GAIN THE PASSION
GAIN THE PASSION
Oct. 29, 2021

Laurie Hellmann - Mental Toughness & Accountability Defined: A Life's Journey Parenting Through Autism

Laurie Hellmann - Mental Toughness & Accountability Defined: A Life's Journey Parenting Through Autism

Laurie Hellmann has spent the last 16 years fiercely navigating through therapies, medications and countless other medical and personal challenges with her son, Skyler, all while continuing to fight for and be the voice for other families with a loved one on the autism spectrum.

She is also the author of Welcome to My Life: A Personal Parenting Journey Through Autism , host of the podcast Living the Sky Life – Our Autism Journey,  Super Mom to Skyler and Kendall, loving wife to Josh and also has a full-time career. 

Learn more about Laurie
https://www.lauriehellmann.com/
Subscribe to the Living the Sky Life Podcast
https://www.lauriehellmann.com/podcast/
Buy the book Welcome to My Life
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1948238322/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1948238322&linkCode=as2&tag=skykenmom-20&linkId=c2450d33f75a3c95548687b104b291efEpisode Transcript
https://www.successcoachingpodcast.com/chris-smith-conversion-codes-the-curaytor-culture/#transcript

Find out more about GAIN THE PASSION Coaching
https://www.gainthepassion.com
Access past episodes and more of the GAIN THE PASSION Podcast
https://www.gainthepassionpodcast.com

Transcript
Voiceover:

This is the SUCCESS Coaching Podcast with hosts Todd Foster, Alyssa Stanley and Kelley Skar.

Alyssa Stanley:

Hello everyone. Welcome to the SUCCESS Coaching Podcast. My name is Alyssa Stanley and I am here with Todd Foster and Kelley Skar. Today we get to sit and talk with a woman who is genuinely inspiring in all aspects of her life. Lori Hellmann, we are so excited to have you here.

Laurie Hellmann:

Thank you. I'm excited to be here.

Alyssa Stanley:

So I've listened to some of your podcasts and read your bio and I feel like so many of our listeners who are women will relate to you in the aspect that you fill many different roles in your day to day life. Could you just start us out by walking us through a day in the life of Lori?

Laurie Hellmann:

Sure, it's it's sometimes entertaining and sometimes not at all

Alyssa Stanley:

I get that.

Laurie Hellmann:

I feel like my entire life has been scheduled. That's just how I operate I an the list maker. I like turn things off. I'm super OCD about all the things so that's kind of transitioned into being a parent and being a wife and being an employee and all the many hats that a lot of us wear Um, so yeah, I mean, the first thing in the morning to be completely honest with you, that I do when I wake up is change my son's That doesn't sound boring at all. bedsheets because as we'll talk about I'm sure my son has severe autism and he's not toilet trained. So every single morning consists of laundry as the very first thing that I do once we get him up on and then once we get everybody off to school lunches or pack the night before all that stuff then I start my job my full time job Okay, um, as a pharmaceutical sales manager and I do all the things I supposed to do with that and then I might have a podcast episode to record and then I do that I mean my calendar I still use the old paper calendar because it's the only way I have to rely heavily on a schedule to not be you know, deleted from my phone or something um, but I scheduled until I go to bed about 10 o'clock at night, My

day starts about 6:

30 in the morning and I'm non stop moving until I go to bed and I've got every hour planned I even the scheduling my exercise time, because if I don't, I won't do it. So it's kind of boring, really. It's a lot of s

Kelley Skar:

I think there's a certain level of accountability there that our listeners will will definitely appreciate. I mean, I'm you know, most people that I know that are successful in life and in business are held accountable to their calendar through you know, a busy schedule, and if it isn't in the calendar, it doesn't exist. So I don't think that you know, I don't know you but I can I can just tell right away that you know, you live a fairly hectic life and without the without the schedule without the calendar without it holding you accountable to certain things. It just isn't gonna get done.

Laurie Hellmann:

Yeah, and I just, I never have liked the feeling. It's nothing happened to me honestly, once or twice in the entire time I've parented my children. I don't like to be the parent who misses something forgets a field trip slip or forgets to have them someplace that they're supposed to be on time. Like, that doesn't happen on my watch. And I feel like a huge failure, something tiny like that gets missed. I mean, it's a lot of added pressure to put on yourself, but I just, I don't know, I strive for perfection, which is a disease in itself.

Alyssa Stanley:

Yeah, but if you miss something like that, like a field trip, I have experienced serious mom guilt because before I decided to keep a calendar and really stay pretty regimen and scheduled, I would forget those things all the time. And the mom guilt that I would carry for weeks at a time over the littlest stuff like I forgot to pack an extra snack. Well, they're not gonna die within the 30 minutes that they drive home, they'll be okay. But that you carry so I mean, I think that's a huge tip is scheduling helps alleviate that mom guilt that we all experience.

Laurie Hellmann:

For sure. I think so.

Alyssa Stanley:

How many kids do you have?

Laurie Hellmann:

I have two My daughter is 16. So she now drives herself which is huge. And then my son is 18.

Alyssa Stanley:

Okay. And your son has severe autism?

