"I believe most people don’t understand that individuals with autism are still people. Individuals with autism learn differently and develop at a slower pace, but they are still unique individuals with varied interests and personalities, just like everyone else."
Cheryl Ocampo, 40, is the founder of the non-profit organization, Queens County Parents Coalition (QCPAC). QCPAC is a support network for families who have children with autism.
Cheryl is the mother of three: Joshua (22), Isaiah (18), and Zariah (13). Her daughter, her youngest child, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
As a Behavior Intervention Specialist, Cheryl works with adults who have autism and developmental disabilities.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MORNING ROUTINE?
Coffee, coffee, coffee.
WHEN THINGS GET CHAOTIC IN THE MORNING, WHAT DO YOU DO TO CALM YOURSELF?
Reflect on an amethyst crystal I carry around in my purse. Deep breaths help, too.
WHAT IS A NORMAL DAY LIKE?
A normal day for us follows a strict routine much like anyone else’s except it includes therapy for my daughter in school. However, I do try to throw her off routine sometimes in order to prepare her for the real world.
WHAT’S YOUR WEAKEST MOMENT?
My weakest moment is when I see my daughter having difficulty to complete a task. It’s very disheartening to see her struggle with tasks that the general population can accomplish so easily such as tying one’s shoe laces.
WHAT’S YOUR STRONGEST MOMENT?
My strongest moment is when I witness my daughter accomplish a small, but significant task such as expressing verbally what she wants or feels.
AUTISM AWARENESS, HOW DO YOU THINK PEOPLE CAN HELP?
It’s very important that people should know the signs of autism even if autism does not affect them personally. If people were more aware, then I believe they would be open to assisting in the autism community.
DO YOU GET TO TAKE TIME OFF FOR YOURSELF?
I have to take time off for myself from time to time. That time off usually occurs in the evening after bedtime or when my daughter visits with her father. It helps keep me grounded and balanced.
YOU'RE ALWAYS PUT TOGETHER, WHAT IS YOUR BEAUTY REGIMEN?
Always take time out for yourself whether it’s something small like buying a new lipstick or getting your nails done. Do small things that matter significantly to your self-esteem. Sleep, exercise, and eat healthy as much as possible.
YOU LOVE TO WEAR HIGH HEEL SHOES, WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE BRAND? WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF YOU COULD NO LONGER WEAR THEM?
Unfortunately, because of my job, I can no longer wear high heel shoes. I love Chinese Laundry and Diba brands because they are stylish yet comfortable.
HOW DO PEOPLE DESCRIBE “CHERYL OCAMPO”?
I think people would describe me as down-to-earth, friendly, kind, compassionate, and helpful.
YOU JUST EARNED YOUR MASTERS DEGREE, WHERE DID YOU FIND THE TIME?
A higher education was always important to me, ever since I became a mom at a very young age. Even more so, when my youngest child was diagnosed with a developmental disability called Autism. I was unable to attend a traditional brick and mortar university and attended college online. Time management and finding a balance in life is key.
WHEN YOU LOOK AT YOUR CHILD'S FACE, WHAT DO YOU SEE?
When I look at my children’s faces, I see how blessed I truly am.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES OF HAVING AN AUTISTIC CHILD THAT MOST PEOPLE DON'T UNDERSTAND?
I believe most people don’t understand that individuals with autism are still people. Individuals with autism learn differently and develop at a slower pace, but they are still unique individuals with varied interests and personalities, just like everyone else.
YOU ARE A VERY STRONG WOMAN. DO YOU CRY? IN WORKING WITH FAMILIES WITH AUTISTIC CHILDREN, WHAT'S THE ONE THING THAT GETS YOU CRYING?
Yes, I cry a lot. What really makes me cry is looking into the future of individuals with autism. I worry about my daughter’s future, when I am gone.
WHAT’S THE ONE CONSISTENT THING YOU DO AT THE END OF THE DAY
Whether it is watching a favorite television show with my boyfriend, or just vegging out with some ice cream, I make time for myself.
YOU’RE A VERY YOUNG GRANDMOTHER. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR GRANDSON?
Don’t be afraid to fail. It just means that you are doing your best, so try a different way.
WHAT’S THE ONE ADVICE FROM YOUR MOM/DAD YOU REMEMBER THE MOST?
“Your kids will give you just as much of a hard time as you gave us.” LOL.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE QUOTE?
My favorite quote is by Ignacio Estrada, “If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.”
Thank you, Cheryl. You’ve always been an inspiration.
In 2013, Cheryl was our featured guest on our discussion on "The Faces of Autism"
at MakilalaTV, the first Filipino-American TV talk show in the
New York metropolitan area.