The Former NBA Star Encourages Parents of Autistic Children to Not Blame Themselves and Advocates for People with Autism to be Recognized as Individuals
John Salley, the first player in NBA history to win championships with three franchises and the first player in the NBA to win a championship in three different decades, joins “The Spectrum,” a new podcast from ABA Centers, an organization designed to disrupt the autism care industry by demolishing traditional wait times, for an intimate one-on-on conversation about life as a parent of an autistic child.
This podcast was launched to provide a space for parents seeking support and encouraging words from others who have lived similar experiences. During this episode, Mr. Salley opens up to Dr. Ted Bender, host of “The Spectrum,” about his daughter, Taya, receiving a later-in-life autism diagnosis.
“My daughter, Taya, growing up was quiet… when she got to the point of 18… one of her therapists said that she should have been diagnosed with autism early. But she speaks French, she’s a great athlete, she’s a model. I just looked at her as being shy,” Mr. Salley remarked.
Mr. Salley’s experience showcases just how wide and varied the autism spectrum can be. Often times for people who are so high-functioning – like his daughter – or whose symptoms could possibly be attributed to other factors, even the possibility of having autism can get overlooked.
One theme that runs throughout this conversation is the need for parents to not put the blame on themselves if their child receives a positive autism diagnosis and that parents should recognize their children for the individuals that they are.
When asked why he thinks parents wait so long to get help when their child is presenting obvious symptoms of autism, Mr. Salley responds: “[Parents] want none of the blame to be on them, so you have to understand it’s a blame game… and the one who suffers is the child.”
“Your children are a representation of you and them. They hold your name, but they are human and they have different human trials and tribulations. Your picture of ‘picture perfect’ or your picture of what you want them to be is not as important as who they are, so… help them become the best person they could possibly be and be a support,” Mr. Salley expands when asked about what message he’d like to pass along to others.
Mr. Salley’s experience also highlights that children can have a successful and fulfilling life after an autism diagnosis: “[Taya] has more business ideas than any entrepreneur I have ever seen, her brain is constantly moving like that – and they’re great ideas… Everything that you would want your child to be, she is, and she’s turned out to be a wonderful person.”
Other topics discussed on this episode of “The Spectrum” include the top autism symptoms that parents should be aware of, can children “grow out” of autism, the difference between presenting symptoms and meeting criteria of being diagnosed with autism, and the different sensory sensitivities that people of the spectrum may experience.
A limited series podcast, “The Spectrum” features episodes with actress and author, Tisha Campbell, and actor of the long-running Criminal Minds television show, Joe Mantegna, in addition to Mr. Salley’s.
“The Spectrum” podcast can be listened to on all major streaming platforms or can be viewed on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/@abacentersofamerica.
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