Kids & Family

A community of advocates linked by autism and bound by strength.



With Autism Mom and Travel Expert Sarah Marshall



Traveling with children of any age can be difficult at times, can we agree? Traveling with someone who has special needs can add additional challenges to the regular stresses of travel. So when you combine the two, traveling with a child who has special needs can seem like an impossible task. But, it isn’t impossible. It’s simply a new challenge where the rewards are worth well more than the effort.


Today we’re speaking with autism mom and special needs travel coach, Sarah Marshall. She helps those who dream about a perfect family vacation, but struggle with making that dream come true because of the stressful reality of their child’s unique situation. Sarah takes her first-hand experience and professional expertise to find families the unique supports and accommodations to make their vacations a time to heal from stress so they can focus on making lifetime memories.



For our loved ones on the autism spectrum, traveling with unfamiliar routines and encountering stressful situations can be really hard, but you can show them that traveling can be a great adventure. Some helpful tips to consider may be:

  1. Consider the “musts” when you travel. Is there a specific food, toy, or routine that your child MUST have.
  2. Use social stories before you travel to help them prepare. Even finding YouTube videos on where you’re going can help.
  3. Prepare activity kits
  4. Bring an emergency bag and medical information
  5. And slow down, incorporate “breaks” for the whole family when traveling. It will help them and you to enjoy the moment.


Thanks for listening and being a part of My Autism Tribe. I’ll see you next week!


Sarah Marshall info

Phone: 630-445-1144




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May 14, 2019

Autism & Employment


With Autism & Disability Self-Advocate Ryan Litchfield: Educational, Personal, and Professional Experiences in Working with the Autism and Gerontological Communities




For people with autism, it can be tough to find regular, paid employment. Times are changing for the better, however, there is much work to be done for advancement.


Only until fairly recently have Transition-to-Adult Programs been established, and they are in infancy. Some adults with autism have no intellectual disability, but are coping with severe anxiety, and others may have amazing technical skills but experience sensory challenges.


Schools are mandated to provide appropriate transition programs for autistic students, but not all schools are ready or able to do so, and adults services vary by location.


On today’s episode, we’re speaking with Ryan Litchfield; an autism and disability self-advocate with educational, personal, and professional experiences in working with the autism and gerontological communities. He has over 7 years of public speaking on disability and health advocacy across many communities within central Massachusetts, and is passionate in helping individuals with autism to work on and pursue their personal and professional goals.




One of the first big corporations to recruit individuals with autism was Microsoft which started its “Inclusive Hiring for People with Disabilities” program three years ago in the US. Each candidate hired by Microsoft has access to a third-party job coach who helps them transition into the workforce and answers any questions they may have. Their mission is to empower everyone in the organization, and to create a diverse workforce.


If you are an employer, here are some tips:

  • Check whether your job description is relevant to the job
  • For application forms, it’s not always obvious what information the applicant needs to provide on the application form. It’s important to provide clear guidance on this and to make sure the form includes a space for applicants to highlight any help or adjustments they want at an interview
  • During the interview stage, make sure that the questions you ask are clear and unambiguous.

If you’d like additional information, please feel free to reach out to My Autism Tribe, and if you’d like to hear firsthand from someone’s experiences, reach out to Ryan at .


Thanks so much for listening to My Autism Tribe, and I’ll see you next week!




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May 6, 2019

Autism & Elopement


With Autism Mom and Advocate Tracey McEntyre



Eloping is an all too common problem among children with autism, so much so that the phenomenon has been on the radar of the CDC for years. It’s described as the urge to leave protected and safe surroundings, such as a home or school, without notifying anyone. It’s also known as wandering, running or bolting.


The two primary reasons that a child may leave their surroundings is to leave a bad situation or to pursue something they want.


If you’ve discovered your child is a runner, you may already be aware of the measure you need to take. If you’re just beginning your autism journey, the idea of your child walking out the door in the middle of the night and vanishing may scare you to death, and you’re not alone.


We’re speaking with Tracey McEntyre today, and she knows firsthand the fear that surrounds elopement. She’s a mother, advocate, friend, STEM educator and business owner. Her most important role is being a mother to her 13-year old son Roman. When her son was diagnosed with autism, they began a new journey of advocacy for Roman, advocating for other families, and reinventing how our children learn.




