Singer-Songwriter Bianca “Blush” Atterberry On The Challenges -- And Joys -- Of Raising A Child On The Autism Spectrum.
By PJ Feinstein
Bianca “Blush” Atterberry may admire Tisha Campbell Martin’s candor about raising a son with autism, but the singer-songwriter is also helping to bring awareness to what she calls a “growing epidemic.” She regularly shares updates on her popular social media accounts about her eight-year-old son, Niko, who is on the spectrum.
We asked the Los Angeles-based songstress about the challenges -- and joys -- of having an autistic son and the ways in which she prioritizes her own self care.
How does your Niko inspire you?
As he grows and overcomes the obstacles that autism may put in his way, he becomes even more of an inspiration to me. He lets me know that even when the odds are against us, we can still be triumphant! Even if it takes longer than we thought, it's the reaching of the goal, not the time it took to get there that makes it a win!
What's the one thing you wish people knew about your son?
I want people to know that he understands you! He feels your energy. He hurts but he can't always express it. So be kind to him. Be patient with him. Be gentle with his feelings like you would any beautiful child of God.
If you could read one book to a preschool or elementary school class, what would it be and why?
Everybody is Different by Fiona Bleach. No two people are the same. We should respect our differences and I think awareness among peers is so important. Kids should be able to recognize autism and play and interact with these kids. They should understand the extra patience and empathy that goes into building a friendship with a child who is on the spectrum.
What's in your bag of tricks when you are out with Niko?
I normally make sure he has eaten and understands the rules before we enter where we are going (and that we will leave if he doesn't cooperate). When I can bring it, the iPad, of course.
What’s an activity your whole family loves to do together?
We love to ride the train at the mall. It has become a normal weekly routine. They know us personally there.
How do you survive a tough day of parenting?
I have learned to practice more gratitude for what I have because Niko’s symptoms could be worse, and I am grateful when we make it through each day alive and well. It could be worse! I have learned to look at the positive things we accomplish daily! One step at a time...
What was the last thing you purchased for yourself that made you really happy?
My gym membership! I started to change my self-care routine and spend more time taking care of my mind, body, and spirit, and it has changed my life! I lost 30 lbs.
What is your self care ritual?
I went vegan and joined 24-Hour Fitness and started to meditate and affirm daily that I can do it all. There is enough time in the day!
Who do you love to follow on social media?
@tamrachelle because she is a single mom like me, but she has four daughters, one of whom has severe autism. She has fought and demanded everything for her child. She has managed to get her into the best programs and the best schools and is one of the strongest women I have ever met, while still taking care of three other children, working, traveling, and being an entrepreneur.
@manngen also has four children, including two with autism! I was introduced to her through her husband, who is also in the music business and is an amazing advocate for autism. She is an inspiration! Following her shows that you can do anything you believe in and there is a life in being an autism parent. You can still travel and experience life.
@tishacampbellmartin because she is one of my favorite actresses in the world! She is strong, driven, and open about her son's autism. There is a lack of diagnosing in the African American community, and her openness will help bring awareness to that community of this growing epidemic. I think she is extremely important to that platform!
What five words best describe you?
Ambitious, determined, uplifting, loving, and funny
What advice would you give a new special needs parent?
Be kind to yourself! It is not your fault. It can be a blessing. Your child is perfectly imperfect, and you will learn to understand them in time. Your autism parenting muscle will get stronger. You won't care so much about the stares and opinions or ignorance of others. Get every service you are entitled to. Get an advocate. Speak to other parents about what they do and what resources they use. And remember you are doing your best.
"Everything is as it should be." -- Buddha