• I want to start by introducing our family. We have all had a role in creating Rock Your Speech. We all have a passion for great music, and we believe music has the power to heal.
My name is Alison. I consider myself a “warrior mom” - meaning I am passionate about fighting for my kids. Special needs moms are tough cookies. Every day there is a different kind of battle. We have mastered the art of staying calm in tough situations. Thanks to the internet, we know we are not alone. We can turn to a wonderful network of wisdom, from other parents who have been there.
I grew up in North Carolina in a home where music was an important part of life. My mom is a concert pianist and teacher. My dad was a lover of rock music, and I have so many wonderful memories of fun times singing and dancing with my family. I have a love for crafting and all things artistic. I have a bachelor’s degree in fashion design and merchandising. I worked for legendary western wear couturier Manuel for several years while I was in college. It was an unforgettable experience, designing embroidery, working side by side with Manuel, and hanging with many of his country music clients.
I met Tom while I was working for Manuel and in my senior year of college. Life was crazy chaotic for me at that time. I lost everything I owned in a house fire, including all of my senior design work that I had to redo. I had a very difficult time with redoing everything, feeling extremely tired all the time and dropping weight. I was soon diagnosed with type-1 diabetes at age 22. My father moved to Nashville to try and help me rebuild my life, but unfortunately he was battling severe depression and alcoholism. When Tom came along, he was like my prince charming. He was the one who rescued me from all that craziness.
Right after I graduated from college, we moved to New York City. I was anxious to work in the fashion world. I gravitated toward computer graphics, doing production design in the children's apparel business. I didn’t love the corporateness of the business, so I found a job in a small art studio doing CAD design for home textiles. It was really fun, designing again for babies and children.
Tom and I were in NYC on 9/11/2001. We stood on the street at the corner of 14th street and 5th avenue and witnessed the tragedy of the world trade center crumbling to the ground. It was both heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. 9/11 impacted the economy and therefore our the design business where I worked. When my employers decided the next year to relocate outside of NYC, we moved upstate near a close friend to try and decide where life would take us next. We eventually decided to move back to Nashville.
A founding member and bass player of rock group Cheap Trick, Tom has spent the past 40 years touring with the band. Tom’s passion is vintage basses and guitars. He loves instruments that are rare and unusual and he has a very interesting collection. He is known for inventing the 12 string bass, which he plays exclusively on stage with Cheap Trick. Tom is thrilled about his new collaboration with Gretsch and will be premiering his own signature line at the NAMM show in January 2015. One little known thing about Tom is his artistic talent. He has a unique artistic style with crayons, and we hope to work some of that side of his creativity into Rock Your Speech. Tom is a great dad. Although we miss him a lot while he is out on tour, he loves spending lots of time with the kids when he is home, taking them to music classes, playing ball, training the dogs and playing Liam’s favorite, the Wii.
Our daughter Lilah was born in 2004. Lilah is a born performer and is SO MUCH like her dad. She has a huge heart, she loves to be on stage and entertain, and she is very funny. Lilah shines under pressure and is always at her best in front of a crowd. She wrote her first song at 6 years old for her dad’s birthday. She continues to write from the heart, showing she is wise beyond her years. She’s also an accomplished pianist. Lilah is great with her little brother Liam, often interpreting him for other people who may not understand. She has great empathy in her heart for people who are disadvantaged, and she has a great deal of patience to deal with the challenge of having a brother with autism. Tom and I are very proud of Lilah.
Liam is a wonderfully sweet and happy little boy. He’s had extensive medical challenges since birth, but he has always tried really hard to meet every challenge along the way. Liam has had intensive speech, occupational and physical therapy since he was 18 months old. He was evaluated for autism when he was 2, but he did not get a diagnosis until he was 5. Liam was a mysterious case because he was pretty social and he did not have some of the warning signs they were looking for in autism at the time. We did everything we could to find out what was holding him behind developmentally, including MRI and genetic testing. But nothing else was found.
When Liam was 3, he started having seizures and was also diagnosed with epilepsy. Although Liam’s seizures are well controlled with medicines, it is one of the most frightening aspects that we live with. Gran mal seizures are terrifying, and no matter how long we go without one, I have a little bit of a pit in my stomach with worry all the time about the epilepsy.
Liam is doing really well in mainstream school in second grade. He has aides there for support full time. He absolutely loves school, and he has flourished with learning and with his speech since he started. I don’t know what the future will bring with his education, but I am hopeful that public school will continue to work for him.
I could have never imagined what it would be like parenting a special needs child. It has transformed our family in so many ways. It is incredibly challenging. I worry A LOT. But it has also brought a purpose that we embrace wholeheartedly. Tom and I both want to do anything we can to share our knowledge and raise awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorder.
This is the path our lives are on now. It is fulfilling for us to be creating something with the potential to help other families, hopefully in an uplifting and fun way. We are bursting with creative ideas, not only about music, but also about fashion, technology and education. We are only limited by our time and money. We hope to find other creative partners along the way to help us pursue these things. I look forward to exploring these ideas right here on our blog and getting feedback from other parents. I have found other autism blogs to be invaluable resources for parents. The numbers with ASD are staggering, 1 in 50 and rising. There is so much work to be done. We hope you will follow us on this journey. We welcome your feedback and your ideas.
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