Episode 135: Autism through Monica’s Eyes with Gary Martinez

Gary Martinez shares the views of autism through his daughter Monica’s eyes. There are things that you can do for your child with Autism. Gary is advocating for his daughter every day and they are seeing results. 

Do not miss these highlights:

[03:23] When Gary’s daughter was first diagnosed with autism and its initial impact on the family

[07:51] Signs that you can look for that may indicate that your child might have autism

[10:20] Techniques you can use during those meltdowns with a child with autism

[15:34] Myths about autism

[22:05] A look into the challenges they faced navigating the autism world and how to overcome it

[22:51] Recognizing what’s causing that behavior and  having an outlet or having a way to divert so they can express themselves

[24:40] Resources for parents who think their child may have autism and for those who have a child with autism and struggling with it

Resources Mentioned

Book: Living Life Through Their Eyes: Our Journey Together on the Autism SpectrumAmazon

Serenity U – Gain access to a searchable library of health tips and strategies with Dr. Deb – https://debra-s-school-1b7e.thinkific.com/courses/serenity-u 

Transcription of Episode #135:

Debra Muth 0:02
Welcome to Let’s talk Wellness. Now I’m your host, Dr. Deb. This is where we talk about everything wellness, and learn to defy aging, and live our lives on our own terms. Well, welcome back to let’s talk wellness. Now I’m your host, Dr. Deb, and I am interviewing today Gary Martinez. He is an inspirational speaker. He is the father of two. He runs digital autism COURSE THE STAR program. He is an author of living life through their eyes, our journey together on the autism spectrum, and also a personal fitness trainer. I’m really excited to be interviewing Gary today to talk about autism because I feel as though Autism is one of those unspoken conversations or unspoken topics that we have. And it doesn’t have to be this horrible, debilitating thing. It can be uplifting and positive. So let’s get started. I’m Dr. Deb, founder of serenity healthcare center. I want to thank you for joining our let’s talk wellness now podcast. It has been such a pleasure to share our knowledge. With so many people. We are averaging about 25,000 downloads an episode. And that is amazing because it’s showing us how much people want to learn about health and wellness. at Serenity Health Care Center, we have had the pleasure of changing lives for over 8500 clients, both men, women and their children. As a result of this, I have created serenity you know University Learning Center where you can access all of my knowledge that I have developed over 25 years of practice at your fingertips in an easy to find index library, you will have access to this dashboard 24 seven, it will be like having your own personal natural path at your beck and call. Anytime a day. I’d like to encourage you to check it out at Serenity view.com. So welcome back to the show. I’m Dr. Deb, your host and Gary Martinez is my guest today. Gary, welcome to the show.

Gary Martinez 2:30
Thanks, Dr. Deb, happy to be here.

Debra Muth 2:32
Thank you. So tell us a little bit about yourself.

Gary Martinez 2:36
Alright, so I am a father of two I have a 11 year old son and Christian and then a 15 year old daughter named Monica. I’ve been a personal fitness trainer since 2012 2014, I decided to go independent so I can work at my own work on my own schedule, and have more time for my kids and so I can also reach more people and work with different populations. I do also have a massage background, So that kind of helps in ties in with what I do with, especially with my daughter, Monica.

Debra Muth 3:12
Oh, that’s awesome.

Gary Martinez 3:14
That’s that’s a short quick on me.

Debra Muth 3:16
Awesome. So how did you get interested into helping in the autism world?

Gary Martinez 3:24
Because it’s our everyday journey, you know, with myself and my daughter, Monica is just, you know, in the very beginning, when we were diagnosed, I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know what that word was, you know, what is autism. But we also do have sensory processing disorder. So I didn’t know what those what is that language and just that in the beginning, my daughter could not talk. So she was suffering, having meltdowns, and I felt like a helpless, pretty much a worthless parent. So I wanted to take the step where I was like, okay, you need to become an athlete for your daughter’s life. So that got me involved in starting with self education by going to our first therapies. And then on my own, staying up really late and just doing a lot of self education to learn a lot more through books and articles and then going to conferences, and that was the starting point for me was to still learn more to sock and help my daughter.

Debra Muth 4:21
So your daughter Monica has been diagnosed with autism. How old was she when she was diagnosed?

Gary Martinez 4:27
That question right there. It’s kind of hard because we had to go to different doctors, different specialists. But I know we started our therapies around 2013 I want to say, so it’s right around that time. So we’re gonna say like we’ll say roughly like around six.

