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New children’s book discusses a mother-son experience when caring for children with autism

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(NEW YORK) — April is Autism Acceptance Month. Sheletta Brundidge wrote a children’s book about how her oldest son, Andrew Brundidge, cared for his younger siblings with autism, and how to parent children with special needs.


Sheletta Brundidge’s decision to dedicate her latest book to her oldest son, Andrew, was a testament to his desire for a voice. Andrew, like any child, yearned for attention and recognition. However, he often felt overshadowed by his siblings’ needs and his mother’s previous books about each of her children with autism. This new book is his platform, his story, and his voice.

Andrew, with his unique perspective, offers a piece of advice to parents who may sometimes unintentionally exclude one child. His advice is simple, yet profound: spend quality time with your children when you can. It’s a reminder to cherish every moment, and to never forget about your kids.

ABC News Live sat down with Sheletta and Andrew Brundidge to talk about their book on caring for Andrew’s younger siblings with autism, and parenting children with special needs.

ABC NEWS LIVE: As we have been recognizing Autism Awareness Month this month of April. I want to introduce you to Sheletta Brundidge, who has three children who have been diagnosed with autism. She is joined now by her son, Andrew, as well. And Sheletta, we met four years ago when your daughter, Cameron, who has been diagnosed with autism, wrote her first children’s book. Now, Andrew is actually your oldest and has not been diagnosed with autism. But tell us about why it was important for Andrew to write his own book as well.

 

SHELETTA: You know, I really didn’t think he needed a book. You know, I have three kids with autism, we were writing books to raise awareness and acceptance for children on the spectrum. And when I finished writing my third book about my third child with autism, I was done. And Andrew said, “Well, mom, what about me?” And I said, “Well, son, you don’t have autism.” He said, “Mom, you spend so much time focused on the kids who could not talk that you forgot about the one who could.” And that’s when I realized he needed a voice. He needed a book.

ABC NEWS LIVE: And so, Andrew, how important has this been for you to actually now have your own book?

ANDREW: This has been very important for me. Being the oldest child to three younger siblings with autism, I feel like a lot of times, I might go unseen. I might get good grades and my mom might not notice or care too much: “Okay, that’s cool.” I might get bad grades. She’s like, “Okay, that’s nice,” you know? But having this book to point out the sibling that doesn’t have autism, the quote-unquote ‘normal developing child,’ they might feel forgotten. They might feel like they’re not seen. And this book is supposed to be a message to them that you’re not forgotten, you’re not unheard. You’re still seen.

ABC NEWS LIVE: Do you feel often that you felt the focus was on your three siblings and you were forgotten?

ANDREW: Yes, ma’am.

ABC NEWS LIVE: And what advice would you give – because I know you share actually some tips specifically in the back of the book – but what advice would you give to parents who are forgetting about the child who’s healthy enough to, “Oh, you could do it on your own. You’re independent. You don’t need our help.” Right? And so what advice would you give to remind those parents that, hey, I need some attention, too, I need some love and focus as well.

ANDREW: Your kids are only going to be kids for so long. I say you spend time with them when you can. You can’t forget about your kids, you know. Your kids love you. You should love your kids just as much. Spend time with them. Don’t let them be forgotten.

ABC NEWS LIVE: Tell us about the moment where your mom asked you to shovel the snow. And I guess you’re a big dancer.

ANDREW: Yes, ma’am.

ABC NEWS LIVE: And so what happens when you’re shoveling the snow on this occasion?

ANDREW: I was shoveling the snow, as my due diligence when snow hits Minnesota. And unbeknownst to me, my mom was recording me with a camera, videotaping me dancing to music while I’m shoveling the driveway, doing my thing. And I had no idea about this until, I think it was the next day or the day after, somebody was like, “Hey, you were on ‘Good Morning America.'” I was like, “Ha. You’re funny.” You know? “No, seriously!” And they showed me, like, a video of somebody dancing and shoveling snow. And I look close. I’m like, “Hey, that’s my hoodie. That’s my driveway. Thats me! Hi!” And I was, like, really impressed to see myself on ‘Good Morning America.’

ABC NEWS LIVE: How important was that in this recognition of you always feeling like you were forgotten to now get this national attention?

ANDREW: Oh, it made me feel really seen. It made me feel heard, being able, like, called out by Michael Strahan, put on ‘Good Morning America.’ That was a lot.

ABC NEWS LIVE: And your mom did that?

ANDREW: Yes, ma’am.

ABC NEWS LIVE: Sheletta, what is your message? Would you say that that, as Andrew was saying, you kind of had forgotten about him because he was capable of doing everything on his own?

SHELETTA: I thought he didn’t need us. You know, I’ve got three kids who cannot talk, who cannot look at me, who can’t follow simple commands. They are vulnerable children. And I’m thinking, I don’t want them to be vulnerable adults. So, let me put everything I can into them. And Andrew can ride his own bike. He can warm up his ramen. He can put his Eggo waffles in the toaster oven. He doesn’t really need me like that. You know, I’m still pureeing food for these other children. They’re five, six and seven years old. They’re still in diapers. And Andrew can wipe himself. You know, he can wash his own hands. He doesn’t need me. And he did. He did in another way. And so, it just helped us to reconnect with our son and to spend more time with him and to see him as an individual, and not as the big brother, and not just call on him to help out, not just call on him to take care of his siblings. But, “Hey, did you want to go get something at your favorite restaurant? Did you want to go have ice cream?” You know, “Did you want to go catch a movie,” you know, separate and apart from his siblings. And that’s something that we forgot to do. And as parents, you know, when you got kids with special needs, you’re struggling. You know, you don’t really know which way is up a lot of times. And you’re doing the best you can. And so, you know, I’m just grateful that he gave us some grace, and we’ve got to give ourselves some grace. So, you know, to all the parents out there, this is really a love letter to their children, and just, give yourself some grace.

ABC NEWS LIVE: What would be your top two tips for parents who do have special needs kids, and do have children who are able to be independent and do for themselves?

SHELETTA: Check in on your child. Find a village so that you guys can spend some one-on-one time together. I think about all the years Andrew and I missed, you know, while I was in the trenches, you know, with that early intervention. And also, give yourself some grace. You know, as parents to, quote-unquote ‘normal developing kids,’ we make missteps all the time. So imagine what kind of missteps you’re making when you’ve got special needs kids. So give yourself some grace and reconnect with your kids.

ABC NEWS LIVE: And we see clearly Andrew has given you that grace. And nice that you all were able to have this trip to New York. Just the two of you.

SHELETTA: All by ourselves. Yeah, we’re having a great time.

ABC NEWS LIVE: I can’t thank you enough for coming on the show. We so appreciate it.

SHELETTA: Thank you for having us.

ABC NEWS LIVE: All right. And we want to let our viewers know “Andrew Does His Dance” is now available on Amazon. Thank you.

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