#154 - Normal is Boring with Kristi Brewer, Autism Mom, Weightlifter, & Advocate

by Jessica Hill, COTA/L & Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC May 26, 2021

154 Normal is Boring with Kristi Brewer, Autism Mom, Weightlifter, & Advocate

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Normal is Boring with Kristi Brewer, Autism Mom, Weightlifter, & Advocate 

There is still so much to learn and share in the world of autism, parenting, and just pushing forward the conversation around difference. 

On the show today, we are happy to welcome Kristi Brewer, who is very difficult to put into a box! 

She is a mother to two daughters, a weightlifter, CPA, business-owner, and all-around powerhouse for positive progress. Kristi admits that when her second daughter was diagnosed with Autism she felt very overwhelmed and scared due to her ignorance on the subject. 

She goes on to explain how a whole new world of appreciation opened up for her, and why she is so grateful for the unexpected path her life has taken. 

We talk about the way we describe Autism, sensitivity to language, and supporting genuine curiosity for the subject. Kristi explains the positive impact of her daughter Kale'a's diagnosis, and how it made it more manageable. 

We also get to discuss some personal practices in Kristi's home, how they approach activities and furniture, and the important balance that is needed in order to see to her eldest daughter's needs too. 

Kristi shares some of her interesting life philosophy with us around routine, priorities, and much more, so for this wonderful and eye-opening conversation with an inspiring guest, listen in!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Kristi's background and the amazingly different chapters of her life and what she does.  
  • Thoughts on the different ways to denote autism and the conversation around language. 
  • The journey of raising a child with autism and how this compares with Kristi's older daughter. 
  • Kale’a’s diagnosis at age two, and Kristi's feelings of fear during this process.
  • How Kristi gained a new perspective and appreciation for a different life path of parenting.
  • The important conversations that need to happen in order to spread awareness about difference. 
  • Ways of communicating with children; Kristi shares her thoughts on better parenting habits. 
  • The sensory-focused items that are in Kristi's home right now - swings, trampolines, and gym mats. 
  • The relationship between siblings and the challenges that Kristi and her family have faced. 
  • The story behind Kristi's company, Auya, and their message and mission!  
  • Kristi's belief in kindness and confidence; making the world a better place with more acceptance.  
  • An amazing piece of advice from Kristi regarding pursuing your dreams.  


“I truly believe that we live multiple lives, and we have multiple roles, and that we're continually pivoting.” —Kristi Brewer [08:37]

“I felt like a total failure. She eventually made me realize that there's not just one way, like there are so many ways and to be open to differences and doing things differently.” —Kristi Brewer [21:48]

“Your life isn’t necessarily going to be exactly as you had it planned but it's still beautiful, and so much better.” —Kristi Brewer [24:01]

“The kids with parents that are open and understanding and caring, you can tell. Kids will react based on how their parents have reacted.” —Kristi Brewer [28:18]

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:


Kristi Brewer

Kristi Brewer on Instagram


Welcome to Holland 

Southpaw Bolster Swing 

All Things Sensory on Instagram

All Things Sensory on Facebook


Full Show Transcript

[00:00:02] RH: Hey, there. I’m Rachel.


[00:00:02] JH: And I’m Jessica and this is All Things Sensory by Harkla. Together, we’re on a mission to help children, families, therapists, and educators to live happy and healthy lives.


[00:00:11] RH: We dive in to all things sensory, special needs, occupational therapy, parenting, self-care and so much more. In each episode, we share raw, honest, fun ideas and strategies for everyone to implement into daily life.


[00:00:24] JH: Thank you so much for joining us.


[00:00:55] RH:Hey, everyone. Welcome back to All Things Sensory by Harkla. You're listening to Rachel and Jessica and today is Episode 154.


[00:01:05] JH:We're getting closer to that 200 mark. We're going to have to do something epic for 200.


[00:01:10] RH:Something special. Yes.


[00:01:12] JH:In the meantime, listen to today's interview, we chatted with Kristi Brewer. She is Insta-famous, and she's local to Boise, Idaho, and I'm going to go work out in her gym later.


[00:01:28] RH:We’re going to have a sensory playdate at house with all of her swings. But she also has a daughter with autism. She shares her story, what's been helpful for her, the struggles that she's gone through, and she is just an inspiration. I mean, really a huge inspiration. She tells it how it is. I think that's why we connected with her so much.


[00:01:55] JH:Really quick. There's a couple of adult words in this episode. So, just you know, be ready for it. Maybe, if you don't want your kids to hear it, then put some headphones in or something. But just making sure you're prepared.


[00:02:10] RH:Disclaimer. I’m glad that you said that. Thank you.


[00:02:12] JH:All right, let’s get into it.




[00:02:16] RH:Hi, Kristi. How are you today?


[00:02:19] KB:I'm good. Enjoying some windy – it was summer yesterday and now winter, it's back to winter.


[00:02:26] JH:Idaho weather is the worst.


[00:02:29] RH:For all of you joining us. Kristi is actually local to Boise, which is super exciting for us.


[00:02:34] JH:Okay, so we start out all of our interviews with five secret questions. So, we're going to jump right into those.


[00:02:42] KB:Okay.


[00:02:42] RH: First one, would you rather eat rotten eggs or drink rotten milk?


[00:02:49] KB:Probably rotten milk. That's the disgusting.


[00:02:52] JH:Both terrible.


[00:02:55] RH: Terrible, I know.


[00:02:57] JH:Wait, which one would you do?


[00:03:00] RH:Probably the rotten eggs. I just like — milk in general. To me anyways, and then rotten milk is even worse. I don’t know. 


[00:03:08] JH:I can't choose. Okay, this is a better question. I mean, that was a good question, too. But this one's more enjoyable. What country do you want to travel to?


[00:03:20] KB:I have not yet been to Europe. I would like to backpack Europe. I'm more of an outdoorsy person. So, wherever there's a beautiful country, but I recently also seen someone tour about Africa. Some pretty crazy waterfalls and stuff like that. So, somewhere where it's outdoors. I don't care so much for old buildings. I am more nature.