Laurie Hellmann:

Yes, severe nonverbal autism. Um, so he is reliant on me and my husband for every single aspect of life. He's mobile, but he needs help eating and dressing and showering and all the things that are required every day.

Alyssa Stanley:

So that's a lot to carry. It is. Yeah, and he's bigger than me so he can't be carried anynmore which is harder. Because now he can push me around so. So can you take us back to his diagnosis? Was it early on? Or when when did you guys discover this?

Laurie Hellmann:

Yeah, it was early on. At the age of two, he started having seizures. So we were sent to the neurologist on for that. And he was delayed physically on, pretty much from birth, he was born hypertonic, which is just kind of floppy baby, just no muscle tone, really. Um, so I had some concerns about that. And we were talking about therapies and things. But then when the seizures just came on, we were at the neurologist office, and he's the first person who mentioned the word autism. To me, I had never heard the word, I didn't know anything about it. And this was back in 2006. So it still really wasn't discussed very much. And the odds were still a lot less than they are now. Um, and I was just really taken back and I kind of heard it, but I think the worst part of it, I think, was he his bedside manner was terrible. And I talked about it in the book, too, that it just, he told us that our son had severe autism at the age of two. So first of all, how do you know the severity level at a two year old anyway, but then he moved me the name of a parent, with an older child on the spectrum and asked that I reached out to them to start planning because my son would never walk, he would never talk, he would never live independently, he would never do any of these things. And again, he's too. So leaving us with this grave prognosis for the future of my first baby. Like I knew nothing about anything. Um, so that was pretty disheartening. And then the pediatrician actually suggested that we go to Indianapolis to the Autism Center there and get an official diagnosis, that waiting list was a little over a year of time. So he wasn't officially diagnosed until a little after his third birthday. And that diagnosis took about 10 minutes. She looked at it, and she's like, Oh, yes, he's clearly on the spectrum. So then, you're left with the diagnosis, and you leave, and you have no idea what to do next. So what did you do next? Well, there wasn't Google, and there wasn't Facebook or any of that stuff yet, or if it was an existence, I wasn't part of it yet. Um, so I just kind of relied back on my old law school like training and I just started researching as much as I could find on in medical journals and different things about autism and what it meant and what you do. And then we were given back when he was two, we were given the state therapies that are provided from the age of newborn to three years old for physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. So we did all of that. And then we just kind of relied on the the preschools and the school systems to get him services at school was that his diagnosis, we were able to get a little bit more ot at school and some speech but other than that, it was just digging and digging and digging and trying to find what to do. As far as therapy goes. I think the parents all think that our kids can somehow overcome this and you know, get enough therapy and just kind of catch up to their peers. That's kind of my goal. I always wanted him to just catch up, because just do as much therapy as possible and get him back to where his peers are, but that's just not reality.

Alyssa Stanley:

So what are his limitations today?

Laurie Hellmann:

Um, he's extremely limited because he can't communicate. That's That's the worst of it. Because if you think about every single thing that you do on a daily basis, where you're choosing what you want to eat, you're choosing what time you want to go to bed, even if he doesn't feel well. I was freaking out if he would have gotten COVID because I have no idea he can't tell me that his tastes changed or he can't smell anything. So it's it's a challenge every single day to know what it is that he needs, or he wants, what he likes. So that's the hardest part of his deficiencies, everything else. Honestly, the toilet training, not being toilet trained. I don't care about any of that. That honestly is not a big, important piece of it all if he could just communicate that would change our lives dramatically and his.

Todd Foster:

The one thing I've been watching as your posts on Facebook and you are definitely very vocal and vulnerable with your postings, about your mental health and everything that's going on. With your life in general, just not Skyler yet, Kendall, and your husband, Josh, and life and everything else. With Skyler, getting bigger, as we say, right. And growing bigger, I've also noticed a trend, at least from the outsider looking in that things also are changing with him as well as he gets older. And to the point where it sometimes it sounds like you may not even be able to handle him or you're, you know, the first five minutes, he's awake, you've been hit or scratch or slapped a couple of times, as a mother and as Josh, as you know, the greatest guy that would ever be there. I mean, he married into this right?

Laurie Hellmann:

Yeah.

Todd Foster:

How would you keep yourself from going off the edge or laughing back, and then what gives you hope about the future?

Laurie Hellmann:

