#078: Autism Success Story with Michelle C.

autism success story

After hearing in my online community about the remarkable progress that Michelle’s daughter, Elena, made in only six weeks, I knew I had to interview her. She is a true autism success story! At 24 months, Elena only had two words, and she didn’t associate any meaning with either word. She had had six words, but her language had begun to regress. By February of 2020, Elena’s pediatrician gave her an autism diagnosis based almost solely on her severe language delay, and Michelle thought she would never hear her daughter speak.

As Michelle tried to organize specialists to help her daughter, the world started to shut down for the pandemic, and Michelle didn’t know how she was going to get help for Elena. That’s when she saw my online courses and purchased them. Instead of being a curse, the shutdown became a blessing for Michelle and her family as they began to implement my strategies in their home.

Michelle’s story is so amazing because of how much progress her daughter was able to make in such a short amount of time. My courses were like the key that unlocked the floodgates of language inside of Elena, and I just feel so honored to be a part of that.

Michelle caught the developmental delays in the nick of time, and now she’s empowered to address any other issues that might come up in her family. She can be an advocate because she now has tools to help her speak up for her daughter, and Elena is able to communicate her needs to them.

I want you to know that there is always hope, no matter what your situation is. Learning more will help you not only with your child who is affected by autism or other delays, but it will help your marriage, with your other kids, and with your professional life.

TODAY’S GUEST

Michelle C. is an autism mom that has been in my online courses and community since February 2020 when her 2-year-old daughter, Elaina, was diagnosed with autism. At the time of her diagnosis, Michelle’s daughter was functioning at the level of a 0-3 month old child for expressive language. Within 3 months of working only within my online courses, Elaina is saying over 500 hundred words. At her recent language evaluation, Michelle’s daughter was found to not only be caught up, but to be at a 30-month-old level for expressive language.

YOU’LL LEARN

  • Why early diagnosis is so important.
  • How tongue-ties and language regression can be early signs of autism.
  • Michelle’s story of hope and how the COVID shutdown ended up blessing her.
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Transcript for Podcast Episode: 078
Autism Success Story with Michelle C.
Hosted by: Dr. Mary Barbera

Mary: You're listening to another episode of The Turn Autism Around podcast. I'm your host, Dr. Mary Barbera, and I am thrilled that you're here. I have a special interview today with a mom, Michelle C. from Michigan. And Michelle is in my online courses and community only since February of 2020 when her firstborn daughter was diagnosed with autism around the age of two. At that point, she had a standardized speech evaluation which showed that she was functioning at a zero to three-month-old baby level for expressive language.

Mary: And within three months of working only within my online courses, her daughter is now saying hundreds, over five hundred words. She's putting words together. And her most recent speech evaluation showed that she was not only caught up, but at a 30-month-old level for expressive language. So within three months, she's made this remarkable transformation. So today I am interviewing Michelle C. about her daughter's regression, her diagnosis of autism and the miraculous progress she's made using the Turn Autism Around strategies. So help me welcome Michelle C..

Mary: So let's start at the beginning when you first started. You know, describe your fall into the autism world.

Michelle: Yes, absolutely. You know, at Elaina's 18-month appointment, she had three words. She didn't have six words. They were like, well, you know, technically she's delayed. I would recommend early on services because she only has three words. The minimum that she should have right now is six. And I said, you know, I said, she'll catch up. Stop trying to cram all kids into this little milestone box. You know, I thought, in my head, I just thought that it wasn't a big deal. I thought she would catch up. And it was my husband actually, who said, please we should get her early on tested. We should get her in these early on services because, you know, speech is important. And I know it is, but I know she will catch up. I know tons of children who didn't start talking until two and a half and they're perfectly fine now. And so I blew it off and I shouldn't have.

Mary: What is your husband's background and what was your background?