The CDC offers some helpful tips that can help you prepare in advance in the event that your child bolts:

  • Set up an emergency response plan
  • Keep a current photo of your child
  • Have your child wear an ID bracelet
  • Let anyone who may have regular contact with your child know they may wander
  • Meet your neighbors and inform them of your situation
  • Immediately call first responders
  • Teach your child safety commands such as “stop”
  • Teach your child to swim
  • Teach them how to cross a street
  • Meet with any healthcare providers who understand your child’s unique situation and ask for their expert advice


There isn’t any way to ensure 100% that your child is safe in this world. This just isn’t something that is possible for any parent, but with establishing proper safety measures, it will help to alleviate some of the fears that come with the possibility of facing this situation.


For more information you can visit the CDC and Autism Society websites, and of course, as always, please feel free to reach out to My Autism Tribe. Thanks so much for listening and I’ll see you next week.



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With Carey Jordan and Erin Huff



For children with autism or other developmental disabilities, a service dog can make all the difference. They can be trained in a variety of tasks that address a range of issues facing a child with autism and the family. These include socialization, behavioral, and life skills, and fine and gross motor skills.


A service dog can rest his head on a child’s lap to calm or interrupt unwanted behavior, flip on a light switch if the child has a fear of the dark, press against the child to give the sensation of pressure, and even communicate with parents by barking when the dog senses the child needs assistance.


Today, we’re speaking with two autism moms that know firsthand how service dogs can help children who deal with development challenges or social anxieties.


More recently, Carey Jordan and Erin Huff created “Autism Tails” with the mission to provide information, some hope, and a better understanding of living with autism and these furry bundles of love.



If you or your family are thinking about getting a service or therapy dog, perhaps begin by asking yourself these questions:


  1. Does your child like dogs?
  2. Might your child or anyone else in the household have allergies that might be aggravated by a dog?
  3. Is your family prepared and ready to take on the long-term commitment and expense of caring for a dog in sickness and in health?
  4. Are you comfortable handling a dog while caring for your child in public?


A service dog training agency such as Assistance Dogs International or Loyalty Service Dogs, and even our friends at Autism Tails, can help you sort through these questions while sharing some personal experiences.


For more information on Autism Tails, please visit:

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This month is Autism Awareness month, and if you ask any autism advocate what this means they will very quickly remind you that advocacy takes place every day, every month, not just the month of April. Family members, friends, professionals, educators, and autistic adults and youth want to make their voices stronger. We want to promote a culture of inclusion and respect, improve community resources, and we want make sure that all receive an equal opportunity in school and at work. This isn’t an easy task, and takes more than one individual and one organization. It takes us all.


On today’s episode, we’re speaking with Megan Carranza who is a mother, podcast host and autism advocate. After Megan’s oldest child, Logan, was diagnosed with autism in March of 2017, she became a mom on a mission to spread the message of awareness, acceptance and inclusion. Megan, just like many of us, saw a need for more support within the autism community and launched her podcast, “Adventures in Autism”. The purpose of the podcast is to create a safe and supportive space for families and individuals affected by autism to come together and share their journeys. Since this is a similar mission of My Autism Tribe, we thought it would be a perfect fit for a conversation!





The My Autism Tribe podcast was started with a simple mission of making one voice stronger. It has very quickly grown to not only a podcast, but a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. To say that we’re excited about the growth, would be an understatement. Our voices are getting stronger, and with the continued push from all autism advocates, we ARE and WILL CONTINUE to make an impact. Thanks so much for joining My Autism Tribe…this month and ALWAYS.

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One of the most important missions of My Autism Tribe is to celebrate and empower the amazing individuals that are on the autism spectrum. There are so many! One of these amazingly gifted individuals is Rachel Barcellona. She is Miss Florida 2018 National American Miss (NAM) and was Miss Florida International 2016. Her platform “Ability Beyond Disabilities” inspires those that have challenges to strive for their dreams as well as to educate those who might not understand the challenges she, and others on the spectrum, face.



I am an advocate for those with disabilities. I created my platform, The Ability beyond Disabilities, to inspire those that have challenges to strive for their dreams as well as to educate those who might not understand the challenges we face.

As an individual with autism, I often felt like I could not do anything. People with disabilities or anyone who is different are often targets for bullies as I was, but because of my life and social experience, I have overcome many challenges.

Today I am the International Spokesperson for the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at the University of Florida (CARD-USF), and was recently elected to their executive board of directors.

I was also named the Ambassador for the Unicorn Children’s Foundation and work closely with this international organization to help people with neurodiversity.

I am a member of the International Thespian Honor Society, an honor student and vocalist and love to sing opera. I have been able to single at Madison Square Gardens twice.

