Other People's Words

AWN interview w/ author Kristi Sakai

Posted in Uncategorized by Tera on November 14, 2010

This is a transcript of Autism Women’s Network’s interview with Kristi Sakai, whose husband and three children have Asperger Syndrome. Among other things, they discuss Kristi’s upcoming book about talking to young people with autism about sexuality.


Sharon daVanport: Good day, and welcome to AWN radio. We are the Autism Women’s Network on Blogtalk. I am your host, Sharon daVanport, and today is Monday, November 8, 2010. As we announced last week, AWN Radio will now be broadcasting live on a new day and time. In the US, it will be Monday mornings, approximately 10:00 AM Central Standard Time, 11:00 AM Eastern, with an occasional time adjustment if our guest needs us to accommodate them. The call-in number for our show, as always, is [gives call-in number out]. You can use that number for the switchboard to either listen into the show, as many of our listeners do, and you can also choose an option to speak with the host and to either comment or have a question for the guest.

To begin with this morning, we have a few quick announcements. First, we appreciate all the stories and entries for our monthly prize giveaway on AWN radio, sponsored by LifePROTEKT. Remember, if you want to submit your story as to why your loved one would benefit from the GPS location device and one year of service, you need to submit your story via e-mail to us at info AT autismwomensnetwork DOT org. If you submit that to us in writing, we will enter your name into the contest.

One important note, though, to remember when you are entering the contest: please be aware that you need to have sufficient cell phone coverage in order for the GPS location device to work. So please understand this requirement when you’re submitting your entry into the contest.

Lastly, our show’s co-host, Tricia Kenney, had planned on being back with us today. However, her move back to Wisconsin took a few extra days longer than what she had expected, so she sends her hellos and she looks forward to joining back up with us next week when she will be hosting with us when we welcome our guest all the way from Cambridge in the UK, and that is Professor Simon Barron-Cohen. He will be spending the hour with us, so we hope you will be able to join us next week for what we expect to be a terrific show.

And speaking of terrific shows, today we are very excited to welcome to AWN radio our guest, Kristi Sakai. Kristi is an author, mother and public speaker, to name just a few things. And she’ll tell us about all the other things that she does. We’re very pleased that you could join us today, Kristi. Welcome to the show.

Kristi Sakai: Good morning. I’m very pleased to be here. Thank you for having me.

Sharon daVanport: Thank you. There’s just so much to talk about, and we were chatting just a few minutes before the show. I thought a good place for us to start, because I think your family dynamic is so interesting. So for our listeners who do not know, why don’t you introduce your family and tell us a little bit about each one of them?

Kristi Sakai: Okay. Well, I’ve been married 20 years to Nabul, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome after two—or maybe it was after the third [chuckles—child was diagnosed. I have an 18-year-old son, a 15-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter, all with Asperger’s Syndrome, and they are very different. They have very different characteristics and strengths and challenges, and so it’s very challenging to meet all of their needs.

Sharon daVanport: Wow.

Kristi Sakai: It’s pretty interesting at times.

Sharon daVanport: [Chuckles] Now, how old was your first child who was diagnosed as being on the spectrum? How old were they when they received a diagnosis?

Kristi Sakai: Well, Tom was not diagnosed until he was eight years old. And as shocking as that is now, many of you have had that similar experience that people just didn’t know what it was only a decade ago.

Sharon daVanport: Right. Umhm.

Kristi Sakai: So it took many years to get a diagnosis, and by then we had two more kiddos. And then the second child, who was different, he was diagnosed at six and my daughter was diagnosed at three, but only with great perseverance.

Sharon daVanport: And what do you mean by that? What’s great perseverance with your daughter? Was there more mild [unknown]?

Kristi Sakai: Well, there were two things in our disfavor at the time. One was that there was this assumption that girls just don’t have Asperger’s. They don’t have autism at the prevalence as males, and just because their brothers had it did not mean that she had it, necessarily. But I was watching since she was an infant, saying: “She’s doing things, behaving in a way that her brothers did, some similar things.” And they said: “Oh, she’s just copying her brothers.” I’m like: “They don’t do those things anymore—sensory issues, being overwhelmed, having difficulty with transitions.”

