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Amanda, the creator and writer for Life Is A Spectrum, began her blog as a way to interact with parents of autistic children, but has turned it into so much more.
What inspired you to start blogging?
I was a journalist and editor for over a decade before my kids were born, so writing has always been my outlet. But around the time of Billy’s autism diagnosis, I had stopped working. To be honest, I had almost stopped communicating with adults altogether.
I was looking for a way to deal with the stress and emotional overload of the “A-word” and I started writing, shared my words with a few people, and the idea of a blog came up. My husband is a web programmer, so he set up a page for me, and the results were an amazing surprise to me. I found a community of supportive parents, writers and friends with whom I’ve unexpectedly formed really strong bonds. We laugh — and occasionally cry — together, and since I started vlogging once a week, we can even have coffee together.
Our family joke is that I’ve made “over-sharing” my profession now.
How did you come up with the title of your blog?
I had been pondering the question of a good blog title, and then I wrote a blog post called “Life is a Spectrum” a couple of months ago to put our family philosophy about autism into words. My husband read it and said, “That’s your blog title.” And he was right. (Don’t tell him, but he usually is.)
Autism is described as “autism spectrum disorder” because those diagnosed can be described as “low functioning” to “high functioning” and everything in between. I think those labels makes these unique people sound a bit like household appliances, but it’s a way of describing the variation in communication challenges, social dysfunction, physical and emotional challenges that face autistic kids and adults.
Well, we’re all on a spectrum. “Normal” is certainly a spectrum. As is happiness and satisfaction and acceptance. From day to day, throughout life, depending upon what we’re dealing with, we slide back and forth across these spectrums and that’s OK. Our family lives with the autism spectrum every day, but we are on the joy spectrum most days too. And we’re very highly functioning on that one.
What message would you like to get out about autism?
A couple of things: First of all, there are as many ways to be autistic as there are to be human. Each autistic child and adult is unique. Their strengths, challenges, favorites, pet peeves are uniquely their own. In fact, uninhibited by social convention and unfazed by peer pressure, they often develop interests and hobbies that you’d never expect or make connections between thoughts and ideas that a neurotypical brain might not see. Rainman may or may not represent one person on the spectrum — but that character certainly isn’t representative of this fascinating population.
Secondly, there is real joy after autism diagnosis. Real joy. Not the oh-bless-them-they’re-making-the-best-of-it bargain basement kind of joy, but laugh-out-loud, gut-busting top shelf quality joy. In many ways, I feel like my capacity for joy, for recognizing its potential in small victories, expanded a hundred-fold when I became the mother of my mysterious and intriguing autistic child.
If I gave you $200 to go shopping for yourself what would you buy?
Ten hours of babysitting and five movies for myself and my husband! I’d leave the kids in the capable hands of our awesome babysitter, Shannon (and no, you can’t have her number: She’s MINE! All MINE!) who has this magical ability to transform both my children into adoring, obedient little cherubs — for her alone. And then Dave and I would decamp to a darkened theater … where we would probably fall asleep immediately.
Do you see more children in your future?
If you mean can I see them walking past our house with their bedraggled parents in tow, then, I suppose, yes. If you’re asking whether I can imagine starting over with pregnancy, middle-of-the-night feedings, potty training, etc., then I lose my breath in the speed with which I state most emphatically NO. Nada. Not a chance. With Willow’s birth, the ‘Feet family circle’ became complete.
I have so much respect for people with huge families, but parenthood has taught me a few important lessons. First of all, I like sleep. Secondly, children do not like sleep. Thirdly, when they get old enough to play ball with their dad in the yard, I get to sleep.
Love it! Be sure to give Amanda lots of comment love today and don’t forget, you have all week to enter and win in our Canon Rebel T2i Giveaway!
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