This guest Q&A is with Mandy Farmer who is a blogger/author/advocate who writes for the blog From the Bowels of Motherhood. She and her husband have three kids under seven years old. Their middle son is on the autism spectrum. She writes about autism, motherhood and military family life. You can also find Mandy on Facebook here.
Hi Mandy! Can you tell us a bit about why you started blogging?
I began blogging as a form of catharsis and outlet while having two little boys 12 months apart with my husband deployed. I wanted to write about motherhood honestly and humorously, not the picture-perfect family life so many try to portray. As our youngest son’s sensory issues and autism became evident, the blog evolved into a place to share his struggles and triumphs and my fears and joys as an autism mom. I wanted the world to know what we were experiencing and I wanted others going through the same thing to know they were not alone.
Your blogs “Dear Teaches of the Little Ones with Special Needs” and “The two words you should say to someone facing an autism diagnosis” went viral! How was the response when both of those blogs were published?
The teacher post going viral was such a positive experience. Many of our past teachers that we had lost touch with contacted us and were so moved to know the difference they made. Seeing all of these amazing teachers being tagged, thanked and recognized throughout the special education world was a pretty awesome thing. The “I’m here” post seemed to resonate with a very wide audience (including people going through hard times outside of the autism community). It also opened up the dialogue and allowed people to tell their friends what they needed to hear to feel supported.
What would be a piece of advice you would give to families with a newly diagnosed child not only with autism but other special needs?
Any fear, anger or sadness you are feeling right now is okay to feel. That being said, the scariest part of facing a new diagnosis is the fear of the unknown. Know that your child is still the same person, but now you have the tools and the knowledge to support them in the best way possible. Right now you are probably experiencing shock and you may feel like your world has just been rocked, but there will come a time when this will just be your new normal and you will know it will be okay. Most importantly, find support and know that support will not always come in the form of an organized support group. Whether it’s the online community, a close-knit group of friends going through the same thing or just one great friend that will always listen, find your people!
A blog you wrote about the importance of teaching those with autism how to swim really touched us. What would you share to families looking towards swim lessons today?
Swimming is one of the only life skills that could save your child’s life. Teaching your autistic and typical children to swim is of vital importance. When looking for lessons, make sure the teacher has experience with special needs kids. If your child is anxious about putting their head under, make sure the instructor knows not to rush them, as this can be traumatizing and it can take years to undo such trauma. Always ask the teacher how many autistic children they have successfully taught to swim.
What’s next for you? Anything fun coming up?
I am currently writing a children’s book that works through special needs issues on a child’s level. It should be available for purchase by April of 2017. I’ll of course keep blogging in the meantime. Other than that, we are looking forward to a summer that doesn’t have us moving across the country.
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
I have been blown away by the support of our community. I am so grateful to my readers for giving me an audience and platform to discuss issues that are so important to me and so many others. We have come so far with regards to awareness and acceptance of those with autism, but we have so far to go. Autism families are much better supported than they were twenty years ago, but there are still so many without the understanding, support and services they need to help their children. We can do better. Every time you as a reader share my work and help educate others about autism, you are furthering our advocacy efforts. Thank you.
You can read more from Mandy at From the Bowels of Motherhood. Know of someone worthy of recognition for their work in our community? Contact us here and they could be featured!