So there was that, and the fact that she was so young. It was unusual at the time for…we briefly had her observed with other kids with autism. She was the star. She was very bright and—not that they weren’t—but she had a high IQ; she was able to memorize things; she sounded like a little encyclopedia. They didn’t see that as autism, and at two and then a three year old.

Sharon daVanport: I see.

Kristi Sakai: Challenging.

Sharon daVanport: Right. Were the differences that you say that you noticed in your boys as compared to your daughter, were those differences so subtle that for you to pick them up it’s one thing living with somebody, and then for others to see it? I thought it was interesting that you said when we were visiting earlier that when you guys had ABC Nightline come out and film you and your family and your daughter, specifically your daughter for an episode on girls on the spectrum, and you were mentioning that it was hard for them to pick up on the subtleties. How were you able to get around that for the professionals?

Kristi Sakai: Well, mostly with time. Again, when you live with someone and you’re aware of what the characteristics of autism spectrum disorder are and was well-versed, I could see those things in her. The challenge was that she is empathetic. The boys actually do have empathy; it’s just that it’s not as readily apparent. And she’s so eager to please. She would try so hard, but what we have seen over the years is that while she will really, really make much more of a visible effort to please particularly adults, it doesn’t bear out over time. She burns out very quickly, so time is the indicator sometimes with her and with other girls I’ve known. That they can hold it together and really work hard to please, and they can display empathy and she’s very emotional and so dramatic, and she’s shown a lot of emotion. It’s not until she just can’t hold it together anymore [that] they see the autism.

Sharon daVanport: Now, that’s very interesting, coming from a parent, Kristi, because you explaining that, it’s so true. I’ve said this about myself in an interview not long ago for a documentary. They were asking about certain things. I’m like: “I can make a really great first impression. People who don’t really know me deeply or they hear me on the radio show, they have no idea how many hours and hours and hours I put in to practicing just the introduction for one show.” And how exhausted—I could go take a three hour nap after a one hour radio show. [Chuckles] People just don’t realize. And I used to think that everybody was like that. When I found out that other people could just breeze through conversation or breeze through certain things, I thought: “You mean there are people on this planet that don’t have to do all this legwork and have to do all this stuff?”

It’s a different way of communicating, and I find that interesting that you say that, because I like that you expressed it as time being the indicator. That is so true. Over time when you get to know someone and you can see the subtle sensory challenges that can build up to what some might call meltdowns or some really sensory overload issues, it takes time to see some of those, even in boys. But I do see that with females, it’s a real common theme over on our forum that what you described is so typical. It really is.

I’d like to get to your book. For those who don’t know, Kristi was the recipient of an award through the Autism Society of America in 2006 for their Literary Work of the Year in the Family/Social category, and that award was for Kristi’s book, Finding Our Way: Creating a Supportive Home and Community for the Asperger Syndrome Family. I did read this book last year, Kristi. It’s a great book. So congratulations on that award that you received; I can definitely see why you did. I’d like for you to tell our listeners a little bit about the book, and why they should have it in their home.

Kristi Sakai: [Chuckles] Well, it came out five years ago, actually, and I’ve had a really good response from it. I didn’t write it from a autobiographical [perspective], even though a lot of the information came from our experiences as a family. And there are little vignettes that are hopefully humorous, for the most part. [Chuckles]

Sharon daVanport: They are. [Chuckles]

Kristi Sakai: But when I started this journey, I found very little available to me as a parent, so a decade ago, what I read were clinical and school support. I searched desperately to find something that would explain how I should set up my home to have it be most comfortable. A lot of it wa intuitive; a lot of it was reading the research about what worked in class and figuring out how that worked for my child in their home. Reading Difficult Moments about meltdowns. How does that work in our world as a family?

