Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Interview with Alice Kina Diehl

Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Alice Kina Diehl.  You may remember back in February, I caught sight of her character, emergency medical dispatcher, Stephanie Gaskins, on an episode of the FOX show 9-1-1.  I blogged about the rare moment of positive representatation in this scene.

TONIA SAYS:  Authentic media representation for people with disabilities is sparse.  How did you first become interested in acting?  Was it something you always dreamed of doing, or something you grew interested in as you got older? 

ALICE KINA DIEHL:  I started acting when I was five years old. I had family members that were involved in the business way back when, and luckily they shared their gifts with me. But, it really started because I love movies so much, and I wanted to be a part of them.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Guest Post: How People With Disabilities Can Prepare For Parenthood

I was contacted recently by Ashley Taylor, from asking to write a piece with advice for those of us with disabilities on how to prepare our lives and homes for parenthood.  Here is her piece:


Having a child is unlike any experience in life. The combination of joy, stress, and wonder cannot be understated. For the first time in your life, an entire human is completely dependent on you. That’s an amazing experience everyone should enjoy, which is why you are so excited about being pregnant.

But will your disability make a stressful time even harder? Will it interfere with raising your child? To be honest, everyone needs some tips and advice to prepare for parenthood. As with most aspects of having a disability, you will do some things differently but can otherwise be a great parent to your child. You just need to make some preparations, including some minor changes to your home.

Image Source: Pixabay

Making Your Home Ready

When you come home from the hospital, your baby will spend most of its time either in their crib or in your arms. But as explains, they almost become mobile and quick before you know it. That’s why you have to make sure your home is safe.

Make sure all cleaning products are out of sight and behind a locked door. That’s also true for any medication you have to take to help with your disability. Don’t assume your small baby cannot reach what you can. Instead, keep it all secure. Use child-safe locks on cabinets whenever possible.

You’ll also need help keeping the place clean. It’s not like an infant needs a sterile environment, but they will need clean clothes, floors, and toys. If you can do this all by yourself, that’s perfect. If your disability makes that harder, don’t feel bad asking friends and family for help.

Preparing For A New Life

Besides getting your home ready for a newborn, you have to get yourself ready. Every parent faces the same loss of independence when they have to care for a child. However, The Mighty explains that you can face heartbreak if you feel your disability is getting in the way. Just remember that all parents struggle from time to time. As with life as a whole, just because you face different challenges doesn’t mean you cannot be successful. recommends that you view parenting challenges that come from your disability as a way to bond with your child. Celebrate your differences by doing all you can to help your kid with (not despite) your different needs. As your child grows up, they can see your disability as something special that makes your relationship unique.

You’ll also have to worry about your finances. That can be tough if you’re on disability payments, which means you’ll have to be smart with your money. Consider speaking with a financial planner to learn how to secure an income that helps you raise your child.

Don’t Forget About Yourself

As the days turn into months, you will experience the joy of being a parent. But you can also feel a bit lost and overwhelmed. That’s why you have to remember your own needs. Whether that’s something related to your disability or not, you cannot ignore yourself.

That’s why The Treehouse recommends you practice some self-care in addition to taking care of your child. Eat well, get some exercise, and although it’s very hard during the first few weeks, get some sleep! Don’t feel like calling in a babysitter during this time is a bad thing. If it helps you get the rest and rejuvenation you need, then that means you can be a better parent to your child. That’s especially true for any needs related to your disability.

Enjoy This Special Time

Although being a new parent can be tiring and stressful, it’s worth it. You can make this time a little easier by preparing your home, getting your finances in order, and taking care of your own needs from time to time. Regardless of your disability, you can be an incredible parent this way.

Ashley Taylor is a disabled mother of two wonderful, amazing, energetic children. She met her husband, Tom, while doing physical therapy. Tom had suffered a spinal cord injury due to a car accident and uses a wheelchair for mobility. Ashley and Tom knew they wanted children and knew they would have to adapt their lives and home in order to make this dream come true. Ashley is happy to say that they are the proud parents of two healthy, wonderful children and their disabilities haven’t stopped them from leading a happy, fulfilling life

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Recap: The Fosters 5x18-5x19 (Jesus)

This will be the last Fosters recap until the three-part series finale airs (starting June 4th.)  Tara and I saved the Jesus recap for last, not because it was handled any better than the previous two, but because he's our favorite character.  See below for some video clips.  I'll do my best to summarize what happened, and then Tara and I will answer the questions below:

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Recap: The Fosters 5x17-5x19 (Grace)

So, it's been a while.  April was novel-writing month - and as the novel is huge, it's not done yet.  But Tara suggested we try to get the Grace recap done, as the final 3 episodes of The Fosters are looming in June.  As we did with Stef, we'll be answering a few questions about what we thought about Grace's storyline overall.  (And I will do my best to find some clips from the episodes, so you can see what we are referring to):

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Recap: The Fosters: 5x17 - 5x19 (Stef)

If you've followed our recaps for a while now, you might notice these final 3 differ from what we usually do.  We thought instead of doing line-by-line analyses, we'd answer a few questions for each of the characters we have featured here for our Fosters recaps.  Look for our thoughts on Grace and Jesus in the final three episodes in the coming weeks: 

Friday, March 2, 2018

Review: The Fosters 5x16 "Giving Up the Ghost"

This episode was a little Jesus-light.  But we will cover his scenes as well as a relevent scene of Stef's and give an overview of what is happening with Grace:

Thursday, March 1, 2018

An Open Letter to Whitney Ellenby

Whitney Ellenby,

What I did to help my 5-year-old autistic son overcome his intense fear of indoor spaces might not have been right or even safe. Doctors didn’t recommend it. The people who witnessed it were appalled, understandably. I don’t suggest this for others.

