Interview Sharon Fuentes Author of The Don’t Freak Out Guide to Parenting Kids with Asperger’s

Interview Sharon Fuentes Author of The Don’t Freak Out Guide to Parenting Kids with Asperger’s

Special Needs Book Review has written about many wonderful parenting books and we were pleased to learn about yet another one. The Don’t Freak Out Guide to Parenting Kids with Asperger’s  by Sharon Fuentes and Neil McNerney will make the lives of families raising a child with Asperger’s sydrome (AS) much easier.

Congratulations to Sharon Fuentes and Neil McNerney as their book, The Don’t Freak Out Guide to Parenting Kids with Asperger’s, won for Best Special Needs Parenting Book by About.com! Past winners picked who they thought the 2014 winners for the About.com readers choice awards Special Needs resources should be.

We thank Sharon Fuentes for her guest post introducing their book and look forward in learning more about this capable woman in this interview.

Lorna: Your bio has, “Sharon has two kiddos: Jay who is 12 and has Asperger’s and Grace who is 10 and oh my goodness…doesn’t!” How is Jay doing at home and in school?

<<Sharon Fuentes: Jay is doing great in school! He is in mostly honors classes and in the gifted program. He has a wonderful support team that really gets him and is open to suggestions. This year he was actually part of his own IEP meeting. It was wonderful to see him expressing exactly what it is that is working and why and what he thinks would help make things better for those that are not working. When he left the meeting the entire team, including me, had tears in their eyes because we all were just so proud of him and how far he has come. They all feel like they are personally responsible for his success and in many ways they are!

Of course keeping it together all day at school is hard so that means many times we have a few what we like to call, “Letting go” episodes at home. Home is a safe place, where he knows he can cry or be frustrated or get upset and we all understand. Doesn’t mean I always like it… But I understand most of the time where it is coming from. Heck I have my own “letting go’ episodes from time to time too… it’s normal! (Whatever normal is of course! LOL)

Humor is a big part of our home and how we all deal with each other and things. Being able to learn to laugh and realize that it is okay to make mistakes is an important lesson that I think we all need to learn. I think it helps that my kids see me constantly making mistakes and being able to own up to them, laugh about it and more importantly MOVE ON and learn from them. The other I day I burnt dinner and as I through it in the garbage and picked up the phone to call for a pizza I said to the kids, “See even Mama makes mistakes” to which they both responded in unison, “Tell us something we don’t already know!” It was rather funny and honestly rather liberating to know that my kids accept me flaws and all… just like I do them!>>

Lorna: And Grace, the sibling of a child with autism, how does she relate to her brother? Do you have advice for parents on how to make sure the sibling feels part of the family? Do they go to the same school?

<<Sharon Fuentes: There is saying we use in our house that goes, “Fair isn’t always getting the same thing, fair is everyone getting what they need to be successful!” Grace finally gets this and it has made things a lot easier on her. And she knows that it goes both ways. Example her brother has been dragged to just as many Girl Scout functions as she has to therapy waiting rooms. It all balances out in the long run. My biggest advice to parents is to try and not fall into the guilt trap. That saying I quoted is printed out and on our refrigerator to remind me just as much as the kids. I also know that it doesn’t take grand gestures to make a child feel special. Just the other day I went into Grace’s room and we had “Girl Talk” under the covers giggling about silly things for about 20 minutes and when we were done and I got out of bed to finally say goodnight she hugged me close and said that it was the best time ever! Those are the moments our kids treasure!

As far as Grace and Jay and their relationship… I am happy to report it is as typical as typical siblings can be. They fight, they play Xbox together, they argue, they watch Adventure Time sitting on the same couch etc. The biggest thing is they have each other’s back! We talk a lot in our family about how Blood is thicker than water and that family looks out for one another. Grace will be joining Jay next year in Middle school and she is so excited to finally be back in the same school as him. I think they both take comfort in knowing they are in the same building. I know I do!>>

Lorna: In your guest post you wrote, “I wanted to write a book that was conversational and had a sense of humor so that parents could relate to it. I wanted to offer parents Neil’s easy techniques on how they can help LEAD their child.” Give us examples of these techniques.

<<Sharon Fuentes: The book explains that while every child is different, many of our Aspie kids do seem to take on several of the same type of coping styles. We call them ‘styles’ because that suggests that things change from time to time, day to day heck, moment to moment. Each Aspie style has a different parenting approach that tends to work best. The ability to recognize what style our child is exhibiting at any given time makes it easier to decide how to help lead them.

