Kat: As you visit with parents and you see them receive a diagnosis, as we said so many times, at various stages, I know sometimes I feel from parents, they’re going to say to me they feel like the child they knew is different now and I tell them, this is the same child that you had before this doctor told you this diagnosis. Your child is still the same person. That seems such a relief to them.
Dr. Rachelle Sheely: I find that’s a relief too and, of course, there are all of these wonderful things that have been written about how you’re still going … I forget where it is you’re still going … to Italy but you’re taking a different road to get there and I love the picture of that because it resonates with me and I think it resonates with parents. Okay. So going back to what is it you want for your child? What are your goals for your child? You can still dream but you can’t dream if you’re in crisis because the crisis is keeping you from dreaming.
Kat: What do you say to people, or parents I should say, who are just exhausted and they really can’t slow down to think?
Dr. Rachelle Sheely: Well, the first thing that I say to everybody is, I want you to have a good family life and I could come up with a million things for you to do with your child but it’s more important to me that your family is intact, that your family feels good, that your family likes being together. So, I try to get parents to take care of themselves, individually, and as a couple, to make sure that the siblings are not left behind, that the child with Autism doesn’t become the focus for the whole family. And once a family is able to accept that, and really, Katherine, a family who’s been in crisis for a while, wants to hear that but they’re afraid to hear it but, once they hear that, I feel like we’re on such a good trajectory that we’re not gonna turn back.
Kat: How open do you find families being to, as you mentioned as we started the talk, how open do you find families just starting to dream?
Dr. Rachelle Sheely: Some people do it right away. I mean, some people just like … okay, and they go for it. We ask them, what would you like to see in six months? What would you like to see in a year? What about ten years, what would you like to see? Some people just grab it and say, that’s what we’re gonna do, we’re going to change the way we’re thinking, we’re dreaming. And then other people, really, they reexperience the trauma and you have to take people where they are. I have to tell you, parents start crying, I start crying too. I’m not sure it’s that helpful.
Kat: I have wondered that too …
Dr. Rachelle Sheely: Have you?
Kat: But I think that it is helpful because they are not alone. I would say sometimes I don’t feel professional at that moment but maybe what they need is to know somebody connects to them just like the children need to know that they’re connected too. I think the parents need to know that too. So, from there, they can dream.
Dr. Rachelle Sheely: And to have children begin to set goals for themselves and to reestablish dreams they might have had at one point, I think, is really crucial to the work that we do. One of the ways that I like to talk to children about their diagnosis, is an efficiency inefficiency model of the brain. Your brain is just fine but it does some things more efficiently than it does other things. And my brain does some things more efficiently than it does other things and I like to compare the two. You’re really good at this ’cause your brain’s efficient at that. I am really good at this because my brain’s efficient at that. And how, for my areas of inefficiency, I have to work harder to accomplish what they accomplish very easily because their brains are very efficient for it. I think when we have ways to think about it, I mean, I have many of these ways and I’m sure that you do too.
Dr. Rachelle Sheely: When we have those ways to think about it, it encourages the parents, it encourages the person who’s on the spectrum, who has maybe just learned what the diagnosis is, and I feel like it encourages us, as consultants too, because we have a way to stop thinking about deficits but we have a way to think about how do we all move forward together and isn’t this exciting.
Kat: Well, one of the things I love about talking to you is, you can take, more beautifully than anyone I know, the word crisis and turn it into a dream and I want to thank you for that.