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Catching Up with Dr. Ricki Robinson

March 28, 2011 4 comments

We were so excited with the chance to sit down and have a chat with Dr. Ricki Robinson, author of Autism Solutions: How to Create a Healthy and Meaningful Life for Your Child. Dr. Robinson is co-director of Descanso Medical Center for Development and Learning in La Canada, California.  She is a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the Keck School Medicine of USC and Senior Attending Physician at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.  She has been in private pediatric practice for over 30 years, specializing in children with developmental delays for over twenty years.

Autism Speaks: Dr. Ricki thanks so much for giving us a chance to catch up for an interview! How did you start your career in autism?
Dr. Ricki Robinson: I was a practicing pediatrician for 20 years before I met my first patient with autism. There was so little out there and something had to be done. This group was so medically needy and the medical institution wasn’t paying attention. So I thought ‘who can I pull in to get these people help?’

AS: What is a common myth about people with autism?
DR: One of the biggest myths is that kids with autism have no empathy. That is so false! These people have more empathy because they know how hard it is.

AS: What advice would you give parents that just received a diagnosis of autism for their child?
DR: First, get to know your child. The key to autism is that yes, it is a label, BUT that doesn’t say who your child is! We can get a very specific treatment plan based on your own child’s needs. Get to know your child. Without a relationship, we can’t grow and develop the right treatment plan.

AS: Is there a specific treatment you favor?
DR: The key to treatment, is to pull the right treatment off the shelf at the right time. Think of it like a library, and every book is a treatment. You have to be dynamic, flexible, and observant. Ask yourself, ‘Have I matched the program with my child’s needs?’ Keep tweaking!

AS: How do you guide the siblings of individuals with autism?
DR: I ask what was the hardest thing you ever had to learn? Let’s say it was a cartwheel. I say, ‘You know how hard you worked, how you were in tears and frustrated while trying to figure it out? Well that’s how your sibling feels when they have to perform a ‘mundane’ task. Your sibling has to work that much harder. Autism doesn’t mean that they can’t accomplish things, it just means they have to work harder.

Be a partner, not a boss. If it okay to get mad. Siblings need to be siblings.

Don’t be afraid to have your own dreams and your own life. You need to be there for your siblings, but in order to do that in the best way possible, you need to be there for yourself.

AS: The ‘system’ can be very complicated. Any tips on navigating through it?
DR: Families and children must understand how to be your own best advocate. That starts with knowledge and understanding. Once you figure what your rights and needs are, you can get things accomplished.

AS: What is one thought you can leave with us until the next time we catch up?
DR: Children with autism, are children first.

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