Um, you know, as far as lashing back, it's really hard. I mean, like, any parents, if your child talks back to you, or whatever, I mean, it's really easy to go, you know, seriously, and, you know, snap back at them or swear at them or whatever. And I'm no saint, I have my moments where I'm like, God, can you just stop being so hateful? And, you know, I asked him, I'm like, Do you hate me? Do you not like me? Do you not realize all the things I do for you. And then I feel like a total jerk after saying those things. But you have a limit. I mean, you boil over and you just lose it. And I think the the tension in the house comes from him being so frustrated of never having uttered a single word in 18 years of life, and we're maybe feeding him the wrong things or doing things wrong, and he can't express himself other than to smack a wall or hit me or pull my hair. And I mean, just to tell me the maybe that he's full, I don't want anymore. He doesn't know this. I mean, he's not taken to sign language. So he doesn't know how to show me that he's done, or whatever. Um, so the aggression I think comes on with his frustration. And I, it's hard as I try to remind myself, like, it's not you, it's not about you. It's him. He's frustrated, he doesn't mean it. Even autistic adults that I've interviewed on my podcast, and that have reached out to me and they said, that who now can type and communicate in other ways, besides speaking, they have said, I did the same thing to my parents. And now that I can type and spell or whatever I have, let them know that I am so sorry. And I, I love them. And I didn't mean to do those things. I just couldn't control my body. That's one of the aspects of autism, too, that people don't understand is they a lot of people on the spectrum struggle with controlling their body movements, he might not mean to hit me so hard, it might just mean that get my attention. Like, you know, Mom, mom, constantly saying, Mom, mom, but he can't do that. So instead, he tasked me tasks a little harder, task me a little harder, and then he pulled out smacks me to get my attention. So it's just time to level set your mind that she really does love you. It's not he's not trying to be malicious on but it's hard, it's really hard to, you know, get beat on all the time and then say, it's okay. It's not it's, but you know, it's just, I just tried to give him the benefit of the doubt as much as I can.

Todd Foster:

So with this type of autism that he has, and I promise I'm not a Facebook stalker, I'm just friends with her on Facebook. You had about a month ago or so you had posted some pictures and videos with Skyler at the age of three and four, with a lot more animation and recognizing more and more things at that point where at one point look like the page may turn with the progression of autism so he was diagnosed that at two is a one of those things that it gets worse over the years or what started there as autism than just you know, it seems like it's I guess went downhill with that since then.

Laurie Hellmann:

Yeah. And it's it's so interesting, because every single person on the spectrum with autism, and that's why it's a spectrum. Their story is so unique. It isn't like a lot of other conditions where you can say everybody is similar, and there are some similarities but I think I've had to let myself go of feeling that I missed something or that I should have done this and I should have done that. And I talked at length in the book about that to all of the therapies we have tried and all of the new revelations that people have talked to about, you know, using biomedical intervention and supplements and different things. We have done everything we have spent so much money I can't even I lost track. I'm trying to do anything we could. I there's just so people like Skyler, who maybe we'll never speak. And what we've been doing in the last year and a half is failing to communicate with him. I stumbled on that program and reached out to a therapist that lives in Tennessee. And that has been the most remarkable thing for us to see. Because we've always known that Skyler is intelligent. He really is like a typical 18 year old with what he knows and understands. But seeing him sell the answers to age appropriate on reading material that will read to him, he answers the comprehension questions and spells the answers with such accuracy. And he really understands so much more than I even realized that changed my whole perspective on his type of autism and kind of what's going on with him. It's just there is just a connection with some people that are more on the severe end, where they know what they want to say, and they understand all the language, but there's a disconnect between their brain and their mouth and just being able to use those words and to make their mouth do any of that vocalization. It's called a praxian. But Skyler has severe praxian he just there's just no connection between what he wants to say and and actually saying it and I think that's again, where all the frustration comes in. Because he knows exactly what he wants but we're just not getting it right and he's irritated so Um, but yeah, I mean Everyone's story is unique. That's that's the thing that so hard, because I don't know what it is if I did, I would have gladly fixed it or helped him along the way, but we've tried everything possible.

Kelley Skar:

Laurie, I'm curious about the effect on the the relationship with a sibling and it specifically your relationship with your daughter. You know, in light of Your son having this autism I you know, he's obviously requires a lot of attention and, you know, has a lot of needs and that sort of thing. Has your daughter ever felt like she was, you know, kind of less than or or, you know, maybe taking a having, you know, being forced into the backseat so to speak. I mean, I'm kind of interested in, in the dynamics between the siblings and you know, specifically with you guys as parents.

Laurie Hellmann:

Yeah, I mean, it's definitely an uncomfortable place to grow up in because you do always take a backseat unfortunately, and that's never any parent's intention. But because Skyler needs so much and always has needed so much attention. Um, you know, my only way to kind of forget that it was to make sure I had one on one time with her always she used to be a competitive dancer. So we all you know, we're at weekends at dance competitions, and Josh stayed home with Skyler. And it's divide and conquer for most things, which stinks so many parents have talked about that and they have other kids that are in sports and things and both parents can't go because the autistic sibling just cannot handle the social environment with all the people on but now that Kendall's older I'm she was actually on an episode of my podcast also, talking about being a sibling, I've had several siblings that are now adults on my show to just to talk about their perspective on and it's always interesting because they're all not all of them, but a lot of them that I've met with have gone into this field through the therapists or their they work in some sort of autistic field it's they said that you know, they've never harbored any resentment towards their sibling or their parents, they just feel helpless like they can't they can't do anything to assist the family so they either grow up too fast, which I feel it Kendall a grow up much faster than our peers because I've needed her to help me especially when I was single. Um, and also I feel like just through her and other stories that they also have this tendency to try to be perfectionist as if you know if I don't cause any trouble if I get straight A's if I'm like their perfect model child that gives my mom one less thing to worry about she already has enough to worry about with my brother so you know I'm not gonna cause any problems and so it's a lot of stress that they put on themselves to be perfect so that you know we don't have to worry about them.

