Natasha is a mama of two neurodiverse daughters and she has one big focus: teaching her girls social and emotional skills, not only to help them express themselves but to advocate for themselves.
“My girls are black, and they are on the spectrum. This leaves so much room for misinterpretation and judgment, and if you add in the complications of communicating with uninformed neurotypical individuals, my girls are already set to have a difficult life advocating for themselves. This is why it is important to their father and me that we do everything in our power to lay a foundation within our home of love and kindness where their emotions and feelings are acknowledged and worked through.”
Paris, 32 months, and Riley, 16 months, both have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ADS), yet they present differently. “You know how people say if you met one Autistic person, then you met one Autistic person, well that is true in my home. The way Paris’ autism manifests is different from Riley’s. Early intervention is so important and it is important to know that no toddler displays the same signs or all the signs so you have to take notice and speak up for your child.”
One way Natasha chooses to support her girls is through emotional education. “I was reading a few positive parenting books which mentioned the effectiveness of time-ins. I did a google search of time-ins and Generation Mindful was the first link to come up. I was immediately drawn to the Time-In ToolKit. Emotional intelligence is so important to me, especially since my oldest daughter struggles to communicate her emotions and understand others. I needed an interactive guide to help me educate her and I knew these tools were perfect for my family.”
First, the family created the space by hanging the ToolKit posters and filling it with various sensory items, fidgets toys, books, soft beanbags, and stuffed animals to hug and squeeze. Then, Natasha introduced the Calming Corner to the girls through daily doses of connection and play. “I take Paris and Riley to their space anytime they choose, just to get familiar with the space, which is at least once a day. We review the emotions on the chart and try to mimic the faces in a nearby mirror. We also review the different calming strategies. My girls love to point to each and every expression and have me say it and show them the expression on my face, too.”
Natasha shares how the tools have been helpful in facilitating communication for her girls. “Paris said her first word at exactly 2-years-old. It was ‘baby,’ referring to her little sister. With the help of speech and occupational therapy, she learned and said her letters, numbers (1-10), shapes, colors, animals, and sounds, but we were unable to get her to say, sign, or move her head to indicate yes or no.”
But that all changed the day she set up the calming corner. “The day I set up the calming corner, I pulled out the yes, no, and a little cards from the My Feelings Activity Mat and Card Set. I showed Paris the yes card, read it aloud, then nodded her head along with mine to indicate yes. I then did the same for the no card, shaking her and my head to indicate no.”
Natasha said she was surprised by what happened next. “Paris picked up the no card and said ‘no’ right after. I got so excited but thought she was repeating me. But, then she grabbed the yes card and said ‘yes.’ It solidified everything for me. To have that happen on the first day of having the calming corner was absolute kismet to me.”
Introducing her girls slowly and through playful rituals, the corner has been effective during tantruming moments, too. “So far Paris likes counting to ten, taking three deep breaths, and squeezing her stuffed animals to help her regulate.”
Natasha shares that in their home, they focus on autism acceptance and normalization. “We aren’t trying to change who are girls are, stop their stimming or other unique traits, but we are trying to prepare them for a world that doesn’t understand or adjust very well for them while still providing a secure place at home. We want to create outlets for our girls to be who they are and get what they need, and GENM has helped with that.”
Through Generation Mindful’s Positive Parenting Course and Time-In-Toolkit, Natasha shares that her family is learning to name it to tame it and feel it to heal it. “We are a neurodiverse, black family implementing conscious/positive parenting. That puts us in a very specific and small group. However, we name/feel it so we can tame/heal it by advocating and encouraging other black families, other neurodiverse families, and other black and neurodiverse families to see the absolute benefits of treating your child like a respected individual that can learn to regulate emotions.”
Natasha shares the secret to her family’s success. “Parenting takes work on our part. You can’t just tell a child to go in their calming corner and expect them to get it. It is about being there with them, teaching them emotions, walking them through the strategies, and the process of managing their bodies. It is truly a team effort.”
Together, Natasha and her family are creating a space where all emotions are sacred and unique traits are celebrated. It isn’t about being the same, but rather honoring the humanness in us all and creating a safe space to be who you are. We are linked by love and, as we give it, we receive it.
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