Episode 10: Insights from a Paramedic (and Special Needs Mom)
In this podcast interview, Jerry welcomes Stacey Vail, a paramedic from Massachusetts who has been working in the field for nine years. Stacey is also the mother of a 15-year-old son diagnosed with autism. The interview covers various topics related to autism and the challenges faced by individuals with autism and their families.
Stacey emphasizes the importance of understanding how individuals with autism communicate. She explains that repetition and rote learning play a significant role in their communication development. Initially, the focus is on teaching them what to say in response to specific questions or situations without necessarily understanding the underlying meaning. Stacey mentions that some parents and individuals with autism may never fully grasp the reasoning behind certain questions or the ability to change their responses.
Stacey discusses the need for first responders, particularly police officers, to recognize the differences in communication when interacting with individuals on the autism spectrum. She suggests that by taking a step back and observing the situation, responders can better understand and address the needs of individuals with autism. Stacey also highlights the importance of looking for visual clues, such as specialized products or sensory items, to gain insights into an individual's challenges and facilitate communication and cooperation.
Both Jerry and Stacey share personal experiences related to their children with autism. They discuss how children on the spectrum often express their emotions or seek comfort through specific videos or toys. Stacey mentions that her son uses YouTube videos featuring characters expressing anger to cope with intense emotions. They emphasize the need to recognize and understand these indirect expressions of emotions to effectively support individuals with autism.
The conversation delves into the intersection of Stacey's personal and professional life. Stacey recounts an incident where she responded to a call involving a child with autism, and upon learning about the child's diagnosis, she felt a deep connection due to her personal experience with her son. This experience made her realize that sharing her own story and knowledge about autism could positively impact her work as a paramedic. Stacey believes that her personal understanding of autism validates her role and allows her to better advocate for and help individuals on the spectrum.
Jerry asks Stacey about the emotional toll of her work as a first responder and the challenges she faces. Stacey mentions that dark humor is often a coping mechanism in the field. She also highlights the importance of having a supportive spouse who understands the difficulties of her job. Stacey emphasizes the need for emotional support and recommends finding healthy ways to process the challenging experiences that come with being a first responder and a parent of a child with special needs.
Throughout the interview, Stacey's strength and resilience shine through as she shares her personal experiences and insights into the world of autism. Her dedication to both her profession and her family is evident, and she serves as an inspiration to others facing similar challenges.
Stacy's email address: [email protected]
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