Mika Bradford became involved in the autism community nearly a decade ago, when her youngest son was diagnosed with autism. She works for Kirkman -- a leading provider of specialty nutritional supplements -- as an outside sales rep and certified nutritionist, has held a variety of positions with Families for Effective Autism Treatment -- North Texas, founded Natural Foods and Nutrition Consulting, Inc., and recently became a content specialist for AutismSpot, a web-based support site for parents, medical professionals, and educators that offers an online video reference library, blogs, and a wealth of unbiased information for helping children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Mika lives in North Texas with her husband, Jason (who commutes between North Texas and his job as a general manager for a natural-foods co-op in Maryland), and their five children. "Ultimately, as a woman and as a parent we have two choices in life," she says. "We can either choose to see the beauty in the things that surround us, as little as they may be at times, or surrender to the difficulties at hand. I will always choose the first option."
April is National Autism Awareness month. For readers who don't have children on the spectrum, could you please share a couple of facts that surprise people when it comes to autism?
I think people are most surprised to learn that children with autism can get better, so much so that some children are considered to be recovered, losing their diagnosis. While this is not the outcome for every family, what we do know is that the quality of life for each child with autism can be improved.
Your readers may also be surprised to learn that many everyday things like what the children eat and drink can impact their moods and behaviors greatly. Research from major teaching universities are confirming what parents and a handful of professionals have known for over a decade -- that this condition is not only about the brain, but is affected by the other systems of the body.
Many people think that all children with autism are gifted, having special abilities. Only a handful of individuals with autism have "special skills." Most individuals with autism have difficulties in communicating, which can lead to inappropriate behaviors. The general public may see how parents handle these situations and not understand the reasoning of what is being done. Many parents, including myself, have spent thousands of hours and dollars learning how to parent using a positive approach, shaping the responses of the child (which ultimately hinges on our actions and behaviors as parents and caregivers). That may sound like common sense, but it is amazing how many parents of neuro-typical children never look at how their actions are impacting the responses of the child.