“The Hedley family story is one for us all: it is a celebration to which we can all relate, evolving into whom we choose to be . . . the journey from what’s not allowed to knowing what is right—feeling esteemed.”~ Sarah Ford Holliday
“Different, Yes. But Not Less”
Meet my daughter, Heather Hedley, an actor studying film production in Toronto.
Our passions crossed when Heather interviewed me and her brother, Erik, for an audio documentary
What began as an exploration of two perspectives became a celebration of a young man with autism.
Pour Your Art Out: “When Rogue is Vogue”
In this episode, Lisa and Teresa talk about “pouring their art out,” and how painting and writing allow us to figure out what’s going on in our minds. The conversation meanders from autism to the ocean effect to the colour of words. You won’t want to miss this divergent discussion: When Rogue is Vogue.
Honest as a Mother: “A Journey Through Autism”
Join Amanda and Teresa as they talk openly and honestly about motherhood, and specifically, about parenting a neurodiverse child. What is it like to get a diagnosis for your child? And then what? What can parents do to bring out the best version of their child? Listen to find out.
Kelly & Company: “What Challenges Do Those with Autism Face During the Pandemic?”
Kelly and Company is AMI-audio’s daily afternoon arts, entertainment and lifestyle program featuring topics directly affecting the blind and partially-sighted community. Join Kelly and Teresa as they speak about living with autism, and how to support an individual with autism during a global pandemic.
Connections: “What’s Not Allowed? A Family Journey with Autism”
“Connecting everyday life with everyday faith,” Colleen and Mike explore topics that inspire and encourage us. In this episode, the focus is raising a neurodiverse child and the myriad challenges and joys connected with diversity. “If you could change anything about this journey, what would it be?” Listen to learn.
Life with Autism: Berwick Retirement Residence, Comox, BC – June 29, 2023
🙏 Erik and I enjoyed presenting “Life with Autism” to a wonderfully engaged and curious group of seniors at Berwick Retirement Residence in Comox, Vancouver Island. One woman–age 100—was taking notes! Thank you, Ashley, for the invitation to speak.
🗣️ Our presentation covers three questions: What is autism? What are some misconceptions around autism? How do I connect with a child on the autism spectrum? Erik’s Parliament Hill speech about the transformative power of belief and believers rounds off our talk.
✌🏻In Part 2 of the presentation, you will 1) learn ways to 🔗 connect to a child with autism, 2) hear a 📖 reading from What’s Not Allowed? and 3) hear 🎤 Erik’s Parliament Hill speech—a reenactment from 2016. Click the button, above, and enjoy!
He-Says-She-Says Presentation: Surrey Place, Toronto, ON – April 5, 2023
🙏 Erik and I thoroughly enjoyed presenting to a group of dedicated psychologists at Surrey Place in Toronto. Thank you to Dr. Wynsome Walker for the invitation to speak.
🗣️ Our presentation centres around 15 practical home support strategies for neurodivergent children—based upon the need for structure, organization, visual thinking, fun, hands-on, concrete strategies, and celebration.
✅ Erik highlights eight of the strategies in the visual, left. To hear us describe these creative approaches, please click the Carleton University Q & A button, below.
🗣️ Our description of these approaches starts at the 13:30 minute mark. We hope these visual strategies are helpful in your practice and/or in your home. ~ Cheers! E & T 🙋♂️🙋♀️
Q & A #2: Carleton University, Ottawa, ON – October 27, 2022
Erik and I invite you to join us as we explore our autism journey with Carleton University professor, Dr. Vivian Lee.
Dr. Lee’s psychology students have read What’s Not Allowed? A Family Journey with Autism and are curious to know backstories and now whats? They are keen to understand autism from the inside out.
✨Join us for a lively visual conversation. Topics range from self-regulation, to the use of puppets and costumes, to romance…and much more!
5:20 – E 1. Are there any assumptions about yourself and autistic adults in general that you would like to debunk?
13:30 – T 2. How has your education background help you understand and support Erik? (*many creative strategies in this section – the meat!)
36:42 – E 3. In class, we’ve been talking about how parents come to terms with their child’s autism diagnosis. How did your family talk to you about autism and how did that shape the view of yourself?
✨See video Description for complete list of Questions & Timestamps
Q & A: Autism Speaks Canada – Community Profile – Meet Erik & His Mom Teresa – April 15, 2022
Meet Erik. 💁♂️
When Erik was diagnosed with autism at age six, we were bombarded with everything he could not do… and may never do.
It was overwhelming. 😕 Fast forward seventeen years.
Erik is twenty-three.
✨He drives a car.
✨He volunteers as a childcare assistant at a daycare.
✨He does maintenance at a seniors’ retirement home.
✨He self-advocates for autism understanding.
Join Erik as he offers his perspective on this autism journey we travel. (Click Q & A with Erik, above)
Thank you to Erik and to all of the self-advocates who teach us to tune in and to think differently. 🙏 And thank you, Autism Speaks Canada, for inviting Erik to share his voice.
