From Real Housewives to Project Runway, reality television truly has something for almost everyone, but Leave it to Geege brings a brand new kind of reality directly into our living rooms (courtesy of MyLifetime.com). Geege Taylor is a mother and author, and is on a mission to demystify what living with an autistic child truly means. Her son Pootie’s caregiver Tyler has already come out, and is now taking a new kind of journey to determine if he possibly is on the autism spectrum. I sat down with dynamic duo Geege and Tyler to discuss the revolutionary new show, the importance of a show like this in today’s sometimes polarizing world, and why representation for all kinds of people on the spectrum, age notwithstanding, is truly crucial.
Michael Cook: Autism impacts so many people’s families in so many different ways; what made you feel comfortable enough to put your family front and center in Leave it To Geege?
Geege Taylor: This is something that I have worked on for the past ten years. It really is something that I think I just have the personality for, we all do. When my son Pootie was first diagnosed, everything was just depressing and heavy about autism. I’ve just got this personality that doesn’t really get depressed, I’m very positive and energetic. I thought “I am gonna tell myself how I’m gonna life my life, I’m not gonna have everyone around me tell me how this is such a hard thing”. Once we realized that our lives were just as happy with autism, if not more happy, and we navigated our way through, I really wanted to share that message of hope and celebration with people. Not just awareness, but celebration. Your life can be just as happy as ours, and ours is happier than it has ever been. I just thought that we were the people to share that message. I’ve got the personality for it and my son has the personality for it. That can also be tricky, some people with autism may not want to have their schedule disrupted and a huge crew come in, My son Pootie though, craves interaction with people, and I knew that this would be the one kid that would thrive in this, and he did and it has been great.
Tyler: Ultimately we are putting ourselves out there, but we are doing it because we think it is a really great cause. We think that what we can get and what other people can get from the show is unparalleled.
MC: Having someone with autism in your family can offer unexpected moments of seeing milestones when you thought that you wouldn’t, and sometimes you are able to find that you can truly thrive as a family and learn so much. Do you think that is fair to say?
GT: One hundred percent, and I think that can be a misconception. I have had people feel bad for me forever, and it has been like “honey, do not pity me, you should envy me”! Pootie brings way more shit to the table that nobody does, and he does it every day, all day. We are living the dream and we just want to share that with other people. I also think people fear things that they don’t understand. So if you are able to demystify it, and bring this story into people’s homes. all of a sudden they get it.
Our show runner’s mother was recently in a store and she saw a kid with autism who was stimming and having some behaviors.Instead of giving them a look, she knew what she was seeing; that child was regulating and calming himself down, I understand now what is going on. To have that message and be able to deliver it the way we all do, we love to entertain, so we definitely do it with humor. I feel like it is a good balance. If we have done our jobs right, you are going to forget you are watching a show about autism. We have four people with autism on the show, and we are all on a level playing field on the show.
T: The fact that our show has a range that goes all the way from non-speaking all the way to someone who-it’s me-is seeking a diagnosis, that range is just unheard of. The media representation of autism has just not done it justice.
MC: What was it like putting your own journey front and center, searching for a possible autism diagnosis, on national television?
T: Uncomfortable. it is not something that your average person would want to share with the world. You don’t wake up and say “hey I want to do a psychological evaluation in front of the world”! It is just an uncomfortable thing, however I decided to do it on the show because it was worth it. People wake up and are under-diagnosed and mis-diagnosed as children, and there are people every day who realize that they have slipped through the cracks. If I can just have even have one person watch my journey on the show, see the process, and relate to it?…We show so much of the autism diagnostic journey, from my emotions and how I felt comparing myself to Pootie who needs so much more support, all the way to how difficult it is to find someone that diagnosis adults; there are only two in the entire state that we live in. We show that journey all the way to me having conversations with my loved ones that I may be going on this journey. On the show, we kind of compare it to almost a coming out conversation. There was an absurd amount of anxiety attached to them both and they were so similar, my body was just reacting in the very same way. I came out in the South and my body was saying “dont do that again” (laughs)! We tackle so much and show so much; if one people can watch the journey and see the steps, not just the good parts, but the difficult parts, and it makes them take the step and pursue it for themselves, it is worth me being uncomfortable.
G: He does such a beautiful job of letting us go through the journey with him. He is the person to tell this story, he is very vulnerable going through the process and he has a huge sense of humor, like he always does. He is a behavior analyst himself, so he has been used to working with kids with autism for years. Now he is thinking now it’s his turn. He does it in such a thoughtful and intelligent way, since this is the business he is in. It is the only television show that I know that watches someone’s journey getting diagnosed.
T: I am also honest about the fact that I am a white male in this field, I have so many more resources than adult women and people of color who really struggle getting diagnosed when people look at them and discount their observations, so we have those conversations also.
MC: Once you come out, many people say that anything after this is essentially, gravy. Do you think it is the same for coming out with a diagnosis of autism?
E: Ultimately it wasn’t exactly the same, but going through the process felt very similar. Having the conversations of “I may be autistic” felt very similar to being fifteen and having the “I might be gay” conversation.
Geege: We haven’t revealed yet if he’s received the diagnosis, so we’re not quite sure. We don’t know yet, but it is really cool because he decides if he whether or not he gets the diagnosis or not. He wants to show the process and announce it to everybody just like he did when he did when he came out. We do it in our own style and in a way that entertains.
MC: You partnered up with World of Wonder on this project, and they are absolutely spectacular storytellers. What was it like to partner up with such a spectacular company to tell your story?
G: They are absolutely the best. The one thing that I love about them so much is that they don’t just accept everyone for exactly who they are, they celebrate them. It is a beautiful thing, and it is an honor to be hooked up with them, I adore them. I wouldn’t want to be with anyone else. I knew it was a good fit from the start, I have been with them for almost ten years, and we’ve had a relationship for ten years, so I knew that they were the people to tell this story. They understand, they speak up for these marginalized communities and they do it loud and proud. We love them.
MC: What would a Season 2 of ‘Leave it to Geege’ look like to you?
G: I feel like we have so much shit going on in our lives. How I started is that I actually made a bunch of YouTube videos, and we would just take Pootie and walk the dog and take videos with our iPhone. I think the characters are just larger than life and I couldn’t have dreamed up or hired a better cast. I feel like no matter what we do it is always going to be fun. The kids are young so have lots of things going on with our lives. We’re scared Tyler is going to move also, getting into PHD programs. Harper is graduating and possibly getting a Masters and she is a young portrait artist. Pootie is going to be aging out of the school system soon, so he’ll probably be home with me all day because there is not a day program that will take him at that age.
E: There is Season 2, we can create a day program. At the age of twenty-two he actually loses all of his services.
G: That is a great segway to the work that I do lobbying for reformed and new legislation for people with autism. Particularly I am interested in education for young adults when they age out of the school system. I feel like we could do the show forever, content is never a problem in this house. And we’re proud of the diversity of the cast, we really have something for everyone, it is not just autism. We have a diverse cast and it touches so many people in different ways.
Leave It To Geege is streaming on MyLifetime.com
Follow Geege Taylor on Instagram
This content was originally published here.