I have a passion for art and writing and am currently finishing my first book and will work to get it published when its finished.

I also work with several organizations that provide services to individuals with disabilities including therapy such as occupational and physical along with music and art therapy and have made over 300 appearances with my international title.

My plan for the future is to graduate from the University of South Florida and one day open my own school for children with disabilities.

I also wanted to share some of the things that happened while I was growing up. I just turned 22 years old but starting in preschool and elementary school things were much different. I was diagnosed with Autism along with dyspraxia and later diagnosed with dyscalculia, and epilepsy.

I can remember not being able to put enough pressure on a crayon to make a mark on a paper! Buttons zippers and snaps were a nightmare! It was very difficult to hold objects and jump and skip. I went through several years of physical therapy, speech and language therapy and occupational therapy, which helped a lot. I still however cannot ride a bike, although, I haven’t tried a 3 wheeler, and I am not able to drive. I passed my learners permit for driving but because of epilepsy and seizures I cannot get my license… yet! Hopefully one day but if not there are several ways to learn to get around. I joke with my parents that I am waiting for the Google car that drives itself!

Dyscalculia became an issue as math became harder. I am not going to lie it was exhausting getting through higher level math and took all the help I could get from teachers tutors etc. I am so happy to tell you I have finished my college math courses and will definitely not become an engineer. I am pursuing a career in writing English and vocal studies and love to sing opera. 



Education is so important, and what better way to be educated than through the voices of individuals like Rachel. It’s so powerful to hear their strength and their passion. Thanks to everyone in My Autism Tribe, today and always.

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Nutritional deficiencies are a common issue for individuals with autism and ADHD, in addition to food sensitivities and intolerances. Nutrition is important for everyone, and sometimes even the correction of a single deficiency can create dramatic improvements.


Today’s episode features guest Denise Voight, a clinical nutritionist with a Masters of Science in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine, specializing in Nutritional Intervention for autism spectrum disorders and ADHD. Her passion for nutritional biochemistry for the past 20 years emerged from her own son’s struggle with ADHD. Now, she uses her expertise and compassion to help educate, empower, and support families affected by autism and ADHD.



Nutrition is the core modality of Functional Medicine. Instead of focusing on an isolated set of symptoms, it addresses the whole person – like genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. As researchers continue to explore and speculate on the reasons for the rise in autism, may we continue to educate ourselves so that we may be better-equipped advocates for our loved ones. Thanks for joining My Autism Tribe.



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As many people in the autism community know, inclusion is a large and important topic. Art is also a topic that comes up in many conversations. But what about inclusion in the arts? In today’s episode, we’re speaking with Kelsey Brown. She is a speech-language pathology student, access advocate, and children’s book author. She currently resides in Boston, MA where she is a Master’s candidate in Communication Disorders at Emerson College, and is interning with the Augmentative Communication Program at Boston Children’s Hospital. She has also spent the last year as the Access and Inclusion Apprentice at Imagination Stage.



Kelsey Brown is a speech-language pathology student, access advocate, and children's book author. Originally hailing from Lexington, KY, Kelsey currently resides in Boston, MA where she is a Master's candidate in Communication Disorders (Emerson College). When not studying, writing reports, or promoting her book, Kelsey enjoys seeing theatre, reading, and eating tacos.

A graduate of The University of Georgia with degrees in Theatre and Communication Sciences and Disorders, Kelsey currently interns with the Augmentative Communication Program at Boston Children's Hospital as well as the Access Champions Podcast and spent the last year as the Access and Inclusion Apprentice at Imagination Stage. When she grows up, Kelsey wants to split her time as a practicing Speech-Language Pathologist and Art Access Consultant.

​In addition to her work in communication disorders and arts access, Kelsey has teamed up with her best friend and illustrator Joseph Wrightson to write a book! Come On, Calm! is a whimsical new children's book encouraging readers of all abilities to self soothe through sensory and breathing tasks.



Inclusion in the arts is so important for artists and performers with disabilities. Every artist, no matter what their background or disability, can share their diverse range of experiences and talents with others. Every artist can be celebrated, and we can all learn about and appreciate their gifts.


For more information on Kelsey’s book, please visit:

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Raising children on the autism spectrum has its challenges, its rewards, good days and bad days. Perhaps, as a parent, you’ve often questioned yourself on what life would be like if your child was not on the spectrum, and if you would even want that. On today’s episode, we’re speaking with Chana Bennett. She’s the mother to twin boys that are on the autism spectrum, and last year she was also diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Chana is now advocating for others, and advocating for herself.



