December 30

Interview with Maria Borde – Posted on 12/30/2019

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I had the pleasure of interviewing Maria Borde, a YouTuber, author, and autism activist. I had been watching her videos on YouTube and was immensely impressed by how informative her videos were and how easy it was to apply her strategies. This prompted me to reach out to her to see if she would be interested in providing more information in this blog about how she came to do her videos and her journey as an autism mom. I am so happy and pleased she consented so that I can share this information with you all.

1) Tell me a little bit about your background and what you did before becoming a full-time mom.

I was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina but I live in Trinidad and Tobago, a twin-island nation in the Caribbean (English-speaking). I was a journalist and radio announcer for many years. I am also an educator, teaching Spanish as a second language.

2) I know you are a mom of three autistic boys. WOW! Did you know anything about autism before your first child was diagnosed? How did you come to learn about his diagnosis? How do you manage at home with three autistic boys?

I was somewhat familiar with autism based on my personal studies and the interaction with a couple of autistics growing up. Before our first son was diagnosed, we noticed he had a speech delay and other characteristics that made us wonder if he was on the autism spectrum. Raising 3 autistic sons has been a journey filled with joy and challenges, like most parents. As our children got older, things got a little more manageable. When they were young, things were quite chaotic at home, as anything and everything would end in a meltdown. However, as they matured and as we continue working with them, we got to the point where we were able to do many things as a family like going to the cinema, restaurants, etc.

3) Do you think genes plays a role in autism? What are your thoughts about the rise in autism in the brown community (Black and Latino)?

Yes, I think it does. There are families raising multiple children with only one being autistic or in the case of mine, all of them.  I made a video last month about the connection between race and autism diagnosis. Unfortunately, research has shown that Black and Hispanic children tend to be diagnosed later than White children according to Dr. Kate Wallis. This is due to persistent racial and economic disparities in autism screening and diagnosis and it is of course, a great cause of concern. Where I live, children are very rarely formally diagnosed under the age of 5.

4) What tips or tricks have you found to be helpful raising three autistic sons?

Being consistent and persistent brings results. Gently pushing them to achieve more is crucial. The most important thought is not to think about them as ‘disabled’ and put limitations on them. Instead, look at them as children with great potential to achieve fantastic things. Always be willing to take them out of their comfort zone a little bit by giving them responsibilities and chores. This helps them feel accomplished and chores are great tools to teach them life skills.

5) Reports show that there is a higher incidence of divorce in married couples with autistic children vs. those not impacted by autism. How do you and your husband balance quality time as a couple with being there for your children?

Actually, it is a myth that has been out there for many years (the 80% divorce rate for example). In new findings, the divorce rates are similar for parents with or without autistic children.

When our boys were young, it was hard to find time because they were up in the middle of the night or there were days full of meltdowns so things were very hectic, but we understood the situation and we supported each other a lot. We are deeply committed to our sons because we love them dearly and we worked very hard to help them achieve everything they have done so far. Now that they are older, my husband and I spend time together by watching a movie or videos, talking or laughing. I enjoy creating vegan recipes for him to try. He is an amazing husband and father.

6) What professional support services have you tried with your sons (ABA, OT, speech)? What have you found to be the most effective? Least effective?

The most effective method for us has been homeschooling. We did speech therapy but I have not seen it as effective. However, we have seen tremendous progress through daily and intense reading and spelling.

7) What role has special education played in your lives? How do you advocate for your sons at their schools?

Our children are home-schooled because there are no schools in Trinidad and Tobago that can cater for the needs of autistic children. Despite the seriousness of this situation and the plights of hundreds of families every single year, nothing has been done to change this situation. We have been advocating for public schools that can cater for the needs of autistic children for almost 20 years. There are families who cannot afford homeschooling because they are single parents who need to make ends meet so every day their children are home and being denied their right to education.

8) Do you belong to any organizations for families impacted by autism? If so, how do you find that to be helpful? What resources have you gathered?