Kelley Skar:

Yeah, interesting. So what compelled you to write the book so sorry the name of your of the book is Welcome to My Life, correct?

Laurie Hellmann:

Yes. Yeah.

Kelley Skar:

So what what what compelled you to write the book was it did you feel like there was a lack of resources kind of in that space? You know, was it just coming from a place have really truly wanting to help, you know, specifically your peers that are dealing with, with children that have autism as well. Like, what was the compelling point like what what made you inject having to write a book into your schedule, which we know is very..

Laurie Hellmann:

You know, it's just, I feel like, um, you know, as I mentioned, when when Skyler was diagnosed, there wasn't really anybody talking about it, obviously, there were lots of families dealing with autism, but there was just no place for us to discuss it. And it's gotten so much better. Now, there are social media groups, and lots of websites and things you can go to for resources. But um, I think, since every story is unique, and people tell me all the time, like oh, my gosh, like some of the things that we've gone through, it's unbelievable. And they're like, you should write a book about this. And I'm like, kind of laughing. Because I had started another book, actually, prior to this one. And I just kind of put that on the back burner, it just wasn't writing very fast. And I'm like, this is my life seriously, that's why I titled it that this is what I know, this is what I do every day on. So if I could be a resource for parents who are just getting diagnosed, or if they're midway through it, and they're running into the teen years have already been through a lot of that. So having an older child, I thought it would be a great resource for them to relate to or to go, oh, gosh, you know, this is what I have to plan for at least, um, but the other, you know, audience that I didn't initially think about him to target. But I've gotten more feedback from people that I grew up with, or people in my extended family that had no idea, the severity of our life, and like what we go through on a daily basis. And so the messages I've gotten have moved me almost as much or more so than the people who live this life also, because they've said, Gosh, you know, I know a family with a child on the spectrum at my church, or I just never knew what to do. And by reading your book, at least I can go up to them and just ask if they knew anything, or if I can you help them for five minutes or do something. And just, now I have a better understanding of families that aren't like mine, that have a special needs child or whatever. So that was kind of a default benefit of writing the book, too, is just to give people more of a glimpse about other families may be experiencing this. It's not easy.

Todd Foster:

I know that you're an expert on autism and the numbers, it seems like they're increasing. It just seems like now, I don't know what it was one out of every, how many children now have some sort of 48 Okay, so one hour 48. And when we were born, which was 22 years ago, is different. Have researchers or scientists or studies shown why that's changing?

Laurie Hellmann:

You know, I mean, there's tons and tons of theories. And, you know, a lot of them are controversial. I just have my own personal thoughts. I mean, it's just, it's, it's so striking to me that this I'm sure it was prevalent when we were kids, but it wasn't labeled this. I mean, it was, you know, there was a special education classroom, and I think they just swamped a lot of children together. And just didn't really dig it much deeper. But I feel like our generation that's having kids and in the past 20 years or so, and onward, there's just so much that's changed, like the hormones in our food and the environment and the pesticides, and then just whatever, I have no scientific, you know, background that all that any of that has anything to do with it. But there's just got to be something that's causing the prevalence of cancers, and just so many things affecting all of us, that didn't seem to be as big of a deal when we were little. So I don't know, I mean, there's so many theories, a lot of its genetic as well, um, my ex husband had an uncle that was hate this example, but was very, very similar to rain man. And he, he was, he was a genius. When it came to like sports, you could ask him, you know, a certain baseball game and he could tell you the weather that day, statistics of the game, the score, and it could have been from 1970 something. So and he talked to himself a lot. It was very, very stereotypical of Rain Man. So I don't know maybe Skyler got autism, because genetically that was he was predisposed, and it is what it is, I don't know. But I really, really in the last five to 10 years have completely flipped the way I felt about this whole thing on. I know that Skyler and so many like him are changing the world. They really are. They're educating people on differences and There's a reason why I was blessed with him and my daughter Kendall and their dynamic and all of that. I'm just trying to learn from him as much as we're trying to get him to learn from us. And I honestly learned more from him than I'm sure he looks from us on a daily basis so um, it really is a blessing and I know people hate that and they cringe when someone says something as hard as this as a blessing but there has to be a light at the end of the tunnel in this whole thing because I can't imagine it's for nothing. I believe so um, and I lost my faith for a long time and I have a whole chapter devoted to that too. But um, but yeah, I just I was angry and I just thought it was unfair and I have you know, grown up a good person and I always was a good person and I'm like, why am I being punished this isn't this is ridiculous, why can't I have two normal healthy kids but do all the things that all my friends kids are doing that are the same ages and but I just I really had a perspective shift when I met my husband Josh, I really did just I don't know if it was just him walking into our lives openly and like accepting everything and jumping right in. And he's a very faith driven person also and so you know, he he's really helped change my perspective on getting back to my faith and believing in a higher purpose than the day to day stuff I guess.

Todd Foster:

I'd like to find out how so you you met Josh, and you're you're doing the dating thing? And you go Hey, by the way, I've got two kids.

Laurie Hellmann:

He stalked me on Facebook. He knew that already.

