Autism Awareness & Intervention Begins with Parent Mindset with guest Andrea Pollack, MS Ed

About this Episode

Wondering what to do first when your child is diagnosed with autism? Overwhelmed or feeling like a failure as a parent of a child with autism? On this episode of Brainy Moms, Dr. Amy and Teri interview the founder of Autism Parent Solutions, Andrea Pollack, MS Ed. Andrea shares that parents of children on the autism spectrum need help with their own mindset and perspective before they can confidently judge intervention options.

Andrea shares some tips and tools from her parenting program that give listeners a start on creating a mindset that will help them be less overwhelmed and frustrated as they navigate parenting a child on the autism spectrum. If you are an autism parent, this episode is for you!

About Andrea

Andrea Pollack, MS Ed is the founder of Autism Parent Solutions. Andrea is a former lawyer who left that career to homeschool her son with autism for eight years. And when her son returned to school, Andrea wanted to share her knowledge and experience with other parents. So, she went back to school, earning a master’s degree in education, and she started Autism Parent Solutions to provide parents with a comprehensive program of education and coaching to build the skills and confidence they need to help their children with autism reach their highest potential. Her focus is on helping parents develop the mindset and skills they need to navigate parenting a child on the autism spectrum. 

Connect with Andrea

Website: https://autismparentsolutions.com/ 

Social Media: @autismparentsolutions

Mentioned in this Episode

Link to Andrea’s Free Webinar

The 5-Step System My Clients Use to Transform their Autistic Child’s Challenging Behaviors and Promote Extraordinary Growth Without Stress or Frustration

About our sponsor
LearningRx is a worldwide network of brain training centers offering cognitive, reading, and math remediation and enhancement for all ages. LearningRx has worked with more than 100,000 clients who have learning struggles and disabilities, ADHD, traumatic brain injury, autism, and age-related cognitive decline. Visit www.LearningRx.com or call 1-866-BRAIN-01 to learn more. 

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Read the transcript for this episode:

Dr. Amy Moore:

Hi, and welcome to this episode of Brainy Moms brought to you today by LearningRx Brain Training Centers. I am Dr. Amy Moore, your host, here with my co-host Teri Miller, coming to you today from Colorado Springs, Colorado.

We’re excited to welcome our guest today. The founder of Autism Parent Solutions, Andrea Pollack. Andrea is a former lawyer who left that career to homeschool her autistic son for eight years. And when her son returned to school, Andrea wanted to share her knowledge and experience with other parents. So, she went back to school, earning a master’s degree in education, and she started Autism Parent Solutions to provide parents with a comprehensive program of education and coaching to build the skills and confidence they need to help their children with autism reach their highest potential.

Teri Miller:

So glad you’re here, Andrea.

Andrea Pollack:

Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.

Teri Miller:

Well, this is Autism Awareness Month, and that is super important to me. I am in the trenches with a little one, my youngest that is struggling with autism behaviors. So I really, really wanted to get this information out to our listeners. And especially this month when a lot of people are using autism awareness to seek help and to get more information. So, Andrea, I love that you’re with a, I’m so grateful and I want you to tell our listeners more about your story.

Andrea Pollack:

So, yeah, I was practicing law in New York City. I’d been doing it for 19 years and I had a child with autism and we had a difficult time finding a school in which he could thrive. We actually helped to start a school with other parent and it was great for other children. It just didn’t work for him. And I decided he only gets one mom, there are a lot of lawyers out there. I was going to homeschool him. And I had no idea what I was doing. Not a clue. I thought, but if we lay in bed and tickle each other all day, I think that’s going to be better than what’s going on because school was causing him to be so distressed all the time. And I started from scratch. I did do a lot of programs and educated myself as best I could.

Andrea Pollack:

It was a long time ago now, he’s now 23. So there wasn’t quite as much out there at the time. And I did a lot of experimenting and a lot of learning and we did it for eight years. And at the end of eight years, he was ready to go back to school. He was ready to be more social, he was less sensitive to his environment. He had built up some tolerance and he was ready to get on with it. So he started back to school in the eighth grade.

Teri Miller:

That’s amazing. Just that you were able to offer him that time so that he could become settled, he could become confident, he would have that consistency of routine so that he was able to then develop into the maturity where he could handle. That’s just… Oh, that’s the perfect success story. That’s so good.

Andrea Pollack:

Well, part of what I realized was that the whole world was just too much for him and he was closing himself off. So, to try to get him to relate and connect in an environment that was just too overwhelming, we were working against ourselves. So, I needed to bring him into an environment that could tune all of that out and build it up slowly for him.

