About the episode:
Before diving into the full episodes, learn a little more about host Reena Anand, her background, the impetus behind the podcast, and what she plans to bring to the community of autism parenting. Do listen and feedback on what would be helpful to you, and let her know what you would like to hear more of.
- Reports on the study showing the autism rates and prevalence in BAME communities
- Empowered Autism Parenting
- Reena’s website
- Contact Reena
Hi everyone, I’m Reena and welcome to Unpacking Autism: The Podcast. This is a new venture for me and I suspect most of you who are tuning in have never even heard of me before, so I thought I’d do a little intro, tell you who I am, a little bit about myself, why I’m doing this and I really hope that my podcast is of service to people. That is my intention; that is my aim and my ambition.
[00:44] So, a little bit about me. As you know, my name’s Reena and I am a mum to two amazing children. Two boys called Evy and Eashan – who are currently nine and six. Evy’s autistic, and he was diagnosed when he was 4-and-a-half years old. At that time. I was working as an ombudsman and before that I was working as a practising lawyer. So, my life had been pretty much in the corporate world. After I got Evy’s diagnosis, firstly I looked around and I felt really alone. It felt like I was on this journey myself. I saw nobody of colour in any of the health services that I was referred to. All the professionals that I dealt with, I didn’t identify with. And when I looked around my community, I didn’t see anyone who had autistic children, and so I felt like I must be the only one. It must be just me. It must be something I did wrong, and people would say to me, you know, ‘Pray and Evy’s autism will go away. Maybe God will make it better’. Or ‘maybe if you take him to see a particular doctor, if you go to India, they might be able to cure his autism’.
[2:16] And it was really hard, I think just to understand the diagnosis and also to talk about it openly. And so, I decided to make the brave move of leaving the life I’d known – the life of comfort and security – behind. To make a difference in the world – to make a difference so that Evy and all the other children who are autistic can live in a society where they feel included and where they genuinely feel that they belong, because right now, there are huge disparities in health, in education, and in social care settings, not just for people who are from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, but also for people who are autistic or have another neurodivergent condition.
[3:12] So, this is what I’ve done. This is what I’m doing now. I talk about autism to parents, particularly parents from ethnically diverse communities. Because there’s still quite a lot of shame and stigma around understanding the autism diagnosis and embracing it so that we can support our children and enable them to thrive. And I think when I saw that Evy was doing so well because I took a person-centered approach and a conscious-parenting approach, rather than an obedience-led parenting approach – which is what I had had growing up – that made a huge difference. And I just wanted to shout it out from the rooftops in case it helped any other parents too. So I started talking about it. I started writing articles and it was just incredible the number of parents who reached out to me to say: ‘I’m struggling with…’, ‘Thank you for sharing your story’, ‘I didn’t know there was anyone else going through this other than me’.
[4:20] And you know, the remarkable thing is that when you look at the data, the highest prevalence of autism is actually in Black, Asian and Chinese populations, but we don’t see these children. We’re not talking about it openly enough, and there’s certainly not enough provision for parents of these backgrounds to navigate the autism diagnosis and all the systems and processes that enable us to access the things that our children deserve in order for them to thrive. And that’s what I’m here to do. I’m creating a platform on this podcast, on my website, through the workshops I do, through the talks I deliver to corporate organisations, to schools, charities, parent groups – anywhere that will have me really. I want people to understand intersectionality, to understand anti-racism and to understand some of the issues that autism parents experience, particularly when they’re from Black, Asian and ethnically-diverse communities.
So that’s me; that’s what I’m about. That’s what this podcast is about, and I’ve brought on some actually autistic people, which is amazing. I just love hearing the stories and my mind is forever learning. I’m always learning, learning, learning all the time, how it is to navigate the world, and how many things I take for granted that can be so difficult when you are neurodiverse. And so I really appreciate the inputs and the conversations I have with actually autistic people, because that hugely shapes the stuff I produce.
There’re also some professionals: paediatricians, speech and language therapists – other mums. We need to hear from parents. We need to hear how they’re feeling. And it’s okay to know that it’s okay that when we get the diagnosis, it’s hard. Parenting our children can be so hard and sometimes it can feel like it’s all a bit too much. It’s okay to admit that – it really is – and that’s why I’m doing this podcast. I want parents to know that this is a safe space where they can tune in, they can hear from people who are going through the same sorts of things that they are, and hear from professionals and get some advice that might tide them over until their next actual appointment or might propel them to reach out to a professional that might be able to help them.
[7:06] So, it’s my intention that this podcast and all the services that I’m creating right now are of service to all of you autism parents out there. Please, please, please give me your feedback. If you don’t like something: tell me. If you love something: please tell me – I’ll do more of it. And if there’s something that’s missing – because I know I’ve barely scratched the surface with some of the content I have created – I know that there’s a huge need, and so please tell me what you’d love to hear, whom you’d love to hear from, you know? Do you want to hear from educational psychologists or actually do you just want to hear from more parents from different cultures sharing their experiences? Do you want to talk about how you can take your child to a place of worship so that you don’t have to feel excluded from these places that previously you used to be able to go to without hesitation? What would help you? Tell me – I’m here to serve and I would love for this to be a place where you can just digest, just be, and learn, grow, share, feel confident, feel empowered. I’d love you to feel empowered to embrace your child’s autism and to celebrate your child’s unique, beautiful gifts because they are the most incredible children. If that inspires you, please do listen to the episodes, whichever ones that speak to you. You can listen to them in any order, and there’s also a private Facebook group which you’re free to join. It’s called Empowered Autism Parenting. I’d love to see you there. Thank you so much for listening.