Sue Simmons is on a mission to give Autism Moms back their power! “Moms of ASD children have been given the unspoken message that they’re unqualified to help their children; that they belong in the back seat of the bus. I’m out to change this,” says Simmons.
Her journey began the day her five-year-old son was diagnosed with autism. For two years she and her husband (who would later be loosely diagnosed with Asperger’s) searched for answers. She sought support and involved her son in programs, but nothing helped. “I felt so incompetent as a parent,” she says. “I was at my wits’ end, consumed with guilt and anxiety. It’s particularly hard for Moms, because they feel so powerless and desperately want to have a loving connection without having to walk on eggshells to prevent meltdowns. They want their child to have quality of life, and sacrifice themselves in the process.”
After doing her research, and discovering that autism didn’t have to be a life sentence — thanks to the fact that the brain can be shaped through experience — she turned for help to a Relationship Development Intervention (RDIÒ) consultant. This leading-edge program is based on neurodevelopment and child development, and promises to give parents a second chance to build a loving, reciprocal relationship with their child with ASD. Even further, it gives parents and their ASD children the opportunity to enjoy real quality of life!
“I was able to build the connection with my son that I had only dreamed of,” Simmons says. It changed my life, not to mention my son’s.
She said ‘Goodbye’ to her career in sales and marketing, and went to Houston, Texas to train with the psychologists who developed the evidence-based program. Since 2006, she’s been a Certified RDIÒ Consultant, and guides her clients to reclaim their power, competence and the joy of connection through her business, Equinox Family Consulting Ltd.
In 2012, Simmons added additional skills to her toolkit. She earned her Certified Professional Coach credential with the International Coach Academy, in an effort to get to the core of the personal pain experienced by Moms of children with ASD. Still, something was missing.
Simmons learned about the fastest mind-body methodology in the world, which reduces stress and anxiety, and can shift negative thinking patterns, so people aren’t at the mercy of their circumstances. She knew all about stress. By that point in her life she not only had a son with autism, but was faced with other serious challenges related to physical and mental health in her immediate and extended family.
The technique she discovered is in a leading-edge field “energy psychology” which is called Emotional Freedom Techniques, or EFT – also known as “tapping.” This gentle technique calms the “fight or flight” centre of the brain, changing neural connections and reducing or eliminating its neural charge.
“Becoming Certified as an EFT Practitioner was life-altering for me,” she says. “It allowed me to manage my emotions and has freed me from being a slave to my thoughts and worries.”
The fact that tapping had yet to be considered mainstream by some western psychologists when Simmons embraced it is not lost on her, but her own personal experience reinforced its value, and now, the scientific world has uncovered clear evidence of its effectiveness and, of course, the mind-body connection.
“Both my autism work (RDI) and tapping were considered ‘woo woo’ until recently because they’re both focused on building new neural connections; now the concept of neuroplasticity is widely accepted and backed by mountains of research,” Simmons says.
In 2017, Simmons set out to reach more people and created her signature program, Lemons to Lemonade Better Behaviour Bootcamp, an online group coaching program for ASD Moms (Moms of children with ASD). “Prior to creating this program I did extensive research. I discovered that regardless of whether a child had been in behaviour therapy or not, most Moms didn’t know where to begin to manage their child’s difficult behaviour. I realized that if I could teach them these skills, this would open the door for them to build a more positive and loving connection with their child.”
The program gives Moms the tools to manage difficult behaviour, and to feel competent as parents. It’s an 8-wk online program that Moms can do from the comfort of their own home. It’s wonderful because as they learn and grow they can connect with other Moms who share the same challenges. It’s so exciting to see them experience “aha” moments, and realizing that they have the power to make change in their own families!”
Her program helps Moms break through the shame and guilt they experience because they don’t know where to start. Throughout the eight weeks they learn critical skills to reduce the duration and frequency of meltdowns, and shift negative patterns that have developed between child and parent. They learn to communicate in a way that reduces nagging and power struggles. Self-care is also a key component. “In order to help our children, we need to learn to look after ourselves in a manageable way. Self-care isn’t a nice to do – it’s a “need to do,” says Simmons.
“We can get back in the driver’s seat, and feel competent,” Simmons says. This is exactly what she’s done, and with a laugh, she says, “Trust me, I’ve had my share of difficulty.”
“Once I saw how I could give Moms the skills to take back their power; to manage difficult behaviour, feel competent as a parent and build a more loving connection with their child, it was a calling. How could I do anything else? It’s a great honour to do this work.”