Teri Miller:

Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So then you found yourself at a fork in the road, right? He’s back in school and then you had to decide, “Okay, am I going back to work as an attorney? Or what am I going to do now?”

Andrea Pollack:

Exactly. And I knew how hard I had worked. I approached this homeschooling situation and learning about autism like a Wall Street lawyer. I was in it to win it and I was all in. And I thought, what a waste that each of us is at home learning like this and doing these things and then we keep it with us and we don’t share it out in the world? And I thought I learned too much and I made too many mistakes from which other people could learn to keep it to myself. So I knew I had to go in that direction.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Okay. So then what did you do?

Andrea Pollack:

So, I went back to grad school, got a master’s in education, because I knew I knew a lot, but I wanted to be able to share it most effectively, become a better educator, learn more about educating adults. And so I did that and I created the program and here we are.

Dr. Amy Moore:

There you are.

Teri Miller:

So good.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yeah. So you say that parents of children who have autism are frequently suffering with feelings of failure, they’re overwhelmed, they’re uncertain about what they’re doing. Why do they struggle like that?

Andrea Pollack:

There are a number of reasons. One of them is that traditional parenting tools, one’s that we grew up learning… So we grew up as children experiencing, they work the least well for our children. So, that’s part of it. Right? Then there’s all the judgment out there that it strikes a chord in us that says… First of all, we get defensive. Like, “no, that’s not fair, I’m working so hard.” And I was like, “Wait, maybe I’m not good enough.” Right? So there’s that piece. And then also a lot of times the support and education that is offered is from the perspective of a therapist and the therapist is telling you how to do what the therapist does. And parenting is different. One of the things that is interesting is I have a number of special education teachers in my program who are also parents of children. And they say, I crush it at school and it’s a disaster at home and I don’t understand why. And that’s part of it.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Well, and you also say that education is the same way. Right? So most of the interventions are from the perspective of the therapist, but you also say that education is not geared towards the parent either, it’s geared towards the child-

Andrea Pollack:

Exactly.

Dr. Amy Moore:

… and autism behaviors. Right?

Andrea Pollack:

Right. That’s what I meant. The education that’s provided to parents is geared toward the child’s education and not toward the child’s daily living. I mean, there are some, they focus on daily living skills as a topic, but it’s from an educator’s perspective. And it doesn’t take into account the deeply emotional experience of being a parent, which impacts everything.

Teri Miller:

It does. It does. And it’s so… That emotional experience so impacts our child, which then further impacts their behaviors, which it just creates this spiral, which you talk about. I want to mention two things real quickly before we get too far in. For listeners that are struggling with child with autism and cannot homeschool, do not homeschool, please don’t tune out, please don’t turn this off right now and think this is a homeschooling your autistic child perspective. It is not at all. So, I am not able to homeschool my child with autism behaviors. It does not work for our relationship. And it is not helpful or effective. It is contraindicated for her improvement. And so, please listeners don’t think that we’re saying that’s something that you should do. No.

Andrea Pollack:

Can I comment on that one second?

Teri Miller:

Yeah. Please. Yes, yes, yes.

Andrea Pollack:

I learned what I learned in the context of doing that, but that’s not at all what I teach parents about-

Teri Miller:

Yes.

Andrea Pollack:

… at all. It’s about parenting because children spent the vast majority, the vast percentage of their time with parents, more so than in school or anywhere else. And parents need parenting tools for all of those times.

Teri Miller:

Yes. And that’s what you offer a free webinar on your website. We’ll get you into that later. But I gleaned so much information and that’s what you’re going to share so much here with our listeners and it’s all about from the parenting perspective. So, yes, [inaudible 00:08:10] go ahead. Listeners, don’t tune out or think this isn’t for you. Yes. Stay with us. So, talking about parents from the parent perspective, so let’s-

Dr. Amy Moore:

You talk a lot about mindset.

Andrea Pollack:

Yes.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Right? So share with us why that’s so important.

Andrea Pollack:

Okay, great. Thank you for asking that because here’s what we know. We know that there are certain strategies that are recommended. Right? And if it were just as simple as do that, we would all do it and it would be easy. Right? But often there are mindset issues that get in the way of doing those things in a way that’s beneficial. So, for example, if you think your child is engaging in a certain behavior on purpose and it triggers you, it creates an emotional experience for you, you feel anger, you feel frustration, you feel fear of the future because you can’t get this under control. And then you behave from that place with your child. And it doesn’t necessarily benefit either of you. But it’s a hard to have that perspective when you’re in the middle of it. Right? It’s hard to see that you are engaging all of these emotions when you’re applying your tools.