[00:03:45] RH:Yes, I can get on board with that. All right, so what is your pet-peeve?


[00:03:51] KB:My pet peeve, it’s someone saying they don't have enough time.


[00:03:55] JH:Well, that's because you're in into fitness. You're a fitness person. Can I say that? And so yeah, absolutely.


[00:04:03] KB:Yeah.


[00:04:04] JH:That totally makes sense with that.


[00:04:05] RH:Yes. Not only fitness. I mean, you're a mom, a business owner. I mean, you do all the things and you make time for the things that you're passionate about and that are meaningful to you.


[00:04:15] KB:Yeah. In my opinion. I never want to be busy. So, when someone's like, “I'm too busy.” That is the worst thing ever. You're essentially just wasting your time. Everyone has 24 hours. So, it just depends on how you wanted to take ownership of those 24 hours and then grind it. Not everyone has a full 24 hours. Some people have jobs that are very demanding and take up a big chunk. But in reality, you'll make time for what matters and if that's scrolling your phone for two hours.


[00:04:49] RH:That’s important to you, I guess.


[00:04:52] KB:You chose that.


[00:04:54] RH:Absolutely.


[00:04:54] JH:I like it. Who is someone that you look up to and this can be someone alive or somebody who is dead?


[00:05:02] KB:A woman, her name is Melanie Roach. She is a former Olympian. She is a mother to six. She [inaudible 00:05:13] also has an autistic son. So, when I started my journey, like seeing someone who has done where I want to go was very inspiring. So, she not only was married with children, and she had multiple children, she was older. That is something that's not very common in my athletic career.


[00:05:37] RH:Interesting. Wow. That's cool. I love it. Alright, last question, what is your sensory quirk?


[00:05:46] KB:Like mine?


[00:05:48] RH:Yours, yes.


[00:05:50] KB:I would say I am a sensory seeker, like my daughter. So, I like to move. My quirk is like I can't sit still. I have to be moving, shaking. I guess [inaudible 00:06:05].


[00:06:08] JH:You're a seeker. Totally.


[00:06:12] RH:Good.


[00:06:14] JH:All right. Well, now that everybody knows your deepest, darkest secrets, can you tell our listeners who you are, what you do, why you do it, all the things?


[00:06:24] KB:I'm Kristi Brewer. People most know me as k_mighty if you know me from the Gram. I feel like I live these multiple lives. So, like if you know me from the gram, you know me as k_mighty, the weightlifter. So, I'm an elite weightlifter. I compete for Team USA internationally. I most recently competed in Rome, in January of 2020 before the world shut down, [inaudible 00:06:47]. So, if you know me on that side, but then if you know me more of my professional side, I'm a CPA. So, I'm a total tax nerd. I live in Excel. I love Excel.


[00:06:59] JH:We should have had you do our taxes. Dang it!


[00:07:04] KB:[inaudible 00:07:06].


[00:07:07] JH:Well, I’m coming to you next.


[00:07:09] KB:I have any clients on like 4/10. I think, for the deadline, everyone's panicking this year.


[00:07:17] JH:That's me. No, that's me. I don't even have my K-1 form yet. I’m freaking out.


[00:07:25] KB:Who’s not?


[00:07:26] JH:Freaking out.


[00:07:27] KB:I went to school for a CPA, my passion is weightlifting. I definitely spend more of my time thinking that. Before I get done with my intro, it’s long. Yeah, I’m here because I am a mother to two girls, and my youngest is autistic. She's now eight. But yeah, like to me, I have these many chapters of my life and my chapter in my life that I'm currently living is mom and weightlifter. I lived my corporate America days, and I closed that chapter. So now, I do taxes on the side. It's not something that I choose to do full time, I guess you would say, because I am choosing to spend more time pursuing my athletic career, while I can still move.


[00:08:19] RH:I like that you call it your athletic career and like your professional career. I think that's so awesome.


[00:08:26] KB:Yeah. Because in reality, this is also another pet peeve. I have lots of peeves. When someone asks, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Assuming that you essentially want to be one thing. I truly believe that we live multiple lives, and we have multiple roles, and that we're continually pivoting. If you essentially believe that there's only one road to success, or to this achievement, like you're going to be in a part of a really long haul, when you're unwilling to take that pivot and these opportunities as they arise.


I graduated college, got my career, I got my dream job. That was my dream job. I’m going to be a partner in a big four firm. And then I had kids, and I’m like, “Oh, I don't actually want to work 90 hours a week. I really enjoy being a mother.” Then at 35, I picked up weightlifting and I realized, money is not my thing. I would rather experience these opportunities that money can't buy. Money cannot buy me competing in Rome. You can't just purchase your way to that opportunity. So, yeah, I'm much more of an experienced, motivated person.


[00:09:39] JH:I really like that, because I see that in myself as well of like, I was treating in a clinic and now I've taken a hard-right turn and I'm not even treating in the clinic anymore. I'm doing something completely different. But that's okay. It's just another path.


[00:09:59] KB:Thanks to the internet. We have opportunities that we did not have 5 to 10 years ago.


[00:10:04] JH:Yeah, no kidding.


[00:10:07] RH:Yeah. Okay, so you are like an onion. There are just layers and layers and layers to all that you do.


[00:10:12] JH:You’re just an onion, and who you are as well.


[00:10:16] KB:Can I be like an artichoke or something or maybe like –


[00:10:20] RH:An orange because there are different peels, right?


[00:10:23] KB:Yeah.


[00:10:25] JH:Can I be an orange?


[00:10:26] RH:Because you have to peel the orange, right?


[00:10:29] JH:That's fair. That's fair.


[00:10:30] RH:Okay, so let's kind of hone in first on autism. You said it was your youngest, who has autism or who is autistic. Do you have a preference?


[00:10:40] JH:Okay. Yeah, let's break this down really quick, because there's been a lot of controversy.


