So the time has come, It’s time for the big Interview. This Month I have John Kirton joining me. He and his wife Robin are the only parents in America who have six children on the autism spectrum. WOW. This Interview is a great insight into the lives of a family with six amazing children. Welcome to the Big Interview. ENJOY🙂
Hi John it’s really great to have this chance to chat with you today.
How are you?
I am doing FANTASTIC, thanks for asking.
And how is your wife and the children?
We have had a really good winter this year. The last few years one of the children would bring home a cold or the flu from school, then another would get it. The next couple of weeks it would go through the entire family. And that happened 3-5 times during each winter season. It wasn’t much fun. This year? Just once and it affected only a few of the children. We feel that taking supplements and a special diet have helped quite a bit.
So John for those that do not know! Why is it that you understand so much about Autism spectrum?
Well I’m no expert on Autism itself, but I am learning all the time.
Is it true that all six of your children are on the autism spectrum ?
Yes, it is true.
How is life for you and your wife?
Well, six children were as much as we were counting on. However, when Autism came into the picture it added to the time and emotional requirements.
My son has ASD ( Aspergers ) He can be a little bit of a handful at times! But having Six children on the spectrum wow I’m guessing family life can be a little hectic.
Very true, people do not know the half of it unless they have an Autistic child. I read somewhere that having an Autistic child was the equivalent of having 3-4 “normal” children. If that’s true, we have 18-24 children! No wonder we are a little crazy at the end of the day.
So Where along on the spectrum are your children?
Bobby (15), Emma (11) and Nephi (10) are all Aspergers. Sarah (7) and Ammon (5) are classic or the most severely Autistic. And Mary (4) is PDD-NOS. We have had a number of people ask about the origin of the children’s names. Some are because of my English heritage and some are from the Book of Mormon. My Great-Grandfather, John Kirton, joined the Mormon Church in the 1890’s and immigrated from Wallsend, England to Coalville, Utah.
How does autism affect each one of your children?
Whoa! I can write a book on that question alone. Bobby is very quiet, does very well in school (mostly A’s), has no real friends and has few social skills. Emma varies from being quiet to very emotional, she does OK in school, she will have emotional ‘meltdowns’ but has done better with the diet, and she is a fantastic artist, writer and likes to design clothes for her Barbie dolls. Nephi varies from being quiet to very emotional as well, and is a more outgoing male version of Emma. Instead of Barbie dolls, he likes Bakugan and Star Wars/Clone wars. Sarah is very happy and bounces and moves around a lot. One of our many nicknames for her is ‘Tigger’ from Winnie the Pooh. Her favorite ‘stim’ right now is tearing and ripping any kind of paper. She’ll sneak away with a roll of paper towels or dinner napkins and we’ll find her bedroom ankle deep with the shredded remains. She has just a few words that we must coach her to say. And she is not potty-trained. Ammon is much like Sarah in many respects. His favorite ‘stims’ are flapping his hands, bobbing his head and watching doors that he can open and close (see him at the Zoo on my YouTube channel, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbdkstTZhOE). He can climb anywhere and up and over most everything. He has NO fear. He too is not potty-trained. Mary is our child that is the most ‘normal’ of the bunch. We thought the Doctor would say she was not Autistic, but she was diagnosed as PDD-NOS. She talks well, has friends at school and is just a bit delayed right now. However, at 4 years, 4 months she too is not potty-trained. But she is at least working on it. Looks like I did write a book.
Are any of the children home schooled?
No. Robin says, “What, do you want me to totally lose my mind? LOL.
I love your site Autism Bites , I’m a big fan. Where do you find the time to add to this fantastic site?
I do it in spurts and usually when the children are in bed.
Do you get much time for anything other then parenting?.
To get anything else done, Robin and I take turns keeping an eye on things. Much of the time we are both on the job and rely on each other a lot. During the times that we take an eye off of things… well that’s when we find surprises the children have created for us. Without one another we would never make it.
I am in the UK but I have still seen some of the shows you and your family have appeared on. Good morning America and Larry king being a few of them. How do you find all the media attention?
Well, I put the ‘media ball’ into motion. We went through a lot of grieving, emotional lows and soul searching as we found out about our new lives with Autism. By having our story told we hope that we can help other parents with their trials. We blog, belong to various Autism groups, do TV, radio and Internet (wink!) interviews. We get many emails though our website and so far have answered every one. I’ve just been accepted as an Internet reporter for Autism on examiner.com and will be posting there a number of times each week. People that ask or need more answers or help, we will contact by phone. We have a number of Autistic adults that we talk to quite often. We hope that our experiences can help others with their journey on the road of Autism.
And tell us a little about autism 6 on the Discovery Health Channel.
I got a call on my cell phone one day from the president, Bill Hayes, of the production company, Figure8 Films. He told me that Discovery Health had been looking for a family that had multiple children with Autism to do a story about. They discovered us from a local newspaper story in Salt Lake City, Utah. They especially liked the idea that we have the entire Autism spectrum in one family. Robin and I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to increase Autism awareness and acceptance. We were of course concerned about how we would be portrayed. Bill said we would be able to see the show first before it was broadcast to insure we were happy with the final product. We are. The film crew started shooting every month for 2-4 days, from December 2007 to May 2008. The crew was four people, the Producer, cameraman, soundman and crew assistant. Some people have expressed concern about our children being exploited or being put through undue stress. We are a very loving family and our children just do not have much of the change of routine problems we hear that other families do. Ammon would climb on the camera tripod and want to be picked up and hugged by all of the crew. He was very persistent and got in the way of filming much of the time. Sarah was going through a ‘sniffing everyone’ stage and did. All the time. When the crew followed Nephi at school, he introduced them to everyone they walked past, “This is MY film crew!” The crew got a big kick out of that. The story is a piece on each of the children, with mom and dad comments throughout. We have teachers from the schools and one of the doctors from the University of Utah’s Autism Research Project talk about their Autism.
As you know like yourself I’m a member of model me kids ( A great social network for autism ) Do you find it important to meet other parents of children with ASD and raise awareness for the condition?
I really do. It’s great to be able to find someplace that you like and are accepted. Model Me Kids is the best I’ve found and I’ve been all over the Internet. (Thanks MT!) There are too many places where parents fight, call names and are just plain nasty. No one needs that, especially parents dealing with Autism already. I just wish I had more time to be available to give comments or suggestions, but sometimes just getting up in the morning is a great day.
As it’s Autism awareness month would you be so kind to give us one reason to love and embrace autism. I know there are plenty but I only have the one blog:)
Love and embrace your Autistic child, advocate for them and get you and them out into the world so the rest of the world will know and love them too. I’m not saying it will be easy, but I am saying it will be worth it.
Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me John. I know you’re an extremely busy man and I thank you very much. Look forward to learning more and more about yourself and wonderful family.
Thanks Claire. Please ask your readers to be my friend on Model Me Kids (http://modelmekids.ning.com/profile/JohnKirton) and to visit and comment on our blog (http://autismbitestheblog.blogspot.com/).