Today’s interview is with a woman I met on social media a few years ago and someone that I have great admiration for. Mari Nosal, M.Ed., CECE received her B.A. in psychology and her Masters degree in Educational Foundations from Curry College. She has over 30 years’ experience within the human services and educational fields. She has worked with parents, educators and children with special needs. She is a published author, autism advocate, blogger, mom, wife and I am honored to call her my friend.
It is with great pleasure and honor that I present to you Mari Nosal:
Linda: Thank you for this opportunity to get to know you better Mari. Let me start by saying that your credentials are impressive. You are a published author and your book “Ten Commandments of Interacting with Kids on the Autism Spectrum” has done very well. Can you tell us how this book came to fruition?
Mari: Thanks Linda, but let me emphasize that my academic and work credentials are learned knowledge. An individual can have the best educational and career background yet lack the ability to assess each situation differently and reassess as children’s development changes and this is non-negotiable when working with children. Particularly children on the spectrum, sure, it taught me the basic framework to develop and apply educational and behavioral programs but the most important ingredient is passion for my trade and the ability to look and work with each child from a reflective stance.
Children do not come with manuals and each child must be perceived as a whole child and not merely components nor diagnosis. What works for one child will not work for another. We must embrace their individuality educationally and behavioral mindset. My favorite phrase is that one cannot google autism.
My biggest teacher has been my adult son who has Asperger’s and my strongest knowledge and skills have been honed from the experience of bringing him up. These experiences left me with a drive and passion to help other families who now walk the path my family has trodden down. I have learned that in order for a child to thrive, succeed and gain independence at the highest level that child can collaboration between treatment teams, parents and educators is a must. All individuals involved within the child’s life must be on the same page. Consistency and fluidity within different environments is of the utmost importance for children on the spectrum in order to thrive.
I found many books that focus on interacting with the child, educating them in the classroom or parenting. I found very few books that focused on all three. Hence I developed my book to provide a collaborative venue that I felt was lacking. In my book, Writing a book has always been my dream but I was apprehensive regarding how it would be received by the public as I have included personal information regarding bring up a son to adulthood with Asperger’s. My book was developed out of sheer passion. When my son was diagnosed with Asperger’s a decade ago it was a foreign word amongst many parents and professionals alike. I fought for help never giving up. I scoured the internet and researched groups like the’ Federation for Children with Special Needs.
When my son was in ninth grade they were the people who informed me of my rights and gave me support.” Ten Commandments of Interacting with kids on the Autism Spectrum I demonstrate my knowledge and experience as a parent of a son with Asperger and education professional by sharing ways that others can effectively support and interact with individuals with autism and their families. I created the “Ten Commandments for Interacting with Children on the Autism Spectrum” with the intent of providing an informative handbook for parents, educators, and kids with autism. My belief is that all individuals involved in bringing up a child on the autism spectrum must work as a collaborative team. That said, my Ten Commandments series is separated into three parts to address all individuals who are part of the child’s support team.
This book was developed to be informative in a design that busy parents, educators, and society at large can read quickly. Some parents have told me that they love the compact size because they can carry this book in their purse, glove compartment and more and pull out the book to show people when attempting to explain their child’s needs or behaviour to others. I know of an educator who keeps a copy in her desk draw and can pull the book out at a moment’s notice to access information regarding a particular child on the spectrum. My experience has shown me that society at large today is in need of a book that is easy to access and not to wordy as everyone is pressed for time these days.
My ultimate goal is for Ten Commandments for Interacting with Children on the Autism Spectrum to become an educational and support tool used in households, schools, and by society at large to help kids on the spectrum to live, learn, work, and play in a society that is amenable to their needs. A lofty goal I know, but then I always dream big.
Linda: You have an adult son with Asperger’s. How old was he when he was diagnosed and what resources where available to you at that time?
