From Vicki: Here’s a photo of me in Whitby, England, one of my favorite places in the world (which also happens to have the best fish & chips in England). The boy in the camo jacket in the background is my son.
This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Vicki Parnell, our featured consultant in training. I met Vicki at the recent Houston training and was immediately enamored by the passion and wisdom she has regarding her own children and helping others.
I spent many years working in breastfeeding support; the foundation of my work was one-on-one support for new mothers who were seeking help and information to successfully nurse their babies. That soon grew to training new breastfeeding counselors, writing articles, editing a journal, and helping to plan and present at workshops and conferences (sometimes all at the same time!). I loved this work, the intensity, the satisfaction of helping others and the wonderful people that I worked with. Once my kids were diagnosed with autism, however, I realized that I needed more time to research their diagnosis and figure out how to help them. This led us to a path that included homeschooling, RDI and putting my own work on hold for a few years.
What made you want to become a consultant?
We’ve been an RDI family for four years and it has been a wonderful journey that has led my children to become confident, resilient people with a sense of curiosity about the world and the tools to move forward. Last year I spent quite a lot of time thinking about the opportunities that were open to me now that my children’s needs were no longer so intense. I was ready to go back to work, but I wanted to re-enter the workforce in a mindful way, doing something meaningful and rewarding, and I knew that I needed to do work that could mesh well with meeting the needs of two active teens. RDI consulting seemed like the perfect path for me. I was so excited when I was accepted as a consultant in training!
How is training going for you so far? Has it been easy? Hard? Have you seen any changes in your own practice?
The training has been fun, interesting, and rewarding in ways that I didn’t expect. It’s a process of learning about yourself while you are learning how to guide parents and their children. Because I’ve been an RDI parent for four years now, I haven’t found the material difficult, but I’ve found myself delving even more deeply into the dynamic intelligence curriculum, and having many “aha!” moments when I realize how I can apply what I’m learning to the families I support.
How are you balancing home life, work and training?
This is proving to be an interesting challenge! My husband and I have included our teens in some frank conversations recently about how everything is going to get done around the house now that I’m working more. Ultimately, as I’m working more hours, time one-on-one with each member of my family has to be one of my highest priorities. One crucial thing is keeping our Sundays free as a family day – we avoid making any commitments, turn off all the distracting electronics, and set that day aside to just be together.
What advice would you give to other parents that want to start training?
I would absolutely encourage any experienced RDI parent who wants to do this to give it a try. I’ve loved the training so far! It’s been a wonderful experience for me to learn more about the family consultation program, gain confidence in my ability to help other families like mine, and deepen my own understanding of RDI.
We talked a little about you sending your child to college this year, what advice would you give other parents who are transitioning with their children?
Someone asked me recently if I was scared for my daughter to go off to university. I hadn’t really thought about it and at that moment I realized that in fact, I was not scared or anxious, even though this is a child with ASD who still faces many challenges that typical young adults do not have to cope with. I think this is in large part due to the confidence we have learned through RDI. My advice to other RDI parents whose children are considering university or college would be to apply what you’ve learned through RDI! This is, in many ways, not too different from any other parenting experience; the main thing is that this is something your young adult will have to do mostly on their own, so you need to stay in the background and that can be hard. My husband and I continue to assess our daughter’s need for scaffolding, help her to overcome any obstacles that stand in her way, and guide her in figuring out and setting up any personal support she might need. The disability services office at my daughter’s university has been wonderfully helpful and we’ve been encouraged to see how well she is advocating for the accommodations she needs.
Describe your perfect day
Some of my favorite times are spent in my kitchen. I’m a foodie, cookbook collector and avid home cook. I have also recently learned how to bake bread without a machine and baking has become my go-to activity to unwind on weekends. There is a kind of “zen” in kneading bread dough that is so calming. I love my Saturdays in the cooler months of the year; I usually have several baking projects on the go, the Metropolitan Opera broadcast on the kitchen radio, and I play board games or just hang out with my family during intervals while my bread is rising and baking. It’s a great way to become centered after a busy week.
Vicki Parnell lives in Burnaby, British Columbia with her husband, Jeff, and their two marvelous teenagers. She is an avid cook, a distance runner, a voracious reader, and she travels whenever she can. As an RDI consultant, Vicki wants to empower parents as the experts on their own children, and restore a sense of hope and confidence to families affected by ASD.
To contact Vicki, please visit her at www.autismparentpower.com