Michelle: And that's really embarrassing. My husband is a police officer and I'm a teacher, so I'm a high school teacher. I teach history. So that was the embarrassing part, is that I should have known better, but I have the mom blinders on and I thought she would catch up. I said she's so smart, she can point out every letter of the alphabet. I mean, at 18 months of age, she picked up things so quick, she just didn't utter a word. So I just thought, well, she's learning. So, you know, I mean, if she was just completely new, you know, or just completely unresponsive, then maybe I would have been more concerned.

Mary: But at that point, was anybody saying autism or are you thinking anything about autism at that point?

Michelle: At 18 months, no. We were a little concerned about her toe walking. She walked on her toes a lot. And my pediatrician actually was not concerned about that aspect of it at all. She was more concerned about her speech and the fact that she didn't have any. And I was more concerned about the fact that she was toe walking, walking because she would curl her toes completely under and walk on those toes. So I was just like, wow, you know, what's happening here. But the speech thing I never really was concerned about and I never thought autism. That word never crossed my mind. My husband brought it up.

Michelle: So kind of like your story a little bit. Your husband brought it up to you. And I was like, what? You know, I said, Ray. I've had autistic students before and she's not that. But around Christmas time, she was 22 months old. And that was around the birth of my second daughter, who is now five months old. And Elaina started to develop some spending habits and there was still no language. She was twenty-two months old and she didn't utter a word. She didn't have any language at all. And we started noticing a steep decline. She wouldn't look at you. She wouldn't point. She didn't respond to her name at all. And her attention span was nothing. She didn't stay with an activity for very long. She was very addicted to the screen. She watched on a show called Little Baby Bomb, and she never wanted to watch a different show. Just the same shows. And honestly, like, she had her favorite episodes and that's all she wanted to watch.

Michelle: So she's always been so socially anxious, too. So at that point, you know, we started to think, you know, maybe we should just bring her around other kids more. She'll forget about this show. She'll talk maybe because, you know, maybe she just needs more friends. And that way the language will come out. And I talked to a family gathering and it became blatantly obvious when the other children who were about her age, there was just such a huge social, emotional difference. And, you know, they were talking and they were Elaina had a complete and utter meltdown at this place. She and by meltdown, I mean, it wasn't a sensory meltdown, I don't think, but it could have been some sensory issues.

Michelle: But I think it was mostly I took my phone away because I didn't want her to watch videos of this family gathering. I wanted her to go play with the other kids. She got so upset when I took that phone away. She was covered in scratches, like laying on the restaurant floor, just screaming, kicking her shoes off. It was at that point I was like, I need to get her evaluated. I was wrong. Something is happening here that isn't right. And it was just such a crushing day. It was January 12th of this year. I'll remember the date forever that I realized something that she had something going on.

Michelle: And sure enough, a couple days later we took her to our pediatrician and her pediatrician said, I think this is autism. I'm very worried. I think she has really severe developmental delays. And, you know, she was in a very bad state a few months ago before I took your course. And my family doesn't even recognize her now.

Mary: Yeah. So is the same pediatrician. That's all her basically around January 12th that saw her at the 18-month visit. But it sounds like she also regressed. Was there any was there any blame on. It sounds very similar to my story because I had Spencer and then all of a sudden he didn't react to the baby at all. And, you know, he wanted to watch a lot of TV and he became addicted to his pacifier. And then some people would say, well, it's the new baby and you're not giving him enough attention. And it's winter time. And the whole, you can try to spin it any which way. And it's confusing.

Michelle: It is. My daughter was also very addicted to her pacifier. I managed to wean her off of it myself at 20 months, when she was 20 months old. But before that, she had to have all the time. She did not want to give it up. You know, and she always struggled at social gatherings. Always, always, always. Whenever there is other adult attention on her. Even now, that's still my really big struggle with her. And so many things. But socially, she was always a struggle. The pacy was something she was very addicted to until I weaned her off at 20 months. And that was like a three-week process for me. It took a while.

Mary: Yeah. Were you working full time as a teacher or were you off at this point?

Michelle: I was working part time last year. I was part time and she was with her for the afternoon because my husband works the opposite shift that I do. So Elaina was always only with one parent.