Erik and I are honoured to support Military Family Service and Autism Speaks Canada as they collaborate to create resources for military families—like ours—supporting a loved one with autism.
This toolkit will help families grapple with transitions, change, uncertainty and interruptions to routine…all of which are so hard for children with autism…and all of which are a fact of military life.
Having a resource package at their fingertips will be “like a comfort blanket” says Erik.
Q & A: Carleton University, Ottawa, ON – February 17, 2022
What’s Not Allowed? A Family Journey with Autism is on the reading list for PSYC 4500: Advanced Topics in Developmental Psychology—Exploring Autism. Join Teresa and Erik as they explore themes and discuss students’ questions and curiosities.
Q: Erik, how would you describe autism to someone who is neurotypical?
Q: Erik, are there misconceptions about autism and people on the spectrum?
Q: Teresa, what would surprise the public to know about people with autism?
Q: Erik, when did you start advocating for yourself? How? And for what?
Q: Teresa, what would be the first piece of advice you would tell a parent after they receive a diagnosis?
“Exploring Autism: Two Minds, Two Memoirs” – October 14, 2021
Join authors Teresa Hedley—What’s Not Allowed? A Family Journey with Autism—and Claire Finlayson—Dispatches from Ray’s Planet: A Journey Through Autism—as they explore the autism spectrum from a neurotypical perspective.
Early Childhood Care + Education & Autism – June 2021
Part One: Insight / Strategies to Enable Early Childhood Educators
What do early childhood educators need to know about teaching, guiding and enabling children with autism? This four-part presentation covers “Autism 101” and then combines the perspective of autism—Erik—and a support perspective —Teresa—to dive deeper into insights and ten specific guidance strategies. Watch to learn.
Part Two: Follow-up Q & A
What do early childhood educators want to know about life with autism and having autism? Quite a lot! Questions from an eclectic mix of countries are answered candidly and anecdotally by Erik and Teresa. Join us for a positive, purposeful and practical approach to understanding and supporting autism.
Canadian Military Family Resource Centre: “Supporting Military Families on the Move” – April 28, 2021
What happens when you are a military family supporting a child with autism—and you are posted? Watch to learn many practical strategies to enable a smooth move.
Vancouver Island Regional Library: “What Matters on the Autism Journey?” – April 22, 2021
What are some of the difference-makers when it comes to understanding autism and celebrating a family member with autism? Join us as we explore what matters on the autism journey.
Autism on the Hill: “The Transformative Power of Belief & Believers” – April 19, 2016
When asked to speak at QuickStart’s Autism on the Hill event on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill, 2016, Erik knew exactly what his theme would be: the transformative power of belief and believers.
~ Erik Hedley
“Thank you for having me here today.
Charlotte, I enjoyed your speech.
I am Erik Hedley.
I am seventeen.
And I have autism.
Someone asked me once what it is like to have autism.
I told them that I see things that most people miss.
I think seeing things in a different way is a good thing.
When I was asked to speak today, I thought, I can do this as long as I have a chance to practise.
And then I should be okay.
So we came here to Parliament Hill every week for the past month.
I stood right here with a fake microphone, and I practised.
My mom gave me some advice.
She said, “Erik, focus on the eternal flame. Pretend it is your audience.”
And then my mom and I realized that the eternal flame really IS my audience.
You are all eternal flames for your children with autism.
Your flame always burns and it never goes out.
This is your hope and your belief for your child.
Someone also asked me what I thought parents can give their children with autism.
I answered in one word: belief.
Without belief, what have you got? Not much.
If you believe in me, I believe in me.
If you think I can do it, then I think I can do it.
What you think of me is what I think of me.
Eleven years ago when I was diagnosed with autism, my poppa said to my mom, “Erik will surprise you.”
Poppa was one of my first believers.
Those four words have been my guiding light.
“Erik will surprise you.”
Give your child a guiding light and give them your belief.
Remember, you are their eternal flame.
Speaking on Parliament Hill was an extraordinary experience for Erik. He realized that with a microphone, he had a voice. . . and that people listened when he spoke. I call these pathways into Erik Portals to Potential. Listen to the audio clip to learn more about such portals.
Pathways to Potential: Parenting Children & Youth with Autism
Together with Ontario’s Family Education Centre, Teresa has created an interactive, dynamic online program for parents of children with autism. There are ten pathways to follow – all starting with the letter “P” – and these pathways guide parents toward cultivating potential in their children with autism.
The ten pathways cover psychological roots and attitudes, practical ideas and strategies, and an opportunity to project into the future and envision what that may look like—and how it might be achieved.
There are interactive activities, written exercises, points to ponder, tip sheets, pop-up audio pointers from Erik, inspirational videos and a collection of audios—reminiscent of mini radio plays—to humanize the content.
Pathways to Potential is for purchase via the Family Education Centre.