Debra Muth 4:46
It’s really difficult to get an autism diagnosis early on. Right? Yeah, exactly. It’s very challenging. I think people don’t want to give that diagnosis very easily. But unfortunately, when that happens, that also means you don’t get access to the services that you need for your daughter or your child to heal and to have abilities to learn things or do things better, because those services aren’t available until you have that diagnosis.

Gary Martinez 5:19
True. And for us, I think we were delayed a little bit because what I’ve learned is a lot of times girls get diagnosed later, because a lot of time they say, Well, you know, they’re just, they’re just being a girl, you know, she’s being a little ditzy. You know, with Monica’s older sister at that time, who’s two years older than her, she started out as a very shy child. So I was like, okay, maybe that might be true, but it wasn’t. So like you said, you know, we had to play catch up. Yeah.

Debra Muth 5:47
Can you talk a little bit about what your experience was, like, going through that time of trying to get that diagnosis?

Gary Martinez 5:55
It was just, it was very frustrating, you know, I was just a parent in panic mode. I didn’t know, basically, you know, what was going on, you know, we’re going this to this specialist and this specialists. And it was just, it was really hard. So I’m just glad that once we found out, no, we were diagnosed, that was our first step. And now we get to go to some of these early intervention therapies. And that was like the first step to learn about what actually helps Monica out?

Debra Muth 6:29
What kind of advice would you give parents that are in that position that you were a few years ago, to maybe make that process easier? Or to advocate for their child differently? What have you learned now that you wish you would have known them? I guess, is the question.

Gary Martinez 6:44
Okay. Yeah, it was just that, you know, there’s support groups, like in your city, that, you know, you can, if you’re on social media, you can, you know, you can type the word autism support and see what lands there and you know, that’s a way to start to meet people in a community to know that you’re not alone. And that, of course, people ask a lot of questions in there. And you can find our resources, like, if you have a, if that parent has a question about something like we’re, where can I go for this, or what people are going to help you in there. So that’s a directory, it’s a really good resource to help you out in the beginning. And, and you know, just during your whole entire journey.

Debra Muth 7:23
So if somebody is suspecting their child is different, what would make them think to bring up to a practitioner, that they’re concerned about autism? What kinds of things did you see in Monica, that now looking back, you would say, Oh, yeah, you know, I maybe didn’t have an experience with autism. So I didn’t know. But now I would know, and I would tell a parent, Hey, your child’s exhibiting this, you might think about autism.

Gary Martinez 7:51
Right? If they’re, you know, if you call your child’s name, and they’re not, they’re not answering you, after, you know, one time two times, three times that’s like, that’s like a flag right there. They, they’re just not there their body languages and like, towards you, when you’re trying to communicate with them. They’re more or less their own way, and they’re very isolated. Just doing something on their own. That’s, that’s very repetitive for them. It’s just, you know, that just looks a little different. You know,

Debra Muth 8:23
Have you experienced what we call stimming? with Monica at all?

Gary Martinez 8:28
Yes, yes. Yes. So, you know, flapping the hands rocking back and forth. walking in circles are, are the top three for us?

Debra Muth 8:39
So some of those kinds of experiences when you see your child doing some of those things, obviously, some to extent could be normal, but when it’s an extended period of time, or you see them do that, when they’re maybe under a little more stress, or more agitated, would be something that a parent would want to watch for.

Gary Martinez 8:57
Exactly, yeah. If it starts to take control, and they’re just doing that, you know, for a long time, that’s, that’s a sign right there.

Debra Muth 9:07
Where your practitioners open to you bringing these kinds of things to their attention to say, Hey, I think there’s something deeper going on, or did you really struggle getting your practitioners to be on board with you?

Gary Martinez 9:20
Practitioners, are you referring to doctors or other

Debra Muth 9:26
doctors or nurse practitioners? Yes.

Gary Martinez 9:29
I’m like, she didn’t really start that a lot until we’re actually in therapies I want to say, because at first she was just having straight up meltdowns. Like she didn’t really go into any stimming it was just, you know, I can’t talk. I can’t express myself. So she would throw herself on a ground, punch herself, clench the ground, arch her back, like a rocking chair so hard. She would just scream, cry, and she would turn red. You have the meltdown. Wow.

Debra Muth 10:01
That was a scary time, I’m sure. Yes, yeah. Yeah. So talk to us a little bit about some of the techniques you use during those meltdowns to kind of help her and help your family adjust a little bit better to that.

