Q&A with Debra Hosseini of the Art of Autism

“We come to an agreement about fun things we will do that are on his preferred list and other things that may not be a favorite activity, but we want him to participate in.”
Q&A with Debra Hosseini of the Art of Autism

photo credit Debra Hosseini

My name is Debra Hosseini, and I am the parent of three children as well as the author of The Art of Autism: Shifting Perceptions. I have two adult daughters Justin who is twenty-four, Katie, who is twenty-two and Kevin, my seventeen-year-old son who is the youngest and on the autism spectrum.
My philosophy in educating my children is to focus on developing their strengths and expose them to opportunities life has to offer them.I firmly believe that with the right guidance many kids on the autism spectrum can grow up and become valuable members of our society.

Before any outings or trips, we prepare Kevin by talking to him about the intended destination and what if any activities we will be able to do upon getting there; a process we nickname priming.We read about the destination and show him pictures on the internet so he can become familiarized with it and feel more relaxed when he arrives there.

The most important factor in our planning is the coming to an agreement about ‘fun’ things we will do that are on his preferred list and other things that may not be favorite activities, but we want him to participate in.If the details are successfully agreed upon the chance of a meltdown lessens.
We don’t have much of a packing list perse, but one packable item that consistently makes our packing list wherever we go is Kevin’s favorite gluten free snack!

 As a rule of thumb, I try not to take Kevin to overstimulating events or attractions, so a destination like Disneyland is not at the top of our travel list. Outdoors spots like mountains and forests suit our needs better since Kevin is calmer and more relaxed when he gets some exercise. On long car rides, we make a point of allocating additional time to stop and take walks.
We try as much as possible to tailor our vacations around Kevin’s needs and interests. For instance, last year, when attended to the ANCA awards in Vancouver, Canada, (Kevin won an award for visual artist 18 and under) he enjoyed the subway and the boat ride as he loves anything related to trains, boats, and buses.
One way that we’ve discovered that helps with restaurant dining in Kevin’s case is allowing him to choose the venue as a reward for appropriate behavior.
As part of the art of autism project that focuses on finding places and spaces for people on the spectrum to be seen and heard, we travel and attend a lot of art shows.I’m attaching a photograph of moms and sons at a recent art show at the Seven Sisters Gallery in Morro Bay.In the picture, you can see Shawn Bostrom and her son, Jason Cantu, Andrew Mendoza and his mom, Rosie and on the far right Kevin and myself.

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