Hear how podcaster and mom, Jaime Wilkins, learned to use Christ’s example to be an advocate for her daughter after she was diagnosed with autism.
How to Listen
In episode 82, Jaime Wilkins shares how she discovered at a young age that her life’s mission would be to help people.
She talks about the details of how her daughter was diagnosed with Autism. Jaime shares an experience she had with the school district where she said no to what experts were telling her was best for her daughter. She followed the Spirit and through personal revelation knew what was best for her child.
Jaime discusses how she hired an advocate to help her in the process of getting the best outcome for her daughter. She shares how she learned the importance of being the expert, advocate and voice for her child.
You will also hear Jaime’s tips on what you can do when you feel the need to advocate for your child. Jaime said that she relied on prayer, following the Spirit, finding resources and information, documenting and asking others for help.
Jaime and I also discuss the things this experience taught her about how Christ is our advocate with the Father. She shares a scripture found in D&C 45:3-5 and how these words helped her understand more fully the Savior’s role as an advocate.
We also discuss what Jaime has learned about labeling her children. She shares how her daughter receiving the label of “autism” has helped her get resources but she also knows her child is much more than that label. She makes the connection that if you want to be an advocate for your child you have to look beyond the label. You can look to our Heavenly Father who never labels His children.
In the end, Jaime shares how her heavenly parents have been the ultimate example of showing an increase of love to her children.
- “We’re entitled to revelation for her and what’s best for her.”
- And, I think even as women there is the kind of like people pleasing and I wanted to be easy and accommodating and yeah, go with the flow. But this was not right.
- “So yeah, just giving her a voice is so important because kids don’t get a voice at the table in the classroom at the planning meetings…. And so giving that kid a voice, is so important.”
- “And so what this means in this instance is that he is our Savior. The advocate means the same thing as our Savior. He is saying to Heavenly Father, look, I have suffered the atonement for these people. For Darla, for Jamie, for the Spiritually Minded Mom listener and please allow them back into our presence because I have suffered the atonement.”
- “She is who she is regardless of any label put upon her.”
Listen to Related Episodes
SMM 025: Mothering a Child with Mental Illness || Amanda Louder
SMM 059: How to Be the Expert +Advocate for Your Child||Cheryl Cardall
SMM 077: How To Be In Tune With The Spirit To Help Children with Mental Health Challenges||Audra Elkington
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Intro: You’re listening to the Spiritually Minded Mom Podcast. This is episode 82: How to use Christ’s Example to be an Advocate for Your Child with Jaime Wilkins.
Darla: Hi, this is Darla Trendler and welcome to Spiritually Minded Mom. My goal is to help you gain confidence in your ability to hear and follow God’s voice in motherhood and in life. Listen to hear interviews with all kinds of moms who are learning to navigate motherhood by partnering with our heavenly parents.
Darla: Welcome to the Spiritually Minded Mom podcast. This is Darla. Thank you so much for being here today. I have a great guest for you. Her name is Jamie Wilkins, and as a teenager Jamie realized that her life’s mission was to help other people. And since then she’s held all types of jobs helping others from childcare to janitor to social worker. And now Jamie is a mom to three little girls, which being a mom we know is being the ultimate helper of people. And she’s also a life coach. She’s a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And she also has a weekly podcast. And on that podcast, Jamie offers insights and direction into helping improve your life through authenticity and gratitude. She loves reading dance parties and opportunities to wear her pink wig. I really am intrigued by that pink wig. Jamie, welcome to the podcast. I’m so happy that you’re here.
Jaime: Thank you. Thanks for having me. I’m really excited for the opportunity.
Darla: Yeah, this is going to be great. So I want to go back to your bio. You said that you realized as a teenager that your life’s mission was to help other people. I would love to hear how you figured that out as a teenager because most people don’t know their life’s mission that soon in life.
Jaime: Well, I was praying and having some spiritual experiences, just feeling the spirit. And I remember I, I wrote this down, so that’s how I can remember this, is that I wrote it down and I, I remember that I had a black piece of paper and a white crayon and I wrote down, “I need to help people,” or something similar. And so I’ve just remembered that always that that is what I’m here for.