Gary Martinez 10:19
Okay, yeah, so sure, it was, uh, the first step was learning a lot in occupational therapy, that her because she has sensory processing disorder, that we need to do a series of activities every day that she likes to help her, you know, not not have a meltdown. So she can focus be relaxed and, and feel better about herself. So some of the things that that she really likes until this day, is the top one is swinging. So swinging gives her a lot of body awareness. I’m going going down the slide, she also likes to do that. And we’ve also like to climb up a slide. So we get this heavy work. So a lot of the the craving that her body wants, she’s getting a lot right there by doing something like that. She also loves to push swings. So that’s kind of like another exercise for her. Kind of like her muscles and joints. She can feel her body parts, especially her hands because they are the furthest away. Those are some of them. She does like to jump. Oh, yeah, well actually hippity hop all I can’t leave that guy out. So we have a hopper ball hippie help all What are you calling big exercise ball with the handle, He likes to hop up and down as just a really fast way for her to organize her body and relax, and it just kind of lights her up from from head to toe.

Debra Muth 11:39
That’s awesome. With your background in physical fitness, were you able to find some things in your world that you’re helping all these people to get fit? Have you found things that can help her as well or has it all been suggested by occupational therapy for you,

Gary Martinez 11:56
They were I just loved occupational therapy, I went to every session except for one that I had to miss. But it wasn’t by choice. And I love learning a different way to use activities as exercise for pretty much the same benefits. But even more so for us. So what we did was we kind of we create our own system, like she didn’t have the best coordination and balance and she was a toe Walker. So she was scared to walk for a period of time. So what we did was like, we just kind of made our own things up, we would hold we would hold hands, and she would step on my feet. And I would walk sideways with her to condition her for walking, I will walk forward and I will walk backwards. But as we progress with that, then we call our new exercise a together squat. Same deal, we hold hands together, and we face each other and we squat up and down. So we kind of just made our exercise we kind of brought the exercise rolling in and made it fun to connect with the the the activities from occupational therapy. And then our flavor to add with that is like we use a lot of Disney movies that she likes and we go overseas as we’re exercising, so it makes her get even more out of it.

Debra Muth 13:06
Oh, that’s awesome. Well, and it makes it very special and unique to her. And not just like okay, we’re going to do your exercises again today. Come on, let’s do this. And then they don’t want to do it. And then it becomes a bigger fight. And that happens with every child. But this I love that you’re making it specific and special to her. And it’s a special time with her and her dad. So that’s a big connection to for you guys.

Gary Martinez 13:32
Yeah, it’s it’s you know, basically our motto is we do things together. I love that. I just want to feel what she goes through to make sure you know and also documents stuff like things that we like things that we don’t see or have, are really doing, you know, doing anything for us. Mm hmm,

Debra Muth 13:49
exactly. It’s a great way to keep track of things for you guys and things, you can then start to get creative with an expand on things that she likes, and then not force her to do things that she doesn’t but find a different way to get that benefit out of it anyway.

Gary Martinez 14:04
Right. I mean, like an example is like when we were in our younger elementary years going to school, we were still, you know, learning on how to be able to go to school full time and just just last there. Oh, it wasn’t stress for her. So what we do is we get to school, 20 minutes early, and we hit the playground and do swinging and slides and exercises. If the weather wasn’t good, it didn’t matter to us. We went inside the school, we use the hallway. And one of our favorite things is a piggyback ride so I’ll give her a piggyback prize. So her body’s off the ground and she can really know my body’s here. And when I decide to give her some other type of feedback, I would bend our you know tilt all the way down forward. So we get all this blood going into her brain. It’s for her it’s laughing You know, it’s Yeah, it’s like dad’s an amusement ride. But at the same time, her body, her body and her brain are getting so much that it needs so it prepare her for all those Crazy transitions that are at school.

Debra Muth 15:02
I love that that’s so much fun too. And you having some of that idea of what the body needs to do from a fitness aspect and where you need to build strength where you need to get blood flow where you need to get oxygen, all of that she doesn’t recognize that most of us wouldn’t even think about, we’re doing that when we’re playing, but you do, and you know how it’s gonna affect her then down the road later. That’s awesome. So tell me some of the myths that you would like to debunk surrounding autism?

Gary Martinez 15:36
Well, it’s just that when you know people that don’t put into work with the kids, that just kind of put titles on us, like, you know, you, you may not, you may not talk again, you, you may, you may just wind up being a toe walker, you may wind up like this, or this or this, but for us, it’s just um, you know, we, when you hear those sayings, it’s like, just work really hard with your child, and just, you know, go at your pace, it’s no race, and you’re gonna, you’re gonna find out what’s possible. Like it that wasn’t in the back of our mind, I was just like, let’s just keep going to therapies, let’s bring all the things that we’re learning home, let’s keep working hard. And then you know, in time, then Monica did start to talk. And then she is not a toe Walker, no more now she now she can run, you know, she can, we can walk in the creek water as we live next door to the mountains here. And we walk into Creek water, and we pretend for her for Monica, she calls that the Enchanted Forest from the movie Frozen to. So now she has the power and strength in her legs, to walk with the resistance of water. But it’s fun. So it’s no exercise. And so she’s overcome a lot of things. And I’m just really proud of her for that.