So I took research-based interventions and basically translated them for real life—for the rest of us, who are moms and dads and family members. So that was my premise for writing the book. I just wanted it to be in a language that I could understand and other people could, so I could take my child to the grocery store.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Kristi Sakai: I could have a family event and know how to manage that. And with three, the benefit is, I have a lot of hours to figure it out. [Chuckles]

Sharon daVanport: A lot of experience. Right. And we here a lot of parents talk about the strengths and challenges and the whole gamut, when it comes to the spectrum. Being that you have such a diverse family: you have a husband who’s on the spectrum. And you’re neurotypical, is that correct? You’re not identified as being on the spectrum? You’re neurotypical?

Kristi Sakai: No, I’m not [on the spectrum]. I don’t know if my friends would say I’m neurotypical. [Laughter] I don’t know. I attract Aspies; I can go to a party and no one knows anything about me, they’ll gravitate towards me. [Laughter] So I think that…I don’t know. I’m some sort of Asperger counterpart.

Sharon daVanport: [Laughter] It’s like what Tony Attwood told me a couple weeks ago. He told me that Stephen Mark Shore made him an honorary member of the club. [Laughter] He’s an honorary Aspie. Because he just reslly gets them. Maybe that’s what you are. [Chuckles]

Kristi Sakai: Yeah. Well, my children, they don’t understand; they all have Asperger’s. They’re like: “We all have Asperger’s.” I’m like: “Well, not all of us.” [Chuckles]

Sharon daVanport: Right. You’re definitely outnumbered, then.

Kristi Sakai: I am.

Sharon daVanport: Something I find interesting: You said your oldest child is 18. I have a son who’s 17 who’s on the spectrum, and as I’ve seen him mture through the years, something I find interesting as a parent is that the things that they took so literally, they trade them in for a whole new set of literal language skills that they have to learn as they get older. [Laughter] High school’s been interesting for us.

Kristi Sakai: Yeah.

Sharon daVanport: It seemed like once they got through elementary and then the middle school years, which, oh, my goodness. I never want to go back to again with the children. It’s just been a nightmare. But now in high school, it’s like there’s a whole new set of things that you have work through with taking language literally and things like that. Do you find that with your children that has been something that you’ve had to make daily communication about? I do with my son—daily, it has to be.

Kristi Sakai: Oh, yes. That’s just one of the many components. We can talk about my new book in a minute. [Laughter]

Sharon daVanport: I definitely want to. Yeah.

Kristi Sakai: But one of the things that’s been interesting is that Tom, my 18 year old, has been so therapized—so much speech therapy, he knows all the lingo and he can recite all the rules.

Sharon daVanport: Uh-huh.

Kristi Sakai: And he knows what he’s supposed to do, and he knows what reciprocity is. So if he’s one-on-one with a speech therapist, he is just a star. But in real life, it’s very difficult for him to interpret. One of the things that’s interesting is that he’ll be like: “You’re using sarcasm.” [Laughter]

Sharon daVanport: Right. He knows. Very good.

Kristi Sakai: And he knows what it is, but he’ll respond in a very robotic tone.

Sharon daVanport: My son’s a lot like that; yeah.

Kristi Sakai: He’ll be like: “You’re using sarcasm; I can tell.” I’m like: “Good job, Tom.” [Laughter]

Sharon daVanport: That’s right. That’s right. One thing I try to do when I’m advocating for either my child or myself, I try to explain to people that just because we know what the rules are; just because we know what something is, doesn’t mean we may know how to do it or find those steps. You’ve got the executive functioning challenges that come up, too.

So I try to remind people that just because someone can recite the rules or they know the rules, or they know the directions, doesn’t mean that we can actually start, get to the middle and finish exactly. Just because you know it in your head doesn’t mean you can follow through sometimes. There is a method to the madness that we have to process. So I try to remind people of that. Do you find that with your children, that’s been a huge thing to have to advocate for, as well?

Kristi Sakai: Absolutely. From the very beginning, they’d be like: “But Tom is so smart!” I’m like: “Yes, he is. He is.” People thought he was a genius when he was a little one, and then it hasn’t completely bourne out because of all of his challenges.

Sharon daVanport: Uh-huh.

