Fresh Blood Podcast Episode Guest - Sara Bradford

Intro Banner of Sara Bradford

Sara talks about life with a family on the autistic spectrum, making choices that are right for you, the importance of positive relationships and the impact of radical honesty.

Sara Bradford is an independently published children's book author, under the pen name, SJ Childs. She tackles subjects such as autism, dyslexia, physical differences, anxiety and more. Helping children understand themselves, helping them support their peers with neurodiverse needs and Encouraging love and inclusion in every situation are the focus of her books.

Sara talks about life with a family on the autistic spectrum, making choices that are right for you, the importance of positive relationships and the impact of radical honesty.

Sara Bradford is an independently published children's book author, under the pen name, SJ Childs. She tackles subjects such as autism, dyslexia, physical differences, anxiety and more. Helping children understand themselves, helping them support their peers with neurodiverse needs and Encouraging love and inclusion in every situation are the focus of her books.

Sara is a member of the Autism Council of Utah and owner of an Autism Advocates Support Group. She is a mother of 3, all autistic. Sara is happily married/ together for 17 years to her husband, who has also recently discovered, he too is on the autism spectrum. She is a Global Autism Speaker, as well as a Talk Show Host-The SJ Childs Show, a place she has found to be her new passion in connecting with others and bringing value to families through education, resources, and lots of laughs! She continues to strengthen her community through local hospital Autism partnership, as well as developed a corporate autism training program.

Sara is a member of the Autism Council of Utah and owner of an Autism Advocates Support Group. She is a mother of 3, all autistic. Sara is happily married/ together for 17 years to her husband, who has also recently discovered, he too is on the autism spectrum. She is a Global Autism Speaker, as well as a Talk Show Host-The SJ Childs Show, a place she has found to be her new passion in connecting with others and bringing value to families through education, resources, and lots of laughs! She continues to strengthen her community through local hospital Autism partnership, as well as developed a corporate autism training program.


Sara Bradford - Autism Thought Leader, Author & Podcast Host

[00:00:00] Jolie Downs: Today we are talking with Sarah Bradford. Sarah is an independently published children's book author under the pen name S J. She tackles subjects such as autism dyslexia, physical differences, anxiety, and more helping children understand themselves, helping them support their peers with neuro diverse needs and encouraging love and inclusion in every situation are the focus of her books.

[00:00:28] Sarah is a member of the autism council of Utah and owner of an autism advocate support group. She is a mother of three. All autistic. Sarah is happily married together for 17 years to her husband who has also recently discovered he too is on the autism spectrum. Sarah is a global autism speaker, as well as a talk show host with the SJ child show a place she has found to be your new passion and connecting with others and bringing value to families through education resources, and lots of laughs. She continues to strengthen her community through local hospital autism partnership, as well as developing a corporate autism training program. I'm really excited to learn more.

[00:01:14] Sarah, could you tell us a bit more about your story and your path to getting where you are to. 

[00:01:20] Sara Bradford: Oh, thank you so much for having me on today. Julie, it's such an honor and a pleasure to be here. And yeah, my story is something I love to share obviously, or I wouldn't be doing all of these things. So yeah, I, grew up in Reno, Nevada. I'm an only child of parents who split when I was young. And so I moved back and forth from one state to the next and.

[00:01:47] I think through that you really gain a sense of independence. So I've always been kind of this entrepreneurial spirit where one job was never going to be enough for me. I have had multiple careers. I'd like to say I've reinvented myself several times over in this lifetime. And, um, it's just that always needing to go somewhere new, find something.

[00:02:13] Luckily, like you said, in my marriage and with our family, that's been longterm. That's been successfully, you know, its place. But yeah, I moved to Utah in 2005 and, um, met my husband. We, um, raised his daughter for five years before having our two own biological kids. And then. My son was diagnosed with autism when he was 16 months old, which is quite early.

[00:02:46] And I had no experience at the time about autism or special needs. Um, my husband did have a sister with down syndrome, so he had experience in the special needs community. Um, just with neurodiversity in general, which was nice for me to be able to lean on. And kind of, you know, get that support system.

[00:03:09] And so in the process of finding out that our son had autism, you know, I've, I've just recently learned in doing, , an interview with an autistic adult that when parents say that they grieved for the diagnosis of their child, that that can also be quite hurtful to the child. And that's so interesting because.

[00:03:32] I have said that, and I've said I've given parents permission to have that. , but now I have this new found information. And so I'm really being gentle with how I, , promote that, um, that experience and moving into that experience rather than saying. and so I think it's really something you have to shift your mindset.

[00:03:55] Uh, you have to get out of social norms or, you know, where will my child go to school or when will they go to the bathroom and these types of things that we all kind of grow up in neuro-typical homes on these society schedules, as I like to think of them, which in our case for our family, Had to be completely thrown out the window and to other families and other people they look in and it may look strange and different, but for us it's very successful.

[00:04:27] And that's what you want for family life, right? Is that. So early on, I really just dove very deep into learning about autism. I had been a medical paralegal in the past, and so research and medical research was something I was well aware of and how to do so I dove deep and, um, really spent time learning, you know, kind of why and where and how, but at the same time I realized my focus needed to be okay.

[00:04:58] I can get all this information, but what is going to help my child the most? Like where does our son need the most support? And so we got early intervention programs, and then through that, we had some, you know, you, you have to be really strong as a parent to say, this therapist seems like they're doing great.

