Editor’s Note: Autism Dad introduces a new feature, Autism Angles, with original interviews and feature stories.
Also available at: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/pages/Autism-Dad/160327080653310
Batting first: Kim Stagliano…Wife, writer, and mother of three girls with autism–that should be enough, yes? Not! Kim is also managing editor of www.ageofautism.com, the nation’s first daily web newspaper about the autism epidemic. She writes for the Huffington Post, the Dallas Morning News Moms Blog, and is on the editorial staff of the Autism File magazine. She speaks at national autism conferences and has appeared on Good Morning America (with her kids!), ABC News and Fox News, among many others.
Autism Dad: Where did you grow up?
Kim Stagliano: I was born in Boston, and then lived in Attleboro and a small town called Plainville, just south of Foxboro where the Patriots play.
AD: How did you meet your husband and when did you get married?
KS: Ha! I met Mark in a bar. Champions Sports Bar in the Copley Place Marriott. We met in November of 1989 and married on October 19, 1991.
AD: You have three daughters, each with autism. How many years apart are they?
KS: Mia will be 16 in December. She has autism. She speaks in single words mostly to make her needs known. She stopped developing speech around age two. She’s very quiet, very bright. Gianna is 14, 19 months younger than Mia. She is our most verbal. She can answer questions and talk to you. She is social, friendly and a funny kid.Bella is 10. She is preverbal. She is a beautiful little girl whose eyes will grab you.
AD: How are your children doing today?
KS: They are making progress; of course, I always want more for them.
AD: How are you doing today? How do you balance it all?
KS: I’m a happy woman overall. This is all I know, so I balance it without really knowing how! Mark is a big help. The kids have their routine. I love my writing jobs, so they never feel like work.
AD: What role does your husband play in caring for the children?
KS: He can match me task for task. He loves his girls and can care for all of their needs. When I have to travel I have no worries as long as he’s home. As I say in my book, “He makes a good wife, and that makes him a great husband.” We’ve become a well oiled machine. I’m really proud of him.
AD: What can couples do to preserve their marriage given the challenges that autism brings?
KS: We bring in a babysitter. We always have made time for a date. It might be two or three months between dates, but we try! Alone time, adult time, away from the kids time is super important to maintaining the distinction between Mom and Dad and wife and husband. Keeping a sex life is important too. There’s a chapter on our sex life in the book. That’s all I’m saying….
AD: What are your hopes and expectations for your children today and as they grow older?
KS: I will always hope for and work toward recovery so that the girls can live safe, independent lives. My biggest fears are for their safety as beautiful females who cannot speak or protect themselves well. Follow me?
AD: Absolutely, it’s a fear many of our readers share. Shifting gears…where do you come down on the vaccination issue?
KS: We are over-vaccinating American babies, children and teens and using fear and bullying tactics on parents. Chicken pox does not kill American children routinely. Nor does seasonal flu or Rotavirus. We have access to healthcare, clean water and antibiotics and medicine. Arthur the aardvark had the chicken pox in the Marc Brown book. The Brady Bunch had the measles – not the plague. We’ve taught the young parent that children are never to get sick – and yet, our kids are chronically sicker than ever with not only autism but debilitating and even deadly food allergies, asthma, obesity, mental illness, ADHD, OCD, Tourettes syndrome, sensory issues, learning disabilities, ear infections, failure to develop on time and more. Where’s the alarm? The new normal is not normal at all! Mercury in vaccines is an atrocity to our health. Giving mercury to pregnant women via flu shots is insanity. I believe vaccines can cause autism – and so does the government vaccine court, which just awarded a family $20 million for vaccination having resulted in a child’s autism. I don’t take the vaccine issue lightly. Doctors routinely give dozens of vaccines during the toddler years, with no safety studies on the cumulative effect. It’s shocking.
AD: I’ve also read that you don’t hold much regard for those who reject the very idea of an autism epidemic. They believe the explosion in cases can simply be attributed to changes in how autism is diagnosed. You’re not buying it?
KS: Nope. No one could mistake a flapping, non verbal, non social, sensory challenged child for another diagnosis. Is there some diagnostic substitution? I’m sure there is in the less affected population. But the UC Davis Mind Institute published a study saying better diagnosis alone cannot account for the skyrocketing numbers.
AD: You have become one of the most visible voices in the autism dialogue. You have a new book out. You maintain a blog and website. You’re the editor of the online newspaper, Age of Autism, and you somehow find the time to write a column for the Huffington Post. Come on Kim, put on the brakes, take a breath. But seriously, how did this all come about – how did you find your voice?
KS: LOL! I’ve always had this “voice.” Even as a kid, I was outspoken and not prone to respect my elders. I write what I feel, what others feel but might be afraid to say, and what I think needs to be said in order to help my kids. I can do just about anything for my kids. I even stripped off my undies in public one day and gave them to Mia when she needed them. Shame is not big in my vocabulary!
AD: People connect with your honesty and authenticity. Speaking of, I hear a lot of buzz about your new book, “All I can handle: I’m no Mother Teresa (A life raising three daughters with autism)” Congratulations! Tell us about it.
KS: Thanks. It’s a very funny look at life raising three kids with autism while battling unemployment while staying married – which hasn’t been done before. I call it the “spoonful of sugar” approach. If I can make you laugh and nod your head in understanding or astonishment, you’re more likely to keep turning pages than if I give you a sob story. I will make you cry a few times in the book, but overall, you’ll laugh and feel really good at the end, like you and I just sat down and had a beer or two…or three.
AD: I’m game! So…how long did it take you to write? What were the joys and frustrations along the way?
KS: The actual writing took me nine months with edits – just like having a baby! The joy came when I felt like I nailed a chapter – that it just flowed onto the page and felt right. The frustrations were finding quality time to write and not over-editing myself. The book is a “Kimoir” and I had to be honest and true – without worrying what family or friends would think. It’s not easy to balance truth and just how naked you’re willing to get in front of strangers.
AD: If our Autism Dad readers want to see you “naked,” how can they get a copy?
KS: The book is on Amazon http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FAll-Can-Handle-Raising-Daughters%2Fdp%2F1616080698%2Fref%3Dntt_at_ep_dpt_1&h=f470d and the Amazon Kindle (which I will now call a KIMdle.) Also, you can find it at most bookstores, probably on the parenting shelf. Any bookstore can order it for you too. Details on the book including an excerpt, video, and where to buy it are at my website. If you buy the book, send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you a signed bookplate.