Mary: And I think that sometimes, you know, another similarity is both. But it was our first born. So we're like, well, maybe this is just a phase. And then I'm pregnant and then I have the baby. And then also not being enrolled in daycare or preschool. It makes it more obvious sooner because the preschool or daycare's have checklists. And if your child is not playing or not drinking out of an open cup or not following directions in circle time, not able to move to the classroom B of the three year olds or the two year olds, I think developmental delays get flagged sooner in most cases, especially if it's significant delays. But you can see and I talk about this a lot, I did a video blog and a podcast on autism regression. And in Lucas's case, he regressed as well. And that makes it super confusing because 18 months ago, the pediatrician was just worried that she had three words. Then all of a sudden now she doesn't have three words anymore or you can't get them out. And now she's having severe tantrums and she has, you know, social issues. And it can get very confusing. OK. So how did you get her diagnosed so quickly at two years of age?

Michelle: I was lucky in that regard. My mother in law, my husband's mother, well, I should say my husband's brother has cerebral palsy. So my husband's mother has connections with all of these doctors and all of these parents with children with disabilities because, you know, she established those relationships throughout my husband's brother's life. So my mother in law was able to connect me with a pediatric neurologist in Detroit, you know, closer to me. And he couldn't see me until this month originally. But then, you know, my mother in law kind of begged him because she knew him personally. She said, please see my granddaughter. She has something going on. They need help now. Our insurance didn't cover ABA services unless we have a full diagnosis. So we saw a pediatric neurologist on February 14th. And he said, I would like a provisional diagnosis of autism. But because you need services right now, I will give you that full diagnosis.

Michelle: I'm comfortable enough with what I'm seeing to give you a diagnosis of autism, because at that point, Elaina still didn't have any words at all. And she was very, very stemmy in the office. Fortunately, she didn't cry in that office. Which is very unusual. At a medical clinic, she's normally just a complete crying mess at medical clinics. But she was actually quite happy. But in her happiness, she was anxious, though, and she was very stemmy. Feeling the walls, feeling his pants. You know, very observant of everything. But just didn't act like a like a regular neurotypical three-year-old. And so he was comfortable enough with what he saw to diagnose her with autism. He said, though, the first thing he noticed was a language disorder is what he noticed first. And that terrified me. I thought I was never going to hear a word out of her mouth. I thought she would never speak again.

Mary: And she was right around the age of two at this point. And this is just in February of2020. So then as the world shut down right after the diagnosis, the ABA treatment that you were standing in line for, suddenly disappeared.

Michelle: Yes, it did. I spent the entire month of February on the phone trying to organize care for Elaina. And little by little, each institution called me and shut it down. They canceled her speech, her OT, ABA therapy. She was almost within two weeks of getting in clinic for ABA therapy and that was put on hold. So I was just crushed. And I still feel like sometimes the world is just against my poor child.

Michelle: I was crushed. But then I found your course and I truly and I might start crying. I never thought she would speak to me at all. I heard that language disorder and I thought I would never hear her say anything with meaning. She said, Mom, but if I ask her who I was, she couldn't tell me. The pediatrician would ask where we were and like, where's mommy, where's daddy? And she didn't point to us. She'd look at us. But she didn't point. You know, I just didn't know what the future held for her, and I still don't. And that part's very hard. But now I know she can. She has language capabilities. She's tongue tied. But a lot of her languages is understandable by strangers.

Mary: So she is tongue tied. Did you get her tongue clipped?

Michelle: I did not. I was, in fact, I took her for an audiological assessment recently for her hearing. And the doctor there is the one who told me when he looked in her mouth. He said she's actually a little tongue-tied. And I didn't know that until that day. And that was just a couple weeks ago. So I also read that they can grow out of this a little bit. But I will look into that. I'll look into it.

