We had the good fortune of connecting with Natashia Kletter and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Natashia, what do you want people to remember about you?
I want to be remembered for revolutionizing assistive communication for young, autistic children. My assistive communication systems are designed from the lens of the child, rather than from the neurotypical adult. So much focus is on bringing the autistic child into the neurotypical world, when it should be the other way around! True connection comes from communication and relationships, and as the neurotypical adults, it is our job to learn how the autistic child thinks.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My son was born with heart defects, and open heart surgery was necessary at 8 weeks old. His sensory and motor plan problems were blamed on his heart, but I wasn’t buying it. I pushed for therapies and early intervention as soon as possible, and began fighting insurance and developmental disability to get him the support he needed. Along the way, various medical and neurological diagnoses came. I studied the way he interpreted the world, and implemented assistive communication and sign language in our home. I immediately recognized the gaps in the tools available, and saw the need to design something better. My Bachelor’s of Science degree is in Mechanical Engineering, and I used basic engineering principles to put together a communication system that helped him thrive. Since developing my communication soundboard books, the “I Want to Tell You…” series, I’ve had countless moms, therapists and Special Education teachers reach out telling me about a special child who communicated for the first time, using the books.
A challenge I’ve experienced is finding a balance between my own special needs son and neurotypical daughter, and promoting the books to help children around the world. Prior to the global pandemic, I was presenting the books to school districts, therapy clinics, and at conferences. I’ve had to buckle down on my personal life, keeping my family’s mental health a top priority. Sales of the books has declined, and now we’re facing inventory storage problems. But much like the rest of life, a solution exists, we just have to keep looking!
The communication soundboard books only exist because of my son. Necessity truly is the mother of all inventions, and in the case, a mother took on the invention. There’s no hurdle too big for a mom who cares for her child, including designing a system that can open up the world of communication for children all over the earth.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I live in Oregon, and we are surrounded by natural beauty everywhere. I’d take visitors to Pacific City, get some food to go at Pelican Brew Pub, and watch the surfers and dory boats. The following day, I’d drive out to the Gorge, visit lavender farms, see Multnomah Falls, and find some great Farm to Table spots. I’d wrap up the trip with small coffee shop stops, and visits to local wineries.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
The book “The Reason I Jump” by Naoki Higashida motivated me to see the world through my autistic son’s eyes. It helped me learn about an autistic child’s perspective, and see things differently.