[00:10:45] KB:I personally am not picky because I believe that if we want people to be accepting and understanding of what autism is, that you can't even picky. Because this is like my world. I live and breathe this world. So, I understand it, where someone who is not living it is not going to understand the lingo. If you come from a genuine kind heart, I don't care, essentially how you say it. It's the underlying, what are you trying to understand? Let's be honest, today, it could be tomato, and tomorrow is going to be tomato and you – it’s a constantly evolving picture of what's really deemed appropriate. So, yeah, I choose to not be easily offended on how people put a label.


[00:11:34] JH:Okay, good.


[00:11:37] RH:Thank you, makes it easy for us.


[00:11:39] JH:It really does.


[00:11:39] RH:I think it’s so important to ask the people who were living in and breathing it. We work with kiddos who are autistic, and I mean, it's always been person with autism until recently, and it's changing, which is fine. But I think it's helpful to just have that open conversation from, like you said, in a place of kindness.


[00:12:00] JH:And learning, yeah.


[00:12:00] KB:Also, she's nonverbal, and she's only eight. So, she isn't able or has not yet told me how she wants to be or like me to say it. I will respect that when she tells me, because there are autistic adults, and they do have a preference. When they do say that, I will respect that, but my child has not yet identified what she prefers.


[00:12:32] JH:Yeah. Totally


[00:12:33] RH:Got to respect that.


[00:12:36] JH:Okay, so can you share with us your journey with your daughter, your youngest daughter?


[00:12:42] KB:So, I had my older daughter. They’re about three and a half years apart. So, I had her neurotypical, all the milestones. I was a mom who had all the checklists and read all the books like she was by the book. And so, then I had my youngest daughter, her name is Kale'a, she did not check those things off. For me, I was concerned, that’s who I am, I'm a type A personality, why aren't things matching up? I brought it up to my pediatrician. She finds her just delayed. I brought it up my husband, he finds her just delayed. All the time. Constantly, every appointment we had and I started noticing things around five or six months, she’d only roll over to one side. She was unable to set up on her own. She just clapped. Most kids, you can prop up and they'll just sit there and she couldn't.


So, I constantly like putting pillows around her. Other things that I did not know were signs that we've just dealt with. Well she had reflux and so she was always unhappy. We put her on Percocet, I think it's what it's called. We got to that point where it was like, “Save me, something. Like I'm dying. I feel awful.” Then could not hold her. You couldn't touch her. To feed her we literally have to put her on the ground and I would hold a bottle and it was just like awful. You’re a mother, you want to hold them, you want to breastfeed. So, I actually pumped full time and bottle fed her breastmilk, whole time.


[00:14:24] RH: Wow, that’s not easy.


[00:14:25] JH:Yeah.


[00:14:27] KB:I was so exhausted. Mind you, I was working full time, it was busy season. I worked in a big four firm. I was working 80 hours a week. It was awful. But I did that, because of the reflux, she was unhappy. You just don't know. I didn't know anyone with autism. I didn’t know the signs. So yeah, you couldn't rock her. If you do move, she was absolutely horrific for her. So, if you try to hold her in a rocking chair, she would scream, like hysterical, she would claw your face. These are memories I totally push — I hid them under a rock. They’re bad.


So, her infancy was really, really hard. Finally, I eventually actually self-referred to this state. We were living in California while my husband was going to medical school. I was trying to get the answer from the pediatrician to saying she's delayed. Self-referred to the state, stay 45 days where they have to come in and do an assessment. The assessment revealed that she had low muscle tone, was the diagnosis that they gave her. So, when she was 10 months old is when they started PT and OT. That's when we started doing vestibular motion things, swinging, sensory, playing with like textures. All of this started around 10 months.


As we got closer to two years, I realized she's barely babbling, the communication is not there. There's something more. At this time, autism became like a question. I put it off. I did not want to go that route. Absolutely did not. That was a road I did not want to pursue. The state gave us a speech therapist. So, the speech therapist came in and day one said, “I think it's something else. I believe that you need to go get her checked for autism.” The reason she says that is because her of attention. She wasn't making eye contact and I wasn't aware like this is something I didn't even see. She was not making an eye contact. She was unable to keep attention so she could not complete a task. So, the speech therapist was essentially saying like, “I can't help her because she's not even being attentive to the work.”


So, before all this happened, which is kind of interesting play, about six months before we got to speech therapists, and autism became like something in the back of my head. I called the Center for Neurodevelopment Disorders and Autism in California. It was a year wait to get an assessment, an the entire year. I was like, “Alright, well just put me on the list. It's a year. I'm not even ready for an assessment.” And in six months, we got a speech therapist, and it was crazy. So, I've been on the wait list for six months. I ended up calling them to see like, “Hey, where am I at?” And they said, “Oh, we actually have an appointment available like next week.”


[00:17:35] JH:Oh, wow.


[00:17:35] KB:So, it was crazy. We ended up getting in. It was Mother's Day weekend and the doctor like immediately, he did like this interview and something he saw that I wasn't aware of like she's been a flapper. She’s a flapper as a child. She received her diagnosis in May of 2015. 


[00:17:59] JH:She was two?


[00:18:00] KB:She was two.


[00:18:01] JH:Can I ask why you didn't initially want to go down that route to get a diagnosis?


[00:18:07] KB:Because it was scary. It was a world unknown to me. That's why I pick up so boldly now, is because I believe we fear what we do not know. I did not know autism. I didn't know anyone with autism. I wasn't even familiar. It was like a scary word. I'm 40, I'm turning 40, and that wasn't common in my youth. I believe it's much more common, much more spoken about now. It was scary, because I didn't know it.


[00:18:44] RH:Okay, so on top of that, are you glad that you pursued that route? And you did push for testing to see if it was autism?


[00:18:53] KB:Yeah. 100%. Because it opened up a world of opportunities that we would not have. She's been able to get therapies that I could not afford, funding healthcare. Her bills are astronomical. When she was younger, we had 15 hours of ABA therapy, one on one services, a week. I could not afford 15, 20 grand a month for therapists. Who can?


[00:19:26] JH:No one.


[00:19:31] KB:Because of her diagnosis, it's open doors. That's why I'm 100% for getting your kids – the label is scary, but the label in my opinion is it opens doors.


[00:19:44] RH:It’s necessary.


[00:19:45] JH:Yeah, for sure. Totally.