Mary: Yeah, I just did a podcast, podcast number seventy-one with Dr. Melissa Olive, who's a behavior analyst. And we talked a little bit about tongue ties. And so you want to listen to that one. But also, I do have quite a few friends who really do believe that doctors in general should be a lot more aggressive about clipping tongue ties as early as they're found. And some kids like your daughter, it's found a little bit later, but it could affect sucking and talking and moving food around your mouth. And the fact that she's talking is a great sign. But if she has some kind of physical thing, I would just encourage you to do a little bit more research. And in fact, one of my friends who's a behavior analyst in the U.K., she is an expert on tongue ties, actually. And she just had a new baby and she assessed the baby and saw that he was tongue tied and had to go through three traditional doctors before she found somebody to clip him before they were discharged.

Mary: So she even like is an expert and it still took a lot of convincing. So, like, I am not an expert at all. But if I when I hear tongue tie now, I'm like, oh, wait. I would look into that a little bit more. So anybody listening? MaryBarbera.com/71. We can put it in the show notes to just look into town ties a little bit more. OK. So when you, when you found my course you've just found a Facebook ad and then you attended a workshop, an online workshop and then you decided to enroll in the toddler preschooler course. Was that scary for you? Was it like, this sounds too good to be true? Or were you just like, you know what, it can't hurt? I guess with the COVID shut down to, you were kind of in a panic.

Michelle: Yes, I did look at your ad and I thought. I didn't think it was too good to be true for other kids, but you're always so scared for your own kid, I thought. Well, you know, my daughter has this language disorder. I was told that she might not ever speak. And so it might be a waste of time and money. But I'm going to try. I didn't even tell my husband because I'm not working right now. And I said I'll beg for his forgiveness later to pay for this class. But it was worth every single penny. But I would have paid the full price for this course tenfold for the results that I got with my daughter.

Mary: OK. So in the course. And then a lot of my listeners, are parents and professionals, they've never attended a webinar. You can attend a webinar. Actually, the best way to attend a webinar right now is just to take a two-minute quiz so you get to the right webinar because I have different webinars, a different offering. So, MaryBarbera.com/quiz will get you to a quiz, which will get you to a free workshop and you will find out information you can use for free. And then you'll also find out about and then given an opportunity to join my online course and community. So at that point, your daughter. I think you said had two words when you started.

Michelle: Yeah. She said Mom and dog. But if you asked her where the dog was? She couldn't show me where the dog was. If I asked her who I was because I'm mom, she couldn't point to me or tell me who I was.

Mary: So these were words that she didn't really have a ton of meaning.

Michelle: Yeah, just not a lot of meaning.

Mary: So when you took the course. These two words, mom and dog, were sporadic and you didn't really have a lot of meaning and you weren't really banking on anything. So for people that don't know anything about my courses, basically you just enroll and then you watch videos and you do homework that you keep yourself. You don't turn in the homework or check it. But the homework actually helps you keep track of your progress so that you can see, OK, a one-page assessment. She does this. She does that. She doesn't have any language. She melts down. How many times a day was she having tantrums or problem behaviors? A lot at that point? In the beginning?

Michelle: In the beginning. I would say once a day she at least once a day she would have a tantrum. But it did not always include self-injurious behavior. When it was very bad. Like at this family function, there was self-injurious behavior. She would scratch herself. She would scratch her neck, her back, and she would be bleeding from this behavior. I mean, it was really terrifying to see, but I would say it was once a week she'd have a violent tantrum like that. And I would say probably about once a day she would have one tantrum, like one good tantrum. Throughout the day, there's intermittent bouts of whining and crying for things because that was how she manded. She had a speech evaluation on February 2nd of this year and that speech evaluation put her at a zero to three-month level for expressive language.

Mary: Wow. Zero. So she was two years old. And the speech, the standardized speech testing was showing her zero to three months of age. Right before you started my course. Right when she was diagnosed, basically. Wow. That's really. OK. So then you started implementing the strategies in the course which include like a shoe box program, a potato head and incept puzzles and infant toys. And it sounds like she responded really well and really quickly.