Mari: He was 15 years old. No one believed he had as many challenges as were present. He was diagnosed in second grade with ADD and deemed lazy and defiant. In reality although He had A.D.D. he had many other issues as well. I went back to school and vowed that I would become an advocate become a voice for all special needs parents train the trainers and never brush off parents’ concerns as ours had been He is now 27. He has kept on the good side of the law, is hard working, maintaining a job, has a B.A. and most important has a huge heart of gold.
Educators would not listen to my belief that he had a multitude of hidden issues that were not being addressed. Educators and society at large observed him from an objective perspective rather than reflective. In reality although he had A.D.D. he had many other issues as well. My son was tested and arrays of hidden deficits were found. There were processing issues, receptive comprehension, motor skill issues, and more.
I was briefly angered by professional’s dismissive attitude. I quickly realized that my anger and resentment what not be a fruitful way to help my son. I stepped back. I realized that over a decade ago many professionals were not cognizant of the term Asperger Syndrome and what issues were connected with this diagnosis. Asperger was not even defined in the DSM 3 manual. It was recognized in DSM 4 and then combined in what I classify as an one size fits all autism spectrum disorder classification in the DSM V. In my view classifying an individual with Asperger with in the same diagnosis in the DSM V with individuals with classic autism is akin to diagnosing an individual who is blind within the same classification as an individual who requires reading glasses.
That said, we did not have early intervention programs and educational programs for aspergians. They were dubbed little professors due to their large rote vocabularies which were memorized words, their ability to recite factual data and quirky. Resultant of this was it was common for these children to get diagnosed with special needs at the age of 13 or older as their ability to memorize and recite facts gave them the ability to memorize multiplication tables etc. When they start doing activities like word problems and pre-algebra, the processing problems would be self-evident. Do to no social skills groups and training at the time, these children often went through school ostracized by peers as they had not had been given the opportunity to develop and practice social skills.
My mindset is not to look backwards only forwards and move on with assisting my son to succeed. I was not going to let the bullying and residual self-esteem issues hold us back. I have been helping him work through the special needs maze to become the best he can despite lack of early intervention. I was not going to let the bullying and residual self-esteem issues hold us back. I have been helping him work through the special needs maze to become the best he can despite lack of early intervention
I never gave up on fighting for testing. I became my own advocate for him although it took until ninth grade to finally get him tested. Parents must never give up and realize that they possess the power and inner strength to help their special needs children get the assistance that is rightfully theirs. Educators must be reflective and remember that special needs children are not like paperwork. The mistakes made are permanent and cannot be blanked out with white out.
I would not change my sons for the world. They are my heroes. They have struggled and not only survived but are succeeding.
Linda: You have worked in education and the human services fields for over 30 years. Was working in education something you always wanted to do?
Mari: I have worked in a substance abuse detox where I saw many self-medicating young people who had special needs and had fallen through the cracks so to speak. Many were undiagnosed until they received treatment at our program. This program made me realize what my passion was. To make sure these kids did not go unidentified thus falling between the societal cracks.
I worked as a one on one educator for a teenage girl with P.D.D. who was transitioning into an inclusive high school for the first time. I was a substitute teacher in local middle schools. I was a school age site coordinator of both a public and non-profit program and managed staff, all administrative duties from licensing of the programs, behavior management, parent go to person curriculum development and implementation, management of staff, teaching and more. I became certified as a lead preschool teacher and infant toddler teacher in 2009 as well and worked within those classrooms as well. I was a behavioral training specialist within non-profit mental health programs.
Linda: You received your bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in education later on in your life. What made you decide to go back to school after so many years?”
Mari: I earned my associates degree in liberal studies (with an emphasis on sociology) after high school in 1983. Than life, and bringing up a family took priority. I always wanted to complete my education however. I went back to school and received my bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in sociology graduating cum laude in December of 2005 and masters’ degree in Educational Foundations with distinction in August of 2009 while working full time by day and going to school year round by night. I had one goal, to educate myself so I could help parents feel like they do not walk in the dark, that they are not alone, empower them and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I also wanted to work with educators and society at large to become educated on the autism spectrum as I believe all parties involved need to work as a collaborative team in order to insure a special needs child’s success. I wanted to use my experiences bringing up a child with Aspergers to ease the challenges of other parents. My son was not diagnosed until high school.