[00:19:46] KB:You know what, you don't have to share it with everyone. I'm very open about to speak about it because I don't want to be seen as how I saw it. I didn't want to be seen as scary, as overwhelming and bad. It's not bad. She’s not sick. I don't believe she needs a cure. I don't believe I need to change her. But those are all things I thought back then. I also thought, like, we'll totally outgrow it.


So, when she was diagnosed at two, my whole goal, or like, my path was, “Hey, by the time she's 5, by the time she's in kindergarten, she'll be neurotypical. This will be behind us. We’ll outgrow it. I'm strong, we can do this.” I thought I could just totally work with her. I also thought it was more of a muscle, like a strength, because they always told me low muscle tone, weak core. I got that. [inaudible 00:20:49] but the more I know, it's so much more than that. And being able to accept not just the diagnosis, but her and doing things differently.


So, this was the biggest mind shift for me. My first one neurotypical. Literally, this was the route. When I was talking earlier about, “Hey, what do you want to be when you grew up?” This is the route. This is the tape. These are the steps. This is what you do in life. So, I just assumed like, this is parenthood, these are your milestones, this is how you do it. My first one responded to all of that, very well, and I felt like a good mom. And then my second daughter comes along, and she's like, “I'm going chew you up and spit you out.” None of that is going to work for me. I felt like a total failure. She eventually made me realize that there's not just one way, like there are so many ways and to be open to differences and doing things differently, and processing and eat. Just literally, everything is different and that it's not bad. It truly is good. It made me realize that I can also do things differently. That's really cool.


[00:22:12] RH:I could listen to you talk –


[00:22:14] JH:I know. Don’t stop.


[00:22:15] RH:You’re inspirational, seriously. I know we have so many different people who listen to our podcast, therapists and parents, maybe like new parents and just having this information, this this outlook on autism, it's not a scary thing. For someone who doesn't have a background or that doesn't know about it, to change that narrative, and to say, it's not a bad thing. It's different from your perception of what you thought parenthood would be, right?


[00:22:46] KB:Yeah. Have ever read the poem, I think it's like, it's called Welcome to Holland. It is a poem about being a parent to a child of extra needs and disabilities, like however you want to say it. Welcome to Holland, by Emily Perl Kingsley. It just puts it into perspective. So, essentially, you plan your entire life for Italy. You pack your bags, you buy the clothes, everything is ready for Italy. You get on the plane, you're ready for Italy, you're really ready to land, and they say, “Welcome to Holland.” And you're like –


[00:23:26] RH:Let’s go back to Italy.


[00:23:27] KB:I don't want to go to Holland, I want to go to Italy. And then they're like, “But Holland is beautiful. There are windmills and there are flowers, and there are tulips and all these experiences.” And you begin to realize that like, “I may never go to Italy. Italy is not my destination. I'm in Holland and Holland is beautiful and amazing. It's an incredible experience that you're going to have. It's not Italy, it’s Holland.” It’s a really cool poem in essence. The mind shift of your life isn’t necessarily going to be exactly as you had it planned but it's still beautiful, and so much better. She's hands down like the game changer for my heart, for the lack of a better term.


[00:24:20] JH:Yeah. I will say that that's a pretty consistent theme with parents that we talk to who say that they wouldn't change anything about their child, even they wouldn't change that their child has autism because it's brought them a whole new view on life.




[00:24:39] RH: We just want to take a minute and talk to you about our company, Harkla. Our mission at Harkla is to help those with special needs special needs live happy healthy lives. Not only do we accomplish this through the podcast, but we also have therapy products, easy to follow digital courses and the Harkla Sensory Club to try to bring holistic care to you and your family.


[00:24:55] JH: Listeners of the All Things Sensory podcast get 10% off their first purchase at Harkla with a discount code, “Sensory.” We’d recommend checking out some of our best-sellers, like the compression sensory swing, weighted blankets or our course on sensory diets. 


[00:25:12] RH: Here’s the best part, 1% of each sale gets donated to the University of Washington Autism Center to support autism research and fund scholarships to families in need to receive in-clinic therapy for their child.


[00:25:24] JH: Learn more about Harkla and all we have to offer at harkla.co. Don’t forget to use the discount code “sensory” to get 10% off your first purchase. That’s S-E-N-S-O-R-Y for 10% off.


[00:25:44] RH: The best part is, all Harkla orders come with a lifetime guarantee and free shipping.


[00:25:52] JH: You really can’t beat that.


[00:25:53] RH: No.


[00:25:54] JH: No, you can’t. Okay. Let’s go back to the show.




[00:25:57] KB:I truly believe and that's why I want to speak up and share it because the more people can see that it's not bad, it's just different. We would go to the grocery store when she was a kid. Even now, like she'll have moments of being overwhelmed, and she's nonverbal. So, she's unable to communicate, so she'll react, whether it's like a meltdown, or she likes to hit people when she's mad. They’ll be like, “Hey Kale’a!” She’s like – that’s her way of saying, like, “Hey, I'm off limits right now.” That could be like, a lot of people don't know how to react to it. So, for me, the more we can share they're just processing differently, and they're going to react differently. It's not bad. It's just different.


[00:26:49] RH:It's unexpected for people who aren't prepared for it.


[00:26:51] KB:Yeah. Well, here's two things. If you're like just a douchebag. I'm going to be snarky, like smartass back at you. But if you're like this kind human, little kids will ask me all the time, like, “Hey, why doesn't she talk or question things?” I'm like, “Oh, my gosh, I'm going to bend down and we're just going to chit chat right now.” Because they're genuinely curious, like, “Hey, why is she doing this differently?” I am 100% all in for that, genuine curiosity.


[00:27:21] JH:Yeah. Well, and I think that teaches our children so much. If we can just have a conversation about the differences with our kids, then they don't see it as weird or bad. It's just like, “Oh, okay, that kid's just a little bit different and that's okay.”