Michelle: She did. She loved the novelty of the tables. So I had that benefit for me. She didn't hate the table from the beginning. I mean, however, her attention was poor in the beginning. I really had to figure out reinforcements, learn what she liked, how I can alternate them to keep her entertained and to keep her happy, where these more and more increasingly difficult tasks. But in the beginning, I mean, the materials that you have in your checklist are really just reinforcers themselves and a lot of ways on at least for my daughter. She really enjoyed all of those materials right from the start. She enjoyed them. I thought that I was going to have to buy a bunch of new fun toys to get her at the table. And I really didn't.

Michelle: Your materials were reinforcing in themselves, especially the shoe box and the white box, just incorporating the memory game pieces in those boxes and letting her put them in. She loves that. She loves the sound of bears, counting bears in a cup. You know, all of the suggestions from your toddler course made table time really easy to start. To be honest, I thought Elaina would sit at the table for even one minute. I didn't think to sit down at all. I thought she would just wander away. But table time is something she runs to now as soon as we're done with breakfast. She runs the table and she yells, table time. And if I bring flashcards elsewhere in the house. And in any capacity, she looks at them and she goes table time cards and she runs next to me on the couch and sits with me.

Mary: Wow. So she's actually putting words together. She's saying at table time cards and table time. So in six weeks, you said that she went from two words that were sporadic to over 500 words.

Michelle: Yes, that's correct.

Mary: Which when I saw that, I was like, wow, I have to interview Michelle about these gains. Because, I mean, we do get comments in our online community pretty much every day to show that kids are making gains. But that is really a big jump in gains in six weeks. That was pretty big. It was amazing. It was great. So I wanted to ask you and some of it is once you get control, once you say, say, ball and the child says ball or you say table time and the child echoes table time, then that's the way typically developing kids learn language. And the floodgates, a lot of times open when the child starts to echo especially multiple length words and phrases and that sort of thing.

Michelle: Yes, absolutely. I think I posted it on your Facebook group page, but she recently had another speech evaluation, just a couple I want to say, like last week, she had another speech evaluation and her expressive language level went from zero to three months on February 6th of this year to a 30 month range. And she's twenty-six months old. So now her expressive language is 30 months right.

Mary: In early May is that accurate?

Michelle: I want to say May 4th or something like that.

Mary: So only three months. In three months since you've been taking my courses. And she hasn't even had professional help because of the COVID shutdown, or did she have a little help? No help. Just you teaching her.

Michelle: The funny thing is she did. She had speech therapy for five weeks and occupational therapy as well, because she struggled with, you know, open cup and spoon-feeding. But I've been working on all of those things at home and with your course. So she had speech therapy for about five weeks. And in that time, she learned to point. They gave me strategies to work on joint attention and pointing and learning some signs because they said she's not talking. It's time to incorporate signs.

Mary: So she had speech therapy and occupational therapy before the diagnosis.

Michelle: She did, but did not develop any new words or skills. Yeah. Or any new skills to speak of at all with her occupational or speech therapy. And these are very nice people. They were very nice therapists. It just wasn't working. And I asked them, I said, give me homework, give me things to do. What can I do at home? And I did everything they said, but it just wasn't what I needed. It wasn't what she needed to gain the skills that I learned from your course.

Mary: Wow. Well, I mean, to go on a standardized speech test from zero to three-month language in February and three months later in early May. Going to a 30-month language for now, a twenty-six-month-old little girl is incredible. But we're working on everything at the same time. We're working on pacifier reduction. We're working on sitting behavior. We're looking at working on tantrum reduction. We're working on pincher grasp or whatever the delays are all at the same time. So it sounds like having those standardized speech scores are even more validity to show that what you did in the past three months made incredible transformation for your daughter.

Michelle: Oh, it really did. We even had. Are you familiar with the term AAEC? I'm not sure if that's just a Michigan term or not, but they're actual diagnostic autism centers. OK. Most insurance companies require your child to be diagnosed by one of these diagnostic centers for autism before they cover ABA services. I was fortunate in that BlueCross BlueShield accepted my pediatric neurologists� diagnosis, but so there's only 15 locations in Michigan. So the waitlist is humongous. I didn't expect to get in for fifteen months or so and I said I can't wait that long for my child to receive services I need. I need a diagnosis now or I need whatever I need to do to get her services.