Debra Muth 16:54
That’s awesome and and that takes a lot of work on everyone’s part, right? I mean, on your part, your team of health practitioners, Monica herself. It’s not an easy feat to do that and it’s very easy to get discouraged when you’re working hard, and you’re not seeing the results that you want. fast enough, right? Because we’re a rapid society, we think we should see results much quicker. How did you guys keep yourself going all those times when you had the discouragement where you maybe weren’t seeing the benefits that you thought you should see in that timeframe? What did you do as parents to to help keep everything going?

Gary Martinez 17:33
Well, I would just feel guilty, I just go back to when we were first diagnosed, I didn’t know anything. I didn’t, I didn’t want her to suffer. So I was not going to give up. So you know, I make sure I get up early and I take care of myself. And then I’m ready for her when she wakes up. And you know, some days, she may not start out wanting to do these activities, physical activities. So that’s why I brought in massage. And I’ll give her the same type of pressure that her body needs. And then now without kind of help kickstart her day. This is she needs it every day. Yeah. So it doesn’t matter if I have a rainy day or if I have a poopy pants party, dealing with myself, it’s like, that doesn’t matter you you know, no matter what you have to got to work with, or you got to help her out.

Debra Muth 18:18
Yeah, it’s that consistency. Because I would imagine as soon as you let a day or two slide. It’s like anything else in our world right? It’s easier to let another day slide another day slide and then it’s so much harder for both you and her to get back on track again. If you let a couple of days go in between

Gary Martinez 18:38
Yeah, because she if she doesn’t get that activity that she needs, like let’s say for just half of the day part of the day. Yeah, you’ll see those side effects you know, go on for the rest of day and like you said, they can go on to the next day it can go on for the next week. Everybody’s different but that’s why it’s so important that we have to do it you know, no matter what.

Debra Muth 19:01
So do you have a good support network for your family that you can lean on when times get difficult for you guys?

Gary Martinez 19:11
Well I like to share with people in our in our circle that you know, have questions or want to learn how can we help Monica and then when people reach out and ask about that and I show them some things I you know, I showed them there’s a couple of things you can do you know you can we have a couple of fun things. So kind of with a play part like in order for us to swap. There’s a movie scene and Alice in Wonderland where this Queen of Hearts is opposite your head so she wants to do that to Alice. So when we say that Monica squats, okay, she’s squatting. There’s a scene of beauty in the beast where the evil guy gastown wants to marry Belle but she doesn’t want to. He doesn’t like her reading so he wants to grab her books out of her hands. So our tell Monica our Act like each character, I’m like, give me the book. And she’ll have her arms down, and she’ll squeeze her shoulder blades. So I kind of teach people maybe like one of those things. Or just give them like a couple of things. So it’s easy to remember. And that’s like a good start or just mentioned a favorite scene, if you want to start a conversation to lead to lead into things like that.

Debra Muth 20:28
Awesome. That is wonderful. So tell us about your book that you wrote, because it’s about your experience with Monica. Right?

Gary Martinez 20:37
Right. Yeah, so the title of the book, it’s a long one. So it’s, it’s called Living life through their eyes, our journey together on the autism spectrum. So the purpose of me writing a book was, and by the way, at that time, I did not have a computer. I had to, I had to library 45 minutes sessions for months to write the book. But I was determined, because I don’t want people to suffer like I did. In the beginning, I want the new parent to once a source to have like this playbook, because it’s not a long book, a playbook of we go over the history of autism, we share stories of Monica, because people can resonate with certain things, you know, so they don’t feel alone. And then we have contributors in the book that specialize like in massage or fitness or nutrition. So the parent can be a lot of tools that can actually help their child out. And also kind of touch on some therapies that you can expect to your child to go to. So I just kind of pressed in a lot of information. So a new parent is not lost, and they have a have a tool right there to help them

Debra Muth 21:47
out. That’s wonderful. So can you share with us? Like, what’s been one of your biggest challenges navigating the autism world? And can you give us some advice on how people or how you overcame it, and how others can overcome some big challenges?