[00:27:35] KB:Yeah. Well, that's the biggest thing, like one of my peeves is with parents. The kid is wanting to ask something and they're shooshing them. Like, “Don’t”, or trying to put them like away, in a different aisle and hide, and you're essentially saying that she's different and weird. Versus like, different is good and you're welcome to ask. My biggest thing is stop shushing the kids from asking, especially a child is going to ask because they're genuinely curious. You can see, I can definitely tell kids with parents who don't necessarily accept the people who are different, versus the kids with parents that are open and understanding and caring, you can tell. Kids will react based on how their parents have reacted.


[00:28:29] JH:For sure.


[00:28:29] RH:Definitely. How do you communicate it to the adults? That’s the population that needs to be talking to.


[00:28:41] KB:I mean, it's us. It's my generation and it's the older people where we didn't see or know people with special needs. They weren't necessarily in our classrooms. They were honestly always in the resource room. So, I didn't really know many. I saw some in small schools, but it's just not a community I grew up with. I would say my generation and older, it's not something that we were very accustomed to where younger generations are having these opportunities to be around people who are different. So, they're going to be more accepting because it's not weird. It's not –


[00:29:23] JH:It's just normal.


[00:29:25] RH:It’s the new normal.


[00:29:29] JH:It is.


[00:29:29] RH:So, we've talked on Instagram before and I know you have a very open mind to sensory stuff. I'm curious like what sensory staples are in your house right now?


[00:29:43] KB:Our biggest thing are swings, because when she literally – and this is something that we started when she was 10 months old, vestibular motion was something that she struggled so much with. They said the vestibular motion will help make the connections in her brain and her body, and it's just going to help her on so many levels. Essentially, one of our therapy adventures, it's been swings and trampolines. So, we've always had an outdoor trampoline. Now, we have indoor, like the little indoor trampoline and we probably have like, six swings in our house.


[00:30:22] JH:Which one is her favorite?


[00:30:24] KB:Her favorite is the Bolster Swing from Southpaw.


[00:30:27] JH:Okay.


[00:30:27] KB:It honestly is every child in the neighborhood’s favorite swing and every adult. Hands down, I would put those in every room because it swings back and forth, but it spins. We also have the trapeze bar on the top, so people like stand on the swing and then pull themselves up. We have gym mats. You can see the gym mats behind me like they're all over my house. My motto is function over fashion.


[00:30:57] RH:We were just talking about that.


[00:30:56] JH:That’s me too. We’re just talking about that too. I’m like, “Nothing in my house matches, but it’s comfortable.”


[00:31:05] KB:I honestly would have zero couches and put all yoga balls and –


[00:31:09] RH:Beanbag chairs and crash pads.


[00:31:13] KB: Yeah and we have ginormous beanbag chairs. They fold out into beds. In my opinion, it's about a developmental experience and not a, “Hey, let's sit and watch this square box.” One of my biggest pet peeves are TVs. I hate TVs. We never even owned a TV. So, one day my husband stuck one in the house like two years ago, and —


[00:31:41] JH: I'm really glad that one of our secret questions wasn't like what's your favorite TV show?


[00:31:46] RH:I know.


[00:31:48] KB:I don't have any. When people are be like, “Hey, what is your favorite TV show?” “I don't know.” "What's your favorite movie?" "I don't know." I don't watch TV and I don't watch movies.


[00:31:57] JH:It’s so funny.


[00:31:58] JH: But it makes sense because you don't like to sit down. You're a movement seeker. So, it's probably hard for you to sit down and watch TV for hours on end.


[00:32:07] KB:Yeah. I don't relax. My biggest, I guess you would say weaknesses is I don't know how to chill. My husband is from Hawaii. So, he's always like, “Woman, chill out.” Swings are the biggest thing in our house and then our entire garage is actually a gym. And so, we have like all those – it’s all black mats and then we have the rings, gymnastic rings, rope, that’s where I train. So, there's all my weights and stuff.


[00:32:41] JH: I'm going to come work out.


[00:32:42] KB:So, it’s function over fashion. You can come and work out.


[00:32:44] RH:Jessica’s like, “Do you think she takes clients?” I was like, “You'll have to ask her.”


[00:32:49] JH:I was just looking at your Instagram and I’m like, “Look how buff she is.”


[00:32:57] KB:You know what's cool, though, is like Kale’a has not very much desire to take physical instruction for me on how to lift. But she'll come in, and that girl is a booty shaker. She loves to dance. Loves, loves, loves. So, she'll go out and dance with me all the time. But she’ll pick up – I have a bar for her like five pounds and she'll totally move it through like a press or a snatch. So, she's grown up in the gym. She's been in the gym with me since she was literally one. There are movements that she's picked up just from growing in the gym with me.


[00:33:38] JH:And watching you.


[00:33:38] KB:Which I think is awesome.


[00:33:41] RH:Yes. Even though you're not saying, "Do this, do this, pick up this exercise and do this with me," she's just around it and seeing you. It’s that whole exposure thing.


[00:33:50] KB:Yeah, like she's often. My kids definitely stay at home. Well, the only reason I can get training in is because I do it at home. And so, the kids, they can run around, they can play their friends. So, they're constantly in the gym with me. I mean, she's been around it for seven years.


[00:34:06] JH:Yeah. It's great. I'm curious about her daily routine. Is she in any therapies right now? Is she in school? What is her day look like? What does your day look like with her?


[00:34:21] KB:So, before school, before like she was in school-school. it was very, very intense. We were 20 hours a week in therapy. There’s a lot of work for me. I know that Kale’a needs help, which is why I ended up quitting corporate America because I wanted to be the one being more involved in therapy. Her youth, I mean, she still youth, but I'm saying like her infancy was – her toddlerhood was really hard. Her behaviors were way more extreme and super difficult. I would never go back and relive those years.


She struggled with a little bit. She was literally a threat to her own life. Still to this day, she needs 24-hour care. We still worry about her. She's not to be left unattended. She'll either flood my house or light it on fire. Not fire, she’ll flood it or she'll run. But now, she's in school full time. She absolutely loves school. She loves her friends. She's actually extremely social. She wants to be around friends. She wants to be around people. She may not necessarily interact with them, but she wants to be in the room with them.