Todd Foster:

And and it looks like that he, well it doesn't look like, I know he has, he's taken a huge father figure and Skyler's life and Kendall's life. Do you know exactly why he's chosen to take the path he's taken?

Laurie Hellmann:

Yeah, I mean, he, I told him on our first date about Skyler and about autism and all the things because I'm like, I'll tell I can tell by the minute I say it, my son was facial expression. If they're a keeper or not, and he didn't even blink, he didn't bat an eye. He was just like, Okay, so what, you know, tell me about him, tell me more about the kids or whatever. And it was just I don't know. I mean, I swear it was divine intervention. It really was just how we met and just how much we have in common and how much we laugh. And he just the very first time he met the kids, Skyler answered the door and took his hand and took him right to the basement to show him his toys, like didn't, he never has flinched, where Josh is concerned, where a lot of people he would kind of go off on his own. He was drawn to him, it was it was so interesting, he was just like, winging it. I really like him. He's gonna freak out. And he's gonna, you know, hearing about Skyler, and like, seeing all that's involved, is are two different things. So I was praying that he wouldn't run and he didn't. I didn't want to meet the kids for a long time. I'm like, I just want to bask him this a little longer just in case he dumps me. I just want to date a little longer.

Alyssa Stanley:

That gives me goosebumps. He's like that guy. That's amazing. Yeah. So how long did you manage? And be how long were you a single mom managing Skyler and your daughter and...

Laurie Hellmann:

For five years I was single. And I met Josh after that. So yeah, and I just I mean that's on my schedule is really important because the kids know Yes, to week to their dad. And so it was it was crazy, but I still organize everything online. That's just how I am so I hated not having them. So it was That was tough.

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Kelley Skar:

Can I, can I bring you back for just one second back to the I'm intrigued by by mental toughness and how people are able to pull themselves out of dark places that they find themselves in. And so, you know, you had mentioned faith, but you know, what else was it that was that you read? Like? This is clearly not an easy thing. I mean, you've got an autistic son, you've got you know, a daughter, you've got a marriage that's falling apart. You know, you're single for five years. You're the caregiver, you're the breadwinner. I mean, it stands to reason and I think, you know, most reasonable people would expect some level of mental breakdown at some point because of how much you you had on your plate. And so clearly that, you know, maybe not a mental breakdown, but you're definitely in a dark spot, maybe walk us through what the process was to pull yourself out of that.

Laurie Hellmann:

I mean, I have always been a huge proponent of therapy for for one, I had a really rough childhood, I started therapy in college even and then once my I knew my marriage was coming to an end, I reached out to it there, I found a therapist here, I lived here very long on and I started going to her before I pulled the trigger and filed for divorce. And I maintained my relationship with her monthly through the whole thing because I knew I wasn't mentally stable to handle it by myself. And that was the it took me longer than it should have to get a divorce because I was like how in the world can I possibly be a single mom, and do all of this stuff with special needs and rotating therapists in our house and all of these things. I just can't do this on my own. And it took her and me and talking through it and like, you know, realizing I can do it. And it's better to do it now than to wait till I'm you know, really unhappy, and the kids are grown and they've grown up in a terrible household and all of that stuff. So um, yeah, and I, I am a big runner, I've kind of started running in college. And so I've trained for many marathons, kind of during all this process. So running was a good outlet for me on. And I think that got a little extreme, I, you know, had some weight issues and thought to eating and just that's how the stress showed itself on me. I think I didn't realize it until people pointed it out that I needed to eat or, you know, maybe not lunch or whatever. Um, I think that's just kind of how I handle stress. But I you know, I think I've maintained a pretty good balance with that. Later, I figured it out. So, but therapy is huge. I really I mean, I'm such a proponent of that.

Todd Foster:

I have a question for you in regards to your outlet about running. And then you were running a lot. And then you decided to become a bodybuilder.

Laurie Hellmann:

Yeah.

Kelley Skar:

Wow!

Laurie Hellmann:

Let's do this.

Todd Foster:

So So what made you go down that path? Was it because you'd said, you know, people are saying, hey, you need to eat and you need to do things to take care of yourself better. Was that?

Laurie Hellmann:

I was running a lot. And then I ran 10 marathons. And then I was married to Josh when I ran the last three or so or four. And he's a huge runner, too. That's how we met. And he's, he's much better than me.

Todd Foster:

And he didn't run away from you.

Laurie Hellmann:

I know. I know. He could Oh, yeah, he's from Boston, four times. Yeah. So he's legit. But um, I started CrossFit actually, um, I always loved fitness and dance, you know, that from knowing me my whole life. But, um, so I, um, I was actually a Zumba instructor for quite a while while I was single, too. And one of the ladies in my class asked if I heard of a CrossFit gym that just had opened down the street. And so I checked that out. And initially, I started CrossFit and lifting weights because Skyler was getting bigger, but he still needed me to pick him up, help him in the bathtub and pick him up and just do different things with him. So I'm like, Man, I've got runner bodies don't usually have a lot of muscle that I really need to like, step it up. So I did CrossFit for like, four or five years, and then I just kind of get burned out with things after a while. And a friend of mine did a bodybuilding Show. I'm like, I should do that while I'm 40. You know, like, just to do it. So I did and when I'm in, I'm all in. So you know, my scheduling works for me when you have to do nine months of working out every day, two hours and eating a certain meal certain times of the day. That's a perfect fit for someone like me. So it worked out fine. I didn't want I'll never do it again. Probably.

