Many Hats Mommy

live the Power of One

Wednesday’s Woman–Dr. Kathy DeOrnellas

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Today I am happy to bring you Dr. Kathy DeOrnellas as this week’s Wednesday’s Woman. She is the co-author of a book I love, What I’d Wish I’d Known about Raising a Child with Autism. You will soon be able to read my review of this book over at Home Educating Family’s review site. In the meantime, there is a discount code at the bottom of this post if you just can’t wait! And now, here is “Dr. Kathy” in her own words…

Thank you so much, Jenny, for asking me to be Wednesday’s Woman!  I would love to tell your readers about some exciting developments in autism research and hopefully enlist their involvement.

I met my first child with Asperger’s Disorder in 1973. I was a college student working in afterschool day care. I didn’t know what Asperger’s Disorder was at that time (nor did anyone else in the U.S.). All I knew was that I had a very quirky new fourth grader who would not quit talking about dinosaurs and could not seem to relate to anyone but me on the playground.

It was 25 years later that I came to understand more about autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and began to conduct research in the area of high functioning ASD. Since 2004, as an Associate Professor at Texas Woman’s University in Denton, I have had the privilege of working with a team of students dedicated to children and adolescents with ASD. We have worked with more than 100 children with Asperger’s Disorder and high functioning autism to determine best practices for evaluating students with high functioning ASD. We became acquainted with their parents and some of their siblings and developed a better understanding of their needs. We have conducted social skills groups for children, adolescents, and college students on the spectrum, and have provided support groups for their parents.  We have also researched the provision of disability support services to individuals with ASD in colleges across the country.  This enabled us to write a booklet that can serve as a guide in the transition from high school to college.

In my private practice, I have worked with children, adolescents, adults, and parents who were affected by ASD. I find that the problems we see with children – anxiety, difficulty making and keeping friends, sensory issues, and limited interests – continue into adulthood.  Individuals with ASD continue to need support, and their parents continue to provide that support until they are quite elderly.

Siblings without ASD also play a very important role in the support that individuals with ASD need.  With that in mind, our current line of research focuses on the role of siblings and their feelings about having a brother or sister with ASD.  So much of the research has focused on the family members with ASD; in this study, we are turning our attention to their siblings.

Speaking of siblings, here are a few tips to help you as you try to  balance your family dynamics:

  • Try not to forget that all of your children need your undivided attention at some point in their day.
  • Help your children develop their own interests and encourage their participation in it. Then, help your child develop a support group around that activity. For example, other parents, extended family members, or others you can count on in a pinch.
  • Tell your children about autism using language they can understand and plan to revisit the topic frequently as they mature.

Here is my appeal to Jenny’s readers:  If you or someone you know has a child with ASD and a child without ASD, I encourage you to take our survey at:   The information gathered will be used to help train future Ph.D.’s in the field, and we hope that it will result in a book as well.

I appreciate your input.

Kathy DeOrnellas, Ph.D.

Kathy DeOrnellas, Ph.D. and Bobbi Sheahan are the authors of What I Wish I’d Known About Raising a Child With Autism; A Mom and a Therapist Offer Heartfelt Guidance for the First Five Years (Future Horizons, 2011).  It is available at  (For a 15% discount and free shipping, use the code BOBBI at checkout. Code does not apply to Temple Grandin conferences as they are already discounted.), or wherever books are sold.  You can also connect with both Bobbi and Dr. DeOrnellas on Twitter at @BobbiSheahan and @kdeornellasphd.

If you’d like to read my review of Dr. Kathy’s book, you can find the entire review here, on Home Educating Family Reviews.

Author: Jenny Herman

Jenny Herman is not anyone special or a hero. She's just a working special needs homeschool mom who uses the Power of One to "just keep swimming". Visit her blog to learn more.

One thought on “Wednesday’s Woman–Dr. Kathy DeOrnellas

  1. As John and I were out walking I was thinking about this post and thinking back to my early introduction to autism. I smiled thinking how “Dibs In Search of Self” comes to mind when I recall nobody understanding aspie. How things have changed. Can’t help on the sibling issue, but I do agree some of the best teachers for a child on the spectrum is a sibling. Sadly too often NT siblings give up so much for their special needs sibling. Will be neat to see how the research goes. Another stellar post Jenny!

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