Michelle: I need it now. And the AAEC, this was back in February when I wanted them to diagnose or as soon as possible. And they said we can't right now. You have to wait in line. And I was crushed. And recently they called me during this COVID crisis and they said, you know, we would like to bring your daughter in or, you know, a zoom meeting for a diagnosis. And they said, have any changes occurred since January of this year when you called? And I said yes. I said a great deal of changes have occurred. And I explained it to them and they said, well, OK, we don't want to do a Zoom conference meeting with you. Now we want to wait to see her in person because this is not a clear-cut situation for us. You know, we need to see her in person because they were kind of looking for, you know, really, really severe cases.

Mary: That were just easy to check off and go, yeah. She's got a zero to three month level language. She's twenty-four months of age. She's not talking at all. She's toe walking. She meets all these criteria. Yep. Here it goes. And that's what happens is these kids who get better then are really on the edge. Like in my webinar, I talk about a little boy who avoided the diagnosis after four months of treatment and little Chino who made major gains after a year of treatment. And, you know, had he been brought in for the first time at three instead of two with those skills, he wouldn't have been diagnosed.

Mary: So, yeah, I think it's always good unless it's a really obvious case where I think that was that was smart of them to go like, hey, you know, he had a child who's gone from a three month language age to a 30 month language age in three months with home therapy led by the parent only. You know, it's probably just really wise that you just push off and wait a little bit.

Michelle: That's what they said. And I have to tell you, COVID-19 I thought it was this horrible curse for my child. I thought the world was out to get her. I said, gosh, you know, this poor girl is just not going to get the help she needs. And your course has been such a blessing, especially the COVID because I couldn't socialize her. Right. I had to keep her home. And because of that, I spend one hundred percent of my time with her. And I was able to incorporate these strategies. And I had time to take your horse. And I signed up for the behavior bundle, too. And I'm in the middle of that of the early learner course right now.

Michelle: And it's such a, COVID was such a blessing in disguise in a way, because I found your course because I was desperately searching for a way I could help her because I am not a professional in this field. I could tell you all about Louis the 14th, but I can't tell you one thing about autism. And now I feel very comfortable.

Mary: Now you can.

Michelle: I certainly can. I'm actually thinking about going back to school and becoming a BCBA or even a behavior tech where I can actually work with kids who have developmental disabilities. I am actually very seriously leaning towards that route. Once I get a Elaina situated, once my daughters grow up a little bit because my children are still very, very young, they're just babies. So I have to figure out what's going on with them. I have to figure out if my youngest daughter Isla is developmentally on track and you know what's going on with her before I do that.

Mary: Are you worried about your second daughter?

Michelle: I can't help myself. I get worried. So far, she's meeting all of her developmental milestones. Her pediatrician isn't worried at all. And, you know, they said that she's doing very well. And, you know, she does some things that Elaina, my oldest is the one who's diagnosed now, she does some things that Elaina never did as a baby. Even so, you know, there's some pretty major differences in their behavior. And I know that I didn't look too much into that because I know that babies have different personalities. But my youngest, she looks at me and Elaina was only so focused on stuff. She loves her toy. She looked at things and she didn't necessarily want to look at people.

Michelle: And Isla never wants to be left alone. My youngest baby, she doesn't like being alone. And Elaina was perfectly content, you know, batting her toys by herself and following things. And it's so funny because I thought Elaina was so advanced as a baby, she was always so physically strong and she would track things. She was tracking objects at two weeks old, back and forth. I mean, she was just so sharp and on point with, you know, catching things and with her eyes. And she was always so observant and I thought she was so advanced. And it's just interesting how things turned out.

