Helping parents of children with autism

Doctor Temple Grandin has inspired people around the world by becoming a leader in the world of animal science after overcoming autism.

Now, with her new book "The Loving Push" she explains how parents and caregivers can help children with the disorder thrive.

"You have to stretch these children just outside the comfort zone," Dr. Grandin says.

For Dr. Grandin, pushing an autistic child with CARE can be the key to that child's future success, an approach she shared at the Special Needs Symposium sponsored by the Shimon and Sara Birnbaum JCC, an organization that's spearheaded a variety of programs supporting the special needs community.

"Parents need help every day to help children find avenues that are safe and fulfilling," symposium chairperson Adena Feinstein says.

And, according to Grandin, those avenues may require a push.  And pushing a child with true love may prove challenging for the caregiver.

"Don't do too much for the child.  There's a tendency for the parent to always speak for the child.  Or they may go 'Little Tommy has autism so we'll order his hamburger for him.'  But little Tommy needs to learn to go to counter at McDonald's and order his own hamburger," Dr. Grandin says.

Why do some parents find it so hard to push their children?  Some parents just find it very very hard to let go. 

Parents like Cheryl Figliano has been pushing her daughter Alyssa since childhood.

"Some nights it's pull your hair out night, and go in the bathroom and close the door and take a 5 minute cry and take a deep breath and start over again," Figliano says.  "It's amazing what I can do when she does push me. I held a full time job this summer. Like hard manual labor at a zoo. And I never would have been able to do that if it weren't for my mom."

A loving push that is now being reciprocated with love in return.