfect hairstyle comes naturally to Christal Mercier. She’s been styling for over 30 years. With phenomenal work and a loving heart, Christal provides ways to help her clients feel confident and beautiful. This brings great joy to her life. I am so excited to share her story. Ashlee Viesca: Hair by Christal was established when? Christal Mercier: Hair by Christal was established over 30 years ago. Our primary focus is to give our clients a healthy head of hair while looking fabulous and flawless.

Christal Mercier Interviewed by: Ashlee Viesca

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AV: What inspired you to create Hair Dreams? CM: I was inspired to seek specialized training in hair replacement systems when my sister, Timothy, fondly known as Dena began losing her hair due to chemical negligence and later chemotherapy treatments. Before

she passed away, I promised her that I would give others that suffer from hair loss, like her, the opportunity to feel good about themselves with the illusion of hair restoration. In 2008, I founded Hair Dreams by Christal, Inc. —a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that provides services free of charge to those that are underprivileged. Our motto is: "You might be sick, but you don't have to look sick. You can have hair loss, and no one has to know it." AV: What obstacles and challenges did you face to get to where you are now? CM: Inadequate funding has been my greatest challenge. The biggest obstacle is that most people don’t understand that hair is not all about vanity. It has a lot to do with mental health and low self-esteem. There are many reasons for hair loss. I have the desire and passion to help rebuild confidence and restore self-esteem to those that suffer from hair loss. No matter how many no's I get, I never give up! I have a God-given talent


and I love to share it with others. AV: When did Holiday of Hope start? CM: Holiday of Hope started in 2013. This year is our tenth anniversary of Hair Dreams by Christal. Our fifth anniversary of Holiday of Hope will be held on November 30, 2018, at 7:00 p.m. at the Sugar Creek Country Club, 420 Sugar Creek Boulevard, Sugar Land, Texas 77478. AV: I’m sure you have inspired many, but how does it make you feel to know you have changed the lives of so many? CM: It just motivates me to want to do more to help those in need. During Hurricane Harvey, I volunteered and saw a great need of grooming for men, women, and children. That's when Gallery of Salons Rescue Team was formed. We provided dry shampoos, haircuts, braids, combs, and brushes to those that were displaced. Another motto of ours is: "You may have gone through the storm, but you don't have to look like you've been through a storm." AV: What is your goal for Hair Dreams? CM: Hair Dreams goal for the future is to be able to assist and donate our services. We are looking for people to partner with us in order to be a blessing to those that need us.


Zalyn's Boulevard

Everywhere you go remember its okay to rip the runway while walking the mall, down the hall, on the side walk or even to the mail box!Â

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Creators Corner Daphne Mallory & Sabya Clarke

Do you ever wish you could go back in time and hold conversations with your younger self? Steering my daughter in the right direction and helping her avoid the same pitfalls is a priority. I know that as a parent, that’s exactly what you want for your children. One of the most effective ways to do this is to have open conversations. That’s why I’m sharing conversations with my oldest daughter, Sabya Clarke, in “Creators Corner.” Every month, we’ll talk about anything and everything related to creativity. I want her to be rich: rich in spirit, ideas, options, self-worth, friends, projects, contracts, real estate, cryptocurrency, dollars, investors, and loyal fans (she’s a virtual reality and audio drama director in Los Angeles). It’s going to take creativity in today’s world for all of us to make our dreams a reality. That’s why we’re sharing our conversations with you here. It’s going to be raw, truthful and fun. So..let’s go! CONVERSATION: Ideas for Making Money LOCATION: The Kitchen Sabya: You know, people tell me I have all the time in the world. I’m 18. Live a little! Well, I’d like to think that I am living. I have a cool job, working for myself no less. I hang around pretty interesting people.

Sabya: You know that’s one of the main reasons I’ve heard more people don’t start their own businesses. It’s hard to quit your job and work for yourself if you don’t believe you have a winning idea that can make you money.

Daphne: ...

Daphne: Yeah. But also, the idea of taking a financial risk, and there is some when you're starting a business, is hard for parents, especially when you're caring for children on or off the autism spectrum.