Mary: Yeah, well, it sounds like you caught the delays just in the nick of time and now you are empowered and educated on, you know, it's not as scary anymore, even with your baby, because, you know, if she has any delays, you're gonna be right on it. You're gonna be advocating for her. You're gonna be you know, there's no guarantees. There's no crystal balls for either of your daughters and things will come up down the road. But one of the things that I'd love to do inside my courses and through my free information such as this podcast and video blogs, is I really want to empower parents to have their children, whether they're typically developing or have autism. I want each child to reach his or her fullest potential and be as safe as possible, as independent as possible, and as happy as possible. And you mentioned in the beginning that you really you feel like the course really helped you and your daughter be more happy.

Michelle: Oh, yes. Our entire household, the atmosphere is completely different. I have incorporated all of these positive, you know, just we've incorporated all of these positive strategies and the entire. The entire environment of our household has changed. I don't even know how to explain it correctly. Like, everything used to be tense. We used to be worried about Elaina. We used to feel like we were walking on eggshells with her because she was so moody. And I didn't know how to help her. I didn't know how to make her happy. And it broke my heart.

Michelle: I was always upset every day and visibly so because I want my daughter to be happy and healthy. And the fact that she was always so agitated. You know, it really put a damper on the whole house. My husband and I were bickering because we argued about best strategies for how to help her. My husband was more like, you know, well, you just have to. She just has to get over it. She'll be fine. And I wanted to, I said, well, no, I guess I'm more of a thoughtful, emotionally available person.

Michelle: And I said, I really want her to be happy. And he thought I just spoiled her too much. And really, you know, with autism. I, I believe a lot of what you said, what really resonated with me about keeping the environment positive is that you said to kind of be like a like a doting grandmother that's spoiling their grandchildren. You know, try not to say no unless you have to or if you have to say no. Have an alternative available. And that just really resonated with me. I said, you know what? That makes so much sense because, you know, here I am trying to teach your discipline and tell her that, you know, because my husband said she has to learn, No.

Michelle: And I said, can we say no without saying no? How can we provide an alternative? Can we do something to make her react better to this? Because if she's just melting down all the time, she's not going to be happy. She's not going to learn anything. Like you said, if she's just melting down all the time, how could she learn new things and, you know, in that kind of headspace? Right.

Mary: And I give the example, like, if a child is after an outlet or constantly trying to go up the steps or down the steps, and you're constantly saying, stop that, stop that.You know, don't play with that. Don't touch that. Don't go upstairs. Stay down here, you know. Then my thought is get outlet covers, get gates for the bottom of the stairs so that you can stop saying no, because, you know, that's negative, negative, negative.

Mary: And everybody needs five to eight positives to every negative. We talked about that on a podcast recently with the hosts of ABA Inside Track. We did a whole podcast on being more positive. We can link that in the show notes using Glenn Latham's books as well as, yeah. His positive parenting book, as well as a book that you could download for free for teachers Behind the Schoolhouse Door: Eight Skills Every Teacher Needs. And really flipping around to being more positive solves 50 percent of your problems. But when parents are in crisis and they are worried, it's hard to become available to learn that information because so much is going wrong. So it sounds like you and your husband. I mean, it's good that your husband pushed a little bit and it's good that, you know, you got on the same page. And now it sounds like your household is a lot better for going through this.

Michelle: Absolutely. It's better for both of my girls, too. And we're just happy now. We just have so much fun with our daughters. And it's just so wonderful to feel this way and not feel the dread of the future. It does hit me in waves. The diagnosis. And, you know, let's talk about autism and all that is still new for us. And so we deal with the fear of what she'll be like in the future. We do have fears for Isla, but not nearly. I don't have nearly the fears that I had in the beginning before I took your course. You know, I cried every night. I was very emotionally distraught about the whole thing. I just felt helpless and out of control. And as a teacher, I like being in control. I like being able to know what I'm doing. You know, I like having a plan. I like you know, I like being prepared. And I just felt like I had nothing. And I took your course and it completely changed how I feel about my children's future.