Since 2015, my husband and I founded the Autism Parents Association of T&T (APATT), a non-profit organization that supports parents, relatives and caregivers of children and adults on the Autism spectrum here in Trinidad & Tobago. We are an activist group and we have met every single key individual in government (including the President of the country) to bring forth this very concerning issue and offer possible solutions but nothing tangible has been done to date by the government. We continue fighting and advocating for the rights of ALL autistic children to access free public education with qualified teachers as stated in the UN rights of the child and the UN rights of persons with disabilities.

9) This is a controversial question but I must ask since you are an autism mom, what is your whole take on vaccinations and possible link to autism? What is your opinion on anti-vaxxers?

I have no particular opinion on the matter.

10) Have you started planning for your children when they become adults? What are your thoughts on what will happen next?

The future is something that is always on my mind, and this is the reason why we work so hard to help our children obtain life skills that will be vital for them to live in this life. I have no doubt whatsoever that our children will become not only productive and independent adults but also achieve great things in their future.

11) Tell us a little something about each of your boys. What gifts or talents do they have and how do you plan to nurture them?

I call my sons “Kings”. In my book, Autism Kingdom, I am very detailed about my Kings, however I can share with you some here. Our King #1 is a brilliant young man, very intellectual and extremely smart. He loves to discuss history, astronomy, psychology and philosophy. He didn’t speak until the age of 8 so many times when he was young, I was afraid he would never talk and here he is…talking like he never had a speech delay. It took many years of hard work and dedication. Now, we can have long debates from politics to philosophy and everything in between. He graduated with great grades and he is now in the process of obtaining his first job. He would like to become a school counselor and help others.

Our King #2 is a very loving and happy teenager. He loves to play games and he is well- versed in computers. Out of the 3 he is the one that has the most challenges with regards to speech. However, he has progressed very fast in the last few years. His speech has become clearer and he loves to initiate conversations. When he was younger, he would have daily meltdowns and we couldn’t go out much because he would start screaming if we were in the supermarket or if he saw a fly. However, after intense years of teaching (and him learning the concept of days and times) everything has changed. He no longer has meltdowns and loves to go out.

Our King #3 is a very aware, loving and sensitive boy. He loves to watch funny videos and he is very mischievous, so we must always keep an eye on him! He always wants me to try new recipes and he is very honest on his reviews. He is a great conversationalist and he is a passionate vegan who speaks up about animal welfare. He is a great reader and loves to learn new things.

12) I know you have a YouTube channel and lots of great videos on things to keep in mind being an autism mom. What inspired you to do this channel? How do you see it being helpful to others?

I was inspired after writing my first book: “Autism Kingdom: A mother’s memoir from orphan to raising 3 Kings”. I wanted to reach more people so I decided to start my channel because I know what it is like to be a mom raising autistic children and searching for answers. Sometimes those answers come from professionals but most of the time parents are looking for advice from other parents who have gone through the same challenges they have. I want to make life easier for parents raising autistic children and offer my life experience raising 3 autistic sons.  I want other parents to know that even though things might seem difficult today, there is always tomorrow to try again. Life is about hope and being persistent. The videos provide tips and strategies of various topics related to autism and I genuinely hope my experience can help others in a meaningful way.

Make sure to go to her YouTube channel so you can view her wonderful and insightful videos.

Please do not forget to SUBSCRIBE, SUBSCRIBE, SUBSCRIBE. I hope you find my content to be helpful and enlightening. I started this blog to disperse information to the masses but have found it to be also helpful to myself as a cathartic experience. Anyway, since this is one of the last days of the decade, I hope you take this time to reflect and create a plan for yourself in 2020. Do consider doing a vision board or writing down your vision for your family in the upcoming year and hopefully, this will manifest for you and for them. Happy New Year to you all!

Love and light,

Kira


Tags

autism awareness in the Caribbean, autism Caribbean moms, autism in Trinidad and Tobago, autism moms in the Caribbean, autism moms with multiple children who have autism, autism resources for minority children, autists in the Caribbean, Caribbean autism moms, Maria Borde


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