Meet Jaime Shelton. She is a co-host of (A) Moms Happy Hour, a podcast where the topics are geared around autism and the special needs community, but still, their humorous and eye-opening stories are relatable to those raising all abilities. She has two sons who are on the autism spectrum and shares her optimistic outlook on autism through her non-profit organization, Auptimism.
Tell us about yourself and (A) Moms Happy Hour.
I am the mother of two adorable, funny and loving boys with autism, Nathan and Dylan. I have always had "focus" in my life, but my little angels have given me true purpose. Because of their diagnosis, I've been put into a new and exciting world. As a co-host of (A) Moms Happy Hour, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to share my experiences of raising autism with our listeners. The feedback we've received so far has been so positive and welcoming.
What perspective do you bring to the much-needed conversations on (A) Moms Happy Hour, and what impact do you hope this podcast has for listeners?
I think that I bring the humor...LOL. I mean, we are all funny, but I'm one of those people that rarely has serious conversations. I'm just a naturally silly person, but don't be fooled by all the giggles, I can and will "adult" at the drop of a dime when necessary! But seriously, I hope that I give our listeners a voice. I'm sure that many of my stories are very relatable, and I'm just happy to have the opportunity to share mine.
What was the journey of Nathan and Dylan's autism diagnoses?
Nathan and Dylan were both diagnosed with autism at the ages of 2.9 years old. When Nathan was about 18 months old, I noticed that he was not even trying to say any words, and wasn't interested in the same things the other kids in our mommy and me classes were. He would just babble and play with the same toy over and over again. Now at 10 years old, he is verbal (a lot of movie scripting) and loves creating little movie shorts on his iPad. Dylan had a few words before 18 months (not at level, but some words) and slowly started losing those words and began stimming. He is 8 years old, and now considered nonverbal. He uses an AAC app to communicate, which he loves, and still tries to approximate words. The two of them together are like peas in a pod. They love and totally get each other. I'm so happy that they have each other!
What inspired the creation of your non-profit organization, Auptimism?
Nathan and Dylan were the inspiration and driving force behind auptimism.org. Like many parents, when your child gets diagnosed with something you immediately want to "do something" to help.
That was what planted the seed, but it wasn't until I started meeting other special needs parents that I realized that there were a lot of families that didn't take their children out to try new things like roller skating or bowling, etc., for reasons varying from fear to exhaustion. I just wanted to give families free events where they can try new things without worries.
What advice do you have for other parents raising children on the autism spectrum?
My advice would be to take it day by day. What your child didn't like one day, may be something that they love the next, and vice versa. And always remember that they are children first, autism is secondary.
What is the greatest lesson or eye-opening moment you've gained from working alongside Atiai and Syrenthia?
The great thing about this team is that we were friends before we began this journey. I truly admire their work ethic, focus and determination. I am absolutely blessed to have Syrenthia and Atiai in my life. They are equally a force, and every time we're together, it's a blast!