No one believed he had as many challenges as were present. He was diagnosed in second grade with ADD and deemed lazy and defiant. In reality although he had A.D.D. he had many other issues as well. I went back to school and vowed that I would become an advocate for all special needs parents and never brush off their concerns as ours had been.
Linda: Having an adult son with Asperger’s, you understand full well how difficult it is for many young adults with autism trying to find employment. What advice would you give the young kids transitioning into the workforce today and what advice would you give the parents?
Mari: Yes Linda, transitioning to adulthood is scary for both the young adults and their parents. Aspergians thrive on structure and transitioning into adulthood and a society who will have much different set of expectations is difficult, to say the least. Remember that transitioning to adulthood will have many struggles. These kids may struggle with job interviews due to an inability to make small talk, apply direct eye contact and a host of other social challenges that are synomonous with Aspergers. To the kids, you can learn and will find your niche. Remember, as a parent of a young adult son, a young man who incites my passion for children on the autism spectrum And is my hero with Aspergers (And no, he is not my ASPIE son. He is simply my son with Aspergers) I wish to remind parents that it does get better and yes many children on the Aspergers spectrum will grow up to be successful. You will find that some of the behaviors which are irritating in children with Aspergers will prove to be their golden road to opportunity as adults.
The child who over focuses as a child will turn that into perseverance towards inventing or fine tuning better ways of existence as an adult. The child who demolishes and corrupts your computer as a child resultant from their incessant drive to tinker, dismantle things, and put them together again will turn into our great thinkers. I.e. mathematicians, scientists, architects’, and research scientists.
The stubborn child will turn into the adult who perseveres and problem solves until they come up with answers and never take know for one when trouble shooting. The child who obsessively collects one item i.e. fans, dinosaurs, radios, baseball cards, will turn into the adult that uses their wonderful analytical mind to make sense of things like equations, cell mutations in cancer through a microscope, and more
In a nutshell, you are talented worthy and much needed members of society. Be willing to accept help from parents, perhaps join a young adult social skills group and seek counseling alone and with parents so you are equipped with the best team possible as skills are honed and developed.
Remember, it is hard to struggle and for parents to witness their child’s struggles. You struggled as a child. Step back to witness the achievements you have had along the way when times are difficult. Both parents and kids are stronger for the experiences they have had.
Parents, your children will succeed. They will however succeed in their time frame and walk a path that is right for them. It will not be on your terms but your child’s. For sure, set goals and expectations for your kids. However remind them of their worthiness within society when they feel like giving up. Parents you too are part of the team. Your children’s strides are directly related to your unconditional love and assistance as they were growing up. Your children will believe in themselves if you believe in them.
To all individuals past and present with Asperger and their wonderful parents who did or still do encourage and strive to understand their children, I salute you and tip my hat to you for the awesome individuals that you all are.
May we all grow to live in a utopian world of commonality born from respect and acceptance for each person’s individuality and an understanding of what would happen if society deleted the them and us ideology and replaced it with WE.
Linda: You also give workshops. Can you tell us little about your workshops and how people could access them?
Mari: I have presented locally to management teams at the headquarters of my past place of employment, early child classrooms, health care groups and shared my knowledge, experience, and insights with staff. I offer tips on curriculum development and behavior modification within the classroom and through in-services. I presently working to expand my horizons and work with parent support groups, churches, social service agencies and public schools. I presently conduct workshops within the Massachusetts and surrounding areas but am hoping to expand to nationwide in the future. I have been interviewed on national podcasts and internet TV and am open to both written and radio interviews predominantly regarding the topic of autism and Asperger syndrome. Individuals can in mail me via LinkedIn
Linda: You have just made some additions to your book ““Ten Commandments of Interacting with Kids on the Autism Spectrum”. Can you tell us about these additions and when the new version will be available to the public?”
