Geege Taylor of 'Leave It to Geege' on Demystifying Autism and Choosing Happiness

By Dena Ross Higgins

On the new Lifetime docuseries Leave It to Geege, we meet Geege Taylor and her authentically modern family. This family (biological and chosen) consists of her mother, Puddin, daughter, Harper, best friends, Nicky, George and Tyler and her teenage son, Pootie, who is autistic and non-verbal. spoke with Geege, who is also an autism advocate, about what she wants the world to know about autism, the joys and challenges of autism and filling her life with love and laughter.

Stream episodes of Leave It to Geege in the Lifetime app.

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions people have about autism and raising children with autism?

As far as Pootie is concerned, I think some people doubt that he could have a full life because he is autistic. This couldn't be further from the truth. He has meaningful relationships and celebrates accomplishments each day.

Pootie lives the dream. He sleeps until 9:30 every morning, drinks two cups of coffee topped with whipped cream then heads off to school two hours later than everyone else. After school, he either swims, goes horseback riding, swings or jumps on a trampoline. And there's never homework! He busts a million snacks and a couple of dinners (yet curiously maintains a statuesque physique). Then he winds it all down with a bubble bath, a movie, snuggles, a few last-minute snacks and then hits the sack. Not bad, eh?

There are loads of misconceptions about raising a child with autism, such as it's too hard and takes over your life. Yes, raising Pootie can be challenging, and navigating the unknown can be stressful. I've had to roll my sleeves up and do some hard work, but every child is hard work!

Autism doesn't completely take over our lives. We choose to live a happy, balanced life (yes, happiness is a choice), and autism is simply one part of our lives. It's healthy to keep that in perspective.

How has raising an autistic son changed you for the better?

My priorities are elevated. I understand what really matters in life, which has made me see the beauty in the world. I no longer care what people think of me, which is totally liberating. And I have experienced the purest love that I have ever known.

Your son is non-verbal. Can you tell us about some of the ways you communicate with him?

We have tried every augmentative communication device out there. If they make it, we've tried it. We have tried sign language and picture exchange as well. These things are incredibly hard for Pootie, but we have found that even in spite of this, he is actually a very good non-verbal communicator. I'm proud of him every day for how hard he works to communicate and show us what he wants.

Some of the time, I don't know what he needs, which breaks my heart and is frustrating for us both. But typically, Pootie is quite clear (and even bossy) about what he wants!

For example, he nods yes and no. He gestures towards what he wants. He puts on his shoes and backpack when he wants to go on a car ride. He sticks a hand in your face if he's not in the mood for you (honey, there's nothing about that that I don't understand)! When I serve something for dinner that he likes, he grabs me and kisses me a million times to thank me—and to reinforce that he loves it, so that I will be sure to make it again! If he wants to go outside, he stands by the door. He tells me that he loves me by snuggling extra hard and staring into my eyes.

Tell us about one of your favorite memories with you and your kids as you’ve watched them grow up.

My favorite memories are the simple ones. Harper and Pootie dancing outside after school while drinking decaf coffees and listening to Usher on an old boom box, with nieces and nephew joining in. In the end, it's always the little things that I miss the most.

You've surrounded yourself with such a diverse support system. How has that support system affected your life and your ability to juggle work and family?

Our support system means everything to me. I have surrounded myself with Pootie's friends who have autism, autism moms who are exceptionally positive, down-to-earth women, caregivers, teachers and therapists who bend over backwards for Pootie, and family and friends who find the same joy in autism that I do.

This village has pulled together to support Pootie and has enabled us all to live a balanced life. Knowing that Pootie is always well looked after, I am able to work, be an autism advocate, tend to my family and even have a bit of time to take care of myself!

What advice would you give to other parents who have children who have been diagnosed with autism?

After Pootie's diagnosis, I fell into a deep depression and went to bed for 48 hours. I finally got out of my semi-coma and walked into the den to see my precious Pootie beaming with excitement to see me. I felt incredibly guilty to have been depressed for even two days. This child was the same person as he was before he got the diagnosis two days before, and he needed the best from his mama. (I am glad, however, that I took those days to fall apart. I needed to own that fear and pain in order to move forward.)

Soon after that, I got a fortune cookie that read, 'Acceptance is the key to happiness.' Tears streamed down my face, as I knew that this was the only way forward.

Pootie was born with autism and would die with autism. But there was great progress to be made along the way. Accepting the hand that I had been dealt was liberating. This mindset has led my family to the best life that we have ever known. We are deeply grateful for the joys and challenges that autism brings into our lives. We wouldn't have it any other way. We love Pootie exactly for who he is and the unique, amazing things that he brings to the table.

What is the one thing you want people to get out of your show?

Going into this show, viewers might think that they will be rooting for the 'underdog' when they root for Pootie. Very soon they will be surprised to discover that Pootie is not the underdog, rather, he is the very cocky, confident king of this castle!

It's very easy to judge a situation from the outside, so I hope that the show helps to demystify the unknown and eradicates prejudices surrounding autism and other marginalized populations.

With so much hate and inequity among these marginalized communities in our society today, I would love to see more people actually celebrate what makes us all different. Collectively my family (biological and chosen) is autistic, neurotypical, feminine, masculine, gay, straight, white, Black, verbal, nonverbal, young, old, religious and not so religious. There's nothing more boring than being ordinary, and I think this unique show illustrates that in spades.

I also want viewers to walk away with a load of belly laughs and not take life so seriously. Humor is the way that I stay sane and enjoy life, and I would love to pass that on.