Tips for Doulas

If you are a parent of a child on the autism spectrum then I know that you don’t really have much time to read this.  Maybe you are thinking of becoming a doula but unsure if you can make it work with your family, or maybe you already are a doula and have been wading through the guilt and meltdowns as you are gone for hours.   I want to share some tips with you that worked for my family and I encourage everyone to comment and leave your own tips because we can learn so much from each other.   I recognize that each child is unique and the very word “spectrum” entails a wide range of unique delights and challenges.

  1. Weekly calendar of each days plan-  You can include the name of the person they will be with or the place they will go.   If your child doesn’t read then you can have a picture of symbol assigned to each person. Make sure it’s large enough to see easily and in a room where they can easily access it.  Lots of spectrum children are very visual and being able to view it as often as they need to can calm them down.  Not knowing what is coming up next is a common cause for anxiety.
  2. Verbally tell them each morning- You wrote down the plan on the calendar, but a reminder in the morning before they head to school, or at breakfast before you start your day.  Just a quick, “remember that today is Auntie day, so if my client calls me then Auntie will pick you up from school.”
  3.  Share the Plan- Be sure the other family members in your home know the plan so they aren’t forced to come up with a different plan in your absence. You may not be able to answer your phone or receive a text if the labor is very intense when they try to reach you. (This tip is from my husband who may have dealt with more than one meltdown from changing the plan because I forgot to tell him what it was.) 
  4. Special Treats- I am not above bribery.  This could be a treat while you are away, like watching a favorite movie, ordering pizza or favorite food, perhaps a special fidget or weighted pillow that only comes out when you are away.  The point is that they can look forward to this treat happening once you do go to the birth so they aren’t dreading you being called to the birth.
  5. Reliable Childcare- We all know that when plans change it can end in enormous and long meltdowns.  Be sure that you have care arranged from someone who isn’t going to flake and also someone who knows how to care for your child’s unique needs.  This may mean that you are paying an on-call nanny, or perhaps you have rock solid friends who you trade with.  I wouldn’t recommend relying completely on your spouse if you plan to doula as a career because they can only miss work so many times before it’s a problem.   Think you can’t afford childcare?  Guess what, you aren’t charging enough.  Raise your rates so that it doesn’t cost YOU to attend a birth.  Even doulas who are working toward certification can charge for their services.  (You may be able to get care through state services if your child has an official diagnosis of ASD.) 
  6. Self Care- You know that on-call nanny I mentioned above? Maybe you use her for an extra hour or two for yourself (or a date with your partner) the day after a birth.  Being the parent of a child with autism can be both emotionally and physically draining.  Guess what, being a doula can do the same thing.  Be sure that you are taking time to fill yourself back up after a birth.  Chances are good that you will be hyper right after the birth (even if it was 24 hours long) but once the adrenaline runs out of your system take some time to recharge.   Maybe you skip the nanny and instead your kid binge watches Dora The Explorer while you have a cup of tea and read a book.  Whatever you have to do to make some self care time happen, it will be the thing that keeps you able to continue doula work for years and years.

 

This may seem like a lot to do just to go to a birth but try not to get overwhelmed.  The thing is, that parents of kids on the spectrum actually make incredible doulas.  They are already used to tuning in to another person’s needs, a person who may not be into verbal conversation.  During labor, many people go into that instinctual part of their brain and are no longer up for talking or answering questions.  You will need to tune into them, to see their needs rather than hear them.

Many kids on the spectrum are overwhelmed by their own emotions and have trouble making since of them or knowing what to do next.  If you have ever seen someone in the transition stage of labor then you may have seen anger, fear, sadness, and many other emotions emerge and often this can be overwhelming and scary to the person experiencing it.  “Why am I crying, I am sorry, I don’t know why this is happening.”  I hear it often at births, and you most likely already have skills to help them through this to accept the emotions and even the tears coming out of them.  Meltdowns and Transition are very similar, a loss of control and overwhelming emotion.  Your personal experience of being a parent is going to be such a benefit to your clients.

I hope this was helpful to you. Please leave comments of things that have worked for you or your child as you pursued your career as a doula.