Sabya: Yeah it is. In fact, you don’t even have to do it yourself. You could run a business like Rent-AMourner in the U.K. that supplies the professional mourners and will charge from $60-$1000 per funeral, depending on the frenzied antics of the hired grieving.

Daphne: However, the harder life gets, the more creative we become. The good news is, there are people out there making money with the weirdest (at least to some) ideas. They're living proof that you can make money doing just about anything.

Daphne: What?

Sabya: Okay…

Sabya: How cool is that? Think about it mom, you could start charging me for our morning snuggles!

Daphne: What else do you have? Are people really making money with these crazy ideas? Because if they are, we have no excuse.

Daphne: Huh. Who says I don't? Sabya: Is that why I've been doing way more errands than usual? Daphne: Yup. But a professional cuddle just doesn't sound safe. Give the readers another one. A good one.

Daphne: What is that?

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Sabya: Security in a church mom? Daphne: Girl, we’re dreaming big over here.

Sabya: Well… yeah. The real nerdy types, you know? Or just downright weird depending on who you ask.

Daphne: And a good strategy, plus the belief that you’re worthy of making money...lots of it!

Daphne: I wonder what experience differentiates the $60 mourner from the $1,000 mourner? If you hire one for me, I want them to sing and sob so loud, security has to drag them out.

Sabya: Like....a professional cuddle?

Sabya: Fine. Since we're on cuddly stuff. How about a cat cafe owner?

Sabya: But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Let’s just say my business is an unusual one. First, because it’s VR, and second (my favorite) because my business partner is my wonderful mother People aren’t really sure if either of those will work out. But that’s what they said about the Internet, Amazon, Google and Youtube. Yes, I’m an Internet dependent by-product of Generation Z. Don’t judge me mom. My point is: You can make a business with just about any idea. All you need is creativity.

Daphne: That’s not real.

Sabya: That's true.

Daphne: Interesting? Is that the word we’re using now?

Daphne: Ask me. I’ll tell you.

Sabya: Get it!

Sabya: Yes they are. Do you know you can freelance as a fortune cookie writer? That would be so cool. Knowing that somewhere in the world a worn out college kid on his 2nd take out meal is reading your wise words and taking them to heart. Daphne: Huh. That would be an interesting way to make money and spread a message. Do you know what I would write? Sabya: Oh boy. What?

Sabya: It's a place that sells coffee, and lets you cuddle cats. Imagine: "I'll take a caramel frap and a cuddle with a shelter kitten." It's a win-win! Daphne: That's interesting. Someone is making money and doing good at the same time? That's being a social entrepreneur.

Daphne: If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. Sabya: Okay? That’s a bit long but… Daphne: You have to stand out Sabya! And you do remember where that’s from, right? Sabya: (sigh) Yes mom, The Art of War by Sun Tzu.

Sabya: What about making money as a professional mourner? Does that count as social entrepreneurship? Daphne: What in the world? Where did you find that one? Sabya: All those research skills you taught me mom. I'm putting it to good use. Some people are making money in a market that never dry out...

Daphne: That’s my girl. Sabya: Moving right along. Since we’re on the subject of food. What about pet food? You know someone has to taste test that stuff, right? Daphne: I’m sorry? Sabya: Yeah, people actually get paid good


money to eat dog, cat, and even rabbit food, and then write up reports about taste, nutrition-

Daphne: That’s right. And if you can do it with your family, even better.

Daphne: Girl bye!

Sabya: So get started with your own, go-getter readers. One person’s crazy dream is another one’s multi-million dollar idea.

Sabya: Cats really are taking over the world. They’ve convinced humans to taste their food first. Daphne: And build cafes apparently. Sabya: So true.. Anyway, my point is, you really can launch your own business and it really can be anything you want!

Daphne: …? Sabya: Never mind. So mom, what are we going to do today? Daphne: Same thing we do everyday Sabya...try to take over the world.

Daphne: Lay a good foundation now. With the right planning and creativity to start something even with little money, you could go all the way up. Sabya: “Nothing can stop me, I’m all the way up!”

5 Ways

Haley's Corner

Autism Moms Can Relieve Stress at Home

Ruminate Peace Think deeply or focus one's mind for a period of time, in silence. Find a quiet space in your home to free your mind.