Kristi Sakai: Getting in the way of him being as successful in the way that the world wants, expects. Because he’s bright, but just to get through the day, for any of my kids, they have to just hold it together. Just really have to deal with all their sensory issues, the being overwhelmed with the social dynamics of school. We try not to have too strong of expectations. When they get out of school at the end of the day, where they may do well and then melt down the second they hit the door, because they’re exhausted.

Sharon daVanport: Yeah. Right. And before we get to your new book, I wanted to just say one last thing about your Finding Our Way book. The one thing I appreciate about that is that it is oftentimes so hard to feel like we can advocate for our family. Our whole family, we’re a family unit, and just to hear some of the different stories and the humor that you use in that, I truly do recommend that other people go out and get this book. Just because you wrote it five years ago, believe me, it’s still very applicable in every way. I appreciated the humor in it.

Kristi Sakai: Thanks.

Sharon daVanport: You’re a very funny person. [Chuckles]

Kristi Sakai: Thank you. I still use those strategies. I still use all of those strategies. I primed my kids this morning, exactly: “You can’t call from school between 8:00 and 9:00.” [Unknown] I’m like: “Ugh.”

Sharon daVanport: Uh-huh. Right.

Kristi Sakai: [Unknown] timing. Predicting or knowing that they might call.

Sharon daVanport: That’s right. I’ve been still doing that all the time. Now that we’ve switched the time for our radio show, I’m not quite sure I won’t get a million beeps during this hour. But oh, well. We’ll see. [Chuckles]

Kristi Sakai: Yeah. Daylight Savings Time is just cruel for people with Asperger’s.

Sharon daVanport: [Sighs]

Kristi Sakai: Honestly, it’s just [unknown] challenging for the kids for years.

Sharon daVanport: Right; right. I understand that. Now we get to talk about your new book. I am so excited about this. When you first joined the AWN website, our forum, and you came over and you posted and you were doing some research and getting some people involved in the conversation over at the Autism Women’s Network, I was just so excited. So many people, the buzz around the forum was: “Oh, my gosh! Can’t wait till this book comes out!” So why don’t y’all tell everybody what you and…you have a co-author, as well, right? You guys are working on a book together? Is this true, or—?

Kristi Sakai: Yeah. He’s a counselor—Joe Steiner—and he works with children and families and individuals, and a lot of individuals with Asperger’s. They just keep coming to him. [Chuckles]

Sharon daVanport: Okay.

Kristi Sakai: He’s been working long hours taking care of family. So we’re writing a book; it’s nearly finished. It’s kind of in that point where it’s all in my court now. The working title right now is: I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Asperger’s, Adolescence and Sexuality and it’s for parents, talking about what the challenges for an individual with Asperger’s around sexuality are, so the characteristics that make that challenging. And what we need to teach them and why we need to teach these things through direct instruction and very clear explanations, and using research-based teaching methods, as opposed to just having “the talk.”

Sharon daVanport: Oh, okay.

Kristi Sakai: And kids are often resistant, as well. So [unknown].

Sharon daVanport: Right. Wow. Is it going to be basically…You said it’s for parents, so is the book basically going to cover that adolescent stage when going through puberty and identifying their sexuality? Is that basically what it’s going to be about, and how parents can be a part of that in reaching out to their child, in a way that they can actually open up a conversation, even if the child’s resistant? Is that what you mean?

Kristi Sakai: Absolutely. Because what we find is that we as parents sometimes don’t think of our kids as…first of all, we don’t want to think of them as sexual beings. They’re our babies; we don’t like to think about that. A lot of our kids on the spectrum, there are a lot of them that don’t seem to have interest, and our take on it is: Everyone has a right to have relationships and sexual feelings and develop sexual relationships over the course of their lifetime. That’s very important. And how does that work for a person? And everyone on the spectrum is different, so how does that work for your individual child? How can we help them learn? How can we help them build those healthy relationships?

Sharon daVanport: Okay.