[00:05:19] Or maybe can we try somebody new because they're, I don't see the connection being made with my child. And I think families and parents are probably. Really nervous about that at the V at the beginning, you know, they don't know that they have a voice, they don't know that like, yeah. And so right away, we saw the different communication styles that our son would relate to or would not, if someone didn't believe in him and understand that he understood what was going on around him, he didn't have any care in the world for them.

[00:05:55] And so it was kind of funny because he would write. Show them no actions, which then would confirm to them that he knew nothing. You know? So it was kind of a funny, funny little way he would go about things. Yeah. But there was finally some really great therapists, one in general who turned around and said, okay, mom and dad, here's your steps.

[00:06:15] This is your 1, 2, 3 next. And that's what. a light bulb came on and it was more about us finding support as a family for ourselves, for us as a couple, for us as parents, for the sip, for his siblings, not just him, you know, it, wasn't just about finding services for him. And I think that's something that.

[00:06:40] When families are entering into a new diagnosis, maintenance might not have that consideration of yet. So something to definitely have in mind, you know, if, and when we don't of course expect or, you know, hope that that happens. But, , it's always great to have, a support system in place when it does.

[00:07:00] So, yeah, so that kind of is where we started from.

[00:07:04] Jolie Downs: Yeah, Well, and thank you for sharing , the fact that you do have a voice and you can make decisions, you can look for different people and find the right people for you, because I think that's something that a lot of people. Don't do, um, you know, when dealing with an authority type of role, as such as a doctor therapist, and what have you, they'll just accept what they're being told as opposed to, and if you had, I mean, if you think about, like, if you had picked a therapist and accepted what you were being told about your son who was clearly just like, I'm not dealing with this person. 

[00:07:37] Sara Bradford: Oh 

[00:07:38] Jolie Downs: so that's a really big lesson right there. Thank you for that. 

[00:07:41] Sara Bradford: Yeah, absolutely.

[00:07:42] Jolie Downs: And also, that you do have to deal with things as a family unit, , as a whole It's it's it's with business or a family, whenever there's an issue, it is as a whole really, even if there's, you know, I think about this with teenagers, even if you have a teenager, that's difficult, obviously not just that teenager.

[00:07:59] It's how we're all interacting with each other. It's it's a dynamic. 

[00:08:02] Sara Bradford: Yeah. A hundred percent. And you know, with my husband, he had, like I said, he had a daughter, we raised her, she was five when I met her. I don't know if I did say that or not, but he, so I, and she's 21 now. So I've already raised the whole teenager and everything. It's something so interesting in just the last five years, as you mentioned.

[00:08:25] Not only my husband. And as kind of coming to the realization that he is also on the spectrum, which really gave our family the sense of like wholeness. And it just brought us also closer together. Not that we weren't close before, but it was just this bond that he now had with the children. You know, just, they were just so proud and he's so proud to say that he he's so intelligent and, you know, just like Elon Musk had just come out and said he had Aspergers not to, , recently, or I guess very recently rather, but they're the same with my husband is just this level of intelligence and thinking in systematic in patterns and seeing things outside the box and, um, Just this really beautiful, , way of thinking and way of looking at the world.

[00:09:19] And I see how our children follow in that same design. And so I love to celebrate that and embrace that. Yes, it comes with its own set of challenges, but not anything that's not worth fighting for, not worth changing for, you know, especially when it's a family and they're just. Delightful wonderful people that you, you know, want to share with the 

[00:09:43] Jolie Downs: You're given the right message. You 

[00:09:45] Sara Bradford: you.

[00:09:46] Jolie Downs: the people as they are, who they are. We need to celebrate each other as cause we're all special in our own different ways. Yes, Yes. 

[00:09:54] Sara Bradford: And that's, I love that. I, and I really think that, um, learning to treat each other as humans is so important, it's such an important message that, um, I don't know why our society got away from that. I don't know why we, um, you know, put children in. Institutions in the early thirties, forties and fifties, when we didn't understand, you know, it, it's just so unfortunate that things like that happened at the same time has now given us this bird's eye view, right.

[00:10:27] Where we can see it from both ends and say, well, that's not, that's not what we want, but let's change these things. Let's do better. Let's be better now that we know we can do better. So 

[00:10:38] Jolie Downs: Yes. You're so, right. So now how did you get involved in becoming a speaker for autism? You know, writing books and podcasting about autism? Where did this all come from? Coming to the play? 

[00:10:51] Sara Bradford: kinds of fun stuff. Yeah. So, , early on with our son, I just really, , I have a really great, easy way to make relationships with people. Um, they're very comfortable with me. I love making friends. And so for me, it was important right off the bat. Be friends with the teachers, be friends with the principals, be friends with all of the people in that community, because I knew that I was going to need to lean on them.

[00:11:19] And in order to do that, the best way is to have relationships built. And, um, people are so much more, you know, accommodating when they're your personal friend and they can say, oh, of course, you know, let me make these phone calls for you or let me help you, um, you know, sit with your child while you have.

[00:11:37] Do this or whatever, just, I like to set those types of relationships up in my life. And so right away, the school bless their hearts, noticed that and asked me to be the, um, parent liaison, the special needs parent liaison, so that families could have a person that was also a parent that they could feel more connected with, come to with any problems, questions, to get resources, things like that.