Andrea Pollack:

So helping parents to see those things, helping parents make a choice. This is also about helping them be the parent they want to be. I don’t believe there’s one right way to parent, is about bringing awareness to the parent of the choices they’re making, the feelings they’re feeling. I want them to feel their feelings for sure. This is not about not feeling the feelings, it’s about choosing how to react based on those feelings.

Teri Miller:

Okay. You said our brains are designed to mirror emotions, which is why it feels so upsetting when our children struggle. If we can stay calm and assured our children can mirror our emotions and we’ve heard this from other people we’ve interviewed about parenting and other struggles. And I love this. Talk to us a little bit more about the concept of mirroring neurons, which you’re talking about and that co-regulation of emotions. How can I do that as a parent from the get go before ever anything starts? Before that tantrum erupts, how can I be prepared?

Andrea Pollack:

That is a great question. And the best way to address tantrums is to prevent them. Right?

Teri Miller:

Yeah.

Andrea Pollack:

Or meltdowns. And so in the program I have, I teach these six strategies. And the first one, the place where we start is model and teach self-regulation. Because it’s the foundation of everything. And I offer parents two tools to help them immediately. So we get started day one. And the first is to realize that your child most of the time is not choosing this behavior. They are dysregulated and they are behaving from a place of dysregulation or they have an inability to meet your expectations. And it’s causing them to behave in a way that’s undesirable to you. When you believe that they’re not choosing it, that it’s some lack of skill that they’re experiencing or some dysregulation, it helps you maintain a different kind of compassion in the moment. Right?

Andrea Pollack:

So we start there and we do a deep dive into that and all of reasons, because parents are resistant initially, because it does feel so personal and it’s so triggering. So, it takes parents some time to enable that to seep in. But that’s tool number one, is really knowing that they’re not doing it on purpose, they’re not it to you. Right? They would do better if they could. That’s it. Dr. Ross Greene statement.

Dr. Amy Moore:

The Explosive Child. Yes.

Andrea Pollack:

Yeah, exactly.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yes. We talk about that frequently. So, yeah. And I want to stop you before you tell us the second tool.

Andrea Pollack:

Okay.

Dr. Amy Moore:

That is actually something that’s applicable to teachers as well. Right? So, teachers are triggered by inappropriate behaviors in the classroom. And when they can learn to understand that is not directed towards them, that is a child communicating a need that is not being met in some way. Right? And then to be able to engage empathy in that situation, whether you’re a parent or a teacher, is so much easier when you know, this is not a personal affront to me, this is this child seeking connection or has a need that isn’t being filled right now, or doesn’t have the skill to communicate effectively what their need is.

Andrea Pollack:

Exactly. Yes, exactly.

Teri Miller:

In my experience as a mom with what we’ve been struggling with… So, I love that you say that’s the number one tool, because I am convinced that is the number one thing that turned around the atmosphere of our home, my child’s behavior, everything, because I spent… My daughter’s also adopted. And so there are some attachment problems and there’s a lot of struggles. And so, I spent a good long time feeling like she is so mean to me because I’m the primary attachment. So I was the primary receiver. I was safe. Primary receiver of her tantrums. They were kind of directed at me, but I really felt it. She’s being mean to me. And when I changed that perspective, when I learned her brain doesn’t work the same way, these are behaviors she can’t control, it changed everything. And I’d love for you to talk a little bit because I’ve had other parents say, “Well, what’s the difference between emotional regulation and just stuffing?” I’ve had them say, “Well, I’ve tried to stuff those feelings of frustration.” What’s the difference?

Andrea Pollack:

Yeah. Great. That’s great question. Sure. Feeling your feelings doesn’t mean you have to act on them in the moment. You can have those feelings and say, “Okay, I have those feelings, I can feel them, I can put them to one side for a moment because my child needs me right now to behave in a different way.” And that’s tool number two actually that we were talking about, and I’ll sort of weave them together.

Teri Miller:

Perfect.