Kristi Sakai: And we see so many kids and young adults who’ve gotten into trouble; they’ve crossed the line somewhere; they’ve stalked; they’ve offended; they’ve done something sexually inappropriate, because they just did not know the rules.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Kristi Sakai: They didn’t know; no one explained it.

Sharon daVanport: And I’ve found that even if they know right from wrong, if you were to ask a friend of mine who maybe has a child on the spectrum or even my own child. I’m not saying that my child has done this, but as a hypothetical situation, you can ask a teenager: “Is stalking wrong?” “Oh, yes, stalking’s wrong.” But then you can turn right back around and see that they might be displaying some stalkish behaviors. And not even intending or knowing that what they’re doing, that their insistence, that maybe their focus—some people call it “obsession”—but their special interest could become a person, maybe someone that they really have a crush on.

And because that hyperability that we seem to be able to have that is the unique quality of being able to focus on something, being on the spectrum, which serves us well in many ways, also, too, I’ve found, being a parent to a young child on the spectrum, you have to really watch that. You have to be able to step up and be able to tell your child: “Listen, what you’re doing could be considered stalking.” Just literally, you have to explain this to them. Even if you were to ask them: Is stalking right or wrong? They’ll say: “Oh, it’s wrong.” But then watch them turn right back around and they might do some of those behaviors.

Kristi Sakai: Yes.

Sharon daVanport: Because it shows truly that they really aren’t meaning to do it. They need to understand.

Kristi Sakai: Absolutely.

Sharon daVanport: Can you explain, without giving your…We wouldn’t have time anyway for you to give your whole book away. But can you just maybe give our listeners an idea of maybe a couple strategies that you are putting in the book for parents in talking to their teen?

Kristi Sakai: What we’re trying to do is, because there’s very little actual research on autism and sexuality. There’s some, and there’s more coming, I’m sure and we’re calling for more. What we’re doing is taking the strategies we know for teaching—there’s research behind what works best for these kids—and there is a wealth of information on sexuality education. And so we’re trying to combine those two areas.

So some of the things that we’re talking about…We’ve actually had to do direct instruction for teaching…First of all, we teach the rules about masturbation. That is one of the things we get the most calls and interest about, and e-mails about their kids getting in trouble about being in the wrong place and around the wrong person, or whatever. Getting in trouble.

But also, one of the things that we really feel strongly is about teaching the correct way to channel your sexual energy. We’ve actually had to do some direct instruction to explain how to masturbate to some of these kiddos. They don’t know; they’ve hurt themselves. They don’t know how; they don’t know that they should, and they have that sexual energy. We all have that. Or, I wouldn’t say “we all.” Some people don’t appear to be as interested. But we want to have very frank conversations with our kiddos, and we want to use visual aids sometimes. We’ve actually had to use some tools and explain, just like in sex ed classes, which, strangely, a lot of our kids somehow miss in special ed, how to use condoms and how to be safe and when is it appropriate and where is it appropriate. So we have all these very clear rules about [unknown].

Sharon daVanport: Right. I think this is awesome, Kristi, because, like you said, a lot of people might feel uncomfortable to talk to their child about this. But I think it’s absolutely necessary to talk to any child about it, whether they’re on the spectrum or not. But being on the spectrum myself, and knowing how I process language, and knowing that I do sometimes have to take the extra mile and even ask questions to exactly know what someone means, we’d really need to be taking that seriously when we have children on the spectrum. We need to be having those conversations, and I am just so much looking forward to this book. Do you have any idea when it might be completed? Are you guys still doing some research, writing? What stage are you guys at for this?

Kristi Sakai: Well, I’ve been doing research the last four years.

Sharon daVanport: Okay.

Kristi Sakai: Talking to as many people, I had a survey going for a while. I’ve been reading on the forum anything that I see on your forum, and I will definitely reference you. As I’ve gone around the country and talked with people and read, it’s hard to stop researching, because I keep coming up with new ideas. [Laughter] But I’m hoping to be finished by the end of the year with everything, and I don’t know how [unknown] the publisher after that, but certainly I’m hoping by ASA national conference in July.