Mari: The new version will be available at the end of June 2015. There are some exciting additions. My book was originally written as a tool that would be used as a tool to increase understanding regarding autism, create a collaborative societal climate and most of all to provide a voice for those who do not feel as though they have one. I decided that I would add a theme called, Faces of parents and children on the autism spectrum. I have spent some time getting quotes from both parents and some children on the Spectrum regarding what autism means to them. My book was written for the people thus it will display real quotes from their heart and many photos they generously provided me with showing their lovely children on the spectrum. My goal is to empower the families with this project and educate society at large by presenting real families on the spectrum who vary in age and diagnosis. This will be an awakening for those who read my revised book yet heartwarming at the same time. I have taken a vote from parents regarding blog articles that I have written. The ones that received the most votes will be provided in my revised and enlarged book to hopefully inspire and educate others. There will be a couple of new chapters as well that I am still finalizing. But reviews from my test readers say this book will be sure to please.
Linda: If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your former self; the mom that is raising a child with autism and is second guessing everything that she is doing?”
Mari: Step back; do not worry where your child will be in ten years. No one has a crystal ball and can provide a prognosis that far down the line. If I had to do it all over again, I would have taken more time to focus on the skills my son had developed rather than worrying about the ones he did not have at the time. I would have spent less time beating myself up every time his skills regressed; he did not develop on my time frame and by my expectation’s and accepted the fact that my child’s skills would develop in his time and his needs. For I have realized the road our children inevitably travel down to adulthood will be theirs. Parents are the coaches but our children are not an extension of ourselves. A little less beating yourself up for what skills your child does not have or challenges they must conquer goes a long way. I wish I had spent less time obsessing over his diagnosis and accepting him for who he was; who he was, and is, my child, just like any other parents kids. Neurotypical or not complete with individual personality and quirks. Most of all, when I felt like his future was dim and everything was futile. I wish that I had focused on what successes he had made in baby steps. In doing this, it will cause you to remember that yes your child has made strides. The reasons for those strides were because you……. Awesome parents guided them. Always remember this when you are down. You and your child have struggled before and have dusted yourselves off. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. You have what it takes.
Linda: Finish this sentence please, “Mari Nosal is…………”
Mari: Mari Nosal is driven by her passion to make the world an integrated place where individuals with special needs can live, play, love and work side by side with neurotypicals who embrace their differences.
Thank you so much for your time Mari. Keep up the amazing work that you are doing and we look forward to seeing your revised copy of “Ten Commandments of Interacting with Kids on the Autism Spectrum”.
For those who would like to purchase a copy of Mari’s book, please visit:
Mari Nosal, M.Ed., CECE received her B.A. in psychology and her Masters degree in Educational Foundations from Curry College. She spent years as a school age coordinator, blogger and author, and has over 30 years’ experience within the human services and education fields. She has had special needs articles published in several magazines. Mari is a published author whose special needs Autism and Asperger related books can be found on Amazon.com Barnes and Noble and Createspace. She is certified by the Department of Early Childhood Education as a lead preschool teacher, an infant and toddler teacher, and site coordinator qualified to manage school age programs. She is trained in Community Crisis Intervention by the Community Crisis Intervention Team.
Mari also works with Non Profits, schools, and society at large as well. She conducts public speaking engagements that provide them with the tools and knowledge to help special needs children, (predominantly autism and Asperger (with her specialty being Asperger Syndrome) to become as independent and successful as possible.
Mari has presented autism workshops to staff, management teams, and parent groups. She offers tips on curriculum development and behaviour modification within the classroom and through in-services. She is certified by the Department of Early Childhood Education as a lead preschool teacher, an infant and toddler teacher, and site coordinator qualified to manage school age programs.
Inquiries regarding availability for Workshops, Public Speaking Events, motivational speaking and training can be arranged via messaging on LinkedIn.
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