Presentation on raising children with autism coming to Troy church

By: Brendan Losinski | Troy Times | Published April 21, 2023

 Janet Sandison, right, an educator and mother of speaker Ron Sandison, left, will give a presentation at St. Augustine Lutheran Troy Church on Saturday, April 29, on the subject of parenting children on the autism spectrum.

Janet Sandison, right, an educator and mother of speaker Ron Sandison, left, will give a presentation at St. Augustine Lutheran Troy Church on Saturday, April 29, on the subject of parenting children on the autism spectrum.

Photo provided by Ron Sandison


TROY — St. Augustine Lutheran Troy Church will host a presentation by Janet Sandison, a speaker on the topic of parenting children on the autism spectrum and mother of well-known author and speaker Ron Sandison.

Janet Sandison will speak about ways to help children with autism with things such as reading, memorization, motor skills and speech, as well as how to find helpful resources.

“What I am actually talking about will be parenting on the spectrum,” she said. “It’s about raising children from 6 months old to 20 years old. My son has autism, and he is now a three-time nationally published author and an autism advocate in Michigan. Since he went from nonverbal to where (he) is now at this point, people started asking me about parenting children with autism. … I have a background in education, so helping parents through this process of raising a child on the spectrum was a very natural fit.”

The presentation will take place 10 a.m.-noon Saturday, April 29, at the church, located at 5475 Livernois Road in Troy. Reservations are strongly encouraged and can be made by calling (248) 879-6400. There is no cost to attend, and coffee and a light snack will be offered.

Pastor Franklin Dohanyos said he became interested in both Janet Sandison and her son after getting to know Ron and hearing about his books and presentations.

“I play the bagpipes, and I was part of a lot of Scottish societies and met Ron Sandison,” said Dohanyos. “I played bagpipes at his wedding, and we got to know each other. I learned his story. We were looking to do something on autism awareness, and I knew Ron, so bringing his mom in to talk about parenting a child with autism sounded like a perfect fit.”

He and the other administrators of the church thought a program on autism was something that would benefit the Troy community and that a presentation by Janet Sandison would be a perfect event for April, since it is Autism Awareness Month.

“The incidence of autism seems to be going up,” Dohanyos explained. “Since this is Autism Awareness Month, we wanted to address the fact that parents don’t always have the resources they need to help their children if they are on the spectrum.”

Ron Sandison previously spoke at SALT Church, giving the perspective of someone who has autism. His mother will present what family life is like from the parents’ perspective.

“My son spoke at SALT church about four months ago,” said Janet Sandison. “We were featured in a documentary about nine children with autism. I’ve acquired a good deal of information about autism and parenting for those on the spectrum. … He is now 48 years old and has become very well known for his speaking engagements on the topic. The people of the congregation were so impressed with him they wanted to speak to his mother.”

“Ron has a phenomenal story,” Dohanyos added. “He wrote a few books about autism. He gave his presentation at our church previously. We wanted to bring his mother in to give her side.”

Janet Sandison will give a presentation and provide attendees with a question-and-answer session.

“I will do a talk and a question-and-answer session,” she said. “I start with identifying (autism). You can never find a solution if you don’t know what the problem is. This starts by identifying if a child has autism. We then go into resources in the community to help ensure you are aiding and nurturing a child if they are on the spectrum. I focus heavily on the early years, since that is a vital period in their development. … I have also collected resources that parents may want to explore and see if there is something out there that can help them.”

Her hope is to aid parents going through the experience of raising a child on the spectrum and, hopefully, ensure they have insight and resources that were much more difficult to find when she raised her own son.

“My son grew up at a period of time when there was little to no information about autism,” said Janet Sandison. “The more information and education about autism, the better equipped you will be to be an effective parent to them. You can’t ‘cure’ autism, but your ultimate goal as a parent is to launch them into adulthood with the best possible outcome, and I want to help parents do that, if autism is a factor.”

She said there are many misconceptions about autism, some of which might come from a well-meaning place but that may ultimately not be what benefits a child on the spectrum best. She added that many children with autism are more functional than others realize, even if they don’t express that functionality the same way as others.

“With many nonverbal children, people often think nothing much is going on when, in fact, a great deal is usually going on behind the scenes. It is often just difficult for parents and others to see,” said Janet Sandison. “In the documentary we were featured in, one of the other children featured would communicate through a word board. This child would speak through the word board about how she didn’t like that people thought people who were nonverbal were ignorant. When dealing with children with autism, it is about finding how they are gifted, even if it is a different type of being gifted than most children. You just need to find how they are productive and what makes them happy.”

The hope for those organizing the program is that families will be better equipped to make sure their children have what they need to live happy, fulfilling lives no matter where they might land on the autism spectrum.

“If you know or believe that perhaps a child in your family could have autism, this would be a great presentation for you,” said Dohanyos. “We have the presentation, some books on sale on the subject, and educational material on local resources.”