Welcome to Episode #9 of the Sensory Friendly Solutions Podcast where we explore Trish Hamilton’s philosophy on parenting children with autism.
About our guest
A life on the microphone
Our guest for Episode #09 of the Sensory Friendly Solutions Podcast is Trish Hamilton. Trish is the marketing and communications manager for Uptown Saint John, a business improvement association. She is no stranger to the microphone. She’s the host of a podcast called the UCast. Trish is also a long-time radio host. In many ways she’s become a voice for so many. Most importantly that includes her lovely son who experiences autism in his daily life.
We’ve heard more than once throughout the course of this podcast that 2020 really has been the perfect storm. Whether it’s lock-downs in the UK, working from in a pandemic or transitioning to an almost exclusively online presence, we’ve all experienced change. For Trish Hamilton, that’s an understatement.
“In January of this year, 2020, I made some serious life decisions”
In many ways, the changes made were based around her sons needs. Trish made the brave decision to return to school, albeit virtually. She’s now a fully credentialed digital marketing specialist and has worked personally with Sensory Friendly Solutions, among others. She also decided to jump into the world of entrepreneurship. Trish launched E2M Marketing and Media in the face of a global pandemic.
“I wanted the freedom to be able to be with my son”
Does the pandemic have a silver lining?
For Trish, it was the ability to spend more time with her family. To keep her children close was something she did not take for granted.
“And so to be able to wake up every day and have them near, and have them close, and being forced to slow down. I appreciated that, and I didn’t take that for granted.”
What became evident early on was how difficult it was going to be for Trish’s autistic son.
“It was difficult for my son, because when you’re six, at the time he was six years old, explaining to him that, “Yeah, we’ve been in the house for two, three weeks.” Or whatever it was, “And you can’t go see your friends. So let’s talk to them on FaceTime, or let’s drive by their house and wave.” And not being able to fully explain to him why we had to stay in was tough.”
Trish touched on a recurring theme throughout the course of this podcast. Routine disruption and it’s effect on the neuro-diverse community. This was highlighted expertly by the wonderful Maureen Bennie in Episode #02 of the podcast.
“And one thing about SPD kids that I’ve learned, and one thing about my son that I’ve learned is, if you throw a wrench into his routine in any way, there’s a huge adjustment period”
Interestingly, Trish also felt an adjustment in sending him back out into the world when the time came. That is a distinct different in parenting children with autism vs. parenting children.
“And with him being on the spectrum, he was making friends, and he likes children, which sometimes kids on the spectrum don’t, they prefer adults. And he was just starting to make friends, and get into a little peer group. So as much as it was nice to have him home, and have him close, and have that extra mommy time, it was hard knowing that at some point, I’m going to have to turn him loose again. And I don’t know how this has affected him.”
What should parents do if they think their child may be on the Autism Spectrum?
“…if you think there’s something going on, don’t wait for somebody else to suggest it to you, because that’s what we did, we waited.”
“…that was when the light bulb went off.”
“…the first time that I noticed that there might be more to him than I expected, or that I knew of, he was about five or six months old. And he’s a happy little baby, and he would laugh, and giggle, and do all the five and six month old things. But then he would clench his fists, and he would scream so loud. And I couldn’t figure out why.”
As far as Trish is concerned, we can’t be afraid to explore our intuition.
“One of the things that my husband and I talked about in the beginning was, do we want to label him? But it’s not a label. It’s help. There is more to it by “labeling” him as autism spectrum disorder, and sensory processing disorder.”
“We got resources, we got help, we got understanding.”
“And I really strongly advising any parents that if they think that their child may be autism spectrum disorder, ASD, or SPD, don’t hesitate to check it out. There is absolutely nothing wrong with finding out about your child.”
What does Trish think parents feel when they’re hesitant to pursue a diagnosis?
“I think it is based in fear. A lot of it, I think, is not knowing what’s going to happen. And for us, we didn’t want people to look at him differently.”
“So by diagnosing it, we can say, “This is him. This is what he’s dealing with.”