[00:12:04] And so. That's kind of where my journey started. And then of course my family and friends just saying like, okay, all you do is talk about autism, Sarah. Like you need, you're always educating us, like put this to you, you know? So it was definitely, excuse me, something. Was necessary. And I saw the need for it in my community.

[00:12:27] , just the people still had this fear and stigma of what autism really looked like. And I really, especially in my own neighborhood, wanted to share our experiences with the other children in our schools, in our neighborhood. And what better ways to then with the books. Um, but interestingly enough, the books actually came from the fact that me and both my biological children have a physical difference and it's called outer ear, my crochet and it's, um, we have just really tiny little ear.

[00:13:06] Which in this mask era is absolutely absurd. We can't wear masks. 

[00:13:11] Jolie Downs: I love your ear. 

[00:13:13] Sara Bradford: It's beautiful. Right? They're so little. They're just little and delicate and sweet. And my kiddos have them. And, you know, at first my parents were. Mortified. They were like, oh no, should do you want us to get physical your surgery? And I was like, no, no, no, no, no.

[00:13:31] Let them there just let them be. They're fine. They don't need to be changed. I appreciate. And I, I love them, you know, they just didn't want, they know that I struggled and I was bullied and. Called names. And even in my thirties, and I share this story, I'm probably going to have to stop sharing it so much.

[00:13:50] Right. But even in my thirties, being somebody running into someone from my past and then saying, Hey, little ears. And I was like, come on, come on 

[00:14:00] Jolie Downs: we still, are you still at that 

[00:14:02] Sara Bradford: Yeah. And so I realized, okay, this is, this is, I don't want my kids to go through that. Like, I understand that they're going to have to go through their own struggles to earn, you know, their, their place and get courageous and all of those things.

[00:14:17] But I want them to go into the world understanding that their differences are okay. That's okay to have differences. So that's where I started. 

[00:14:28] Jolie Downs: Wait, how did you deal with the bullying? Because that's, you know, that's hard. How did you deal with it? 

[00:14:33] Sara Bradford: Oh, gosh, I don't know. That's I'm probably with bad behavior, teenage behavior. Um, no, I don't know. I just, um, you know, I remember a time. This is so awful.

[00:14:50] I remember one boy in particular that would just really make me cry all the time. He would just be so hurtful. And I went home one day and my mom was like, well, what's this boy's name? And I told her, and she said, you go back and you tell him that his last name is named after. Uh, proctologist, who does, you know?

[00:15:11] And so she, that was my back. That was my only, my only way, you know, to get back at him was to tell him that he was like the butt doctor. But I mean, that was an awful right. But when you're in middle school, you don't have a lot to work with. So.

[00:15:27] Jolie Downs: Well, when it's really hard to like come back to, I always tell my kids what I always told my kids. I'm like, this is what you say. You say, well, our did, you know, did you know that people who want to make other people feel bad, just really feel bad about themselves. So I'm sorry. You're feeling really bad about yourself having a bad day.

[00:15:45] Do you need a friend? And, but of course they would never say that. 

[00:15:49] Sara Bradford: Oh, I know, bless their hearts, right. Oh man. I see, you know, our daughter is very courageous. Nice. Do see how she kind of just see there is like whatever or, you know, kind of gives them like does attitude or, you know, and I always tell her, which I a guess, which I did was say, oh, my mom has them too. Like, it's just part of my family, you know?

[00:16:12] And, and just. Blow it off that way. But yeah, it was definitely something I, you know, and I've always had long hair. I've never like wanted to have short hair in my life because I've always wanted to be them to be hidden and things. And now, now that I've been in a relationship so long and things like that, I, it doesn't even occur to me.

[00:16:33] Jolie Downs: Yeah. well, they really are cute years. You know, it's what it is. It's sad that we just, you know, we immediately think something's bad cause it's different. And, and so I love your message that different is good. Different is not only okay. Different is good. So we want to have our differences And celebrate them.

[00:16:49] And that's what makes us all interesting.

[00:16:50] Sara Bradford: And that's where, and I even have it right here. That is where I started. And this one is called Anna, the kitten, a book about physical differences and it's about a group or a family of kittens with little ears. And the mom is saying, Hey, There are no two cats that are the same.

[00:17:09] Do you know any cats that are the same? They all, they have different spots. They have different pods, different tales. There's nothing alike about them, but they're all cats. And so it's just really about being proud to be yourself. And so people really liked, well, my family and friends really liked that message and you know, I was going to print it at Walgreens and give it to her as just like a little book.

[00:17:30] Um, But they saw the value in that it had and said, no, write more, write more. And so, uh, I started writing just madly and I wrote about, I would say in total, maybe 10 books total and I seven are published. So I still have some work to do on some other ones we have, but yeah. It's been such an amazing experience because not only I am hoping that the books will help any child, whoever reads them in understanding whatever special needs it might be or physical difference, but also peers in their classroom who can say, okay, now that I have this knowledge, I don't have to be fearful or confused about what's going on.

[00:18:18] My tr this child's life for the student's life, you know, I can be more supportive. And when I see that this, you know, kid in the lunchroom is having a meltdown, maybe I can let my friends around me know, oh, this is just what autism looks like. And this is how we can give support to this person. Um, it's so important because a little bit of knowledge turns, fear into understanding for children.

[00:18:42] And it's so important to empower them with that. Um, The book about dyslexia. My husband and daughter, youngest daughter have dyslexia and dyslexia is a very, um, it's an invisible disorder if you will. And it's very hard to diagnose, especially when, in, at least in our case, our daughter is very emotionally intelligent, very smart, very quick witted.

