“If you are accepting of the belief that life can be good even with autism, then your child will think so, too. You are the most important person in your child’s life, and you can make them believe that anything is possible.” ― Chantal Sicile-Kira, A Full Life with Autism
Chantal’s first experience with non-verbal people was working full-time at Fairview State Hospital in CA, while attending UC Irvine, teaching self-help and community living skills to developmentally disabled and autistic adolescents in preparation for their de-institutionalization after the passage of the Lanterman Act. After graduating with a BA in Social Ecology, Chantal worked as a case manager at Orange County Regional Center. Her work experiences made her a strong believer in the importance of presuming competence, and the necessity and rewards of integration and diversity in our communities.
Little did Chantal know that these work experiences would come in handy years later, when her son Jeremy was diagnosed in France in the early 1990’s. When told to institutionalize her son and to get on with her life, she naturally refused. Jeremy graduated from his local high school in San Diego at age 21 in 2010 with a full academic diploma despite being non-verbal, and gave a commencement speech using voice-output technology. Jeremy is now a self-employed professional artist who paints 5 days a week, lives with the supports he needs 24/7 in an apartment, and continues to serve the autism and art community in various ways.
Both Chantal’s experience as a professional and as a parent led her to write award-winning practical books to help both parents and educators, at a time when few practical books were available. Chantal has over 30 years of experience in providing practical information and training in over 10 countries, over 25 US states and more than 65 US cities. For those who could not access conferences, Chantal created Autismcollege.com in 2011 to provide online practical training on topics such as Adolescents on the Autism Spectrum; Autism Life Skills; the Transition to adulthood; Preparing for Work / College; Self-employment; and Empowerment Strategies for Parents.
Chantal encouraged Jeremy over the years to become his own self-advocate and to be interdependent as well as independent. During high school, Jeremy, his teacher and Chantal created two “micro-enterprises” so that Jeremy could learn about the responsibilities of having a job, and how to create a business based on his interests and the needs of his community. This resulted in “A Beginner’s Guide to Self- Employment A practical workbook for people who are differently abled, their families, caregivers, educators and support staff.”
After gradually discovered his gift of synesthesia and asked her help in learning to paint the colorful abstract portraits he created in his dreams. Jeremy’s dream of having his own art show came true in April 2016, and was a huge success with a sold out show. Since January 2021, Jeremy has been receiving needed supports through the Self-Determination Program in California. A short documentary, The Beautiful Colors of Jeremy Sicile-Kira premiered on National PBS POV in January 2023. (LINK https://www.pbs.org/video/beautiful-colors-of-jeremysicile-kira/).
Chantal has blogged on Huffingtonpost.com, PsychologyToday.com and written for various magazines and has been interviewed on a wide variety of media, including NPR, PBS, The Chicago Tribune, NBC and Fox News. The family was highlighted in the Newsweek cover story “Growing up with Autism” and featured in the MTV documentary True Life series, in “I Have Autism” which was the recipient of a 2008 Voice Award.
Greatly I Dream… Keeping Sight of the Dream Even When Daylight Comes
In this at times funny, at times heartbreaking personal account, Chantal describes how she helped Jeremy to make sense of the world around him as a young child with the help of educators and other professionals who shared their vision. Chantal humorously and lovingly wrestles with the trials and tribulations of her family’s successful attempt to change the prognosis given to her son when he was first diagnosed at age three: life in an institution. Some of the treatments and therapies that helped him are discussed, along with what Jeremy had to say about them later in life when he could effectively communicate. Twenty-six years later, Jeremy is living a life close to the dreams and hopes of his teenage self, with needed supports. Along the way, Chantal explores how she developed the grit and resiliency she needed as Jeremy’s mother and strongest advocate. Life-changing gifts are discovered, affirming the family’s belief that being “not like the others” means being different, but not less.
Autism Spectrum Disorder: The Complete Guide to Understanding Autism, Revised, January 7, 2014 (Penguin) This book is an updated edition of her first award-winning book Autism Spectrum Disorders
A Full Life with Autism From Learning to Forming Relationships to Achieving Independence(Macmillan, March 27, 2012) co-authored with her son Jeremy.
What is Autism?: Understanding Life with Autism or Asperger’s (Turner, 2012) reprint of 41 Things to Know about Autism (Turner, 2010)
Adolescents on the Autism Spectrum: A Parent’s Guide to the Cognitive, Social, Physical, and Transition Needs of Teenagers with Autism Spectrum Disorders(2006 San Diego Book Award for “Best in Health/Fitness”);