Andrea Pollack:

Which is realizing that triggered reaction, that anger, that frustration, it’s just a habit. Right? Because the first reaction people give me is, “I can’t help it. I just get that way.” And I say, “I totally appreciate that you believe that, but we can practice learning to recognize the signs as they arise saying, hold on, red flag, I see you. And I’m going to make a different choice right now, because that’s going to be better for my child and eventually also better for me.” Right? We know this doesn’t go to a good place. So I get more of what I want by making a choice in the moment to control my expression of my feelings, but I’m going to feel all the feelings. And sometimes, you can journal later, you can call up a friend and let it all out. We also are under the mistaken beliefs sometimes that like let it all out, erupting is somehow therapeutic and that’s not always true. It can cause a lot of damage too. So, the general point is feeling the feelings and acting on them don’t have to be connected.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So it’s interesting that you teach parents that because as parents, we expect our children to learn appropriate responses despite their feelings. Right?

Teri Miller:

But we’re not genius.

Dr. Amy Moore:

You can be that but you can’t be mean. Right? And especially with children on the spectrum, we know that they basically have to memorize an appropriate response. Right? It’s not instinctual to make eye contact for example, but they can learn that because that’s the socially acceptable behavior when someone is speaking to you. Right? So how can we as parents expect our child, especially a child with some neuropathology, to learn appropriate behaviors, but we are not willing to learn to respond differently as well in the face of our emotion.

Teri Miller:

Oh my goodness. Yeah. Because we’re putting a… I think as parents we’re putting this judgment on, well, she threw a tantrum about a little thing. I just asked her to put her fork in the sink. Well, I’m throwing a tantrum because she threw… No. It doesn’t matter. There is not… Yeah. There’s we can’t weight it. Yeah, for me, it was learning the difference between gritting my teeth and learning how to breathe, learning how to truly calm my limbic system. I didn’t have to grit my teeth and stuff my feelings. I had to breathe, I had to recognize she’s not doing this to me like you talked about. And that has made a huge difference. That co-regulation, that letting her mirror my calmness instead of me mirroring her meltdown. Big difference.

Andrea Pollack:

Well, it’s also interesting this topic in general, because all of the things that I teach parents about interacting with their kids at the end, we bring it full circle to say, actually, it all applies to you as well. Right? One of the other things we talk about is building skills step-by-step. Right? Instead of setting an expectation that’s way too high for a child to meet, because for example, say they should be doing it because they’re that age. Right? That just leads to meltdown. Well, when you set an expectation for yourself to be perfect and you’re not, guess what? Leads to meltdown. So it’s about building your own skills step-by-step. Right? We teach about… We teach parents how to be more flexible with their children because our children are so inflexible and we tend to meet that with a certain inflexibility. Right? Because part of it is we’re just trying to create order out of the chaos. So we bring a lot of rigidity to it and we bring that to a rigid child and guess where that goes.

Teri Miller:

Right. Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Downhill [crosstalk 00:18:28] fast.

Teri Miller:

Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Downhill fast.

Andrea Pollack:

No good.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yes.

Teri Miller:

Yes.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Right. And so I think I love that you mentioned expectations because as parents who have a neurodiverse child, we have to manage our expectations. Right? So if our expectations aren’t realistic, then that just sets us up for disappointment as well.

Andrea Pollack:

Actually, I teach a slightly different bent on that, which is, it’s not about reducing expectations for the long run, it’s about reducing them for now so we can build them properly and get to that place where you want to go maybe. Maybe, maybe not. Again, you’re right that a lot of times we don’t know where the child’s going to get to, but what we do know is they’re not going to get there by skipping all the steps. Right? You don’t go into a gym and say, “I want to lift 150 pounds, so let’s start at a 100.” You just don’t. Right? But it doesn’t mean you won’t get there, but it means you have to start with the tens and then go to 20, et cetera.

Teri Miller:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr. Amy Moore:

Right. So your expectations need to be developmentally appropriate then.

Andrea Pollack:

For your child, not for their age, not for anything else, but I’m careful to not to say to parents, lower your expectations or keep them in check. It’s more about keep them appropriate for now and focus on now. And little steps can add up to really big gains.

Teri Miller:

Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Great advice.

Teri Miller:

That’s really… That’s so good. Yeah. For the parent, not just our expectations for our child, but expectations for self. If I can just have one less meltdown reaction to her meltdowns, one today, the little steps like you said, let’s go to the gym and live 10 pounds, just 10 for a while. That is so encouraging. Thank you.

Andrea Pollack:

Well, it’s also that feeling of success breeds success. So, in addition to the fact that it’s logical to just build that way, it also builds self-esteem in the child when they feel successful, it increases their motivation to continue to grow because they believe in themselves. It’s a whole recipe of going in the right direction let’s say.