Example, many of our kids tend to be Rule Followers craving structure and routine. Rules are a way for the Rule Follower Aspie to manage his anxiety and uncertainty as they provide clear direction and understanding to a situation. Now if you know, (cause you read my book Ha ha), that the best way to deal with a Rule Follower is to use a Consultant approach you will  maybe be able to avoid a huge meltdown when your Rule Follower is acting in an extremely inflexible way. By standing beside your child and looking at the problem at hand together from a different point of view, presenting them with the facts and allowing them to come to the conclusion on their own instead of telling them what they should do; the Rule Follower feels a sense of control which is what he needs at that time to cope. This type of consultant approach does not work for every Aspie style though. The Anxious Aspie needs a Supporter approach the Analytical Aspie the Boss approach and so on. The book goes into greater detail about each style and approach!>>

The Don’t Freak Out Guide to Parenting Kids with Asperger’s by Sharon Fuentes and Neil McNerneyLorna: You have such an eye-catching title, The Don’t Freak Out Guide to Parenting Kids with Asperger’s. Explain how you chose this title and give us few tips on how or when “not to freak out”.

<<Sharon Fuentes: A lot of the techniques in the book are based on the same ones that Neil introduces in his first book: HOMEWORK: A Parent’s Guide to helping Out Without Freaking Out; so, the title of the book kind of goes along with that. I also felt like there are so many times that I, as a parent, felt so lost and alone that I really was freaking out! I want other parents to know that I get it, really I do!

The biggest thing I have learned being Jay’s mom is how important it is that I try to remain calm. It sounds so easy but is so hard. But I have found, the hard way, that when I ‘freak out” all it does is make Jay ‘freak out’ more! If I can get a hold of my fears and worries, put a fence around them like you would a dog so that he does not roam or get away, then I am in a better place to lead my child. And the easiest way to corral those fears is not let the “what ifs” and What will happens” creep into my mind. And laughing… humor really does help.>>

Lorna: Congratulations for your writing! You have written numerous feature pieces which have appeared in many different Regional, National and International publications including Chicken Soup for the Soul: Raising Kids on the Spectrum. Tell us what your contribution for this book was.

<<Sharon Fuentes: The essay that appeared in that Chicken Soup book was called, “ Jay’s Odyssey Tales” and it is a sweet story about how Jay’s passion for Greek Mythology and how he used it to connect with Grace by telling her stories every morning before school. My favorite passage of the story is: “I understand why Jay enjoys the Odyssey tales so much. In many ways his life is an odyssey, a challenging journey. Every day Jay faces his own Cyclops. It may not come in the form of a giant one-eyed monster. More likely it will look like a five-paragraph writing assignment or sitting through a loud assembly.”>>

Lorna: You are an Autism Advocate willing to talk to anyone in an effort to spread ACCEPTANCE. How do you go about doing this? Do you give presentations or work on awareness campaigns…?

<<Sharon Fuentes: I have just started doing speaking engagements and I have to say it is incredible. Being in a room full of parents who really get it is just well for lack of a better way of saying it… AWESOME! I feel honored to be able to reach out to these folks and help them see what has always been there right in front of them, just how incredible there child is! It’s easy to get caught up in the everyday stuff and sometimes it just takes someone making you stop, breath and take a look at how far you have really come and give you a sense of hope for the future. This is what I mean by autism acceptance. These parents are well AWARE already what autism looks like; but sometimes they need a reminder of what acceptance looks like! Acceptance to me is acknowledging that my child is perfect the way he is, I don’t need to change him, I just need to give him some more tools and then help lead him in the right direction when he strays off path!>>

Lorna: The Don’t Freak Out Guide to PARENTING KIDS WITH ASPERGER’S will guide you through a simple process that will allow you to, among other things, “Help you to become a leader in your child’s life. Please elaborate.

<<Sharon Fuentes:  I have said it before, but I think it is important to point out again how ironic it is that you never hear that word, LEAD, when people talk about Autism or Asperger’s; yet if you think about it some of our most famous people throughout history, whom we consider to be leaders in their fields (Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Mozart etc.), all seemed to have had traits that could be considered very Asperger like. So leadership and Asperger’s really do go well together, thus making it a very effective way to parent.

In the book when we talk about leading your child we refer to three main parenting styles or ways in which people lead others. We talk about being a Supporter, a Consultant or a Boss. While there are many other types of leadership styles these three are the ones we find to be the most effective with our kids. And the thing is… they are effective with most people too.

A leader is someone who can inspire and foster self-motivation, allowing the individual person, special needs or not, to make their own decisions and be responsible for the actions they take! I think we all can agree that as parents, that is a goal we have for our kids! Leadership is a way to get our kids there. By leading we are showing our children the way, giving them the tools they need to get there, then sitting back and watching them go their own ways; knowing that you will be there waiting in the sidelines should they fall to help get them back up.

Lorna: Thank you so much for finding the time to write your guest post about The Don’t Freak Out Guide to PARENTING KIDS WITH ASPERGER’S and for taking part in our Author Interview Series. HOMEWORK- A Parent’s Guide to Helping Out without Freaking Out! by  Neil McNerney

Sharon Fuentes’ Social Media Links:

Read Also: Review of  The Don’t Freak Out Guide to Parenting Kids with Asperger’s 

Buy The Don’t Freak Out Guide to Parenting Kids with Asperger’s: Amazon.com   Amazon.ca 

Buy HOMEWORK- A Parent’s Guide to Helping Out without Freaking Out! Amazon.com  Amazon.ca

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.
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