Sharon daVanport: In July, in Florida. Right. Oh, neat.

Kristi Sakai: So that’s what we’re shooting for.

Sharon daVanport: Okay.

Kristi Sakai: Meanwhile, we’ll be at OCALI, the Ohio Center for Autism and Low-Incidence conference there, talking about our book and presenting. And that’s next week, actually, in Columbus, Ohio.

Sharon daVanport: Oh, okay. All right.

Kristi Sakai: So if [unkown] there, come say hi.

Sharon daVanport: Okay. Well, I have some friends who are big supporters of the AWN who live near Columbus, right outside of Columbus. I’ll have to let her know that you’re going to be there. Very nice. And that’s next week?

Kristi Sakai: Yes. We’re speaking the 17 and the 18 in the afternoon at the Convention Center, for the conference.

Sharon daVanport: What is the name of the talk?

Kristi Sakai: I think it’s: “Let’s Talk About S-E-X.”

Sharon daVanport: Okay.

Kristi Sakai: That pops in my head. [Laughter]

Sharon daVanport: That’s really good, Kristi. I think it’s awesome, yeah.

Kristi Sakai: [Unknown] if I’m presenting, but yeah. We’re literally going to show some of the instruction methods, and when we explain about why we need to talk about these things, one of the biggest things is getting over the discomfort about talking about sex.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Kristi Sakai: So the first chapter of the book is really how to get over those feelings and why you might be having them. Before you actually have the conversation with your kid, you’ve got to figure that out on your own and just dive in.

Sharon daVanport: Well, I found that out really quick, because when I first had that conversation with a child of mine, I didn’t expect their response to be…by the time I build myself up to do it, I didn’t expect their response to be like: “I’m not having this conversation with you, Mom.” [Chuckles] So then I had to sit back and process: “Okay, well, you know what? I’m going to think about what you just said and we’ll be back to talk about this later.” And I shouldn’t have even ended with that, because they’re like: “Oh, no, we won’t.” [Chuckles] And I’m like: “Okay.”

Kristi Sakai: Yeah. [unknown]

Sharon daVanport: [Chuckles] That’s what we need as parents. I have adult children now and I’m a grandmother now, so it’s different. I feel like I do better with my teenagers now. I’m a little bit more prepared. But when you’re first going through this and flying by the seat of your pants, it’s going to be great when you have this book coming out and you can present this book in a way of either talks or workshops. This is going to be awesome, Kristi, because this is such a need. Like you said, we see so many times or hear stories of our youngsters or even people who are adults that have gotten themselves into some trouble because they did not realize. They knew the rules, but they did not realize how it really, truly applied to them somewhere along the way.

Kristi Sakai: Yeah.

Sharon daVanport: It’s just very sad to see it happen.

Kristi Sakai: It is. It’s heartbreaking when I get these phone calls and e-mails, or a family’s come up to me at a workshop and they describe a situation where their child is now listed as a sex offender for something, in most cases—not all—but in most cases, something that was just a social error.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Kristi Sakai: And how heartbreaking that is, and I just…We want to prevent that from happening. We want to protect our kids and help them grow up healthy and safe. That’s the other issue: that a lot of folks on the spectrum are victims of sexual abuse or sexual assault. And because they don’t know the rules, they don’t know how to protect themselves; they don’t have as much peer protection; they may not know what’s happening when they’re younger. So that’s the other component to having a healthy sense of sexuality. Your sexuality, you know it. It’s yours, and you can express it in a safe way.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Kristi Sakai: And you can be [safe?] and not exploited. So that’s important as well.

Sharon daVanport: Well, I’m going to look forward to hearing this advice through this book, to know how to help families understand how to get over that uncomfortableness. Like you said, that’s really the first hurdle, isn’t it?

Kristi Sakai: Yeah. And the second is the kid, who says: “I don’t want to have this [unknown]!”

Sharon daVanport: [Laughter] Yeah, you finally get yourself through it, and they’re like…That’s exactly what my first child did: “No, we’re not having this conversation, Mom.” [Laughter] “I’m sorry that you think we are, but we’re not.”