[00:19:12] , and her teachers just. There's just no way. There's just no way she can, she would have dyslexia. Um, but yes, yes, she certainly does. You know? And that was only in kindergarten, first grade. And so I can understand that she is so little still, but we really needed that support that. And we were put off for two years.

[00:19:34] And what did she have to do catch up for two years worth of work that she couldn't do on her own because they weren't giving her the support. So. This book helps kids identify if they might have dyslexia, if they, and just, just understand that it exists, right? Because what parent just is walking around their house in the morning thing.

[00:19:57] Now let's talk about dyslexia today. Kids, you know, 

[00:19:59] Jolie Downs: Exactly. Exactly. 

[00:20:01] Sara Bradford: a heads up. Like parents don't even know how to talk about special needs. They don't know when is a good time to talk about 

[00:20:09] Jolie Downs: very true. 

[00:20:10] Sara Bradford: we wait till we're at the grocery store and we see the kid with down syndrome, bagging the groceries, and then we're all like, nervous.

[00:20:17] Do we will, do we talk to them? Do we say something? Don't look at him. Do we look at them to, what do we do? Right. And it's like, it's okay. These are our friends. These are our community members. And the more we know the less fear we have about in that situation. So like the book about down syndrome talks about.

[00:20:37] Why are they different? What is a chromosome? Why does that make us different? Gives kids the real meat of the situation to not only say, oh yeah, they look a little different, yada, yada, let's go on. Okay. Well, this is really happening in our bodies in ourselves in a different way. Like they're experiencing life differently than we are, and this is how we can support them kind of, you know, the same thing.

[00:21:00] So yeah, in this really great. The anxiety book Wiley, the worried worm is the book about anxiety. That one was really based on my life and my bouts of anxiety throughout my life and being an only child and moving from state to state and always having to restart and restart and restart you have that. I had some anxiety about the situations, and now that I'm an adult, it wasn't until in this last year or more, maybe two years.

[00:21:33] But I really like looked at it and said, okay, like, I've got to stop having these anxiety attacks. This is ridiculous, you know, like get of yourself woman. , so writing this book was so therapeutic because. I was able to say, okay, this is what, , anxiety looks like. This is what it feels like in your body, because when kids get a stomach ache and their chest is pounding and hurting, they don't know what that means.

[00:22:06] They just are like, oh, my stomach hurts or something. And once they have some, a little bit of, , Knowledge to identify what that feeling might be. Oh, I'm really nervous about this test coming up. I must be experiencing some anxiety. What should I do? What did the Wylie the word work do? Oh, you know, he did some counting backwards from 10 to one.

[00:22:29] He slowed his breathing down and slowed his thoughts down and he was able to, you know, Be calm to think about the process he needed to go through rather than be in this fight or flight situation all the time. , So that was, yeah. And then it just, so the books are just great. It's a great collection.

[00:22:49] Yeah. For this elementary age kids to understand themselves, their peers, like the intro set and just really, , give families an easy way to teach , their kids and teachers. You know, I think these books need to be in every classroom. Think of the, I think of The emotional intelligence each child would bring into the next group into the 

[00:23:14] Jolie Downs: Massive massive. And that's what we need. We need the understanding. Exactly. That's really important. I think all of those topics, need to be in those classrooms and the anxiety, the anxious mind, man, if you can help kids with an anxious mind much earlier. 

[00:23:29] Sara Bradford: Just to pinpoint it so that they can ask for help. Yeah. 

[00:23:33] Jolie Downs: know that it's normal and not feel that it's.

[00:23:35] Cause I grew up with an anxious mind as well, and I to learn how to deal with it. Later on in life, it would have been helpful to have a book. 

[00:23:45] Sara Bradford: Yeah, definitely. And I hope my kids take advantage of it. I hope I see the, my daughter, she, and she'll tell us when she is having anxiety or, , we'll notice, you know, nail biting and things. And we can talk about those things with her. I love the, in our parenting style with my husband and I.

[00:24:04] Just done something different than we received or, you know, then we gave to our children, I guess, everything that we feel like maybe we missed out on or didn't have a chance to have and give our, you know, so we give that to our kids in hopes that it's, uh, betters them as a whole. 

[00:24:24] Jolie Downs: Yeah. Now I'm curious, were you working when you were writing these books? 

[00:24:27] Sara Bradford: No, I've been a stay at home mom for since probably since, just a little bit after our son got us diagnosis.

[00:24:35] So that's been. , I don't know. I it's difficult. It looks difficult from the outside, but it's not difficult for us. You know, the decisions we make. Um, we follow our intuition and everything works out. Okay. So yes, it might look like we are struggling financially and that might be the case.

[00:24:56] However, you know, our families communication is on point, our love for one another, our support for one another. I would live in a paper box to have that with my kids and my family. And so it's really the, uh, the way you look at successes and that the way you view and your perspective on that. So, yeah, so it's definitely been, um, you know, my husband's had to work extra hard since he's the only one that works.

[00:25:23] Um, he's uh, and we're so thankful for that. And, you know, we, we do. Get help from the services that we can because we have to, you know, or, and 

[00:25:36] Jolie Downs: Every family has to make it work exactly how they need it to work. Exactly. And now, and what you said is, is dead on it depends on your definition of success. And I'd like to know what is your definition of success and based on that, what do you think is key to having continued success throughout life? 