Darla: I think that’s incredible that you were able to write that down and realize that so early on. Because when you can realize that, then it kind of can guide you to know the choices that you’re going to make and the things that you’re gonna do in life. And I’ve listened to your podcast and I know that you definitely have a heart to help other people and I’m really grateful to get to talk to you today. So thanks so much. All right. So what I wanted to talk to you about today is we mentioned in the bio that you have three little girls and one of those girls is a six year old and you had some signs in her life that people were telling you needed to have her tested for autism and you were kind of fighting against that. So, tell me about that time in your life, leading up to your daughter being diagnosed with autism. You know, what was going on.
Jaime: Okay. So, at two she was diagnosed with a speech delay. And a lot of times those things, autism and a speech delay, go hand in hand. And so, at three we had her tested to go into a program with the school district for preschool. And I thought they have like one that’s just for speech. And I thought, Oh, she’s going to just go to that one. And they said, “Oh, you know, we need to have her come back in for some more testing because we’re seeing some signs of autism.” And I’m like, no, okay, but I don’t think she has autism, but okay. And she went back in for the testing and then they said that she did qualify or met the criteria for autism and they had until age six to make a final determination about that and so I’m kinda like, “Oh, well, I mean that’s kind of weird.” Because we’d already seen a neurologist who said no, she did not have autism. So I was like, “That’s fine.” But we also kind of were, well I guess it really wasn’t fine. So we were like, “Oh, well,” if she said no. So we were surprised that she was diagnosed with autism. I kind of thought in the back of my head, well by age six she’ll have grown out of all these behaviors that say that she has autism. We also wanted to see about getting her tested through a developmental pediatrician, which we were told by everyone, this is the gold standard. This is where you need to go to get the diagnosis. And so we went there and continued to go there for two and a half years and at the end or the whole time they said, “She does not have autism.” They kept doing testing and they’re like, “She does not have autism.” And then they released us. They were like, “If you have anything else you can come back in.
Darla: So, you went to this developmental pediatrician and they’re saying, “No, she doesn’t have autism,” but the school is testing her and they’re saying, “Yes, she does have autism.” So, you’ve got these conflicting sources.
Jaime: Yes. So we were told that there’s a different diagnosis that the school uses. It’s an educational diagnosis. And so not the same necessarily. And so sometimes it can go in the opposite way where the developmental pediatrician says yes and the school says no. And so that can be detrimental for kids in school that have IEP. So it was going the other way for us. If she did have autism then we wanted to get her into services, but we couldn’t get a diagnosis for her and our insurance wouldn’t pay for it unless she had that diagnosis. So, we just continued with private speech therapy and then she did the preschool for three years because she has a late birthday. And then at the end of the last year of preschool, they had done the final testing and they said yes, “She does have autism.” And, we had just been released from the developmental pediatrician. So I’m like, okay. And they said, okay. And so for the next year the recommendation is that she will go to this other school that’s about 20 minutes away from us and that she will be in this self-contained classroom. And then like for starting about one hour a day moving up, depending on how well she does, she’ll go into mainstream. And I was like gutted. I was so surprised that she wouldn’t be staying at our home campus where she had gone to preschool for three years. And I just didn’t even think this was an option because I’m like, she’s doing so well. She’s meeting her IEP goals. She’s very well adjusted. And her speech has grown leaps and bounds since we started. And so I’m like, I was really, really surprised. And so I went home and I told my husband about it, because I, you know, I just thought this was like a dinky little meeting. It was a meeting before the IEP meeting. My husband’s like, “What, what are you talking about?” And so we both felt the same way that this was just, how could this be right? How could, you know she’s doing so well and how could this be okay? And so, we had the IEP meeting a couple of days later and we refused to sign the IEP, which felt like this huge act of defiance and like, I was so nervous and just tons of anxiety about it because I’m a rule follower. You know, if this school made this recommendation, then it’s probably right, you know we should do that. We should follow what they say. And my mom is a teacher and so I look to authority and you know, I’m like, I should probably just trust the school, but this doesn’t feel right.
Darla: So, what was going on for you? Like, you know, you and your husband are talking about it. You don’t feel good about it. You’re usually someone who, who trusts these sources of, you know, the educational people that are experts and know. But you’re just saying, “No, this isn’t right.” So, what was going on? What was, what do you think it was that was giving you those red flags and saying, “We’re not going to sign this.”
Jaime: It was my husband a lot because I think he’s, he’s a lot more willing to say no, I don’t like negotiating things. I’m like, okay, I’ll just pay that price. That’s fine. And, but it was also just like, and just talking with him, I’m like, no, we need to keep her, you know, where not necessarily we need to keep her there, but we need to see what’s actually best for Scarlet because it’s kind of late. So after the IEP meeting, then we started talking with people from the district. We went and visited that new school. We really tried to give it a chance. And we just didn’t feel good about it. And in fact, like we, my daughter came with us to the school and she was like, “That’s not my school. I don’t like this school. I want to go to my blue school. I don’t like this school.” And so we were like she’s five at the time. So yeah. But we, we just, I didn’t feel like this was where she needed to be then and in talking with the district it felt like it was more of a district decision as to what would be best for the district and not necessarily what will be best for Scarlet and we’re Scarlet’s parents. We’re entitled to revelation for her and what’s best for her. And so we prayed about it and I talked to people, I talked to my mom about it. I eventually decided to hire an advocate, which is someone who works, at least in Texas, works through a lawyer’s office and knows the laws really well. Not a lawyer but just works and goes to IEP meetings and advocates for the children and parents’ wishes, you know, in those meetings to get what is best for the child. And because they know the laws, she knew like the children need to be in the least restrictive environment and they also need to be closest to home as they can get. And so we were gonna, we were prepared for a fight.
Darla: So, this is when you don’t sign the IEP and then you get the advocate. Yes. So we have two weeks after that to meet again. Okay. So in that two week period you’ve hired this advocate to come in.
Jaime: So, in that two-week period we, we do hire, well first we like we talked with the district several times. We go visit that other school and then we hire the advocate and so, the IEP comes, and I’m just really nervous, which is like funny to me because everyone else there seemed pretty calm. And I liked everyone in there. I think it’s because I liked everyone in there that it was really hard for me because I loved her teacher, I loved her speech therapist. The administration had been wonderful and every other IEP meeting had been like, okay, great, great. Sign everything. And so now I’m coming in. And, I think even as women there is the kind of like people pleasing and I wanted to be easy and accommodating and yeah, go with the flow. But this was not right. This was not what was right for her because a lot of her goals were social goals and so to start her over, she’s going to know absolutely no one at that new school. At her home campus, you know, she knows the librarian, the librarian knows her by name. The lunch people, you know, the front office, all these people already know her and she’s going to have classmates from her preschool class. So if all her goals are social, why would we put her in a whole new social situation and just a big reset when she’s already made so much progress? It just doesn’t make a lot of sense. So we went into the meeting and her advocate didn’t even really say that much because they were like, “Okay, so this is what we can offer you at the home campus, like at this school. ” And we were like, “Great. Okay.” Yeah, because you know, before that wasn’t on the table and before we said no, it was not an option. And so it’s okay to say, no. It’s okay to not take the first offer or not take what is originally given to you. And like, oh my gosh, that seems like totally crazy to me. To my husband, he’s like, yeah, you definitely shouldn’t take the first offer, but you know, it’s, it’s you know, I think it’s a woman thing, you know to want to please and say yes and I can do that and I can make that work. So, it was a big deal for me to hire this advocate and to just say no in general.
Darla: Yeah, I really love this. So many things about this story. First of all, I know one of the things you told me before the interview is that you believe that as a mom you’re the expert for your child. And that is so true. You are entitled to the personal revelation to know what is best for your child. And so when you’re getting those, those promptings, you know about anything and any mom is entitled to it. You know, you can call it your instinct or mother’s intuition or whatever. When you’re getting those promptings, listen to them because there is something to that. Heavenly Father is prompting you to say, “Wait a minute. This is, this is what is best for your child,” and why wouldn’t you listen to someone who knows your child better than you do? And just because they’re experts doesn’t mean that you’re, those things that you’re feeling are not valid. So, I really love how your story illustrates how important it is for a mom to listen to that and to really be in tune and to know what your child needs. And I really love the part about advocating because I mean you hired a professional advocate for your child, but you were an advocate for your child and I think that we need to do that for them. What, what have you learned about advocating for your kids through that experience?
Jaime: Well, that they need someone who is a voice for them. When I was a social worker, we would advocate for our clients and then sometimes we, when we would have to go to court, I did, I’ve done many types of social work, but one of them was CPS and when we would have to go to court, which is a very small percentage of cases, there would be a guardian ad litem and that is a lawyer that represents and is an advocate just for the kids. You know the state is there , and that that would be me, and we had our own lawyer, to argue this is what, this is what we found in our findings and the defense is there to say defend themselves. But then there’s another, the guardian ad litem (this was in Utah) who says, “We need to look out for the best interest of the child and what is actually the best interest of this child, and they would talk to the kids and find that out. And so, it just reminded me of that. It’s like giving the kid a voice. Think about a courtroom and how intimidating that would be. And a child can’t represent themselves in there. and it’s the same thing like, and at an IEP table, my kid is just going to say, “I don’t want to go to the red school. I want to go to the blue school.” But being able to say why as a parent and advocate for them and say, “This is why because she has these social ties here and because this is a lot closer and better for our family and this is our community and we want her to be here. So yeah, just giving her a voice is so important because kids don’t get a voice at the table in the classroom at the planning meetings and as a social worker. And so giving that kid a voice, is so important.
Darla: I totally agree. And in lots of situations as mothers we can be an advocate for our child, not just in a school situation. I think there’s lots of instances. So, so if a mother is out there listening and thinking, “Oh maybe I do need to be an advocate for my child,” where would you tell her to start to know what to do?
Jaime: Well, I would say pray first, you know, and then also something that social workers do is look for resources and find more information. So try to document as much information as you can and you know, like say these are some things that I’ve been seeing and dates and stuff like that, but also then looking into resources. So a great resource for me has been a Facebook group locally, for parents of children with special needs. And that is where I found my advocate you know. I just asked, “Does anybody know any advocates?” And she was recommended and I used her. And so it’s just been invaluable to me because there’s so many people who know a lot, a lot of the laws who have fought things. I’m like, “Wow, you got a lot because you were willing to say no and not accept things,” and looking for more resources and then um, documenting your own experience and knowing what has gone on to prove your point.
Darla: Yeah. So many good things. So many good tips there. Like I think definitely prayer, like being guided by the spirit is going to totally help you advocate for your child, finding resources, finding other people who can help you. You may not be the one that has to do all the advocating like in your case where you can find an expert to help you. But all those things are just so great. It’s so important that our kids know that we’re there for them and that we, you know, aren’t going to just let other people decide that we’re going to have a voice and be a voice for them. I really love that part of your story. Now I want to transition a little bit here because we had a conversation before about how Jesus Christ is our advocate and some things that this experience prompted you to go into the scriptures and to learn about the Savior as an advocate. So, I would love to hear more about what you learned about that.
Jaime: So, at first, I was kind of like, I had heard and read that Jesus Christ is our advocate with the Father. And at first I was a little bit confused about it to be honest, because I’m like, “Why do I need an advocate with my Heavenly Father who loves me and knows me and I shouldn’t have to need someone to advocate for me in that relationship of all relationships.” But I was reading about this in D&C 45:3-5 and it says, “Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him—Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified; Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life.” And so what this means in this instance is that he is our Savior. The advocate means the same thing as our Savior. He is saying to Heavenly Father, look, I have suffered the atonement for these people. For Darla, for Jamie, for the Spiritually Minded Mom listener and please allow them back into our presence because I have suffered the atonement. It’s almost just like reminding Heavenly Father that this happened for this purpose so that his sons and daughters could return back to Him.
Darla: Yeah. I love that. I was reading yesterday in the scriptures and four words popped out to me in the verse and I would have go back and look it up. I can’t remember where I was at, but it said there’s wisdom and power and there’s mercy, justice and mercy, right? Heavenly Father has these. Everything has to have an order to it and that’s why we need an advocate. I love this. You just kind of opened my mind. I haven’t thought about it that way before because we always talk about we have a loving Heavenly Father who understands us and who is a personal God and who knows us, but we can’t be in his presence without the Savior. We have to have the Savior’s atonement. And we need him to go to the Father and say, “Hey, Darla messed up a lot, but I paid for all that,” and He can advocate for us. I really love, I really love what you’ve, what you’ve learned about that and you know, opened my eyes to something new that I hadn’t thought about before. So what what have been the other lessons that you’ve learned through helping your daughter and being an advocate for her?
Jaime: Well, I was really afraid when we first started everything about the autism diagnosis. I was scared that people were going to just see that diagnosis and not see who she was. But even if she got that label, which she did and also didn’t. It’s very confusing.
Darla: Right, right.
Jaime: And so, she’s still her. She is still this fun, happy, silly little girl who loves the color pink and unicorns and decorating her bedroom, arranging everything just so, and painting and playing outside and her friends, you know, she is still this person, exactly who she was before that diagnosis, before that meeting where they said she does have autism. She’s still her. And that may be something else that I could know about her or consider in future situations that may help me or it may not. But she is who she is regardless of any label put upon her.
Darla: Yeah. Yeah. I really love that. I had a similar experience when my son who has been in therapy for anxiety for quite a few years and one of the last appointments we went to, I said something like “his anxiety” or that like it belonged to him and she was like, the therapist just totally stopped me, shut me down and said, “That’s not who he is. That’s just something that he deals with. It’s not who he is.” I think that’s what you’re saying, you know, the label isn’t going to define her. And that’s an important thing to remember, especially when you’re dealing with special needs, is that yes, we have this label and sometimes I know you’ve said before, that’s a good thing, like it’s getting help for her and she’s getting the resources that she needs, but it also doesn’t, mean that she doesn’t have qualities or gifts that Heavenly Father’s given her that can come out and it doesn’t, it’s just not this narrow thing.
Darla: Right. And it’s an eternal perspective as well. This is the way our Heavenly Father looks at us. He doesn’t say, “Oh yeah, so-and-so who has autism or so-and-so who has anxiety” or whatever. He says, “No, this is my loving daughter, you know, in whom I am well pleased and this is my son whom I love and have greatly blessed with many things.” You know? And so he doesn’t look at us like that. And so we shouldn’t look at our kids with this label or, or, you know, let other people look at them and limit them with that label.
Darla: Yeah. And I think that all ties very well together with if we, if we want to be an advocate for our children in whatever setting, then we can’t, we can’t let those labels hold us back. Right. Because other people are going to label them so we have to be the ones to not do that and to just go forward.
Darla: Yeah. I really loved that. Well Jaime, this has been so great talking to you and hearing your insights and your experiences. I just, I think it is so important to share our stories when we can, not everything we can share, but I think it’s really important because it gives someone else hope and it helps us know we don’t all have the same challenges, but we all go through hard things and we all have those defining moments like you did. Like, no, I’m not going to sign this IEP. Like I’m going to follow the prompting that I’m feeling. So I’m really grateful that you would come and share that. And I do have one final question for you. How have you seen him felt your heavenly parents being your partners in motherhood?
Jaime: So, when I think about this, I had just been reminded of this time when my oldest was pretty young. I think I just put the baby down for a nap and she was just getting into things and it was just kind of like my go-to. I’m like I should put her in timeout. And I would put her in the guest room, like on the bed for timeout. But instead I just felt like, you know what? I think she needs just some attention and I felt that it was the increase of love that we are told to reproving off times with love or something like that and showing an increase of love. And so I felt like in this instance, the timeout was not going to be effective. It was not going to help solve her problems. But you know, she was probably acting out because she wanted attention and how about I just give her some, and so we just snuggled on the bed and I felt so connected to her and it was a really important and special time and I still remember that, you know, just maybe 20 minutes of when I connected with her rather than just putting her in time out in isolating her and that felt like it came from the Spirit. That that is what I needed to do at that time rather than my norm, to connect and to show the increase of love.
Darla: Yeah. There, there are messages and signs all over of how we can mother our children that come from the Spirit that come from our heavenly parents. And I think that’s a great example of that. I, I really love that story. We can see that everywhere in our lives. Jamie, thank you so much for taking time to come and talk to me today. I know it’s going to help somebody else and I’m really grateful.
Jaime: Oh, thank you. Thank you so much for the opportunity. I’m a big fan.
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