Calming Tea When its time to lay down for bed, the body must be at a relaxed state in order to enjoy that much needed sleep. Allow calming tea to soothe your soul.

Steamy Hot Bath Your body needs everlasting hydration. Add drops of Lavender to relieve stress while relaxing your soul.

Laughing Life is bright when laughter is involved. Joy is beautiful and humor is gorgeous. Laughter lowers blood pressure while reducing stress hormones. Let laughter control your day!

Exercise Physical activity is great for the mind and body. Finding some moments to exercise will reduce stress.

www.macysmiracles.net


Jan Hargrave LET ME SEE YOUR BODY TALK Think that when your friends say, “Does this outfit look good on me” that’s all she means. According to body language, this question, and the answer, is quite complicated. Words comprise only 7% of our communication; the other 93% consists of body language. Your lips say, “Yes, yes, yes,” but your eyes say, “No, no, no.” Body language covers the infinite range of facial and body movements, including the countless ways to smile, to walk, to manipulate your eyes, to move your hands and arms. We draw messages from body language, whether it’s the “no” that a shake of the head conveys, the “I’m not interested” that a turning away of the head can suggest, or the “keep talking, I’m listening” that a tilt of the head implies. Sometimes the messages are conveyed through deliberate, conscious gestures; other times, our bodies talk without our even knowing. But conscious or not, our body language helps us portray a wide range of feelings, including confidence, enthusiasm, boredom, amusement, impatience, fatigue, concentration, interest, puzzlement, and embarrassment. Hence, learning to read another’s body language (and getting in touch with your own) can give you the lead in really connecting with others. The manner in which a person moves his arms, his legs, his head, or his entire body reveals much about his inner thoughts and feelings. People who stand erect are noticeably more confident and more comfortable than those who slouch or shift their body weight from one

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foot to another. Upon greeting a person, eye contact is the strongest of the nonverbal gestures. Direct eye contact indicates that you are listening to the other person, is a clear way to show interest in another person, and is a good test of honesty. If someone cannot look another person dead in the eye, then he is probably not playing straight. When the eyes act in concert with other parts of the face, communication becomes increasingly unambiguous. Pleasure widens the eyes and is usually accompanied by a smile. Surprise sends the eyebrows skyward and widens the gaze. Despair hoods the eyes, makes the mouth droop, and often causes the entire body to slump. Like the eyes, the smile is remarkably varied. The authentically happy smile involves the entire face. It flashes both upper and lower teeth and is accompanied by open eyes (crinkles and all) and relaxed brows. Your genuine smile is a strong indication that you are friendly; possess an open attitude and a willingness to communicate. An insincere smile, also known as the “just to be polite” smile, is accomplish when only the top teeth appear and the upper lip is drawn tightly across the face. Frowns are visible when the corners of the mouth turn downward. Hand movements are another area where there is common understanding of the action. Shake your fist, and everyone realizes that you’re angry. Rub your palms together, and you’re probably anticipating something good. Rub your palms and the back of your hands, and you’re probably just cold. Point and you are signaling a direction. Point a finger at someone, and you’re making an accusation. Fidgeting is a sign of

nervousness. When you are confident, your hand gestures are smooth and deliberate. When a person brings a hand up to his mouth while talking, it is a gesture that conveys an unconscious admission of doubt or that there’s something being concealed. A hand to the throat usually indicates some uncertainty about the words being spoken. During negotiations it would be wise not to overtly cover your mouth while speaking. One of the most clearly recognized expressions of body language is the handshake, but there is more to a handshake than a firm grip and a dry palm. You can deliver three messages with your handshake—cooperation, domination or submission—depending on how you shake someone’s hand. The “I’m-equalwith-you grip” is accomplished by shaking hands with the same pressure as your companion and by keeping the hands in a vertical position during the handshake. The “take-charge grip” is accomplished when your palm faces down, or is downward relative to the other person. To convey a willingness to give in, offer your hand with the palm facing upward. This “give-in grip” lets others know that you will act on his or her orders and that you are willing to help in any way that you can. Open posture is demonstrated by keeping your arms uncrossed and placing yourself within communicating distance of the other person. Open posture sends out the clear signals of sincerity, receptivity and concern. When arms are crossed, it signals that you are opposed or not interested in what you are hearing. Your crossed arms serve as a barrier


