By Amalia Starr
Parents Must Have Ongoing Support. It’s a Necessity!
I am the Founder of a non-profit called Autism Independence Foundation. From the moment my website went live, I have been flooded with more emails and phone calls than I ever expected. Being the parent of a special needs child myself, I knew there was a huge void in the area of helping and supporting parents. The focus is always on our children, but we must never lose sight of the fact that it is the parents that lead the way. I’ll tell you why I created Autism Independence Foundation and how it can help you.
Helping my son, Brandon live his dream of independence was one of the most important and difficult things I have ever done. He had autism and intractable epilepsy and I had absolutely no support. My husband had passed away, my family thought I was out of my mind and the so-called professionals deemed it impossible. But in my heart, I knew I had to give my son a chance. Looking back, I wish that I had a support system, or someone else to talk to. But at that time autism was relatively unheard of. By the time Brandon had been living independently for 17 years, I had written two books, counseled numerous individuals, and delivered keynote speeches at a number of autism conferences worldwide. I knew it was time for me to start a non-profit organization and bring my successful, first-hand experience to other parents facing the same challenges with fear and dread. I created the Autism Independence Foundation with one primary goal in mind: To ensure that no parent on this path will ever have to walk alone. We are here to help you every step of the way; before, during, and after your child becomes independent.
Raising Brandon wasn’t easy and it took a toll on my 22-year marriage, which ended in a divorce. A few years later, Brandon’s father passed away and on the day of his funeral Brandon sat across from me at dinner and said, “I want to live alone, mom.” I was shocked. Brandon seldom asked for anything and he said it with such conviction that I had to listen. The professionals who worked with Brandon said he would never be able to become independent. They were wrong. Yes, Brandon was able to live all by himself in his own apartment for 17 years. It wasn’t easy, but it was the most wonderful experience for both of us.
My motto has been and will always be, “Do all you can while you can.” We never know what the future holds. It has been four years since my son, Brandon suddenly and unexpectedly passed away in his sleep. I never thought that I would be able to continue on. But ten days after the funeral his friends held a memorial in his honor. It was so inspiring it filled my broken heart with joy seeing all the friends he had made and how much they loved him. He was able to live his dream of independence by just being himself. Brandon made a huge positive impact in Santa Monica where he lived and volunteered.
After Brandon would have a grand mal seizure and was taken to the hospital I would check in with him the following day. When I asked him how he was doing he would always reply, “Mom it’s a new day.” He was right and that is why I say and I will always continue to say that Brandon was my finest teacher and I believe that your child will become your finest teacher too.
How to Help Your Child Succeed and Become Independent
- Choose you battles wisely.
- Let good enough be good enough.
- Ask for help and encourage your child to help you. Even if it turns out differently than expected, adapt to the outcome and thank him/her.
- Focus on the positive.
- Learn early on that your way is not the only way.
- It is extremely important to cultivate a positive mindset, that anything is possible. Whether or not you believe it at first is not important. You will grow into over time.
- Hold onto HOPE, it is a necessity.
- Do all you can while you can.
- Teach not preach.
- Breathe, Breath, Breathe.
- Be flexible while planning for the future.
- Take care of yourself. Make time even if it is only 5 minutes a day, it will grow over time.
- Write in a journal at least one special thing your child does each day. It does not matter how big or small it is.
- Don’t allow your fears to become your child’s fears.
Be aware of how you adapt and react to situations both large and small. If you don’t like what you see or how you feel write down how you would like to change. The first step is to be aware and the second step is to be willing to change it.
The best way for your child to learn life is to live life. The more you allow your child to do things that can often cause you to feel anxious and or nervous the more successful he or she will become over time. Start small and go from there.
While helping my son, Brandon become independent I discovered the following quote and it changed my life. “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
We ask our children to grow and change and in time because of them we grow and change as well. I am forever grateful to have had this experience. As I said before, helping Brandon to become independent was the most difficult and most rewarding thing I have ever done. I believe in time you will feel the same.
My son was my finest teacher. In his honor, I became the founder of Autism Independence Foundation and I turned my pain into purpose and his legacy lives on.
I am very excited to conduct my own training in the Los Angeles area. I hope you will join us at our Independence Training Workshop on April 5, 2019. If you are a client with the Regional Center they will often pay for our trainings. For more information please visit, AutismIndependenceFoundation.org and click on “events.” This training is for parents and caregivers of all age children. You will learn how to move forward and make a plan for you and your child. You will be motivated, well informed, and filled with HOPE.
I hope to see you at the training.
From one parent to another.
See flyer HERE for more information about our upcoming training on April 5, 2019. We will also conduct another training on October 4, 2019.
Amalia Starr is a Motivational Speaker, Author, Transition and Independent Living Coach, founder of Autism Independence Foundation, and Mother to an autistic adult son. She is the author of, “Raising Brandon: Creating a Path to Independence for Your Adult ‘Kid’ with Autism & Special Needs”. In it she describes how she led her son, Brandon to independence when the professionals deemed it impossible. Her second book is titled, “‘I Have Autism…What’ll I Do Without You, Mom?’ How to Prepare for When Your Special Needs Child Outlives You.”
Amalia offers keynotes, presentations, and conducts workshops and coaching sessions worldwide. With more than forty years of experience, she specializes in independence training for parents, teaching them how to help their special needs children reach their full potential and gain maximum independence. She has been recognized as a pioneer and trailblazer, shining a light on the path ahead helping parents prepare for whatever comes their way.
To contact Amalia for keynotes, presentations, seminars, workshops and private consultations: