Kodette LaBarbera stars in HOCKEY WIVES, (W network, Mondays, 11 p.m.), a reality series that follows the lives of women married to professional hockey players. While her husband, Jason, heads to California to play for the Anaheim Ducks, Kodette stays in Calgary with their two children, Ryder and Easton. Two years ago, Ryder was diagnosed with autism, and they made the difficult decision to split up the family but provide Ryder with some much needed stability and consistency. While solo parenting is stressful, Kodette still finds time to promote autism awareness. Her current work with Autism Aspergers Friendship Society of Calgary (AAFS) and other charitable projects earned her a Linking Sports Community Leadership Award in 2013. She shares with ParentsCanada her tips for raising a child with autism.
“Be proactive. Don’t waste time getting on therapy lists. Explore activities you can do at home that are fun and good for them. For example, I made sensory bins. Ryder has to look for marbles in a bin of rice or beans. Or I put tiny toys in silly putty and he has to dig them out!
“We have our special ways of doing things... not staying places long, ordering food, the bill and to go containers all at once. We do what works for us as a family and hope that people understand that we know Ryder and what he needs. He may be OK with something one time, and the next time it’s a struggle. For example, he used to love being the helper at school, and now he wants nothing to do with it!
“He keeps us on our toes, as even a typical child would. And we wouldn't change a thing about it! Ryder has taught us so much about life and having a new perspective on it. We are beyond proud of him.”
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, September 2015.