Teri Miller:

Yeah. So you talk about traditional parenting strategies don’t work and you mentioned that briefly. Tell us more about that. What are we doing that’s traditional parenting that’s not working and how could we do different?

Andrea Pollack:

Well, punishment and rewards are a big one in the autism universe. And I’m not saying that they don’t ever work for little things and you can’t use them appropriately from time to time, but punishing your child doesn’t teach them the lesson or the skill that they need to do better next time, it just teaches them that they did something wrong and it enhances their dysregulation in the moment, which actually impedes their ability to learn the lesson in the moment. Think about even in school for example, kids who have frustration tolerance issues or impulsivity issues, those are the ones who get the most consequences, but you need impulse control for the consequence to prevent you from doing the behavior. Right? It makes no sense, it doesn’t work. Exactly.

Andrea Pollack:

It leads back to the perspective of there’s a missing skill or just some sort of missing lesson that the child needs to learn. So it feeds back into the first self-regulation issue. So, yeah, so punishment is a big one. Even rewards. Sometimes you dangle a reward in front of a child and they want that reward so badly. But if they can’t do the thing, the reward’s not going to help them. I give parents the example of, I can’t play piano. I just can’t. You could put me in front of a piano and offer me a million dollars, by the end of the day I could play a particular thing. Well, I would really want that million dollars, but at the end of the day I would not be able to play piano. You could yell at me, you could incentivize me, you could do all the things. It doesn’t get me there.

Teri Miller:

Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So that’s-

Andrea Pollack:

Those are big ones.

Teri Miller:

That’s such a good example.

Dr. Amy Moore:

It is.

Teri Miller:

Oh, that’s powerful.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Right. And then imagine the disappointment if you were a child being teased with a reward that you could not reach because you don’t have the skills yet, and then to feel just crushed that you weren’t able to earn something that you so desperately wanted. Not because you didn’t try, but because you haven’t learned those skills yet, or you don’t have that ability yet.

Andrea Pollack:

Exactly.

Teri Miller:

Yeah.

Andrea Pollack:

Right.

Teri Miller:

This isn’t one-

Andrea Pollack:

Oh, go ahead. Sorry.

Teri Miller:

No, no, go ahead.

Andrea Pollack:

Well, I was just thinking in terms of traditional parenting, this whole idea of somehow we’re going to punish the autism out of them is something that once I bring it to parents attention, I say it that way they’re like, “Ugh, exactly.” They like, “I didn’t think of it that way.” So it’s not about that. So anyway, continue. I’m sorry.

Teri Miller:

No, I was just going to say, I think discovering what’s going on is a big piece of the puzzle. I love the concept or the group or the support or whatever of autism awareness, because I didn’t know that’s what was going on for years. And I did so many things wrong and I have so much grief and regret and I just have to hope that my daughter is resilient and she can recover from the ways that I did things so badly. I did try to, I tried to consequence the autism behaviors out of her because I didn’t know it. I thought I was being a good parent with consequences and rewards. I was reading all the books, I was being gentle, trying to calm my emotions, but I was still doing a lot of consequences and rewards.

Teri Miller:

So understanding autism awareness is so helpful because our kids may have behavior problems that we don’t know are actually autism behaviors, they are on the spectrum. How can parents, maybe there’s somebody listening to this that doesn’t even… They just are listening and their kids have struggles. How can parents become more aware and learn, maybe get a diagnosis or understand autism in their child?

Andrea Pollack:

The word that leaps to mind actually, when you’re asking me that is curiosity. Right? It’s not as much to me about getting the diagnosis or understanding how that diagnosis relates to the specific behavior. To me, it’s becoming really curious about why your child is doing what they’re doing. Right? So, instead of coming at it from a, I have to fix this perspective, it’s coming at it from a, let me understand this so that I can help them in a way that actually helps them. I don’t know if that answers your question. But to me, that was the concept that leapt my mind, because again, getting a diagnosis is very helpful and it can lead you to resources. And those are helpful too, but you don’t want to be blinded by the resources that are out there or the things that somebody’s telling you to do. Having that genuine curiosity yourself is another really important piece of it for a parent.

Teri Miller:

That’s so big. Try to dig in to the why. Why is my child behaving this way? Why is my child consistently reacting this way? Instead of what am I going to do to control it? What am I going to do to stop this problem?

Andrea Pollack:

Yes. And why is it happening? Giving them the benefit of the doubt, going back to point number one. Right? They’re not doing purpose, so what is it? And how can I help them? Not how can I punish them to make it stop? How can I help them to make it better?

