A local guest author contributes her story of love and learning to Simply Amazing
The uplifting saga of a local autism expert is featured in a new book, Simply Amazing, authored by the former producer of The Howard Stern Show and current WMAP radio host, K.C. Armstrong. His book features guest writers gleaned from interviews conducted on his show, World’s Most Amazing People, including National Autism Academy founder Jeanne Beard, a Wheaton resident.
“He looks for people with a mission,” Beard says. “He had a cousin on the spectrum and heard about me.” Simply Amazing includes personal accounts of overcoming adversity and personal resilience, transforming their struggles into public benefit.
Beard’s struggle was to figure out why her two boys didn’t relate to her, and what could be causing their social disconnect. Eventually she was introduced to Dr. Timothy Wahlberg at the Prairie Clinic in Geneva, which was a pivotal parenting moment. “He explained how my sons’ minds work, and I got a handle on parenting,” says Beard. “I wanted and needed more and more information and strategies.”
Eventually Beard partnered with Wahlberg, who gave her unlimited access to his notes, to learn how to better parent her sons. “I was mentored by a leading expert in North America,” says Beard. “It was unprecedented.”
As Beard grew in her knowledge as the mother of two kids on the spectrum, she recognized that she had a special vantage point to teach other parents about autism. “Education is the answer,” she says. “Autism is still a mystery, but my mission became helping parents.”
Now Beard is the author of her own book, Autism & the Rest of Us: How to Sustain a Healthy, Functional, and Satisfying Relationship with a Person on the Autism Spectrum, which she describes as an intimate read that takes parents on a deep emotional dive. She founded the National Autism Academy (nationalautismacademy.com) in 2016 to offer parental and professional online training and professional education for parents and teachers.
“My chapter in Simply Amazing is part of my mission to ease the difficulty for children with autism. By helping their parents, siblings, teachers, and the professionals surrounding them to understand how their minds work, and how to help them successfully navigate the social environment in which we live.”
Beard’s sons are now 20 and 22, and as her oldest “ages out” of the educational system, she and countless other families need to put a support structure in place, since there is a 16-year waiting list for a group home.
Despite the myriad challenges, Beard emphasizes that the only things different in people on the autism spectrum are processing information and sensory hypersensitivity, though these differences can have far-reaching effects.
“There’s so much hope for these kids,” Beard says. “But when you understand how they process things, everything begins to make sense. It’s like learning a foreign language—when we speak their language, it works.”