Todd Foster:

So you'd never do it again?

Laurie Hellmann:

No, I don't think so. It's just it's, I think the other reason I did it too, is just to kind of continue to overcome things on my self esteem or just my body issues that we tend to have as women our whole lives, but I'm standing on stage in an itty bitty tiny swimsuit. Having judges literally judging every inch of your body is pretty humbling and it also will help you overcome in a quick way, all the time. So I'm glad I did it for the experience. It was fun.

Todd Foster:

Do you see a little bit of Kendall in you? You mentioned that she was pretty much forced to grow up quickly. Right? And with your childhood, did you find yourself looking at Kendall going? Holy cow. That's me, except it's just a generation a part.

Laurie Hellmann:

Yeah, I mean, there's a lot of similarities. I'm actually the younger sibling. And so she, um, so she, she has a lot of mannerisms like me. I mean, the perfectionism sadly comes from me on some of her OCD. So it comes from me. But the the sad thing on with Kendall that she got from me, too, I feel like and hers is heightened even more is the anxiety, hit a lot of anxiety as a child. And I guess I didn't realize that it was anxiety, because who knows that when you're 12, or whatever, that you're stressed about everything and internalizing everything. And she does that. And so she's in therapy also, because, again, I think that's the huge thing. But it's really been helpful for her to get through a lot of that she has anxiety about a lot of different things, I'm sure our divorce and obviously her brother, and just trying to be perfect, and all that stuff. And she puts so much pressure on herself that it's just not healthy. And she thank goodness told us that she had, she felt anxious until she was diagnosed with anxiety. And she was very depressed, which scares me to death because of kids today, and just how they let their depression go and go and go. And then it has drastic consequences sometimes so on that made me really sad. And of course, I felt extremely guilty because I feel like if she didn't have a brother with autism, and she didn't have to go through a divorce when she was three, and things like that, that she would just be a happy go lucky teenager. But that's not really fair. I don't know that she would. I think it's today with social media and have so much stress on them anyway, that we could do everything right. And it's, you know, it's not our fault, but so yeah, she's a lot like me, and she's sarcastic like me, and she's very witty like me. So I think she got that at least, which I like.

Todd Foster:

So you were talking about Skyler and the autism, and it could potentially potentially be a genetic thing. So I have a question for you. I'm ADHD. I'm OCD. My brain works all the time. I'm, when it comes down to intelligence, I'm above the sector. I was in that talented and gifted program, all of that when I was growing up, yes. And then my sister Heather, is a lot like me as well. And then, for those of you that don't know, my nephew is also on the spectrum, yet, he's more of a genius. I mean, the kid can hear a song one time and play it on the piano, he Jeopardy all day long, he can tell you everything about everything. Could it be that we also have those hidden traits deep down inside of us where we may all have some sort of autism or, you know, on the spectrum?

Laurie Hellmann:

Um, I mean, nothing is impossible. But that actually is a very slippery slope right now, because there are, sadly, I not understanding this whole phenomenon, but there are a lot of autistic. I use that in quotes, adults on social media, who are at odds with a lot of special needs parents as autism parents on I haven't been a direct target of a lot of it. But there are several moms I'm friends with that have on and just asked posting anything about therapies or different things that we're going through with our children who are nonverbal or whatever. And we get a lot of hatred thrown at us from these autistic adults on saying that we should just listen to our kids and you know, don't exploit them and like just all this stuff, but has come out recently that some of these people have openly admitted they are not on the spectrum. It was the thing to do to get more followers and to say that they're on the spectrum and even people with bad behavior. I mean, there's been network television shows that have had guests on on Dr. Phil comes to mind there was a guest on there who got in a lot of trouble for really bad behavior as a massage therapist or something. And he just kind of throughout the conversation well I'm on the spectrum so I don't understand or whatever and he's like, no, you're not like so it's it's hard for us with children and young adults who legitimately are having troubles and we can't get services and there's just there's all kinds of roadblocks we have to face, then for people to just self diagnose and They, you know, I'm quirky. I'm on the spectrum too. They might be, but it's just it's really a slippery slope. Right now.

Kelley Skar:

No, I don't even know what to say to that I'm honestly I'm speechless. I can't I cannot believe that there are people in this world that would pretend to have some sort of neurological impairment to increased likes and following like, what kind of a world are we living in right now? This is it. Is it truly it's mind boggling.