Gary Martinez 22:04
Um, well, I think one challenge that stands out a little bit is that a lot of times when Monica is stimming, somewhere, even if the route these professional services, they want to look at it, like it’s a behavior issue, you know, they’re not familiar with sensory processing disorder, I just have to ask, Hey, Ash, you know, what can actually help out? Can I, you know, can I come share something with you? So I’ve had to go into schools and different therapies and say, okay, when she’s doing this, you know, she’s naturally asking for help. So she needs the next step. So she’s doing something with our hands, our say, if we bring in playdough played with it, and does that. She’s going to wind down from that activity.

Debra Muth 22:51
Oh, wonderful. Yeah. So recognizing what’s causing that behavior, that stimming behavior, or whatever it is, because you’re right, it’s most likely something that’s bothering them inside, but they don’t know how to express that. And so they have this behavior that we look at, like, Well, why don’t they just behave? Well? No, they can’t, because they can’t express what’s going on for them right now. And it’s like us, you know, take your mouth shut for a little bit, put you in front of something that’s infuriating for you, and not be able to say anything, eventually you’re going to start squirming, you’re going to start trying to get people’s attention, you’re going to start trying to express what you’re feeling. And you’re really just trapped inside of there. So having an outlet or having a way to divert that so they can express themselves is huge.

Gary Martinez 23:42
Yeah, it just takes that communication right there. You know, some you know, it’s just someone didn’t know that that’s a helpful tool. And by the time that’s over again, it’s a win win on both sides. Mm hmm. It’s all put a best interest Monica.

Debra Muth 23:57
That’s awesome. So what are some resources that you want to share with our audience today?

Gary Martinez 24:05
As far as for

Debra Muth 24:09
for for like real life things? Do you have some resources for parents that might be listening today that either a think their child may have autism or they do have autism and they’re struggling with a particular thing? Do you give us some resources or some ideas of what people can do?

Gary Martinez 24:28
Okay, so you know, I did create a course here to to help kids with autism thrive naturally in school. So if, you know the parent has a child in their school age, and they maybe have some issues at school, you know, I made this course to kind of bridge the gap, where identify some of the basic characteristics, especially if they still don’t understand parts of them, like characteristic losses. Like the one we just shared, you know, if our, if a child isn’t looking directly at somebody it’s not, it’s not that they don’t want to, it’s just that it’s very overwhelming for them, it’s kind of like me looking into the sun and birds, my eyes, I don’t want to do that. So just kind of sharing some information like that. And then when you’re at school, if, if they’re stimming, and having a hard time, you know, here’s some tools that can help them, maybe they have to sit on a on a peanut ball, that gives their body a little more craving that needs so they feel they feel more organized and focus while they’re sitting down. Because nobody likes to sit down for a long period of time, especially when our kids need some help with that. So our program is kind of a resource like that. And we do go over nutrition we do go over a special interest of our kids are fascinated with something I kind of give you some ideas on how you can bond with that and use it as a as a tool to help them out. Before they have to go to school or a doctor’s appointment to kind of prepare them it’s kind of like a warm up before you exercise when you’re warmed up properly, you’re going to be good to go further into your workout, it’s more beneficial. So I mean, a program would be a tool right there. I f your kid has sensory needs, I would refer to check anything under Angie boss, who is a really good occupational therapist. I’m reading a book right now called a the autism the autism book, actually, Dr. Robert Sears. So he goes over a lot of things out do it autism. So there’s a, there’s a couple of tools right there.

Debra Muth 26:35
Awesome. And if people are interested in getting your program, how do they get ahold of that,

Gary Martinez 26:41
It’s all high caps, if you want to reach me for that hits. It’s autismstart. net

Debra Muth 26:46
Awesome. So for those of you who may be listening while you’re running, or working out or driving, don’t worry about that we’re going to have all of Gary’s information in the show notes. And we’ll have all of our links there, as well as on our social channel. Gary, thanks so much for being with us today. Any last tips you want to give our listeners,

Gary Martinez 27:05
um, it’s just what I’ve learned on this journey is, you know, when you’re around our kids, having the best patience and understanding and being open, open minded, will get you a real long way. Because when kids can feel you because they, you know, they can, they can tell your energy that you want to be involved with them, they’re going to let you in a lot more, which means you’re going to learn a lot more so you can help them out. And they also you each get a new friend. So that’s a good first step.

Debra Muth 27:35
That’s awesome. I love that advice. Thank you so much.

Gary Martinez 27:39
Thank you so much for having me on.

Debra Muth 27:42
Hey, it has been really great sharing this time with you guys on the Let’s Talk Wellness Now podcast. If this episode has helped you or you feel as though this episode would help someone else we’d love for you to leave us a review, share this podcast. And if you don’t want to miss the most exciting episodes we have coming. We’d love for you to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes or Google Play. Until next time, live every day to the fullest.

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