There was a time when it was thought by experts that the high-functioning autistic female didn't exist. I am here to tell you that is not the case. I am 38 years old, and I found out that I have Autism Spectrum Disorder last year.

My life has been hard, but my struggles were seemingly imaginary to the world around me, until recently. This discovery, that I am Autistic, came after both of my 2-year-old fraternal twin sons were diagnosed with severe Autism late in the summer of 2016. It was a confusing time. I did tons of research on Autism after the twins were diagnosed, but I was only focused on my boys.

I wasn't aware that Autism presents differently in boys and girls until mid-2017. It was information that changed my life. I recognized myself in the research I was doing about females with Autism. The Mental Health Community had mislabeled me many things over the years, but Autism was never mentioned.

As a matter of fact, no one had ever mentioned Autism to me in any capacity until it was about my kids. When I talked to my mental healthcare team about my concerns that I was Autistic, they pretty much disregarded me.

It took a lot of searching to find someone to see me about an Autism Assessment for myself. It wasn't easy, but I am fairly persistent so in June of 2018 I was tested for Autism Spectrum Disorder. The results were conclusive that I do, indeed, have Autism.

It was upsetting in a way and relieving in another way. I was finally able to focus on getting the proper help.

I was soon to find out that there aren't many women like myself. Most of the professionals I have talked to in the Autism Community have rarely seen anyone like me. This is frustrating, so I have made it my mission to advocate for women like me to help inform people of the gender differences in High-Functioning Autism, mainly because I have had little luck finding information out there with which I can relate that has current relevance.

I hope that this introductory insight into my world can help other women like me, and their families create an accepting environment where talents can be discovered and utilized. I don’t claim to know everything, but I know what it is like to be me, and I am learning to accept it. Not only am I becoming more comfortable with myself, but I am thriving as a mother, partner, and overall human being.

This will benefit my family and the Autism Community as a whole because I am now advocating for changes in the treatment of Autistic People in the Metro-Denver Mental Health System.



No matter what your journey, and how hard and frustrating it may be, know that there are many people out there on a similar journey. Maybe they’re on a different path. Perhaps they are making different choices. But at the end of the day, isn’t it everyone’s goal to reach the same destination? Happiness. Acceptance. Inclusion. To love and to be loved. Thanks for being a part of My Autism Tribe.

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The Webster’s dictionary definition of “Community” is: a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.


When building a community in the classroom, students are able to come together as a class to work towards the common goal of learning. It helps students feel valued and connected to the teacher and other students in their class.


In today’s episode, we will be speaking with Lynn Shebat, a teacher for over 30 years with a Master’s degree in Special Education. She is the author of soon to be published “Connections: A Journey in Love and Autism” with 1010 Publishers.


She is a mother of three daughters, and a new granddaughter. Her youngest was diagnosed with autism after she had been teaching for over 17 years, specializing in ABA and Autism with severe behaviors.


Currently, she is a Preschool Special Needs teacher, and was recognized as “Teacher of the Year, 2018”.



What is community in the classroom and what does it look like with our population of children on the spectrum?


“In my class, I make a big effort to teach even the " littles", a sense of responsibility as well as inter-personal responsibility. This could look like sharing or turn taking or even clean up time. The secret is in the collective structure of the activity.


To a child, turn taking or sharing can be the strategy used to gain access to a preferred item, but as Teachers and caretakers we need to structure this learning moment to be a participation in a shared play opportunity with a peer or family member.


In the home it could look like helping out with household chores.  I have my daughter assisting with all the basics of grocery shopping, running errands, and I started this when she was three. Now, she is eighteen so the function and her ability has increased.


With household chores, I purposely try to make even loading the washing machine a shared activity followed by a break or fun activity like making a snack. I do this to provide her with a feeling of helping me, participating in life duties, and giving her a part in the makings of our home.


If you think about it, all daily activities can be turned into shared activities with a functional purpose.” – Lynn Shebat



  • Students increase their sense of safety, belong, and self-esteem
  • There is inclusion for all students
  • Children are exposed to lessons in positive values, respect, and responsibility
  • Collaborative learning encourages positive and fulfilling relationships with others
  • A child’s social, emotional, and academic competence is promoted
  • Students tend to be more concerned about others
  • They are more skilled at resolving conflict than others who were not a part of a classroom community
  • Healthy conflict resolution skills results in students learning to cooperate in society in their future
  • Meets their need to bond
  • Creates an anti-bullying environment
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