Teri Miller:

Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

It seems to me that having this mindset at the very beginning when you first find out that your child is on the spectrum, adopting this mindset, getting this type of coaching should be the first step. Before you start looking at what resources you’re going to use, what interventions might be helpful, what you’re going to choose education wise, it seems to me that you need to lay the foundation as a parent for how you’re going to move forward. The next step, and then the next step, and then the next step, because otherwise you’re going to be playing catch up and you’re going to be working with shame and guilt because you did wrong this time. And wrong from your personal perspective. Right? You’re going to have regret. It’s so important, I think to change your own mindset first.

Teri Miller:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andrea Pollack:

I totally agree with you. One of the things we really focus on is really building parenting confidence. Right? And confident parenting is not per perfect parenting, it’s believing in the moment that you are doing the best that anyone could for your child, which doesn’t mean you’re not going to make mistakes. Of course, you are. But then you don’t feel it with that saying guilt and shame. It’s like, I tried that it didn’t work on moving on. Right? And unfortunately in our society, people want immediately to go to all of the external, get the treatments and the therapies and the resources. And again, no disrespect those are very important. But to be a confident player as a parent in the analysis of all of that as well, is so important and so helpful.

Teri Miller:

Yeah. That’s so good. So much of it is. Ugh, can we just… Can we be aware what you’re talking about, Amy? Yeah, to avoid the shame and the guilt and maybe too, there’s this… There’s got to be grace, there’s got to be forgiveness. Obviously we’re frustrated with our kids, we got to forgive our kiddo that’s been struggling. And I think even deeper, we have to forgive ourselves because I think a lot of parents are in the same position I am, that you go for a while not knowing what’s wrong. Just feeling frustrated, especially if you have several kids and they are neurotypical and then you have this atypical kid that its like, what’s wrong? What have I done wrong? Where am I failing? And this kid’s driving me crazy. And so then when you realize, okay, there is something going on neurologically and my kiddo needs my help and all those things, we’ve got to forgive ourselves.

Andrea Pollack:

Well we deal… Yeah. In our groups we deal with that a lot out as well and we address it. And I help to remind parents that the reason they get so stressed out, the reason they resort to punishment, the reason they do all those things, is because they want the best for their child. And those are the tools they have that they’ve been taught, our society teaches them, on television that’s how parents discipline their children. Even the concept of discipline, it’s for their benefit, for their best future. That’s what we want. That was the source of all of our actions. So you do have to show yourself some grace because you were doing it. You were doing it for their good, you just weren’t getting the success that you wanted.

Teri Miller:

Yes.

Andrea Pollack:

And I honor parents though for continuing to come back and trying something different and trying again and trying something new and never giving up on creating that optimal outcome.

Teri Miller:

Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So where do you think the breakdown is between getting the official diagnosis from the clinician and seeking interventions right away, why are we missing this step?

Andrea Pollack:

That is a great question. I do think… Well, I think there are a couple of answers. There’s a lot of division in the autism community. Right? A lot of different perspectives that conflict with each other. And so, everyone’s in there fighting for their own perspective. And it’s lot about all of the professional interventions and it’s almost leaving the parent out of it. Actually, when my son was young, I had people say to me, “You just be the parent, let me take care of the speech or let me take care of whatever.” And I was like, “Just be the parent?” Wow!

Andrea Pollack:

So there’s a bit of that. And then also there is the big fear and overwhelm. Parents start operating from that place to fear. And overall it is easy to relinquish your best judgment in favor of what other people are telling you. And then it’s very random sometimes how you bounce between professional perspectives. Right? You believe something and then like, “Nah, that didn’t work.” And then you believe something else and you’re all in and then that didn’t work. But each thing takes time and it takes you away from that genuine curiosity about your own child and what will help them the most.

Teri Miller:

Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Well, and I think it’s a matter of educating clinicians as well, that, “Hey, you’re skipping a step.” Right before you start making recommendations about interventions for the child, you need to say to the parent, “Hey, this is what you need to do to get ready for this journey.”

Teri Miller:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andrea Pollack:

Right. Well, the other piece though, is sadly, the system is not set up to support parent support financially. So, the whole system hasn’t recognized that it’s important. Some insurance companies pay for what they call parent training. I hate that phrase. But it’s parent training by an ABA provider of how a parent can execute the ABA techniques that the therapist is offering.

Teri Miller:

Yeah.

Andrea Pollack:

But otherwise, there’s not a lot of support, financial support or other support in the system for parents. Period.