So now, her outside therapies are not as intense because she's exhausted. She's in school for seven hours a day, which is a ton. So, being a busy person, I was like, “Alright, you got it on the schedule.” I'll just like, “We'll do this and this.” When we first moved here, we had Aqua therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, OT, PT, like all of it. We had a pretty intense therapy schedule. But now, her schedule is, she gets PT, OT and speech at school. Then outside of school, we're currently just in PT. We're taking a break from speech because we did reach the therapy burnout. We will resume speech later this year, probably. I don't know, hopefully, we'll pick it up this summer.


She’s in gymnastic, which, in my opinion, is therapy. She’s totally doing like she’s walked on the balance beam, they have her do somersaults. But it's a different environment and she loves it. She actually engages because she's part of a group, rather than being in a clinic. It's been a different experience and an eye opener for me, opportunities that aren't in a clinical setting, and then she's also in soccer. So, I do try to sign her up for neurotypical activities, because she does learn from our peers. The more she can be around neurotypical peers, walking, talking, like seeing how they behave, that's what she's going to mimic. That's what I want her to mimic, versus someone who's also struggling to process.


Honestly, she's been in soccer since she was four years old. I was the coach when it started. And then I was the assistant coach. And then just this year, I hired someone because as she gets older, she will want lots of mommy on the field, she wants to feel like – she’s becoming more independent, which is absolutely incredible. Her desire to be independent, and I want to honor that. So now, we have like a coach that's on the field with her. Sometimes I get frustrated because she doesn't essentially want to be on the field and kicking the ball and in the crowd, like bunch ball. She doesn't want to play the bunch ball. She wants to play kick her ball and then I’ll go and take it from her. 


So, she's not necessarily on the field a whole lot. For me, sometimes it's hard to be like, “Alright, is it worth it? She’s just on a bench.” And then my husband's like, “You have to understand, like, why are you in sports and why do we sign her up?” To realize that she gets pure joy of cheering for her friends and getting a snack after the game. She's elated. Why would I take that experience from her just because I'm frustrated that I'm essentially not watching her play? Going to practices used to be extremely overwhelming for me, because I ran with her on the field, and then she gets mad at me. So, like, realizing that it’s okay to ask for help and hire help, has made this season a lot better. I honestly originally signed her up because her older sister was playing, and she literally came up to me and said, “Me too. Me too.” 


Because she wanted to play. It was a realization and this is like when she was four, and that's why I signed her up for so many things now. Because I realized that, again, my expectation was like, “Okay, this is the way you do it. This is the way. This is like should, it’s how it should be done.” But her way is different and I realize, what she wants to play, she wants a jersey, to be a part of the team, and her version of what a teen is, is going to be much different than mine, and she's going to get just as much fulfillment. So, find her that jersey and go into the game is worth it for her. It's going to be a totally different experience. The experience is going to be different, but that fulfillment is going to be so much more.


[00:40:00] JH:Yeah, I think that's such a great point is that we have to take our expectations off of our kids, sometimes. What we want for them isn't always what they want for themselves and that's a huge.


[00:40:13] KB:The biggest thing is expectation and this whole world of like, this is how it should be done, it’s what you should do, really is detrimental. Expectations can truly ruin an experience.


[00:40:26] JH:Yeah. It can.


[00:40:27] KB:So, there's like this meme, and there's the kid at first place and like this first place trophy and he has like sad face and all done. And then you see this kid with third place, and he’s just like, “Yeah!”


[00:40:41] JH:Stoked.


[00:40:42] KB:So excited, and he got third place. It’s just this reality of expectation of who got a better experience. He got third, but he’s so much better than this [inaudible 00:40:56] because it’s third place.


[00:40:59] JH:I know exactly the mean that you're talking about. I love that one. It's just our perception defines our reality. If you perceive it as bad, then that's how it's going to be for you. But it doesn't have to be that way.


[00:41:13] KB:Yeah.


[00:41:15] JH:Okay, can we talk about, so you have two daughters, so let's talk about their relationship a little bit. We get a lot of parents asking how to help siblings, when one of them is autistic. So, can you talk about that a little bit?


[00:41:29] KB:There's definitely been some highs and lows. Because the younger one, she takes a lot more work, and especially when she was younger, she just, by default, had to have 100% of my attention. I'm grateful that there's a little bit a bigger of a gap, than just having them so close. But the biggest thing that helps is having one on one time with my older daughter. So, we would do like one on one dates, one on one park or whatever it is to where she felt that she was getting time, because I feel like it was time and attention. And she's had to step up in a big way and I needed help on so many levels of like, “Hold her hand. Hold her down. Go get me this.” 


She's growing up so much faster, just because I needed help. There have been some dad moments where she wanted to play with her sister. She’s like, “Nobody wants to play with me.” That’s really hard, but I understand. Because you see your friends who have friends like sisters and siblings, and it's a different experience. I can't relate. I don't know what it's like. I've never been there. I just feel like we're kind of learning and figuring it out as we go because it is what it is.


[00:42:54] JH:Just making each experience as beneficial and as positive as possible, but also learning through the challenging moments as well. Telling your older daughter, like, “I'm going through this. I'm learning through this with you. We're in this together, and navigating it together.”


[00:43:10] KB:Yeah. So, the biggest thing to me is realizing that she wants just as much time and attention, because the other one is taking so much. Just by default, she needs it for her safety.


[00:43:25] RH:Yeah. That makes sense. You co-own another company, right?


[00:43:31] KB:Yep.


[00:43:31] RH:Pronounce it for me.


[00:43:33] KB:Auya.


[00:43:34] RH:Auya. Okay, tell us about Auya.


[00:43:38] KB:So, Auya, the AU stands for autism, so that's why it’s “Au”, it’s like autism, Auya. And then the YA is “yeah”, so it stands for positivity, LIKE, “Yeah! Got this! High five!” So, totally made up word, but that's the meaning behind the Auya. We really wanted to celebrate the beauty of being different. We wanted to champion doing things your own way, and not following the status quo of what you should do. Our focus is female. I'm a female, the co-owner is my sister. I have girls. I get girls. Honestly, females can be mean to each other. There's this competition and these mean girls, and comparison, and that's something that we really just wanted to abolish.