[00:25:52] Sara Bradford: Wow. I would say for me, and it's interesting because my husband just said last night, you know, it's so great that we set ourselves up for, we don't want our kids to hate us. That's our idea of success. And then I realized that his mind is in relationships with people. My success shows me, um, you know, The five or six people in the neighborhood who will come to have me watch their dogs.

[00:26:19] When they're out of town, watch their plants take care of them, make phone calls for them, pick things up for them. It's when you see the work you're doing in the community. You know, the bonds that, or the relationships that you're able to make. That's how I think that I found my success, you know, when I go to the grocery store and I'm like, oh my gosh, I, you know, I'm $5 short or whatever.

[00:26:41] And three people from that work, they're like, Sarah, Sarah, Sarah here, let me help. Let me help. And it's because of set up so many of these good relationships that they're all, they know that I'm authentic, they know that I'm loving and kind and. It only brings more of that back to me. So I would say that is definitely where my level of success lies.

[00:27:03] Jolie Downs: That's awesome. That's 

[00:27:04] Sara Bradford: Yeah. 

[00:27:04] Jolie Downs: And, and what do you, what would you say your greatest success has been in your life and, and, and what'd you learn from it? 

[00:27:10] Sara Bradford: oh boy, that's a great question. You know, I'm going to have to say that. Being brave enough to get on these podcasts. Right. Starting my own podcast, the fear that I would get on and judge myself and say, oh, you know, oh, no, I sound funny or I look funny or my, you know, my arms did it. It's just something, right.

[00:27:37] We always find something to pick on ourselves. But the fact of the matter is when I started doing it, I found a new love for myself. It reawakened and reinvented this whole new being that is proud of who I am. That knows I'm a boss, mom, I'm a boss in my business. It might not make any money, but I'm still a boss in it.

[00:28:01] It's not about that. It's about, um, you know, we're reaching families, not only across the nation, but across the world with our books, with the podcast, with, um, just. Me being a guest on other people's podcasts. And so I think that that really is probably my biggest to this point success. And it's great to say, yeah, you know, I have seven published books and that.

[00:28:27] The fact that it has brought us closer together as a family, that it gets, I'm able to share my story and our success with others, you know, and they can maybe think about it and think, okay, well, what if I tried something a little different, like she does and see if it works right. Just give them that little bit of like, edge to think about things differently.

[00:28:51] Jolie Downs: right. I love it. Yeah.

[00:28:52] Oh, so flip side. What about a time? A big perceived failure, if you will, a really big obstacle or mistake , and what'd you learn from it? 

[00:29:02] Sara Bradford: Oh, very interesting. So I would say, Ooh, wow. Parenting. The first time around, I have apologized to my 21 year old, so many times since she's been able to have an adult conversation with 

[00:29:20] Jolie Downs: Yeah. 

[00:29:21] Sara Bradford: you know, I've come to realize that worrying about what your kid and I mean this in boundaries that are acceptable, but worrying about what your kid is wearing, whether they're too girly, too feminine, too masculine, whatever worrying about if they want to dare die or cut their hair, worrying about their makeup, their jewelry, those things are really waste of time.

[00:29:47] There's such a huge waste of time. I learned that. Letting my kid have their own self-expression through the ways that they feel authentic to themselves, that where you should be. Um, and so, yeah, I would say it wasn't a failure. I guess that sounds really 

[00:30:06] Jolie Downs: why I say perceived, perceived, you know, 

[00:30:08] Sara Bradford: but it, and, and I've told her, like, I can't tell you how many podcasts I've been on, where I've been like, I'm so sorry, older child, but at the same time, I was trying to do my best for another woman.

[00:30:23] Right. She's my stepdaughter. I'm trying to raise your daughter in the best way I can possibly. And if that makes me look like the strictest tight, you know, whatever, then, so be it. And I'm sorry that, , it went the way it did, but it also, it also opened up. Experience and knowledge for raising my other two.

[00:30:47] And when our son was diagnosed and we had this kind of like everything changes in one sentence, all your expectations and ideas of what the future is going to look like. You start to rewrite those. Right. Um, and so we thought, okay, We know what happened with our daughter and not to mention, as you said, at the beginning, all three of the kids, um, are on the spectrum.

[00:31:12] She is just, she has not been diagnosed yet, but is sure of herself, you know, kind of a thing. And it's interesting because within the last maybe year and a half, you know, Been scrutinizing or looking at autism through a male perspective for over a decade now. And we didn't really know or learn much about what it looks like and how it's presented in females.

[00:31:36] And so now I'm learning that females present so much differently than males they're able to mask their abilities through. , a lot of copying. So right away when my daughter was, you know, two years old and she spoke more eloquently than any adult I knew. and or every shoe she could possibly find in America and, , just loved this love of things and these passions that were just.

[00:32:05] Who are you? Are you like 50? Like where did you compromise a teaser, like five going on 50. Cause she was sewing and making doll clothes F five years old, like who is this person? That's so now I know she's nine and now we see now we've learned a little bit more about autism and girls. And now we know, we know that she is on the spectrum and we know that her.

[00:32:32] Interests and highly, functional brain in these types of ways. That's why, she's what she thinks that in these same patterns in these same systems that her dad and her brother and her older sister do, which now we can tie them all together. And, and you know, now it looks like. Picture that's put together all the way.