Kristi Sakai: And we speculate a lot about why that is. Some of the kids, we’ve noticed, just like when they are approached with something that they can’t master easily or that they don’t quite understand, is that often our kids don’t even want to approach something that they can’t be successful in. Maybe they sense this is something that they’re going to have difficulty with, or they know they are. It involves social issues and emotions, where are often challenging, and some people just are like: “That’s too hard. I’m not even going to go there.”

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Kristi Sakai: “I’m not even going to put through with that effort if it’s going to take me two whole months to work up to talking to a girl, I don’t want to start.”

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Kristi Sakai: So my [unknown] with some clients is they’re like: “Well, I can’t just go home and tell ’em to have sex?” “No, we’ve got to lay the foundation.

Sharon daVanport: That’s right.

Kristi Sakai: [Unknown] “I’m not going to even bother; I’d rather be alone.”

Sharon daVanport: Right. I’ve heard my son say that before. Not that exact situation, but when he finds out something might take a lot of effort and a lot towards it, he’s just so exhausted, and I’m like: “Well, bless his heart.” Okay, the exhaustion that he just anticipates coming from something. But these are things that I really feel, in order to be a responsible parent, we really don’t have a choice, Kristi. We have to teach our children how to be sexual beings in a healthy, legal way. Because they have to abide by the law, just like we all do. So it’s so important to have to address that for our children.

Kristi Sakai: And one of the ways that you can have conversations with our kiddos on the spectrum is priming them for those discussions, saying: “We’re going to be talking about, over a period of time, thinking about what might be difficult for them, for your child, specifically.” Do they have a lot of difficulties? Some kids can just have conversations over time. Other kids need visual aids.

Sharon daVanport: Umhm.

Kristi Sakai: Other kids need to have more than one person. Some kids need to have just one person to really interact with and discuss these things with. Rewarding them for having the conversation, even. For sitting down, because this is harder than schoolwork. My kids would rather do math than have these conversations. They’re like: “She’s at it again!”

Sharon daVanport: [Laughter]

Kristi Sakai: So knowing that they have that preparation, that they’re going to have those conversations and when, how long. My son wants to know how long these things are going to last. “How long is this going to last?”

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Kristi Sakai: “How long do I have to sit here and listen to this and I can get back to video games?” So, yeah. Just offering incentive to make it worthwhile, that stuff sinks in. They’re being rewarded, and maybe especially [Chuckles] they’re being rewarded to have the conversation.

Sharon daVanport: Right. Now, are you offering these talks in a workhsop kind of atmosphere? Are they breakway sessions at conferences? How are you offering these talks?

Kristi Sakai: Presenting is what I love to do. I love to go talk to others. I do it for parents and professionals. Even though the book is geared towards parents, it is a community effort to educate our kids and to have those conversations. So I’ve done breakout sessions; we’re putting together a full day workshop on sexuality that will cover many different aspects, from early preadolescence through adulthood, talking about…some of the stuff are legal issues, some of the stuff are family issues, some of them are school issues. So, yes, absolutely.

Sharon daVanport: Okay.

Kristi Sakai: One of the great things about presenting is that I can zip on a plane for a short time and come right back to my family and I enjoy that very much.

Sharon daVanport: So, Kristi, how can people get a hold of you? What is the best way for someone to get a hold of you to present?

Kristi Sakai: E-mail is the best way. My e-mail address is kristisakai AT hotmail.com

Sharon daVanport: Okay.

Kristi Sakai: If anybody has questions that they would like to ask via e-mail, or post them to the forum and I’m sure Sharon will let me know that something’s come up there.

Sharon daVanport: I will.

Kristi Sakai: Or if you want to contact me privately, you can do that through my e-mail. And if anybody wants to offer any stories they’d like to share, they think are important for me to know as an educator, as a counselor, I’d really appreciate that as well.

Sharon daVanport: What are some of the topics that you’re still looking to hear from people on? Maybe we could break this down for some of our listeners, and they might say: “Oh, wow. I have a story like that!” Is there anything in particular you’re still looking for, maybe?