So, this is how I essentially think of it. Haters hate. Hurt people hate. If they're hurting, like they lash out, the people who are confident and kind and strong can respond with confidence and kindness because they're happy in their heart, and they're okay with who they are so they can accept people for who they are and for being different. That's something, that’s so much of our message is being confident and kind. Whenever we are doing anything, we're like, “All right, at the root, are we spreading confidence and kindness?” 


Because they truly believe if the world can be more kind — and I'm not saying like this whole, like cliché thing. But like if you really boil things down, confidence and kindness, I truly believe are like at the heart of almost everything that is good, confident humans can spread more kindness than someone who's hurting. If we can just be genuinely caring and accepting of just humans being different, and you don't have to agree with everything they do, but you don't have to be a douchebag. You can still be kind and disagree. Like just shut your mouth and walk away. 


[00:45:55] RH:It's so simple when you boil it down like that. It's so simple. But it's so hard for so many people.


[00:46:02] KB:Right. The thing is, in my opinion, you don't have to agree with everyone. There's plenty of people that I just don't mess with and that's totally fine. I don't really agree with a lot of things. But I keep my mouth shut, and I just move on, like, unless I can help them or be kind, or give a high five, I don't need to be involved in that situation. You do the world no good by a rude comment, or snarkiness. Actually, I like snarkiness.


[00:46:33] JH:Depends on the situation.


[00:46:37] KB:It's more so at the end of the day of just being kind, because I believe we're all humans and we all are – everyone is fighting their own battle, whether you see it at the face. Well, autism is not like a visual appearance. It's something that you can visually see whether they are struggling with walking or talking, something that's more physical, but there's other things, whether it's a mental issue that you're struggling with, or you talk bad all the time. I truly believe everyone's fighting their own battle and we all just need to be a little bit more kind. That’s all. [inaudible 00:47:24].


[00:47:27] JH:It's perfect, though. It's like that whole idea of like, if you can't say something nice and don't say anything at all. I tell my son that my son that. My son is seven and sometimes he'll start complaining or starting to say something like, “Hey, look, you can say that in your head. But you don't say it out loud because it doesn't help.”


[00:47:50] KB:Yeah, so our main two slogans are 'normal and boring'. Because we do really want to champion this different is good. And then the other one is, 'I'm a limited edition'. So those are two main slogans of just really championing and supporting, essentially, like celebrating that beauty of these different.


[00:48:10] JH:I like the 'normal is boring'.


[00:48:12] RH:Yes.


[00:48:15] KB:Yeah. That's when most people resonate with us. Add a little bit of snark to it, but positivity.


[00:48:23] RH:I think it’s you. As I'm learning more about you, like snarky, but like, in a good way, but so positive and inspirational. But it's like, not snarky. It's like, sassiness.


[00:48:34] JH:Yeah, it’s sassy.


[00:48:35] RH:It’s good. It's contagious.


[00:48:37] KB:Yeah, I don't do well with the whole, like these motivational quotes. But the reality of life, I definitely relate more to motivational snark, I guess, is what you call it.


[00:48:55] RH:So good. You kind of mentioned at the beginning, you are on the Olympic team, for weightlifting, the international weightlifting team.


[00:49:04] KB:So, I compete for Team USA. There are a lot of us who can essentially – like there's different rankings and qualifiers. And so, if you reach a certain total, then you're eligible to compete internationally and for the USA. So, it means like your blood tested, drug tested all of that. And then to qualify for the Olympics, they actually only take four.


[00:49:26] RH:Wow.


[00:49:27] KB:So, there are 10 weight classes. If you even were number one in your weight class for the United States of America, you would not go to any Olympic because they only take the top – out of those 10 they would only take two to four. So, it's actually extremely difficult and it's going to even be more difficult, because I think next year, they're going to cut back that even more. So, I represent and compete internationally for the USA. I am not on a 2021 Olympic team.


[00:49:59] RH:Got you. Does your husband lift too? Is he a weightlifter?


[00:50:04] KB:He's not, which is so funny and everyone – I hate – everyone asks this, like , “Oh, I wish you bench.” He doesn’t bench. He doesn’t even lift. Those people who walk around and look like they lift, this is not fair. I have to work for this.


[00:50:21] RH:Okay. Your pet-peeve is one of the pet-peeves we found out, is that, 

you don't like when people say, “I'm too busy, I don't have time.” So, how do you make time for everything?


[00:50:33] KB:When people are like, “How do you do it all?” I say, “Well, I don't. I don't do it all.” I choose what's most important for me. So, my priority is family, weightlifting, and then everything else will filter in. And so, I do a ton of – if you look at my calendar, it’s blocked out. I do some time blocking. First, identify what is important to you, and then put it on your calendar, like create the meeting. So, I have meetings in my calendar for when I'm going to train. It's a priority for me, it is blocked out, I don't schedule meetings, I don't schedule errands, that’s a meeting with myself to train. I schedule time for my kids. So, I know there's the time block in the evening that is not Instagram time. It's not email time. It's family time. The more when you can honor those blocks and those chunks of time, you feel fulfilled. Because you were making time for what matters.


Then the stupid things in life that we have to do like laundry and dishes, I spread it out. So, I’ll do one for a week or one load of laundry a day because I absolutely also loathe, pet-peeve Sunday chores, or sorry, Saturday chore days. No, Saturday is play day. I don’t want to stay home and do yard work all day. And so, for me, if I can just do – it’s still about consistency. If you can do a little bit each day, that's how I make progress. For me, the biggest thing is time blocking and understanding what your priorities are, that you can go down the rabbit hole of whether it's Instagram or email or whatever, and not letting yourself do that.


[00:52:17] JH:I was also going to mention that you don't watch TV. So, that's a big, big thing.


[00:52:24] RH:That is a time suck, for sure.


[00:52:25] KB:There are so many times that, if you're struggling with time, take a time audit of your day. Write down everything you do, and you will be shocked, at how much time you waste. 


[00:52:38] RH:I've done that before. It’s eye opening.