Laurie Hellmann:

Yeah. It's pretty horrible. So I mean, and there's in some of them are the people that lash out at us. And you know, I've gotten comments before when I've said something in my blog or something like, I just hope that Skyler doesn't hate me because of XYZ. And people commented from this autistic adult population, he does hate you, I'm sure he hates you. Because, you know, you make him do a certain therapy that we think is like, devilish and whatnot, which isn't the case. My kid has never been armed ever, ever, ever. So um, yeah, I don't know. It's just it's that's the mental toughness part. That's really hard. People like me and lots of my autism friends who have a much bigger following than me. It's really hard to we're trying to educate and get resources and services for our kids and make people understand what we need, and all of that. And then we have haters Come on, and like bash us as parents, they're mad at us for calling ourselves autism moms. I don't know what else to call myself. I'm a mom of an autistic adult. I don't I mean, he doesn't speak for himself. I speak for him. So it's just, it takes a mental toll when people aren't bashing you that don't know you. I mean, it's just like any other internet troll. It's it's just hard though. Because this is your real life, and they're pretending and judging and whatever. So it's just, I don't know, it's really it makes us not want to write books and not not talk about anything and just go back to our isolation like we were because it's easier.

Todd Foster:

How many times a day does mama bear come out?

Laurie Hellmann:

Depends on the day I mean, right now we're just really struggling with other things. So I'm frustrated just because I I want things to happen yesterday, I'm very impatient, I'm getting better scholars made me learn to be better but he also has ulcerative colitis, which is common to for people on the spectrum to have seizure disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, just all kinds of other things that aren't autism related, but they are part of someone on the spectrum they usually have comorbidities and things going on. So we're really struggling with that with that I think a lot of my volunteer frustration stuff comes out when you know his injections aren't approved by insurance or whatever and I have to put my insurance mom hat on and call and get appeals and like you know, do all that stuff which I feel like I'm an expert in now. But it's just it's frustrating. Just to project I think you know that he's 18 and I'm going to be doing this until I am no longer here that's where I can't sleep at night right now. I am just starting you know, we just did the guardianship that we had to do for him and that was a hard day and then the Social Security benefits having to do all of that now as an adult and it's just thinking like oh my gosh, what what am I going to do when I don't live to 150 like I need to be who's going to take care of them? Who's going to you know advocate for him when I'm not here to do it? That's the stuff that's scary that's the next phase that we're entering.

Kelley Skar:

But you're but you're doing it now you mentioned something a little just a little bit ago you'd said you know it's so much easier to go back into the darkness instead of stepping into the light and and really speaking truth to your power knew your advocate you were advocating for him right now and into the future and by writing books and by standing up to these internet troll assholes that are out there by you know, writing blog posts, I mean, you are advocating for him for the future and you know, somebody will at some point take up your mantle and continue to run with it. So I applaud you I think what you're doing right now is absolutely amazing. And I encourage you to keep at it because there's you know, there there are strength in numbers and you know, trolls are not a majority they are a very very small minority but they've got words that can be like icicles jabbed into your heart and I know that it can make you want to stop in your tracks but you've got this sheepdog mindset Laurie, like you know, it's I'm I'm raising My kids to be sheepdogs not to be wolves, right. And I had this conversation with my son the other day. In fact, it was yesterday and probably one of the most proudest moments. As a father. He told me that him and his friends stepped in between a kid that had been bullied since the start of school and his bully. And you know, they didn't they didn't take the bully down. But they, you know, isolated the bully, one of his friends went and got a teacher brought the teacher back, and they took care of the bully, right, and then went to went and took care of the kid. And you know, you are that that personality, and there are more sheep dogs in the world than there are wolves. So keep doing what you're doing. I think you're doing amazing.

Laurie Hellmann:

Thanks. Yeah, I mean, that's my whole goal is to, to raise little amazing people who are into adult amazing people. And the amount of empathy that my daughter has, compared probably to a lot of teams her age is it's off the charts. And I'm just proud, I'm so proud of her and Skyler, for all that they've endured and gone through and they're, they're good people. I'm sure they'll still be in therapy, because, you know, we all have a therapy at some point in our lives. But they're, they're good people.

Alyssa Stanley:

I have to tell you, I was like I was biting my tongue, when you are tagging about the people that come after you. Because that infuriates me. Can you have this gift to bring awareness and knowledge of people with autism, and you have this gift to bring strength to your son, a gift of being a voice for the voiceless. And yet, there's people coming after you for doing just that. And I can imagine, when you have someone messaging you, and like, my blood pressure's raised, my voice is shaking, because it infuriates me so much, I've experienced this in a different realm. I can imagine you're sitting there on the other side of someone that's obviously able to type able to communicate, telling you what you're doing wrong. And I'm sure it's really hard for you not to be like, Okay, well, I'll you and my son can just trade places like you can have the autism that you think you have any day. And then you give me your autism, and Skyler can live that.

Laurie Hellmann:

I just block and delete. Because other moms go out, go back after it's, that's what they want. They just want you to engage, and it just gets into a pissing match. And I'm like, I just I don't have that much time in my day, to deal with it. I post my stuff, and I learned a long time ago, write your blog, post them and then don't look at it again. Like don't look at the comments at all, like positive or negative, whatever. Just don't I mean, I wrote I wrote next it might not care about it. But

Alyssa Stanley:

I think you are amazing, like just the amount of not only mental strength, but physical strength to get through what you've been through. You're a mom, who obviously does everything in your power to make sure that both of your kids have what they need, including therapy and sports, you mentioned extracurricular activities, like, you are not just doing the bare minimum, you are making sure that each child has a childhood and enough like individually. And that takes a strength that, like has to seriously be mustered up and worked at. Like, I, you're amazing.