Kristi Sakai: Well, as much research that I have done, and as many people as I’ve talked to, I keep hearing that people need more information about gay, lesbian, transgender issues in individuals with autism. I have to be honest: I’m no expert whatsoever. I am still learning and growing in that capacity to understand that perspective, and how we can help parents understand their kids who are going through these challenges; how we can support individuals on the spectrum who are struggling with additional challenges in the society that we live in.

Sharon daVanport: Monday the 29, November the 29—isn’t that your birthday, the 28 or 29? Something like that? I remember seeing your birthday somewhere. I’m sorry; I’m obsessed with dates. I’m sorry. That was a weird thing to say. [Laughter] We’re having a conversation on a radio station. Why in the world would I even bring that up? But I was just going to say, back on topic, that Monday the 29, our show that day is actually going to be about lesbian, gay and trans issues in the autism community.

Kristi Sakai: How wonderful.

Sharon daVanport: That’s what our Blogtalk radio show’s going to be about on the 29. I actually have a meeting this week to go over with one of our guests on a lot of things. Because like you, Kristi, I am not well-versed, well-educated, I should say, in that and I just want to make for sure that as we’re putting this show together, we do it right. It is an important topic that needs to be addressed, so I’m just so excited that we were able to do this and we were able to get it scheduled for this month.

Kristi Sakai: That is wonderful, because literally, I am getting just more and more calls about this issue and we want to be respectful and compassionate and help families to understand their kids. We want to support them.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Kristi Sakai: So I’m so grateful that you are putting a show together like this, and I’ll be sure to listen. [Unknown]

Sharon daVanport: [Laughter] I’m just really happy you were able to join us today, too, and I wanted to give you an opportunity like we do with all our guests before we close out: If there’s anything that we didn’t touch on, or anything you’d like to share with our listeners in closing, what would that be?

Kristi Sakai: Well, I’d just like to say that in regards to sexuality, it’s not one talk. It’s not one conversation. It’s really a mindset of incorporating sexuality education into your lives over as you raise your child, and helping you be comfortable and healthy, and helping your child be comfortable and healthy and safe. So I hope you’ll pick up our book when it’s out and feel free to contact me if you would like to ask any questions or share information, and I appreciate you having me on the show. And, are you still in the top 10 for the Pepsi Refresh challenge?

Sharon daVanport: [Laughter] We are. Thank you for bringing that up. I was going to end the show doing that today, but since you brought it up, we are in the top ten. I believe we are either nine or ten; let me look here. Looks like we’re still ranked number nine.

Kristi Sakai: Yay!

Sharon daVanport: So I’m very excited that we’re in the top 10. That means if we stay in the top 10, Kristi, we actually will get the grant and we can host these workshops. I’m so excited.

Kristi Sakai: That’s wonderful. Thank you for your hard work. And Sharon, I just want to say, thank you so much to the Autism Women’s Network. You’re doing amazing things, and I’m so grateful that I can send people to you as a resource.

Sharon daVanport: Well, thank you. Well, thank you very much, too, Kristi, all right? You have a wonderful day. Thank you for being our guest today.

Kristi Sakai: You, too. Take care, and bye-bye.

Sharon daVanport: Okay, bye-bye.

[Kristi hangs up].

Sharon daVanport: Okay, everyone. That is going to do it for us today on Autism Women’s Network radio on Blogtalk. As Kristi and I were mentioning just a moment ago, we want to invite everyone to keep voting for us in the Pepsi Refresh contest. We’re so excited that AWN has managed to stay in the top 10 this month. We’re so excited. We want to thank all of you, our supporters and voters for continuing to stick by us. All of you who’ve been requesting that we send you daily e-mail reminders to vote, just hop on over to the website to vote. And you also can vote via text, and you just send your text to “Pepsi” at 73774, and you text the numbers 101500. And that’s going to do it for us today. Thank you all so much, and we’ll be back here next week with Professor Simon Barron-Cohen as our guest. Goodbye.



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