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Meet Julie Sando of Autistically Inclined

Today we’d like to introduce you to Julie Sando.

Julie, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I started in the autism world about 20 years ago. 20 years ago, I believed autism was a behavioral disorder.

Within a couple of years, I started to see it as a social disorder so I switched my focus from behavior-based approaches to relationship-based approaches. I was steeped in the relationship-based world for a decade.

I even created my own approach called Natural Play Therapy.

Today, I see autism differently. I see it as a sensory-motor challenge.

This evolution has spanned twenty years and I look forward to how things will be viewed ten years from now. The biggest thing I have learned is that I don’t know!

How did I come to see autism in the way I see it now? Directly from the source: People with non and minimally speaking autism. I have learned how to help them find their reliable voice by pointing to one letter at a time. What they have to say has changed my entire foundation of how I view autism. I no longer see myself as an expert. I see them as the true experts.

They all share a common theme: They seem to experience a brain-body disconnect. Similar to Tourette’s Syndrome where you are thinking about what you want to say or do and something different impulsively takes over. People with autism have lots of impulsivities. When we can help them become more purposeful, and gain more control over their impulsivities, they are able to show us a side of them we never dreamed was possible. We have completely typical, socially-smart, age-appropriate people trapped inside a body that appears to be functioning at a much lower level.

I am still doing Natural Play Therapy – as the premise of this is teaching people how to be more natural with our kids (and adults) on the spectrum. What bothered me about all the training programs I became certified in was that it became all about the program, rather than about the family and their individual needs. Programs tend to try to get everyone in the child’s life to be consistent, to all abide by the same techniques of the program. If A, then B. If the child does x, I respond by doing y. This is not real life. We become robots and expect our kids to learn relationship skills that way.

I started Natural Play Therapy at Autisitcally Inclined in 2009 to remedy this problem. I wanted to create an approach that wasn’t about the approach. I wanted to create a program that gave people freedom to think for themselves. To try something and learn from it. So many of the parents and professionals I have worked with through the years have become so dependent upon a program to tell them what to do that they have lost the ability to think for themselves.

We offer a nine month online deep dive training program (Natural Play Therapy Flourish Connection Course) for parents and professionals all over the world. We recently launched two introductory courses: Sprout Connection & Grow Connection.

We are also excited to launch three new communication courses this week! Sprout Communication, Grow Communication, and Flourish Communication! www.AutisticallyInclined.com We teach parents and professionals how to utilize Assistive Technology to find their child’s voice.

Here is a post I made on facebook that got quite a bit of attention form our autism community that sums up my experience well.

What if non and minimal speaking people, who have autism, actually have the same social skills that you and I have… but they just were not to able to show us? Over the years, my point of view has evolved so much. 20 years ago, I thought it was mainly a behavioral challenge. Ten years ago, I thought it was mainly a social challenge. Today, as I get to know who these people are on the inside, I now see it as more of a sensory-motor (movement) challenge. If they don’t do what we want them to do (speak, tie shoes, follow multi step instructions, etc.) does that mean I assume they don’t want to do these things? Of course they want to communicate. Of course they want to participate in life. Social skills are WAY more in tact than they appear. Switch your focus to purposeful movement, reliable communication, and feeding the brain and you will see so much more!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Admitting you are wrong when you’ve taught hundreds of parents in one way for so many years.

For example, I spent a decade teaching parents how to connect with their kids by joining them in their repetitious “stims” like lining up objects or flapping their hands. While this can be a very powerful experience for both parents and their kids – because it helps the parents get a feel for their child’s world while showing their child a deeper level of acceptance – once a lot of my clients later became fluent with their communication devices, they expressed that they did not want to be joined…at least for years and years like I was teaching people to do!

They did not want to be stimming all the time. They do so as a way to recharge and regulate, however, sometimes they can get stuck stimming and they need help to stop stimming. Many times they get stuck watching the same youtube videos over and over.

One of my guys was 18 and watching The Wiggles on repeat since he was 6. We all thought he loved The Wiggles. He talked about The Wiggles all the time and seemed obsessed with their videos. Once he was able to express himself, he let us know he hates the Wiggles. We were shocked! We used the Wiggles as a motivator up until that point. Now he has pursued college level courses and has become a Fitness & Body Control Coach for others on the spectrum.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Autistically Inclined – what should we know?
We work with families worldwide. We offer online training programs in Connection & Communication.

My company is called Autistically Inclined and we offer services in Connection, utilizing Natural Play Therapy, and in Communication, utilizing Assistive Technology.

What sets me apart? A willingness to admit when I was wrong. The autism community needs to evolve and we can only do that by recognizing when we may be holding onto old ways of thinking.

I am proud of starting my company in January of 2009, in the height of the recession. It is amazing to look at how far we have come. In that time I have spent a month working in France, I have spoken at a conference in India, I have worked with a family in Costa Rica, and we have clients in our online courses from Malaysia and Bucharest!

I started off in San Diego and now live in Hemet. I travel to Whittier and San Diego to work with clients. And I do a lot of work with clients everywhere online.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Thinking outside the box… Not subscribing to rules. Trying something and learning from it. Not being afraid to fail. Seeing “failure” as success. Trusting my intuition. Not doing business “one right way” – instead learning from everyone and doing what resonates with me. The Go-Giver mentality (book by Bob Burg & John David Mann). Trusting when something isn’t flowing – to be ok with going a different direction from the original plan.

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