[00:52:40] KB:Yeah, it's eye opening. It's also like nutrition. Well, people, when they come to me and they want to help with nutrition. I’m like, “Alright, for the next two days, I want a log of what you ate.” If you don't know where you are, you can't make a change, as it's like eye opening of like, “Holy crap. I snacked all day long.”


[00:53:03] JH:I ate five handfuls of jelly beans.


[00:53:11] KB:So, a lot of it's just being aware of your actions. You really do have to take control. The more time you have, the more time you have manage. When people have full time jobs, there's a lot less time to manage. The people who are self-employed, working from home, you really got to be in control. You have a lot more on your plate.


[00:53:34] JH:A lot of self-discipline. So true. Before we fully wrap up, what is one piece of advice that you can give to our listeners?


[00:53:45] KB:My biggest piece of advice would be, you're never too old or too young to pursue a dream. So, if you want to do something, start working for it. Don't worry about being the dumbest in the room or the worst in the gym. Everyone sucks at first. Everyone was once a beginner and that's like, honestly, my biggest thing. I started weightlifting at 35. I felt super old. Everyone told me I was too old. But in reality, now I’m 40, everyone's like, “Oh, look at you know.” It really is just starting and showing up and being okay, being a beginner who doesn't know what they're doing.


[00:54:26] RH:Yeah.


[00:54:26] JH:Totally.


[00:54:30] RH:It's been five years and look at where you're at now.


[00:54:34] KB:If you want to do something, try and fail 9,000 times. Just keep showing up. That’s literally the only thing you can do is keep showing up and ask questions. Because the more you realize and the more you talk and ask everyone, there are so many people who are willing to help and share. So, ask for help.


[00:54:56] JH:Yeah, so true.


[00:54:58] RH:Love it. Oh, man, Kristi. I could listen to you talk all day.


[00:55:01] JH:I'm just going to go to her house.


[00:55:03] RH:I know. We're just going to come over and hang out with you.


[00:55:05] KB:Well you’re allowed to come hang out. We’ll throw around some weights.


[00:55:09] RH:Yes, that would be awesome.


[00:55:11] KB:And swing on the swing.


[00:55:12] RH:Yeah, set up some obstacle courses. Alright, my dear. Well, we appreciate you spending your time with us on this busy Thursday afternoon. So, thank you so, so much.


[00:55:26] KB:Okay guys.


[00:55:27] JH:Bye.


[00:55:27] RH:We’ll talk to you later.




[00:55:33] RH:Wow, I said multiple times during this episode, I could have listened to her talk for hours and hours.


[00:55:39] JH:I just wanted her to keep talking because she's so knowledgeable. She speaks really, really well. She was just fun.


[00:55:46] RH:I just love her perspective, too. She has a great perspective. She's a mom. She's a business owner. She's a weightlifter. She is passionate. You can just hear that passion in her voice. She's been through a lot and thankfully, she shared that all with us.


[00:56:03] JH:Yeah, that was great. So, make sure you go, reach out to her on Instagram. Let her know you listen to this episode. Follow her journey and listen to this episode again, because it was just that good.


[00:56:16] RH:It was. Yes. After you listen, twice, if you're going to listen twice, leave us a review on iTunes. We appreciate your feedback and it just helps us reach more people, which is ultimately the goal, right? We want to spread, especially, Kristi’s message to everyone far and wide. We don't want people to fear autism and to fear these differences, because normal is boring.


[00:56:41] JH:On that note, thanks for listening and have a great day.


[00:56:45] RH:Okay, bye.


[00:56:48] RH: Thank you so much for listening to All Things Sensory by Harkla. If you want more information on anything we mentioned in the show, head over to harkla.co/podcast to get all of the show notes. 


[00:56:59] JH:We always have the show notes and links, plus full transcripts to make following along as easy as possible for everyone. If you have follow-up questions, the best place to ask those is in the comments on the show notes or message us on our Instagram account, which is at @harkla_family. If you just search Harkla, you’ll find us.


[00:57:19] RH:Like we mentioned before, our podcast listeners get 10% off their first order at Harkla, whether it’s for one of our digital courses, one of our sensory swings, the discount code SENSORY will save you 10%. That code is S-E-N-S-O-R-Y. Head over to harkla.co/sensory to use that code right now, so you don’t forget.


[00:57:42] JH:We’re so excited to work together to help create confident kids all over the world and work towards a happier healthier life.


[00:57:48] RH:All right. We’ll talk to you guys next week.



While we make every effort to share correct information, we are still learning. We will double check all of our facts but realize that medicine is a constantly changing science and art. One doctor / therapist may have a different way of doing things from another. We are simply presenting our views and opinions on how to address common sensory challenges, health related difficulties and what we have found to be beneficial that will be as evidenced based as possible. By listening to this podcast, you agree not to use this podcast as medical advice to treat any medical condition in either yourself or your children. Consult your child’s pediatrician/ therapist for any medical issues that he or she may be having. This entire disclaimer also applies to any guests or contributors to the podcast. Under no circumstances shall Rachel Harrington, Harkla, Jessica Hill, or any guests or contributors to the podcast, as well as any employees, associates, or affiliates of Harkla, be responsible for damages arising from use of the podcast.

Keep in mind that we may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for you.

This podcast should not be used in any legal capacity whatsoever, including but not limited to establishing “standard of care” in a legal sense or as a basis for expert witness testimony. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on the podcast.

Jessica Hill, COTA/L & Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC
Jessica Hill, COTA/L & Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC

Rachel Harrington, COTA/l, AC, CPRCS, and Jessica Hill, COTA/L, CPRCS are Harkla's in-house Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants (COTA) and Certified Primitive Reflex Clinical Specialists. They have been working with children for over 6 years in outpatient settings. They specialize in creating easy-to-digest, actionable content that families can use to help their child's progress at home. Jessica and Rachel are the in-house experts, content creators, and podcast hosts at Harkla! To learn more about Jessica and Rachel, visit the Harkla About Us Page. Make sure to listen to their weekly podcast, All Things Sensory by Harkla for actionable, fun advice on child development.

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