Autism Advocate: A Mother’s Journey with Tisha Campbell

Autism advocate

In the first episode of “The Spectrum” podcast by ABA Centers of America, Dr. Ted Bender, a clinical psychologist and mental health advocate, has a heart-to-heart conversation with the talented actress and passionate autism advocate Tisha Campbell. In this insightful discussion, Tisha opens up about her journey with autism, sharing the challenges, emotions, and triumphs she faced as a mother of a child on the spectrum.

Table of Contents

Autism Diagnosis

Tisha takes us back to the early 2000s when there was limited understanding of autism. Unaware of the condition, she experienced a life-changing moment when her son, Zen, was diagnosed at 18 months. Despite initial denials from multiple doctors who praised Zen’s intelligence, Tisha’s instincts as a mother made her seek the truth.

The turning point came when a behavioral therapist entered Tisha’s life and confirmed Zen’s autism spectrum disorder. The revelation hit Tisha hard, leading to a mix of emotions, including anger, frustration, and grief.

“I knew that he was on the spectrum; at that moment, I did not want to hear her say that… The diagnosis is absolutely life-changing and crushing to a parent.”

Early Intervention and Learning Tools

Recognizing the importance of early intervention, Tisha sought support from her friend Holly Robinson, an advocate in the autism community. Holly’s guidance and tough love helped Tisha shift her mindset from grief to action. She emphasizes the crucial role of family members being on the same page with therapy, even to the extent of limiting access if necessary.

“She says the one thing that you have to do is get your child and the people around your child on the same page with the therapist; whatever they tell you to do, do it.”

Tisha shares her innovative approach to engaging Zen in learning, using visual aids, and transforming mundane activities into educational opportunities. She underscores the significance of constant engagement, sharing her relentless efforts to communicate with Zen, ultimately leading to breakthrough moments.

Reflection on Challenges, Cultural Factors and Family Aid

Addressing the broader issue, Tisha sheds light on the challenges faced by minority communities in receiving accurate autism diagnoses. She reflects on how cultural factors, economic disparities, and systemic issues contribute to delayed or incorrect assessments, emphasizing the need for improved accessibility to resources.

Moreover, she also highlights the significance of understanding the unique needs of each child, mainly when they are on the autism spectrum. She shares some personal anecdotes, such as using charts with colors to help his child engage in verbal communication and eye contact with her because Zen was displaying nonverbal communication.

The discussion delves into the role of family support, narrating a heartwarming story about Tisha’s father being an engaging and supportive figure in Zen’s life. The importance of having a supportive network is underscored, with her emphasizing the need for parents to identify their “village” and seek assistance.

The narrative takes a turn towards Tisha’s involvement in a documentary, “Colored My Mind,” focused on autism in the African American and Latino communities. She talks about the impact of the documentary, including its role in advocating for legislative change and reducing disparities for children of color with autism.

Documentary and Children’s Book for Siblings

We decided to do [the documentary Colored My Mind]. And it actually affected so many individuals who were so grateful and thankful that we did something like this, but what it also did was it opened us.

Additionally, Tisha discusses a children’s book created to help siblings understand and embrace the uniqueness of their brother or sister on the spectrum. The book becomes a tool to foster understanding and empathy among classmates, highlighting the importance of education and acceptance.

The Transformative Power of ABA Therapy

The podcast wraps up by touching on her journey, emphasizing the necessity of self-care for parents. She acknowledges the challenges of balancing caregiving with personal well-being, encouraging others to recognize their needs and seek respite when required.

In the final segment, the actress and advocate Tisha shares an inspiring story of resilience, early intervention, and the transformative power of applied behavior analysis (ABA). 

Tisha highlights the significance of early intervention and ABA therapy in her child’s developmental journey, as well as complementary therapy methods like Floortime, which helps children with autism through interactive play. This hands-on approach helped Zen overcome sensory challenges and gradually adapt to the world outside his comfort zone.

The “Village” Support System

She also shares how her child’s early obsessions with lining up objects evolved into a deep passion for animals. By immersing the child in books, visual stimuli, and real-world experiences related to animals, the obsession transformed into a vocation. Zen is now pursuing a college education to become an animal conservationist and is currently working at a zoo. Tisha acknowledged the importance of her support system, which included friends and professionals who provided emotional support, encouragement, and practical assistance. This “village” played a crucial role in helping her cope with the challenges of raising a child on the autism spectrum.

D.O.P.E. Movement and Other Therapies

Tisha expands the conversation to address broader issues related to autism acceptance, including educating healthcare professionals, educators, and law enforcement officers. She shared her involvement in a movement with her brother Stan Campbell (retired police lieutenant) called D.O.P.E. (De-escalating Officer Patrol Encounters), aimed at educating police officers about autism and facilitating positive interactions between individuals on the spectrum and law enforcement.

She also highlights her collaboration with Dr. Pamela Wiley and the Los Angeles Speech and Language Therapy Center, an organization that provides inclusive speech therapy and vocational training. The center’s commitment to offering equal treatment and opportunities for all, regardless of background or financial status, reflects a dedication to making a positive impact in the autism community.

Summary of Tisha Campbell’s Journey

The podcast concludes with a message of hope and encouragement for parents grappling with a recent autism diagnosis, emphasizing the importance of self-care, active engagement in therapy sessions, and finding joy in small victories. The journey may be challenging, but with dedication and support, positive outcomes are achievable.

“There's hope, It doesn't feel like that. It could be daunting, but every little, small win is a huge win for that baby.”

Tisha’s journey showcases the transformative power of early intervention, the significance of a supportive community, and the potential for individuals on the autism spectrum to turn their unique interests into fulfilling vocations. The actress and advocate’s story serves as a beacon of hope for families navigating similar paths. Through awareness, education, and compassionate support, we can continue to foster an inclusive society that celebrates the diverse abilities of all its members.

More About ABA Centers of America and The Spectrum Podcast

For more information about autism services in Massachusetts and New Hampshire or to schedule a free consultation, call us at (844) 923- 4222 or contact us online.

Listen to the whole Tisha Campbell journey as a mother of a child on the spectrum.

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