Laurie Hellmann:

Well thanks. I mean, I just feel average, I mean, really, I just I feel like I'm doing what everybody else does. You do what you do for your kids. I mean, you just, I don't know, I only have a year and a half left with Kendall and then she's going to go to college. And I'm not ready for that, because she's the only one I've talked to, you know, like, Skyler doesn't talk back to me. So um, that's gonna be a huge void.

Alyssa Stanley:

So I think there's so much more past our podcast to be learned about your story and raising awareness with autism and how you can help people. From what it seems like you had a little bit of like survivor's remorse from diagnosis, from your son's diagnosis and how you deal with that. So for people that want to understand your story more and learn from you that are maybe in the crux of what you've already been through. Where can they find your book? And where else can they get in touch with you or listen to your podcast?

Laurie Hellmann:

Yeah, um, the book, again, is called Welcome to My life. It's on Amazon, of course, and I think you can also get it at target.com, walmart.com and I think all the major booksellers have it online. Um, my podcast is called Living the Sky Life after Skyler. And it's on all the platforms Google, Spotify, and iTunes. And episodes aired weekly. I'm almost up to 100 episodes. I'm in season three. So But yeah, I talk a lot about Skyler and yeah, with my guests. You just so yeah.

Alyssa Stanley:

So with all the awareness that you're trying to raise, if you could, if you could allow each reader and each listener to walk away with one thing, or maybe two, because that's really hard. What would it be?

Laurie Hellmann:

For the parents that are also in the trenches with a special needs child, the thing I it's taken me almost 18 years to learn is that you have to meet them where they are, they shouldn't be forced in any way to adhere to our way we live, every day, the way we do everything, we need to figure out the best way that they feed themselves, or the best way that they communicate or whatever, and then, you know, change the way that you operate to meet their needs. Otherwise, you're gonna make yourself crazy with trying to get them to learn to do things our way, because that's just not what they learn. They just, they're just different and unique. So that's the biggest thing that I've learned is to meet him where he is. And also to just give yourself grace, to be to have a bad day. Like to lose it or to cry. I don't know how many times that held back tears because I didn't want my daughter to see me upset or my son to see me upset. I mean, when he hits me or pulls my hair, and it hurts, I can't help it, like I cry. But, you know, I don't want him to feel bad. But if you have to walk away, maybe and take, take 10 minutes, or something or five minutes, if you don't have that much time, and just, you know, get your breath, and like calm down and just keep reminding yourself that they don't need it. That's also try to remember if you can, um, yeah, I mean, it's just take it day by day. Yeah. And the other of the other thing that actually that I should say, too, is, please just throw out all timelines and everything that practitioners tell you from What to Expect When You're Expecting book when you're pregnant. I mean, even that book irritates me because if your child's supposed to be crawling it seven months, and they're not and six until nine months, you're already like panicking that you are missing something and you're running off to get a diagnosis of autism or something else. Just hang in there. Stop. You know, people tell me all the time. Skylar wasn't speaking by the age of five, he's probably never gonna talk. Well, not yet. I mean, he's still may I have no idea. He may be the best typer ever. I have no idea what he's gonna do. But he's not 90. He's 18 he's got a ton of time to you know, show me and his time what he's capable of.

Voiceover:

Hold up. It's time for the lightning round.

Kelley Skar:

Here we go. Are you ready? What's your favorite number and why?

Laurie Hellmann:

My favorite number is 11 because it was my soccer number growing up.

Kelley Skar:

Awesome. In which subject were you worst at school?

Laurie Hellmann:

Math.

Kelley Skar:

Math? Okay. What's something that you do not like doing?

Laurie Hellmann:

I really don't like going to Lowe's and Home Depot. Those stores drive me insane.

Alyssa Stanley:

I love it.

Kelley Skar:

When are you the most productive?

Laurie Hellmann:

At night.

Kelley Skar:

At night? Is that after everything kind of settles down?

Laurie Hellmann:

Yeah, yeah, I can set up on my computer. So two in the morning and, and blog or write or whatever.

Kelley Skar:

Got it. Alright, last one, I promise. What is your favorite drink? Alcoholic or non alcoholic?

Laurie Hellmann:

Probably Margaritas.

Kelley Skar:

Margaritas, okay. Tequila or vodka?

Laurie Hellmann:

Tequila.

Kelley Skar:

Okay.

Todd Foster:

Tequila vodka Margaritas. What?

Kelley Skar:

Yeah, we have we do vodka mar.... No, I'm kidding. We don't know why I even asked that.

Laurie Hellmann:

I've never had a vodka margarita.

Kelley Skar:

I was thinking Martini. I don't know. Just ignore edit that shit out.

Laurie Hellmann:

Edit that out.

Alyssa Stanley:

I think he had one of those before the podcast.

Kelley Skar:

I did. Yes. It was a vodka martini Margarita. That's what it was.

Todd Foster:

That's awesome.

Voiceover:

Thanks for listening. Make sure to follow or subscribe to the SUCCESS Coaching Podcast and like us on Facebook at SUCCESS Coaching Podcast.