[00:32:54] So that's been so interesting because it's really given us perspective. We spent 13 years in counseling with our oldest, just nobody ever had an answer, no one ever had a diagnosis, nobody ever diagnosed her with anything. So it was just always unknown and it makes so much sense to me now, knowing that there was just not enough awareness of what autism looked like in girls.

[00:33:21] 15 years ago. Um, yeah, 

[00:33:24] Jolie Downs: Wow. I had no idea about any of that. Yeah, it really is. I mean, what do you, yeah, how are you supposed to know until this, until this information starts coming out? 

[00:33:34] Sara Bradford: And I love, you know, podcasting. , I don't love that there's this kind of war, if you will, between autistic parents and autistic adult teenagers. Um, and I didn't even really realize that this is how my husband kind of brought it up to me, like contact talk and things. We're trying to get more into the.

[00:33:54] The Internet's playground we're going to be. And so he said that he could really see this kind of, , adults, , wanting the best for their child, but there's an autistic adults saying, no, you're going about this wrong. You're not, you know, and there's this kind of war going on. And I'm kind of in, right in the middle because I really.

[00:34:15] Don't act like the parent who I need to punish my child, or I need to find out ways to stop them from behaving like this. They need to act like this. You know, that's not me. I'm way more on the other side of things where I'm like, okay, Jumping up and down, singing in high pitches, flapping your arms, like that's human.

[00:34:37] I've done those things before those aren't odd behaviors, maybe in the sense that they're done more often than others, but there it's, you've clapped your hands before. Right. It's a human behavior. And so I really love to try to get to perspective to people. Once we accept and start looking at everyone as humans, those other little things fall away, but the little ears fall away.

[00:35:06] Right. It doesn't matter. It doesn't change our conversation, you know, it's so it's like almost if there were a veil in front of everyone and you could just meet them for who they are and then the physical part would never make a difference. 

[00:35:23] Jolie Downs: you see them for the soul that they are rather than the body. 

[00:35:26] Sara Bradford: Isn't that. 

[00:35:27] Jolie Downs: Yeah. I love that.

[00:35:29] Sara Bradford: yeah. 

[00:35:30] Jolie Downs: So, out of everything that you've learned in life, what would you say? What life lesson have you learned that has brought the most benefit to your life? Would you say? 

[00:35:41] Sara Bradford: yeah, honesty, honesty for sure. And you know, this is something that, like I said to you, I had really unleashed a bunch of truth on another podcast and we'll get into that deep, deep stuff. But at one point. One big point was early on. , I mean, going through my childhood and having parents that were divorced and it, there, there wasn't.

[00:36:06] , a full story. Let's just put it that way. I didn't know the full story until I was in my thirties. And at that point I was very disappointed that it had been so long to tell me what the full story 

[00:36:17] Jolie Downs: Yeah. 

[00:36:18] Sara Bradford: Uh, and I felt betrayed and it made sense to me as to why I always felt secretive and like I had to be dishonest or I, and I'll be the first one to admit how.

[00:36:31] Dishonest. I was growing up and not to the point where I was like stealing from, you know, I don't have a criminal record or anything like that, but just in my personal relationships with people, I ruined so many relationships with dishonesty and that sucks. That's really hard, hard, um, pill to swallow, but it's the truth.

[00:36:52] And it wasn't until my husband and I had started dating. And we both kind of just came head onto the, in this situation. And he said, look, If we can be honest with one another, like let's just turn our backs and walk away. And I knew in my heart that this was my soulmate and I was not turning away, you know, like I would do anything.

[00:37:14] So what did I do? Strangest thing ever. I found a narcotics anonymous group. I went to a groups and I sat down in this group and everybody went around and said, you know, they were addicted to opioids or whatever, whatever. And they got to me and I said, I'm addicted to lying and I want to stop. And I took the class for the eight or nine weeks, however long it was.

[00:37:40] And at the end I literally made a vow to just never, ever tell a lie again. And I can promise you that that has never happened. And I, we live our life. So purely authentically. True. True, true, true. And w um, it's made a huge difference. I mean, of course there's so many people that have fallen away because they're not on that same level.

[00:38:06] There's 

[00:38:06] Jolie Downs: I love this. 

[00:38:07] Sara Bradford: and it's, it's like, Weird isolating place that you're at because you start to see, wow. They tell so many lies to themselves. They lied to, you know, about, we don't even tell white lies. We don't tell any lies, like pure honesty is the best thing that's ever happened to my life. 

[00:38:30] Jolie Downs: That's amazing. I love that 

[00:38:32] Sara Bradford: It's pretty powerful.

[00:38:33] Jolie Downs: it is very powerful and I love the story of that. Um, uh, you know, I thank you for sharing that, you know, that, that it was a problem that you had, And then she went to, to NNA and learned you went and found the tools that you needed to learn how to stop that. And that's, that's possible for everyone to, you can learn how to stop things.

[00:38:51] So that that's awesome. Thank you.

[00:38:53] Sara Bradford: And then of course my husband had to be, he had to challenge himself to do the same because I was doing the same. So we were really on the same level 

[00:39:01] Jolie Downs: He rose to your level? 

[00:39:02] Sara Bradford: Absolutely and continues to in all types of ways. Like we're not religious in any way, but we're very spiritual and believe in just, you know, being good people and vibrations and frequencies.