Michelle: I really feel that no matter what Isla turns out like, no matter what Elaina turns out like, I feel like everything is going to be OK. And I have a tremendous amount of hope. My daughter is so bright. And so she's always been smart. She's always been so smart. But now she can show it. She can say it. And nothing makes me happier than hearing her little voice. I never thought I would hear it and I'll never take it for granted. I cried when she asked me for chips the other day. Like a crazy person because I was just so happy. I never thought she would ask me for things. I never thought she would show me things that she likes. But she points to pain. She shows me things. She prefers company over being alone. She's a completely different kid after these strategies that I've implemented from your course.

Mary: And every time I hear anything like this, you know, it's just so great. I'm so grateful that, you know, five years ago started my online courses because I wasn't reaching enough people with my strategies. I knew they worked and going door to door seeing one child at a time was really not going to get the message out or traveling to places like Australia or Hawaii and speaking to crowds of three hundred people.

Mary: It really wasn't getting where it needed to get. So through my courses and now through my book, my second book that I'm working on that will be published in April of 2021, I'm going to use your story as one of the many stories of success, which it just makes my heart happy to hear that these strategies are working. And they're not working, everybody that takes my course doesn't have these, you know, miraculous results, you know, within six weeks. And some kids are much more impaired than others.

Mary: And some parents, you know, it's always good to have people there showing what is possible. Nobody has a crystal ball, though, so it's just it's great to hear what is possible and that we are empowering parents to become the captain of the ship. You know, now you're going to know when COVID is over, you are going to know whether you should bring her for a diagnosis. You're going to know whether she needs speech therapy or ABA therapy or in home or at school or day care or whatever. There's going to be pros and cons, but you are in a much better position to make those kinds of decisions for your daughters.

Michelle: Absolutely. And I think it's so funny that you say that because she with her speech evaluation, it was through our local school district and they said she didn't qualify for speech or special ed just last week. So I never, ever thought in a million years that I would ever hear a professional say that my daughter didn't need speech therapy. I was like, I'm sorry, what? They said, yeah she's got a 30 month expressive speech level. And I couldn't believe what they were saying.

Michelle: I guess I just want to tell parents out there who are unsure about, you know, taking your course or unsure about their child if they think it's not worth it, if they think their child is too severe. I thought I had a very, very disabled child. I thought she was just going to scream and never speak. I thought she would never point. I thought I thought she would never do any of the things that she's doing now. And no matter how severe you think your child is, there is so much room for improvement. No matter what their capabilities are. And I know that now. My daughter continues to amaze me every single day.

Mary: Wow. So we need to wrap up. But I just want to also ask you this. This podcast is for both parents and professionals, toddlers through, you know, adults. And so part of the goal of my podcast is for each professional and parent to be less stressed and lead happier lives. So do you have any self-care tips or anything that has reduced your stress, especially during the COVIDshutdown?

Michelle: Yeah, the COVID shutdown was very challenging in terms of stress, but I highly recommend. Just go to bed. Don't stay up all night like I did in the beginning. Just researching and researching and researching. You have to take a break. Just go to bed at a reasonable hour. Your kids depend on you. You're not going to be any good to your children if you don't get some rest. And I learned that the hard way. You're much more emotional. It's very difficult. I think, like you said, I think I forgot where I listened to this from. But it was one of your podcasts, I think, where you said it's very hard for you to think objectively about your situation when you're sleep deprived. And I think that's my biggest self-care tip. Take a nice, warm shower, go to bed and be ready for your kids in the morning. That's my biggest advice. Just treat yourself in some way, especially the sleep.

Mary: That's great. Well, thank you so much for your time. Thank you for sharing your success with us. First in the group and then through this podcast interview, I think it's going to help a lot of parents know that there's hope, no matter what your situation and learning more will gain you not only skills to help your child who is affected by autism or other delays, but it's going to help you with your marriage, with your other kids, in your professional life. And it's going to help you to reach your fullest potential as well. So you're a great example to so many parents and professionals out there. So thanks for sharing your story.

Michelle: Oh, my gosh. Thank you for having me. It's so wonderful to speak to you finally.