Teri Miller:

Right. Yeah. And I think it’s… I do believe it’s core. Again, I’m going to say it again like I did at the beginning, that that has made the bigger difference. My daughter was with a therapist for several months and my focus was on her behaviors. And until I started… I was so lucky the program that we are with, they ultimately did offer an hour of parent counseling per week to go with my daughter’s counseling. And that helped turn the corner because I realized I need to look at my behaviors as a parent. And it’s that mindset change… And I love that about your program. I have to say when we were first researching, digging around and researching you and looking at your website and digging into your free webinar, I told Amy, I said, what I love is that she is focused on what I can do as a parent because I can change that. I can control me instead of how your child needs to change, because then I’m just trying to control my child.

Andrea Pollack:

And we know how that works.

Teri Miller:

Right.

Andrea Pollack:

Right. Well, but back to the whole system issue and it’s so important and I wish we could get together and get some movement on this generally. But there’s really powerful search out there that shows that parenting stress undermines the efficacy of therapies. Right? Makes a lot of sense, but there is a lot of research that proves it. So, if you’re going to pour millions of dollars into the therapies and not support the parents, and we know that the parenting stress reduces the efficacy of the behaviors, it’s like a leaky bucket. Let us just take some of those funds and support the parents. It’s so obvious to me and yet it’s not the way our system works.

Teri Miller:

Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yeah. That’s a great point.

Teri Miller:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr. Amy Moore:

All right. So we need to take a break and let Teri read a word from our sponsor LearningRX and when we come back, Andrea, we want you to tell us about your specific parenting program.

Teri Miller: Reading sponsor ad from LearningRx

Are you concerned about your child’s reading or spelling performance? Are you worried your child’s reading curriculum isn’t thorough enough? Well, most learning struggles aren’t the results of poor curriculum or instruction, they’re typically caused by having cognitive skills that need to be strengthened. Skills like auditory processing, memory and processing speed. LearningRx one-on-one brain training programs are designed to target and strengthen the skills that we rely on for reading, spelling, writing, and learning. LearningRx can help you identify which skills may be keeping your child from performing their best. In fact, they’ve worked with more than 100,000 children and adults who wanted to think and perform better. They’d like to help get your child on the path to a brighter and more confident future. Give LearningRx a call at 866-brain-01, or visit learningrx.com. That’s learningrx.com.

Dr. Amy Moore:

And we’re back talking to Andrea Pollack, founder of Autism Parent Solutions. And Andrea, you have a parent program. So talk to us about that.

Andrea Pollack:

I do. It’s a 12 week program and it is designed to be somewhat intensive, although I don’t want that word to sound scary. But what I discovered was if you take one webinar or you take one workshop, it doesn’t create transformation. Right? It gives you more information. And again, those things are all useful, but if you really want to create the transformation, you have to stay with it. So what I do is the first eight weeks, I have eight modules of educational material and it’s not just information. It’s also, we start out of the box, applying it, creating an action plan for you and your child. And those are prerecorded, which I do because parents are really busy and it enables them to watch them when they want to watch them, they can watch them 10 minutes at a time.

Andrea Pollack:

They can watch them separately from their spouses, if that’s a relevant issue. And they can watch them as many times as they want. I’ve had parents say, “I only watched it twice, I’ve got to watch the next one the third time before I move on to the next module.” And I’m like, “Okay, sounds good.” But that idea is one per week for eight weeks. During that eight weeks, we also have twice per week, small group Q&A sessions. And that’s where the magic happens. That’s where a lot of the coaching happens, where you understand how to really apply it to your situation and what’s stopping you from applying things that may be helpful. We talk about realizing that your child isn’t intending to do it, but sometimes we resort to habits. We don’t that, oh, you were actually assuming your child was intending to do it there. We can hear it in the stories. And then parents learn from each other because even if you’re not facing the same issue, first of all, you’re learning how to apply the strategies to a lot of different issues, which builds your problem solving muscles.

Andrea Pollack:

And also sometimes parents didn’t think to ask that question and something comes up and then we have a general learning. And then also, even when I’m answering a specific question for a specific parent, I then generalize it for the group. So those sessions are really magical and they feel good. The modules also do deal with some personal growth issues, not just about the child, we talk about guilt, we talk about fear. We talk about all of those things as well.

Teri Miller:

So, good.