[00:39:14] And it's so nice to have a partner to share that with, um, that, you know, every night turns on sleep frequency music. Music to help us relax and realign our shockers every night, you know? And it's just a lot of men that, you know, kind of accept that feminine side of themselves and share it even though they're very masculine.

[00:39:36] So I really appreciate that about 

[00:39:38] Jolie Downs: Yeah, I love that. And then you feel free to share. We love when you share those sides of yourselves. We love 

[00:39:45] Sara Bradford: true. So true.

[00:39:47] Jolie Downs: Yeah. Let it out. Now, have you adopted any habits that you feel have helped yourself live successfully? 

[00:39:57] Sara Bradford: I would say in flexibility, patience, and flexibility. Um, we really taught ourselves to speak differently in our home. Then we had growing up, we had two. Reassess, all of those things we really realized in the beginning that our son, um, reacted to negative terms. Like no stop don't, um, just like instant impulse, like total freakouts.

[00:40:24] So those were words we had to not only stop saying ourselves, but teach our fans. To stop saying them also, which is very difficult. Uh, grandparents are hard to, to teach, bless their hearts. , but yeah, so we right away we realized like, yes, are you have to hear the words no. And stop and in your lifetime, but do you have to traumatize your child to make them learn to deal with.

[00:40:49] Absolutely not that's on you as a parent, you do not have to do that. So we decided, okay, we need to change the way we speak. We speak in a redirecting or, you know, we don't need, used to have to do that. He's older now he's 11. We can say, oh, you better be careful or watch out, or, you know, things like that a little bit more easily.

[00:41:15] And he does. Have those, uh, reactions anymore. So he's really, he's learned to be flexible with us along the way. So that's been really nice, but yeah, I would say definitely, um, just our communication we've had to assess and reassess and change, and I think that adults don't think they have to, and I don't agree with that.

[00:41:37] Like there are some situations in Thai. Where you need to reevaluate the way you're thinking or dealing with the situation. Um, yeah. And I think that's hard. They don't want to take accountability for those things.

[00:41:51] Jolie Downs: Absolutely. And it's, and it's very important as adults. We, we make mistakes as well, and we're not perfect. And we do need to take a look at ourselves and see how we can do things. differently. I just had this conversation my mom, so for my own self, so 

[00:42:06] Sara Bradford: Yeah, that's totally right. 

[00:42:08] Jolie Downs: we need to make some changes to. 

[00:42:11] Sara Bradford: And it's, it's great. I, and that's what I love about podcasting. I love to be able to, like you said, , hear people's stories that then you're like, oh, I'm taking a piece of that with me, because that will really help in my future or somehow, you know, one way or another.

[00:42:29] So I do see the value in that.

[00:42:32] Jolie Downs: So is there any other book besides your own, , that you've read or, you know, a great talk that you heard or a movie that really impacted you and you feel would benefit other people to either listen here, read. 

[00:42:45] Sara Bradford: Absolutely. In fact, just recently. And then it's funny, cause I'm not a huge reader for being a writer. I, I'm not big on reading. So I did audible take goodness audio books, but, , it's called uniquely human by Dr. Barry present. And just as I've been speaking and the great thing is. I feel like he wrote this and picked my brain while he wrote it, because so much of it resonated with me.

[00:43:14] And I thought, yes, this is, this is how I'm living. And now this, this is someone who's a professional. Who's saying, this is how you should be living. And I'm like, I'm there, you know, so excited, but it's just really about see. , autism for its human qualities that it is, it's really seeing each human for who they are and seeing that children that are in constant, um, meltdown or trauma.

[00:43:44] Asking why, why is it happening? Why is this child come? You know, when we drive past this certain place, they cover their eyes or anything. Why are these things happening instead of trying to change that child's behavior, when, why don't we look deeper and we try to help them uncover whatever it is that they can't communicate.

[00:44:09] And it really, like I said, I was kind of already living that, but it really just helped me to feel like finalized in it. You know, this is, this is really like, what I'm doing is right. And yeah, I'm going to keep doing 

[00:44:23] Jolie Downs: applied to everything. Just ask why that should be applied to all. Yes, that's great. So Sarah, how can our guests, if they wanted to find your books, , find your podcast, , how, how, how is it. best for them to find 

[00:44:37] Sara Bradford: Great. Absolutely. S SJ, It's as easy as that, that's all you need. Everything's there, the books, the podcast, , a little bit of blog space, you know, post things like that. So you can find me there. Our show that as well. My show, I love my husband helps me with everything. So it's ours, but the SJ child show, , our motto is bringing education and resources to families with lots of labs too.

[00:45:04] So yeah, Kevin, listen to our show. We have some really great value to bring to the community. 

[00:45:11] Jolie Downs: Fantastic. And I'll have that link in the show notes as well. So before we go, my last question, what are you.

[00:45:17] sure of in life? 

[00:45:20] Sara Bradford: I am sure of myself as a leader in the autism community and for advocates and anyone who, you know, wants to be on this path and lead next to me, I invite you to join. 

[00:45:34] Jolie Downs: Fantastic. Thanks again, Sarah. 

[00:45:36] Sara Bradford: Thank you so much, Jolie. It was such a pleasure.

Jolie Downs:

I love Sarah’s story. She reminds us of so many important life lessons. 

The first being that success is not based on money or status or fame – it is based on you – you creating your own definition of success and aligning your life with that definition in the most authentic way possible. This looks different for everybody. What is most important is finding what works best for you. 