 

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    Carlette Y Davidson
    Carlette Y Davidson
    2018-11-12T01:05:56+0000
    Heathers delivery style was very calm , she is very knowledgeable and answered all our questions in a clear concise manner , her passion for her work and eagerness to train others was very obvious , I would recommend anyone who wants to become a Birth Doula to attend one of her training session .
    Kathy Halverson Kinard
    Kathy Halverson Kinard
    2018-09-29T01:58:42+0000
    She was an amazing trainer. What she taught was very easy to understand. She was very patient with all my questions. The knowledge i gained from her training has reslly help my confidence and i feel ready to do this.
    Desiree Joyce Southard
    Desiree Joyce Southard
    2018-02-26T03:21:44+0000
    Heathir was such a joy to work with! She is so full knowledge and made my class so fun! I can’t wait to jump in with what I’ve learned!
    Robin Saporito
    Robin Saporito
    2017-09-18T20:22:41+0000
    I took Heathir's Doula training this weekend. I learned more than I would have thought possible. I'm so excited about becoming a certified Doula.
    Lora Casco
    Lora Casco
    2017-03-21T18:07:41+0000
    Heathir is an excellent trainer! I just completed a training with her March 2017 on Maui. We had a great class full of lively discussion, hands on learning and I walked away with more skills in my bag of doula knowledge. I have been a doula for a while and wanted to train with Birth Arts because they are a great support to their trainees and I am not disappointed at all! I am so glad I chose BAI and I look forward to serving my community here on Maui.
    Marie Vila
    Marie Vila
    2017-03-20T19:33:14+0000
    Samantha Millbrook
    Samantha Millbrook
    2017-03-04T17:36:56+0000
    I traveled ALL the way to Eugene, Oregon from Nashville, Tennessee to take this course with Heathir and I am SO glad that I did. I have to admit, I was worried that I would travel all that way and be disappointed. Heathir made me feel so comfortable and welcome. She explained things in a way that made sense to me and always left the floor open for questions. If I am ever giving birth in the proximity that Heathir could help me I would call her in a heartbeat. Thank you Heathir for helping me start this journey as a Doula off on a great start. I can't wait to learn, grow, and practice this work with the support of the strong, educated, and wonderful BAI community.
    Mary Wright Johnson
    Mary Wright Johnson
    2017-02-24T06:14:29+0000
    Heathir is a wonderful teacher. My experience at her workshop was so incredibly inspiring. She is skilled, and knowledgeable, and she creates an atmosphere of comfort that is ideal for learning. Her support and encouragement really increased my excitement about entering into this fulfilling new career.
    Kelly Langhorn
    Kelly Langhorn
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    I loved Heathir! I feel so excited and prepared to help the families in the Rogue Valley!
    Teresa Ostrander
    Teresa Ostrander
    2017-02-20T21:38:11+0000
    Heathir is an amazing Instructor. She has a good flow of information, one topic flows smoothly into the next. Heathir is easy to speak with and easy to approach with questions. She made the workshop a pleasant atmosphere and a fun learning environment. It was a peer learning setting instead of a student teacher setting. 100% positive!
    Princess Taylor Maynie
    Princess Taylor Maynie
    2017-02-10T13:08:25+0000
    I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of Heathir's BAI labor doula workshop. Heathir is a very knowledgeable and wise doula. She pours out every bit of knowledge that she has attained as doula to her students. Her experience in and compassion for pregnancy and birth shows through her teaching. I'm happy that I had the opportunity to sit under her tutelage. Thank you Heathir for a wonderful experience.
    Deborah Candelario
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    2017-02-10T02:40:19+0000
    I took my Doula class with Heather and it was so much more than I expected! I learned so much. Heathir created a fun and safe environment for all of us to learn and share. I would encourage anyone who is thinking about becoming a doula to take Heathirs class!!!
    Gina Gerard
    Gina Gerard
    2017-02-09T23:13:51+0000
    If you ever have the opportunity to attend a workshop with Heathir Brown DO IT!!! After months of feeling "stuck" in my doula training, I decided to invest my time and money and let me tell you, it was worth it. Heathir's workshop was educational, inspiring, and therapeutic. She was patient as I asked every question I could possibly think of, and she answered them all! Heathir has years of experience and knowledge that she is happy to share with her students. After reading my student materials, many books, and attending a birth, I thought I knew a lot about being a doula, but I was WRONG! We covered TONS of information and when it she saw that I was struggling with the postpartum depression part of the training, she offered me a sincere hug and kind words. It's not everyday you find someone so genuinely kind and caring. It's evident that Heathir's work comes from the heart. You'll never make a better investment for yourself and your doula career than a training with Heathir Brown!!!
    April Fools
    April Fools
    2017-02-09T18:56:37+0000
    I attended a workshop with Heathir in October 2016. The information she gave was very in depth but not overwhelming. We did a bunch of hands-on activities to help us to retain the information we learned. We talked, we laughed, we opened up to one another. The workshop definitely exceeded my expectations. Did I mention? Heathir is sooooo sweet! Thank you so much Heathir for being you and for the time and love you dedicated to our class!