Kids & Family

Educating, Supporting and Empowering the Autism Community.

July 30, 2019

Living a Happy and Meaningful Life with Autism


With Dawnita Shively



Sometimes it’s easy to just focus on the word “autism”, but let’s have our conversation today focus on passions and uniqueness. Let’s talk about setting goals for the individual and the expectation of your child having a happy, fulfilling and meaningful life.


Today’s guest is Dawnita Shively, a passionate BCBA and Clinical Director for Autism and Behavior Concepts– an organization that provides clinic and home-based services to children and adults with autism. She has a vast amount of knowledge and experience from her years in working closely with autism families.


Early detection & Intervention:

  • This is your child. If you feel that your child is not hitting milestones be persistent. Find someone who will take your concerns seriously and evaluate.
  • Allow yourself to grieve and start setting goals and expectations.
  • Do not let a diagnosis tell you who your child will become.
    • Like all of us, they will have their own goals and passions. Learn to accept those passions and help them by allowing access to interventions that teach lifelong skills.
  • Research the treatment options and decide what is best for your child.


School age:

  • Culturally children are expected to go to school. That is what parents strive for and if this is right for your child, push for it.
  • Remember that public education requires that children receive “free and appropriate” not “free and exactly what you want.”
    • Ask yourself what behavior impedes on my child succeeding in school.
    • Consult professionals to help you set reasonable goals and push.
    • Find a placement that understands that your child is an individual and use your child’s passions to help them succeed in life.
    • Know your rights and let the school know you are aware of what your child deserves and do not give up.


  • Teenage years are difficult on all of us. Remember this is not unique to autism, try to relate, do not make excuses, and continue to set goals.
  • This is the time to start asking, observing and getting to know what motivates your child.
  • How can you help them grow in areas they enjoy so that they can have a happy and productive life?
    • Hobbies
    • Job Skills
    • Independence: We are happy when we can do things for ourselves.
  • Start thinking and talking about what lifestyle your child will have as an adult.
    • Reasses goals and barriers to that lifestyle.



  • Remember to ask yourself what makes a productive and happy adult. Focus on these areas as goals.
  • Do not focus on Autism, focus on the happy and productive life.
  • Who in your life can help you support your child?
    • Reality is you will not be around forever.
    • You want your child to have a community, just like you have, to support them in their passion and goals.
  • Remember that all adults make choices that lead to success and happiness. Working with your adult child and knowing their goals will help you.
    • College
    • Job placement
    • Living with you



Always remember that a parent is a child’s best advocate. Parents are ultimately responsible for making sure their child can have a happy and healthy life. By having these expectations, they can set goals to remove barriers that may prevent this from happening. If you are a parent or caregiver to a loved one on the autism spectrum, set goals for a life that is meaningful to your child and society, and know that autism does not define your child. Let your child define themselves, and support them in having the best life they can possibly have. Thanks for joining me today, and for being a part of My Autism Tribe. I’ll see you next week!

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