“Honestly, it just takes one or two really good, really strong people in your corner, and you feel like you can tackle all of it. And they’ve really given us the courage, and the go ahead to push him sometimes…”
Sometimes tough love is necessary and, for Trish, that’s okay.
“And I think the most valuable piece of information that we heard … And I’m not even sure which doctor it was. But one of them had said to us, “You have to make sure that you’re not walking on eggshells with him, because the world is not going to be walking on eggshells with him.”
“But I think the whole point of it was, they are going to be tested, and they are going to be tried out in the real world.”
Parenting children with autism means: “Listen to your gut”
To learn more about Trish Hamilton, download, listen, and share Episode #09 of the Sensory Friendly Solutions Podcast on all of your favourite podcast platforms.
“Like many healthcare professionals, and I imagine parents too, Trish’s advice, heartfelt, and from real life experience, was appreciated. So moms and dads, listen to Trish. As she says, listen to your gut. Explore your concerns about sensory challenges. Find answers to your questions. A diagnosis for Trish’s son was like a key unlocking the wonder of Emerson. And I’m tearing up as I say this, in Trish’s words, “A diagnosis gave Emerson a fair shot.”
Have people in your corner.
“Before listening to Trish on today’s podcast, I hadn’t really understood or realized the power for parents, and families, and children, of having one or two people in your corner.”
“And having another person in your corner has empowered their family, as Trish put it, “Not to walk on eggshells.”‘
“Living a sensory friendly life isn’t about removing all sensory experiences, it is about designing a life that fits, and living a life that allows for exploration, trial and error, and finding joy.”
Throughout the course of the Sensory Friendly Solutions Podcast, we want to ensure that you take action. Moreover, we hope we have, in some way, improved your quality of life.
If you haven’t heard of The Braedon Foundation, you’re going to want to check them out. You can follow their awe inspiring journey on Facebook. Tiffany Agnew created The Braedon Foundation in 2018, in memory of her teenage son, Braedon. He passed away in May of 2018. The foundation strives to bring happiness to the hearts of children in New Brunswick who are facing severe life threatening, or high risk illnesses. They do so through their Happy Heart room makeover and Happy Heart shopping sprees. They also provide a free support group that’s available for parents of children with critical illness.
A Sensory Room for Rhylee.
Recently, they’ve caught our attention with their Happy Heart sensory room. It’s a makeover for a young girl in New Brunswick, Canada, Rhylee. She was born with Fraser Syndrome, a genetic mutation to the FRAS-1 gene, which has had a significant impact on her development. She also has Cryptophthalmos. That means the skin over her eyes is continuous without formation of eyelids. She’s blind, but demonstrates light perception, so she really enjoyed her new disco light dancing across the room creating flashes of light that she could see.
In addition to being blind, she also has bilateral hearing lost, fused vocal cords, and only one kidney. In her short seven years here, she’s already had over 30 surgeries, and still wakes up smiling most days. It’s amazing.
While Rhylee faces many challenges in her life, she is an inquisitive and physically active child. According to her teacher, Beth Button, is full of spunk. And we were honoured to see that spunk come alive as she clapped for joy, and danced about. Beth, who submitted the application on Rhylee’s behalf, was able to join us for the makeover reveal, and was overwhelmed by the insane amount of joy this Happy Heart room makeover brought Rhylee and her whole family.
This was different from the rooms they normally create. However, Tiffany was excited to take on the challenge, and create something really special for Rhylee. So, after hours of research, and many conversations with Rhylee’s mom, Melissa, Tiffany was able to create a sensory room. The result literally had Rhylee clapping and dancing for joy.
To Tiffany and the rest of the team at The Braedon Foundation, we’re so lucky to be featuring you on our innovation segment of episode nine of the Sensory Friendly Solutions podcast.
Trish Hamilton, thank you for your leadership and for your participation in the Sensory Friendly Solutions Podcast. Your insights into parenting children with autism help us all.
We look forward to seeing you back next week for the Season 1 Finale of the Sensory Friendly Solutions Podcast.
Thank you for being on this journey with us.