Interview with author Melanie Fowler About Raising a Child with Autism and Navigating the System

Posted in Autism/Aspergers, Interviews, Special Needs Children by - April 18, 2012
Interview with author Melanie Fowler About Raising a Child with Autism and Navigating the System

Your child has just been diagnosed with  special needs? You do not know where to turn? What to do? Who to believe?  Look at my Eyes: Autism Spectrum Disorders: Autism and PDD-NOS –  Early Intervention and Navigating the System is the book you need at the beginning stage of your journey.  Melanie and Seth Fowler, author-parents, will take you by the hand and show you the ropes. I also recommend this book to the general public, especially family and friends, so they can know what it is like to raise a child with autism. Read my review of this fine book here.

Congratulations Melanie and Seth for your book! Readers can find practical, immediately doable steps to make their life with a child with special needs more manageable, more fruitful, and most importantly, more hopeful!  And in this book, the father has a say.  Woven throughout the book are sections called Seth Says… where we get a glimpse of how the father feels. Read Seth Fowler’s interview here.

Lorna: Tell us a bit about yourself, your studies, work outside the home, and now as a mom of a child with PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified). 

I received my Bachelors degree in Speech Pathology at LSU in Baton Rouge.  I moved to Texas and received a Masters degree in Special Education-Deaf Education.  I worked in various independent school districts throughout Texas as an inclusion specialist, educational  diagnostician, sign-language instructor, and special education teacher.  Since the birth of my two children, I have become a part-time volunteer at the Child Study Center in Fort Worth.  I also teach art at William’s school, The Jane Justin School, and have enjoyed getting to know the students, staff, and parents.  I LOVE art and food!  I enjoy painting and cooking and find it extremely therapeutic.

Since William’s diagnosis, my life has changed in many ways. I am much more tolerant of other people and more appreciative of life.  I have had to learn how to slow down, waaay down.  I now appreciate the little things, the smallest successes and milestones that I think I would have overlooked had I not been blessed with William.  I am stronger, much stronger than I ever thought I could be.

Lorna: Is your child getting the support and services he needs to develop to his full potential? What suggestions do you have for parents on navigating through the red tape to get the help their child needs?

We are greatly blessed by The Child Study Center of Fort Worth, Texas.  Their motto is “Bringing Potential to Light.”  That is exactly what they have done for William.  The center is basically our second home.  William began his life there at the age of 3 and we have been heavily involved with the program from the start.

To parents with a child with autism,

The more you know and understand autism spectrum disorders, the better equipped you will be to make informed decisions for your child. Educate yourself about the treatment options, ask questions, and participate in ALL treatment decisions. Don’t give up or jump to conclusions about what life is going to be like for your child. Like everyone else, people with autism have an entire lifetime to grow and develop their abilities.

Finally, keep in mind that no matter what autism treatment plan is chosen, your involvement is vital to success. You can help your child get the most out of treatment by working hand-in-hand with the autism treatment team and following through with the therapy at home.

Lorna: You will appreciate the conversational tone used to convey their message. It is as if you were sitting at home with comforting friends. As an extension to your book, do you speak at support groups, conferences, etc? Tell us about your web site and your blog.

We enjoy speaking at support groups and conferences.  In fact, we are very excited to be invited to speak at The Autism Society 2012 Annual Conference this year.

The website is a portal into our lives.  Not only do we discuss the book but we have helpful articles and links for parents looking for more information on autism spectrum disorders.  Our blogging efforts seem to resonate with many of the parents and caregivers who visit our site.  We always enjoy speaking and inquiries can be sent to:

Lorna: From the foreword, “Melanie’s advice will help you avoid the unscrupulous charlatans peddling silver bullet treatments as she leads you straight to the evidence-based treatments that have been scientifically proven to produce meaningful outcomes.”  What is your advice to parents when they are looking for medical evaluations, treatment, therapies…?

It is really important for parents to understand that there must be an assessment first before any decisions are made regarding treatment for autism. You must choose what is the right approach for your child and your family. You, as the parent, have a big role in the treatment plan because you know your child better than anyone else.

When considering a treatment, here are a few questions to ask:

  • Will the treatment result in harm to the child?
  • Has the treatment been validated scientifically?
  •  Are there assessment procedures specified?
  •  How will the treatment be integrated into the child’s current program?

Keep in mind that many treatments that seem to make sense, and that other parents swear by, haven’t been proven effective or safe, ineffective or harmful.
[sws_blockquote_endquote align=”” cite=”Melanie Fowler, MA in Special Education-Deaf Education ” quotestyle=”style02″] Time-Out can be very effective if used appropriately and consistently. Getting a timer is very smart as now the child’s focus is on the timer and not on you for putting him in time-out… Your child should not have any type of engagement during time-out—no arguing, no talking. [/sws_blockquote_endquote]

Lorna: Heard the expression, “Make every bite count”? Well Melanie has “made every word count” because in a 122 page book she has crammed lots of valuable information.  What are the comments your book has received that have made the writing of a book all worthwhile?

The greatest compliments  are random emails from people all over the world saying that they could really identify with the book and that it really helped them.  That is what we had hoped and prayed for!!  The book is not a new philosophy, its just real people giving real examples that resonate with real people.

Lorna: Many parents and teachers do not know how much to push a child. In your book you did write about setting the bar just right, enough to motivate and set up child for success.  What tips can you share about this topic?

Take baby steps!!

Breaking things down into small and attainable steps can be very helpful.  An example: We really wanted William to learn how to tie his shoe on his own.  But, this took time and LOTS of baby steps.  He would scream and yell for help a lot, but each day got better.  I would model the tying process many times and then have him work on each step until I finally got him to do all of it on his own.  For Your Information: Automatic rewards helped with each step. We used edibles. Why? -Because he would work for it.

Try to tap into their interests by tying in one of your their favorite activities or pastimes into the experience when you are gently nudging them towards a goal.

Remember to PRAISE for success and efforts!

Lorna: What is on Melanie Fowler’s To-Do list for the Spring and Summer of 2012? Tell us how to follow you and where to buy your book. Thank you so much for making time in a busy mom’s schedule for this interview.

The book is coming out in Spanish!!- hopefully in the early summer.  We will be speaking at The Autism Society Annual Conference in July and are currently trying to set up other speaking engagements and book events as well as taking a family vacation to Florida!

You can follow us at where you can find our blog and purchase the book as well as our calendar of events.

Please “like” us on Facebook: “Look at my Eyes”

Twitter: “@fowler4group.”

You may also buy the book through Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Thank you so much Lorna!!

See Also

This post was written by Lorna
Lorna d’Entremont: Co-owner of SentioLife Solutions, Ltd. the company behind KidCompanions Chewelry (2007) and SentioCHEWS (2013), mother of three, grandma of 5 and wife. She is a retired teacher and special needs advocate. Throughout she has taught all levels from grade 2 to grade 9. Lorna loved teaching and enjoyed seeing the students progress in the school system. During her 30 year career she took a few years off to raise her three children.