Andrea Pollack:

The last four weeks are just continuation of the Q&A sessions, because I know that if you go back to the situation that created the issues too quickly, it’s hard to maintain new habits. So this is an extra month to make sure that those habits are really cemented in. I also do three one-on-one sessions with each family, and that enables us to address anything that might be too sensitive to address in a group, because that’s fair. Right? But also we set goals and we make sure that we’re making progress. So it’s not just like we’re thinking new thoughts, it’s what are we doing? Where are we? Where do we want to get to? And what are we accomplishing? Just to make sure we really have transformation.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Are those one-on-one sessions throughout the 12 weeks, or where are they timed?

Andrea Pollack:

We usually do it early on, although not the very beginning. I like parents to get a little bit of the education under their belts before we start setting the goals. But they’re also as needed. Sometimes a parent needs an extra one and I support my clients so whatever they need. But yeah. So, beginning, middle end is roughly how it works, but really whatever they need.

Dr. Amy Moore:

And is everything virtual?

Andrea Pollack:

Everything is virtual. Yes.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So, you’re accessible all over the world?

Andrea Pollack:

Yeah. Yeah. One of my latest clients is from Australia. Which sort of random how she found me, but I’m so happy to be helping her. She needs the help.

Teri Miller:

That’s so good.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So she probably has to get up in the middle of the night to attend the live Q&A sessions.

Andrea Pollack:

Well, it works out that one of them is 10 o’clock in her morning because we do it in our evening and she’s, I don’t know, 14 hours ahead or something. The other one is 11:30 at night. So, that one’s a little more iffy, but-

Teri Miller:

Yeah.

Andrea Pollack:

Yeah.

Teri Miller:

Oh, it sounds amazing. I want to mention before we close up, I know we need to close up. I just think this is such an amazing coincidence. So we are LearningRx sponsored podcast and we found out purely coincidentally, just before we started this interview, that your kids went through LearningRx, can you just briefly just tell a little bit about even how that helped your son?

Andrea Pollack:

Yes. It was at the end of his homeschooling days and I realized before he was ready to go back to the school and he was ready socially, there were certain things that we hadn’t been doing at home to specifically address some of the skills. And I wanted that done in a more organized fashion. I also wanted him exposed to a more organized teaching environment, but in a way that he could handle it. He needed that one-on-one environment to help him and also for the specialist to really assess where he was on those skills. Right? That was an example of, I was a competent enough parent to understand that I didn’t know exactly how to assess some of those specific skills and that was a great place for which I needed an expert. So, he did that for about a year and it was so good for him.

Andrea Pollack:

Yeah. And they loved him and it was good for his self-esteem. He was learning, you could see it, it was measurable. It was great. My daughter, who is neurotypical, Ivy League graduate, she was… I wouldn’t even say she was struggling. I just felt like she might benefit from the boost that it could give her. And I offered it to her. And I said, “I am in this place and I see what they’re doing and it makes so much sense and it just feels like it’d be something that’d be so good for you.” But of course I needed her buy-in. And she was like, “Yeah, I think I’d like to do that.” I was like, “Great, let’s do it.”

Teri Miller:

That’s so great. That’s just so encouraging. I love it oh, beautiful.

Andrea Pollack:

Yeah. So, she did it in early high school and I really did it because I thought it would just give her a boost in her skill and her confidence because the child can see their own growth and that feels really good for them.

Teri Miller:

Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Absolutely. So, Andrea, is there anything that you would still like to say that you haven’t gotten to say today?

Andrea Pollack:

I think we covered everything. I appreciate all of your questions. Just that parents deserve support and it is a kind of investment though that you make in yourself and in your family that pays off for years and years for the rest of your child’s life really. And don’t think that it’s not something that’s important because it’s you. Parents get so child focused that they’re afraid to do anything that focuses on themselves, but if you’re not willing to do it for yourself, do it for your child.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Absolutely.

Teri Miller:

That’s so good.

Dr. Amy Moore:

All right. So this has been a fantastic conversation. We want to thank you, Andrea Pollack for sharing this really valuable information for parents of children on the spectrum. If you would like more information about Andrea’s work, her website is autismparentsolutions.com. You can find her on social media at Autism Parent Solutions and we will put those links and handles in the show notes as well as a link to her free webinar and how to work with her.

So, thank you so much for listening today. If you like our show, we would love it if you would leave us a five star rating and review on Apple Podcasts. If you would rather watch us, we are on YouTube, and you can find us on social media on every platform @TheBrainyMoms. So, look until next time we know that you’re busy moms and we’re busy moms, so we’re out.

Teri Miller:

See ya.

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