And Sarah has found that for herself. 

Sarah has three children and a husband all on the autistic spectrum. She has learned the importance of creating a life that works best for their needs, not based on what others have to say. Some might say their life looks strange, some might say your life looks strange, some might say my life looks strange, and you know what, that’s ok. It’s not their life. The only one your life has to make sense to – is you.

I was talking with a girlfriend the other day and she was feeling down. She was feeling bad about herself because she had quit her corporate job to stay home with her kids. Her job had her husbads job had gotten extremely stressful at the same time, they were struggling as a family to make everything work and came to the conclusion that it made the most sense for her to quit her job. She was feeling like this meant she wasn’t being successful in her life. This made me crazy to hear and I told her so – the only reason she was feeling that way was because of the stories we have accepted from society and the onslaught of media around us.

These are the questions I asked her: 

Are you happy with the decision you made? 


Are you happy with the day to day life you are living? 


Do you wish you were still working? 


Do you feel like this is a needed break for you and your family? 


So really you are allowing yourself to feel bad based on what you think others are thinking? 

Let’s stop doing that shall we. Let’s eliminate any story or judgement that no longer serves us and instead embrace it! If your life feels right to you, If your life makes you happy and satisfied in your day to day living – then you are successful! The most important question you can ask yourself is, what does success mean to me? And keep asking yourself that and re-evaluating to make sure you stay on your path – for the only ‘right’ path is the one that is right for you. And remember, What was right for you a few years ago may not be right for you now.  Keep evaluating. 

I told my friend about Sarah, I told her I had just spoken with a stay at home mom who was killing it, absolutely thriving and living her best life. Please don’t sell yourself short for making the decisions that are right for you. You have so much potential for positive impact by just being you. Sarah has an autistic family and as such, Sarah became passionate about educating people around autism. By simply being herself and talking about the things she cares about, Sarah became involved in her school, then she became involved in the autism community, then she began writing books, then podcasting about autism and speaking about autism – the amount of people Sarah has impacted in a positive way simply by being herself, is countless.  

Sarah gave us another important reminder to look for the special beauty in each and every one of us. We all have our own unique way of looking and thinking about the world. While special needs come with challenges it also comes with unique aspects that highlight life in new ways, you can find greatness in every person and in every situation. Everything we consider a challenge within ourselves also gives us our own unique set of super powers. 

Pull out the aspects of yourself that you find difficult or a challenge. Can you look at those in a new way? Can you reframe those challenges and see how they have helped you in other ways? How they may have formed you in a unique way giving you a special viewpoint. 

Tap into appreciating that internal specialness within yourself. 

When you can embrace your own uniqueness it will be much easier to embrace everyone else’s. And as Sarah reminds us, we are all humans yet we have gotten away from treating each other like humans. Let’s do better. Too many of us are out there using people and loving things. Stop. Love People. Use things. Every time you are interacting with another human, remind yourself that this person is a soul, feeling all the emotions you feel. Treat them as you would wish to be treated. Simple. Sarah shared that being able to shift the view of looking at people as souls rather than bodies has made a huge impact in her relationship with others. 

Sarah has helped countless people learn how see past the differences and find the similarities through her books, her podcast, her talks and her community. She is reminding us all that differences are ok – in fact, differences are better than ok – they are fantastic! It’s what makes us all unique individuals, it’s what makes this world such a fascinating place. Sarah is helping eliminate the fear around being different by educating people – she is empowering people with knowledge and understanding and I am here for it. 

I love that Sarah feels her greatest success is in her relationships. She has built strong relationships everywhere she goes, within her family, friends, support groups, school and community. She finds ways to help others. She volunteers, She engages. She shares. And because of this, she has built a community of relationships that she can rely on. She is authentic and loving and kind to others and she gets the same in return. This is beautiful. 

How are the relationships in your life? 

Are you being authentic and loving and kind?

For what we give tends to be what we get back in return.

Finally, I loved Sarah’s story around honesty. I appreciated that she shared how earlier in her years she found it compulsory to lie. Her lying become an issue with partner who laid it out for her – If we can’t be honest with each other then we need to end the relationship – and I applaud her husband for this – for sticking up for himself and his own boundaries, which is not easy when dealing with the one you love. And I applaud Sarah for taking the time to be introspective and brave enough to admit she needed to make a change. I admire Sarah for going out and finding the tools needed to help her break this bad habit. Her joining a Narcotics Annonymous group was brilliant, she worked on her addiction to lying during those 9 weeks and then made a vow to never lie again. She has kept that promise. 

Incidentally, it is not a coincidence that this was a 9 week group of meetings. Science proves that it takes about 63 days to establish a new habit. 9 weeks equals 63 days. If you are trying to establish a new habit for yourself, stick with it for at least 9 weeks to get that pattern established. 

I really can’t think of a better habit for everyone to adopt than honesty. Lying in and of itself takes energy while simultaneously producing anxiety and fear subconsciously. When you consistently lie to others you make it even easier to lie to yourself and growth does not happen in a bed of lies. Lying is not harmless and the one it hurts the most is you. Lying creates your own internal shackles, giving others power over you and welcoming in guilt and shame. 

Let’s all take a lesson from Sarah and find freedom and authenticity in being completely and totally honest. So that is my wish for us all, that you will give yourself the gift of honesty, creating a life that is more opportunistic with better relationships and strong emotional well being.

Until Next time

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