indicating to others that, “You want to think the way you think, and that you don’t care how the other person thinks or feels.” A forward lean is another part of the open posture. When a person leans back with his hands behind his head in the “thinking” pose, it gives off a signal of judgment, skepticism, and boredom. Anchoring, touching another on the forearm or elbow during the handshake, is most acceptable in our culture. It tells another that you are “fully present in the

conversation. Be the first to extend your hand in greeting. Add this to a friendly “hello,” a nice smile, and your name and you have made the first steps to open the channels of communication. Learning a few simple body language signals can help you appear confident, credible, friendly, and helpful. Also, by learning to read body language, you can readily discover the needs and desires of all of your friends and collogues without them saying a word. Having this knowledge during conversations is key to

improving your “it factor;” “your charismatic self.” Charisma isn’t based on physical features; it has to do with your “emotional communication and emotional expressiveness” skills. Picking up signals that people are giving, whether they’re verbal, physical, emotional or psychological through their nonverbal communication makes them feel good, makes them feel included, and makes them feel connected to you. This connectedness is what leads to long-lasting relationships.

www.janhargrave.com


Autism Dad's Rock

Joseph Gonzalez

Joseph Gonzalez: I was very excited to be a father and knew it was going to be a journey. I’m very close to my father, and I wanted to bring up my child with the same ideals and outlook on life that my father bestowed upon me. I felt like I could plan every part of his childhood in my head and give him a wonderful upbringing.

Interviewed by: Jean TenBrink

Joseph Gonzalez is an Autism Dad who Rocks. On a weekly bases, I enjoy watching the progress his son Joey is making with his academics, communication and socially. Seeing life through Joseph's eyes was so beautiful and I hope his story will encourage other Autism Dads in knowing they are not alone. Jean TenBrink: When you found out you were going to be a father how did you feel? 23

JT: When your little one was born, what exciting things did you do as a father that you never thought you would do? JG: I certainly did not think I would be responsible for every facet of his life like his diet, entertainment, and upbringing. Most typical children are able to project their feelings in a way that would steer you to their likes and away from their dislikes. With Joey, we try new things and take the good and bad


5th birthday, we got him a tent construction kit. He loves to have me build him different varieties of tents, so he can play with his toys or just lay in there. We are considering looking into a special needs Tee Ball team because he does so well when things are structured. We feel that it would help him developmentally, and it also would be fun to see him in a cool uniform! JT: I enjoy watching the videos on the progress your son is making. How do you and Kasey work together to keep him on the right path? JG: We try to treat him like a typical child and never hold out on anything for him. He is constantly surprising us with things he likes, so we go with the flow on that. It is never really a thought on how we want to raise him or to keep him in line. He is very loving and outgoing. So, we don’t want to suppress that part of his personality because, when he grows up and his condition becomes more noticeable, those key parts of his identity will help to balance it out. JT: When your son makes progress how does it make you feel?

and learn from each experience. I would say that is the most exciting part. JT: When did you find out your son was diagnosed with Autism? JG: We received his diagnosis on or near his 3rd birthday. Although, we did suspect it sooner than that because he was not progressing along with other children in his same age group. JT: What activities do you do with your son? JG: Currently, he is enrolled in swim class, in which he is making great progress. For his

JG: Like any parent, watching your child progress is a wonderful feeling. We have also come to the realization that sometimes he will also regress, so we temper our excitement internally a bit in that respect. One thing we will always continue to do though is to praise his accomplishments loudly and wildly, so he knows every small step forward is a milestone in his development. JT: What advice can you give other Autism Dads? JG: I would say that sometimes it might seem unfair that all the hopes and dreams you had for your child might not go as planned, but keep giving your child everything you can for them. Take them on trips, try new things, and never discount doing anything with them because our children are full of surprises for us!


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Spring 2018

Movies to see

Take some time for YOURSELF and enjoy a movie or two!


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PEONY • 4



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