One of the practical features of the Pathways program is the embedded Tip Sheets. The information is gleaned from the “I Have Autism and I Need Your Help” article series. Click on the buttons, below, to access a variety of topics related to autism support.
Note: When you click on the buttons, below, you will be brought to a menu of English Tip Sheets. Click on Parenting a Child with Autism, about half way down the menu. Once there, click on the tip sheet with the number indicated on the button.
One of the relatable and soothing features of the Pathways program is the abundance of Audio Clips—short vignettes which illustrate the teaching points. The stories are drawn from the What’s Not Allowed? manuscript. Click on the audio clips, below, to access a variety of stories which illuminate the autism journey.
Sample Pathways via select mini-modules from the program. The first in the series is Autism & School Readiness.
Canadian Institutes for Health Research: “The Impact of COVID-19 on Families of Autistic People”
Researchers and stake-holders—as a parent, Teresa is one of several stakeholders—participated in a rapid review of pandemic-related literature to discover:
1) the impact of the pandemic on the well-being of parents and families supporting individuals with autism
(2) findings from the rapid review,
(3) next steps for decision-makers and resources for families.
Not Cancelled: Canadian Kindness in the Face of COVID-19
This heartwarming collection of 49 reflections and narratives paint a beautiful picture of Canadian kindness and self-care during an unsettling time. From a talking schnauzer to a dancing Sikh, this book makes people proud to be Canadian. Teresa’s contribution, “Kayaking Is Not Cancelled,” is one of the 49 stories.
ASD Webinar Series: “Supporting Individuals with Autism During COVID-19”
Join Erik and Teresa as they describe pandemic coping strategies which dovetail with theoretical frameworks presented by Dr. Jonathan Weiss, York University.
Inside the Spectrum: “A Grade 11 Boy with Autism and His Mom”
Join teen-aged Erik and Teresa—back in 2014—as they speak to what it’s like to have autism and to raise a teen with autism.
Reach Toronto: “Eight Life Lessons Learned on the Autism Journey”
Reach Toronto provides life skills and social skills training to adults with autism. Teresa and Erik are invited to present at a “chocolate, cheese & wine” gala fundraiser in Toronto in 2018…and share their messages virtually via a kayak in British Columbia. Watch as mother and son use the beach as their blackboard and teach Eight Life Lessons Learned on the Autism Journey.
YorkU TEDx: “Erik Hedley Reporting from Cloud Nine”
Spectrum Innovations is the theme of this 2017 TEDx at York University, Toronto. Join virtual reporter Erik as he reports from Cloud Nine, outlining what to expect during this innovative TEDx event.
Military Family Service: “The Hedley Family on Caring for a Child with Autism”
In collaboration with the Canadian Armed Forces and Autism Speaks Canada, the Hedley family speaks to caring for a child with autism—in the context of military postings, transitions and change.
CASDA Conference Video 1 (Intro.): “I Am So Much More Than Autism”
CASDA—Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Alliance—invites Erik to speak to defining oneself outside of a diagnostic label. This two-minute video is the introduction for the Know Me For Who I Am video to follow.
CASDA Conference Video 2: “Know Me For Who I Am”
At the 2016 national autism conference in Ottawa, CASDA members are invited to reflect on the person outside of the label via Erik’s A View From the Shoes of Autism: Know Me For Who I Am.
“Stepping Into the Shoes of Autism”
In this three-minute video, Erik’s sister Heather highlights perspective-taking. Based on an Ontario case study, Heather shows that when we take the time to step into the shoes of autism, we see things entirely differently.
St. Mary-St. Cecilia Catholic School: “Autism Awareness Day Event”
Erik speaks virtually to a gymnasium of elementary school children, telling them what it’s like to have autism…and applauding them for taking the time to celebrate diversity during a school-wide autism appreciation day.
*Article coming soon!
This article pairs with the video, above, and captures the spirit of environmental empowerment, shadowing education assistant Tracey Shaver as she leads an elementary school through a day-long autism appreciation event—capped by Erik’s virtual greeting, above. Tracey is a change-agent and an inspiration.
Carleton University School of Journalism & Communication: “Autism from the Inside Out“
In 2015, Erik and I are approached to record a series of videos for Carleton University’s School of Journalism & Communication, answering students’ questions about autism. The raw clips are used by journalism students to explore neurodiversity and practice reporting techniques. Through subsequent articles and documentaries via on-campus CJTV, journalism students highlight life with autism and the perspective of those on the autism spectrum.
Below you may explore a variety of those raw clips. Click each image to view video.
Join Erik and Teresa as they speak to their mother-son collaborative process in the twenty-article series, “I Have Autism and I Need Your Help.” Learn about their aim: “positive, purposeful and practical.”
In this brief interview, Erik showcases some of the sketches he has created for the article series, “I Have Autism and I Need Your Help.” Erik describes the style, placement and function of his article artwork.
Join Erik as he reviews his elementary and high school experiences through the lens of autism and what worked and what did not—and why. Erik: “Words come and go…but visuals, they stay.”