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Sarah Palin's Sister Speaks About Autism, Politics

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Sarah Palin's sister Heather Bruce, who has a 13-year-old son with autism, gave an hourlong interview on Autism One Radio yesterday where she talked about her own experiences with her child and how her family situation has affected her sister's views.

Autism One Radio is an interesting entity: Autism One is a nonprofit advocacy organization founded by parents of children with autism, and the "radio station" is entirely Web-based, which allows programs to be downloaded and consumed at any time, by any one who has a computer.

Bruce, who lives with her husband and three children in Anchorage, spent most of the interview talking life with her son, Karcher. In the first year or so of his life, he met all the appropriate developmental milestones, she said. But as he got older he began retreating into what seemed like his own little world, refusing to respond to his name, playing with the same toys over and over again, and eating only a few specific foods.

The family doctor suggested that he just had some language delays, but when Bruce read a story in her local newspaper about a child with autism, she realized that the symptoms matched her son's behaviors very closely. He was tested and diagnosed with a moderate-to-severe manifestation of the disorder, and has received special education services since he was very young.

Bruce is clearly proud of her little sis and would be thrilled if she won (as would be the hosts of the show, Robert and Sandy Waters; their preference for the McCain/Palin ticket was not hidden.) But I also found her intriguingly apolitical in some respects, at least on this issue.

For example, when asked about the excitement among some advocates that her sister's run has generated, she said: "I’ve seen it on both sides and both parties, and it’s amazing. You would have never heard the word autism by either party, in any presidential campaign. So whoever wins, they’re committed now, they have to be, [because] people know. They’re going to expect some kind of movement or some kind of progression and I think it’s really going to help."

The entire interview can be downloaded by clicking here and scrolling down for the link for the Oct. 22 interview. Though the interview is too long to transcribe completely, I've included a few interesting snippets:

On vaccines and Karcher's autism:
We’re not sure if our son had a genetic makeup that predisposed him to autism, if these vaccinations kicked that into gear or not. It's definitely in the forefront now instead of in the back of our mind, if he just has a fragile immune system we just don’t know.

On Sarah Palin's relationship with Karcher:
She can communicate with him and get down to his level and she understands, which is hard for even for some relatives to understand, just how concrete and logical you have to be with an autistic child. We’ve always been impressed with the way Sarah can handle herself around Karcher and communicate with him, knows his likes and his dislikes. ... she’s very sympathetic and...affectionate. Some people are afraid to be affectionate with special needs kids but you know, this boy needs and loves a hug just as much as the next normal kid.

And she understands that too, and I think that prepared her, unknowingly, for being able to handle her own special needs baby and accepting it and seeing the contribution that these kids give to a family and to society.

On her sister as an advocate:
She wants to help. She wants to help so badly, but she has a lot to learn, and she knows it. She’s fresh into this, being an advocate for autism, for Down syndrome. People expect her to know everything about everything…

[She has said] We need to sit down Heather, tell me what your needs are, what do you wish you could see, what do you think would help the state. And that was just the time she was the governor.

On Bruce's hopes for autism advocacy after the election and in the future:
The national autistic groups, they have to work with both parties, Republican and Democrat. They have to because, no matter who wins, they’re going to be expected to step up to the plate a little bit more on this issue. There’s an awareness now; it will rise.

On her sister's recent appearance on Saturday Night Live:
I thought that it was hilarious, I laughed the hardest when they brought out the spoof Todd Palin lookalike there in his suit. It’s all in good fun....I thought it was fine. We got a good chuckle.

2 Comments

The Autism One interview was Great!! Everyone should listen before you vote!!! Sarah Palin knows what parents who have a child with autism needs. Everyone needs to reconsider their vote. Remember Illinois(Senator Obama State) is "DEAD LAST" for helping children with AUTISM!! Pretty sad for the "Lord of CHANGE"!! On the other hand Alaska is 4th in the nation. They take care of kids with AUTISM in Alaska!!! Remember the title of Jenny McCarthy bogus book so she could pocket more $$$$ in the name of AUTI$M "ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS"


Hi Christina,

Thank you for writeing this article. It was very nice. Keep up the great work!!! Here is some information on us. Thanks!!!

Faith, Love & Hope,

Sandy Waters

We call our show "The Candy Store" after our beautiful redheaded 8 year old daughter named Candace aka "Candy" who has Autism. Here's the links to get to our Radio Show.
http://www.autismone.org/radio/

http://www.autismone.org/radio/?radio=schedule&archive

http://www.autismone.org/radio/default.cfm?radio=family#robertw

It's a Internet based radio show on Autism One Radio heard around the world!! Our audience are Parents, Educators, Caregivers, Grandparents and Professionals among others. Some of our special guests are *** Barney!! (The Big Purple Singing Dinosaur), Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., Brian Ray (Paul McCartney's guitarist), Author Dr. Dan Gottlieb "Letters to Sam", Dr. Elmo "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer", Dr. Stanley Greenspan M.D., Actors for Autism Founder Alisa Wolf, M.Ed.-SPED, Grammy Award Winning Singer/Songwriter Dan Zanes from the Disney Channel, Congressman Bobby Rush, Singer/Songwriter Billy Mann, Singer/Songwriter Dana Mase, The Rock Band "Jet Fuel Only" featured in People Magazine, President & CEO of NBC 5 Chicago Larry Wert, Park Ridge, IL. Mayor "The Honorable Howard P. Frimark", Author & Speaker Stephen Shore, Inspirational high school basketball player Jason McElwain (J-MAC!!), 2x Grammy Award Winning Singer/Songwriters Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer,Grammy Award Winning Country SuperStar & Singer/Songwriter Billy Dean, Dr. Howard Shane, Singer Jimmy Osmond, Academy Award Nominated Actor Eric Roberts, Author & Activist Deirdre Imus, Master Magician Jeff McBride, Two time EMMY award winner Deborah Norville, Lidia Bastianich from the cooking show "Lidia's Italy", Suze Orman who is the host of The Suze Orman Show on CNBC, The Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin's sister Heather Bruce, and Actor Joe Mantegna among many, many others!!

We were just featured on NBC, PBS, WLS & WGN.

https://depot.northwestern.edu/~cmp536/LifeWithAutism/Pages_2ndtry/index.htm

http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=community&id=4951356

We have had a article done on our family in The Chicago Tribune among many other newspapers here some examples.

http://www.journal-topics.com/pr/06/pr060628.8.html

http://www.autismtoday.com/articles/Faith--Love-Hope.asp

http://www.thearcofil.org/document.asp?did=599

http://www.journal-topics.com/pr/08/pr080507.4.html

Our daughter was just on the cover of "The Autism Prespective" Magazine. Here's the link. Our daughter is the little girl with the beautiful red hair named "Candy"

http://www.theautismperspective.org/

http://www.cafepress.com/tapboutique/3151138

We made it in the Congressional Record!! Click on the link below and look at bottom of the page in the middle column. It's under "Commending The Waters Family"

http://bulk.resource.org/gpo.gov/record/2007/2007_E01548.pdf

Our mission/goal is to increase autism awareness and compassion. We also want to reach out to other parents who have a child with autism to let them know that they are not alone!! And never give up Faith, Love & Hope!! Please e-mail us. [email protected]

Faith, Love & Hope,

Robert & Sandy Waters

Hosts of "The Candy Store" on Autism One Radio

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