If you are going to start an article like this?  Chances are you should not be writing the article at all.  If you know what you did to your 5-year-old (5-year-old!) was not right or safe, why wouldn't you caution others to find another way?  A way that was safe and right.  A way that respected the boundaries, the autonomy and the humanness of your 5-year-old child?

You admit you were impatient.  You admit you were not trained in restraint (a violent act even if you are trained.)  This article, from the very start, was never about your child.  It was about you.  Who had no patience.  Who called it a burden when your child became overwhelmed.  I understand not wanting to be judged.  But abusing your child should cause shame.  And I can think of so many things more important than getting your autistic child out in the world.

Like his safety.  His dignity.  

(Also, he was not having a tantrum in those public places.  He was having a panic response at experiencing sensory overload.)

You say that nothing else had worked for your son.  You list the methods you tried (perhaps to make clear that this was a last resort.)  The thing is, you are missing one very important key word:  yet.  Nothing else had worked for your son yet.  People with disabilities often have our own timetables.  It is not fair to measure the progress of your disabled child against nondisabled kids (or, in this case, the progress of your autistic child against neurotypical peers.)  Chances are (and were) that he would have gotten there on his own, with respect for his needs, and accommodations that work for him.

Seeing Elmo in Sesame Street Live is not something most would consider "a desperate time."  Now, if your child was ill and had to go to the doctor to get medicine (not able to cope with the sensory overload but needing to go anyway?)  That's what I would consider a desperate time.  There is no need to force your child to see his favorite Sesame Street character.  There's really not.

[Image is: Life sized Sesame Street characters - including Elmo - as you'd see them in Sesame Street Live.]

You say there was nothing anyone could say to convince you that you were wrong in what you were about to try.  Because you viewed yourself as saving your son from a life entrapped by his autistic phobias.  But just because he was afraid of public places at 5 years old does not mean he will always be.  Giving him time and space is okay.  Your son is not neurotypical.  He experiences the world differently.  Let him.

Your mindset that day was essentially that the end would justify the means.  You said that if neither of you were physically hurt, that his fear will somehow be put behind him, and he'll have a more positive association of this place?  But how is driving your kindergartener to a place you know terrifies him going to reset any of his associations?  At most (at this point) he is learning that his feelings don't matter.  Behavior is communication, and you have stated that you knew you were taking your son to this place absolutely against his willWould you gain anything if someone bigger and stronger than you (who was supposed to love and protect you) instead brought you somewhere they knew you actively feared and forced you to stay there?

You describe your son's strength at trying to get back outside as furious.  You say he is a thoroughbred of resistance.  But your son is not furious, he is panicking.  And he is not a hot-blooded horse, he is a human being, trying desperately to get out of a beyond scary, painful, overwhelming situation.

The lengths you go to, to eventually pin your son to the ground between your thighs and inch him forward toward the doors where the show is taking place is shocking...but not.  Because as a disabled person, violence done to us by parents seems par for the course in this society.  It's for this reason that my heart leapt, knowing that in this case, there were poeple speaking out against what you were doing - for your son.  Telling you the obvious - he doesn't want to go in there.

You use his autism as a valid reason to harm him.  That is so despicable.  Even more so?  You quote the ADA as though it gives you permission to treat your son so egregiously.  (Truth time?  It does not.  The ADA means he has the right to be there if he wants to be, not that you have the right to pin him down between your thighs and drag him into a theatre for 40 minutes as he screams.)

You cite yourself as his reasonable accommodation, but you are not.  Accommodations for your son in this case?  Would look like headphones. Sunglasses.  They would look like a stim toy and/or other comfort object.  They could look like inquiring about taking your son to a dress rehearsal of a show he likes, without an audience present.  Preparing him for what he could expect in advance.  Your son's 'reasonable accommodations' do not include being pinned to the ground by his mom, and dragged across the floor in public for 40 minutes as he screams in terror and fights to get away.

That is not an accommodation.  That is abuse.  That is you traumatizing your child.  That is you forcing compliance.  That is never okay.

Seeing Elmo stuns your son.  He cannot scream.  Cannot speak.  But you continue to slide him along the floor, clutched between your thighs.  Until he sits up.  You walk him to his seat.  He's focused on Elmo.  (Even after something scary, the sight of a familiar character is welcome.)  But just because he is not showing you his hurt, doesn't mean he is okay.

You say what worked for your son was a single traumatic episode.  Anything that involves traumatizing your son should not be considered a success.  He returns to these places because you bring him.  He does not fight because he knows it will not do any good.  He is no match for you, strength wise.  He has learned to mask what he is feeling, but that does not mean he no longer feels it.

You say that you have brought him other places, and that it takes him less time to acclimate now.  Though he is initially confused and frightened but always adjusted.  

He has not adjusted, he is coping.  Covering.  You have no idea how hard he might be working in those moments to pass...for you...for your comfort.

You say that his overall demeanor became as calm and predictable as his perception of life itself.  You say this is the biggest win.

But is it?

Is traumatizing  your son worth it to you?  Is it so important to you that your son is less autistic that you would not only harm him this way in public, but then write an article about it unapologetically?  Write a book about his most intense private struggles?

What will your son think when he reads what you've written?  Will he feel loved?  Valued?  Will he feel respected?

I urge you  to think abut these things.  Your son is a human being.  Don't forget that.