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Autism Podcast Review: Autism Blueprint

“The Autism Blueprint Podcast is about designing a more peaceful home life while living with autism."

Autism Podcast Review: Autism Blueprint

Autism Blueprint Podcast

In 2001, Janeen Herskovitz was a special education teacher who was in complete control in the classroom but felt completely helpless at home. Her three-year-old son Ben had just been diagnosed with autism, and she found herself facing a whole new world. Few informational resources existed, and the professionals she interacted with either didn't understand Ben's behaviours or lacked empathy and understanding.

It was a traumatic experience, compounded by the birth of her daughter Rebekah at the same time, but it transformed her life, both personally and professionally.

Janeen's personal journey

As a self-described Type A new mom, Janeen read every baby and childhood development book she could. Ben hit his developmental milestones, although his speech was delayed.

Suddenly, he started to regress. He lost his words, couldn't maintain eye contact, couldn't tolerate being in a room with more than two people and melted down any time there was the littlest change in his daily schedule.

Once he was diagnosed, Janeen fought hard for information. The Internet was in its infancy, and she found herself having to explain autism to family members and friends. She was bereft and felt alone. Her marriage started suffering, as neither she nor her husband understood what they were dealing with. Every little problem was magnified, and the strain on their marriage was evident.

Ben started Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) but refused to engage. In its place, Janeen found the Son-Rise Program, which views autism as a social interactivity rather than a behavioural disorder, focusing on changing and improving human interaction.

By the time Ben reached puberty, Janeen says he had run the whole gamut of autistic behaviours. He was an eloper and school refuser, and he became physically aggressive whenever he was frustrated, overwhelmed or in physical pain. Do holes punched in walls sound familiar to any readers besides Janeen and me?

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Today, Ben is doing better. His speech is limited, and he does not freely engage in conversation, but he is learning to type to communicate. Janeen has discovered that his external, visible behaviours don't match what's happening beneath the surface most of the time; this has also been my experience with Andrew.

A significant "Aha!" moment occurred for Janeen shortly after Ben started to learn to type. She was shocked to discover that he understood what was being said around him. She apologized for not realizing this sooner; he reached out to touch her and let her know it was OK. Since then, she has learned the critical importance of presuming competence.

Janeen and her husband, who has become a stay-at-home Dad, pulled their marriage together through therapy, working together as a couple as well as on their own mental health challenges, ranging from anxiety and depression to perfectionism. Ben is now 26 years old, and they are starting to think about the future.

mom sitting at a desk with a computer getting a hug from her son Getty

Janeen's professional journey

As a teacher, Janeen initially considered obtaining a graduate degree in reading because she particularly enjoyed working with students with learning disabilities. She changed course, however, after often wishing she could go back to her young self and provide guidance. She firmly believed there needed to be more help for parents and caregivers of neurodivergent children, leading her to become a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and EMDR Trauma Therapist.

Janeen started her private coaching practice, Puzzle Peace Counseling, in 2010. She also began her group-based Extra-Special Moms Therapeutic Group Counseling Program, which continues today.

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As her coaching expanded, she started the Autism Blueprint Podcast in 2017. Autism-related podcasts were new, and she wanted to broaden her reach, provide a free resource to connect with parents, caregivers and professionals from around the world, and build a village. As she says, "When autism comes into your home, everything changes. It can shake your family's foundation if you don't have a plan. The Autism Blueprint Podcast is about designing a more peaceful home life while living with autism."

Each episode focuses on a different room in the house. For example:

  • The kitchen, talking about diet and nutrition
  • The primary bedroom, talking about marriage
  • The playground, talking about social skills

Autism Blueprint differentiates itself due to Janeen's background as both the Mom of an autistic child with significant needs and as a psychotherapist helping families with autistic and neurodivergent children. She intimately understands the struggles, both personally and professionally.

Both as a Mom and as a therapist, she knows that raising an autistic child can be overwhelming and traumatic. Every child and family is unique and different, with no one-size-fits-all approach. But by reaching out and connecting, we can help one another and lift each other up.

The Autism Blueprint Podcast airs twice a month and is available on all major podcast platforms.

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Jan Stewart is a highly regarded mental health and neurodiversity advocate. Her brutally honest memoir Hold on Tight: A Parent’s Journey Raising Children with Mental Illness describes her emotional roller coaster story parenting two children with multiple mental health and neurodevelopmental disorders. Her mission is to inspire and empower parents to persevere through the most difficult of times and have hope, as well as to better educate their families, friends, health care professionals, educators and employers. Jan chairs the Board of Directors at Kerry’s Place Autism Services, Canada’s largest autism services provider, and was previously Vice Chair at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. She spent most of her career as a senior Partner with the global executive search firm Egon Zehnder. Jan is a Diamond Life Master in bridge and enjoys fitness, genealogy and dance.

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