Faith Clarke

faith-clarke-melody-of-autism

I started Melody of Autism to help others create or enlarge their villages; to make music wherever a child with autism is held. I’ve always heard it said that it takes a village to raise a child. The picture created by that saying fills me with warm, nurturing, safe thoughts. Although I am fully responsible - I am not alone. Although I can take care of myself - someone else will always have my back. We didn't feel like we had a village when Jaedon, our first son, was diagnosed with autism. The crowd huddled around us, sharing sadness and horror, then, slinked away, until, there we stood, alone. No one is to be blamed for this reaction. They were in as much shock as we were. They were in as much denial as we were. They also didn’t know how to help our child (or us). But we had to learn, they didn’t. And so it began, easy babysitting arrangements for date nights became not so easy. As our son got older, people seemed even more daunted by the prospect of being with him. Intuitive, skilled, loving, childcare was very difficult to find. When we did find it, we couldn’t afford it.

Parents of children with autism are on the job night and day. For my family, there was no down time. That kind of super vigilance led to frayed nerves and sharp tempers. We may reprimand innocent children for inconsequential things. Sleep deprivation, poor diet, limited social activities and poor self-care can lead to partners who can’t love themselves, let alone express their love for each other and their children. Maslow, in his famous psychological work on human motivation, suggested that human needs could be ordered in a hierarchy, with lower level needs requiring attention before higher level ones come into focus. Well, we were on the bottom rungs, scratching around to meet basic needs like food, shelter and rest. Self-care ranked up there with self-actualization, a lofty and elusive goal.

Every child with autism represents a family’s need for an entire team, an entire village of people rallying round to support, to be there, through thick and thin, tantrums and poop, hand flapping and picky eating. We need people who are there for us, not people who will judge our parenting or our child. We want people who desire to deeply connect with our family, different though we may seem. We look for people with an ever-expanding definition of what 'normal' means. People who believe that by really tuning in to a child and his or her family’s knowledge, they can be most beneficial. With autism currently affecting about 1% of all children born in the United States, it really is time to roll up our sleeves and get to work -- building villages together!

My Bio

My previous career in Computer Engineering and Systems Analysis helped me to sharpen my systematic approach to problem solving. I now apply those strategies to my current passion - helping people figure out the next steps on the path to their desired destination, and strategizing a plan to getting there. In my 20+ years as an educator, I developed an aptitude for curriculum development and creating self- discovery learning materials for adult learners that capitalizes on core motivations. I’m interested in adult learning issues and learning motivation, non-traditional learning environments, learning facilitation for special needs and learning differenced people. I thoroughly enjoy using an interest driven methodology to home school my three elementary aged children, one with a diagnosis of autism. My 100+ hours of training in various approaches to facilitating learning in people with autism have convinced me that every individual can learn, and we can support that learning by tuning in to their unique interests and strengths.

I'm excited to be pulling all these strands together as I pursue doctoral studies in Performance Psychology, focusing on the strategies for reducing stress, building and maintaining a sense of well-being in families like mine!

My formal education includes:

  • BS in Computer Science, University of the West Indies, Jamaica

  • MS in Computer Science, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Columbia University, NY

  • Level 1 P.A.I.R.S Instructor (Practical Application of Intimate Relationship Skills) Certification

  • Post-graduate studies in Adult Education and Psychology


Rita Gendelman, Autism Specialist

In my work as an occupational therapist, I’ve often seen that parents who care for themselves as well as their child (or children) are more likely to live in a state of happiness and joy. I believe that the well being of each family member is integral to every aspect of a child’s growth, whether special needs or not, as everyone and everything is intricately connected. Since I see many of my clients in their homes, I get to participate first hand in the application of therapeutic goals within daily life. I also get to see the many factors that can adversely effect the entire family as they battle to remain ‘sane’. Helping families re-learn how to attend to their lives while joyfully engaging their children with playful, practical activities has healing benefits for everyone.

My life's journey has been blessed by working with special needs children. Over the past 15 years, I’ve had the privilege to touch the lives of hundreds of children, each with different levels of social, emotional, physical and cognitive challenges. My true passion surrounds working with autistic children. They have been true teachers to me, helping me understand the humanity of my own life. Since obtaining my Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy, I've worked both in center-based OT environments and in private homes. I've always believed that autism is a puzzle that requires a very diverse and multifaceted approach. Therefore, I'm passionate about learning new approaches and continue to study a wide array of protocols and methodologies including relationship-based interventions, HANDLE, Auditory Integration Therapy, and primitive reflex interventions. I also give workshops, seminars and provide one-to-one coaching for parents and other professionals who are involved in the autism community.

In my capacity as MOA's Autism Specialist, I train and equip our Childcare Specialists to have that sensitive, tuned eye, so that they can see not only the child, but the entire family, and provide care based on the child’s specific needs, that complements the whole family. I want to help families achieve both the freedom to help their child and feel satisfaction and fulfillment in other areas of their life. I hope to share my experience and enthusiasm to help our parents create a dynamic holistic environment that supports the whole family while offering knowledgeable childcare support for their special needs child.