Gaylene Chambers | Creating a community of inclusion for all those touched by Autism
We interviewed the lovely Gaylene Chambers. Read how this extraordinary family are coping with a son with extreme autism and changing thousands of lives in the process.
Name: Gaylene Julia Chambers
Country: New Zealand
Business Name: Chambers & Co
Favorite Quote to live by:
“Keep Smiling” & “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what ya gonna get” Forest Gump
1. Please give us a bit of background on who you are and what you do? (what is your backstory/your business)
Hello, my name is Gaylene Chambers. I am Company Director to our Autism Apparel business that we launched in February 2018 called Chambers & Co
We have already gone global with sales, and can’t wait to see where else this will take us on our Autism Journey. It’s not about making a sale….it’s about building a community that understands and accepts those with Autism and supporting each other. Having a family member with Autism comes with huge challenges. Every day is different, and it is definitely not BORING. Every day we learn something new, or hear something new from our Severely Autistic son who is 11 and a half, almost 12 years old. He attends Mahurangi College. Cognitively, a three year old, he does struggle with every day activities, but we try to help him get through with various tools and guidance, that’s what you do….you ALL stick together!
For years I would go out to the shops with our son hesitantly, as we would get “looks” “glares” “tuts” from his random inappropriate behavior at times…which all had to do with coping with the situation at that particular time. Anyone who knows someone with Autism would realize that when you go out… for example to a “Westfield” environment, it can be completely overwhelming for these kids/adults. The lighting, the smell, the high ceiling, the crowds of people, all going in ALL different directions. Sometimes he would react so badly that loud screeches could be heard from a mile away, screams, high pitch squeals or flapping, or he would place his hands over his ears.
Social awareness and space is very limited for these kids….if our boy is scared, he will just run….this means he could potentially push someone, or even rub his face on some ones woollen jersey, (as this is a sensory overload moment)
HE is NOT being naughty….he is NOT being spiteful or rude, he is simply processing in a different way…
The best way to describe an Autistic person is that they are simply wired differently and interpret the world In a different way to the rest of us.
As I said before, this is not negative, just DIFFERENT but unfortunately at times not appropriate or accepted in the community. The hard part for these cool people is that they LOOK completely normal.
BUT with our new business, our world is a WHOLE lot easier….instead of explaining, like I had for years, and saying, “sorry for what my son, has just done/or not done…he is autistic”, he does not understand what you are saying, or he is scared and is covering his ears”
NOW, there is a variety of ten T Shirts he can wear, depending on his mood. People observe, and read the message on the T Shirt and simply smile, comment about how that is COOL or in some cases walk backwards, (like a Michael Jackson dance) as they don’t/can’t handle the situation…..BUT that’s OK….
We also have other T Shirts for those that Support Autism, so now WE as a family can go out wearing our apparel with HUGE pride!
We have new designs being created and have been approached our community and friends to design other kinds of awareness T Shirts. A variety of companies in Auckland have “Special Ability” events. I Can create a T Shirt especially for their company or for you as an individual, whether it be for ADHD, Dyspraxia, Downs Syndrome, Prader- Willi Syndrome or something else.
If you want to build an inclusion society, I can help you to create more awareness within the community and globally.
We are devoted to creating a community of compassion and inclusion for all of those touched by Autism Spectrum Disorder.
AWESOME AWARENESS ACCEPTANCE
Our distinct apparel has been designed to raise public awareness of the day-to-day challenges that living with Autism brings. We want to create a world where Autism is accepted in all society.
For every T Shirt that I sell, $1.00 will be donated to Children’s Autism Foundation or Autism NZ, to help support those in need.
Our Awesome T Shirts will be a contribution to society and work to enhance those with ‘Autism Spectrum Disorder’. To build resilience, their abilities and ultimately their quality of life. It will improve the lives of all those affected by Autism - so it’s a WIN WIN WIN.
2. When & how did your big shift take place?
We went live, and launched Chambers & Co in January 2018
My Dear Father in law, whom I adored, often said I should start a T -shirt Business. Sadly after an abrupt, cruel illness, he passed away in August 2017. It was the saddest time, I am still struggling with the grief but with counselling & great support I know I will get through this. His death DID inspired me to start my own T-Shirt business.
I got a mentor and support from Unleashing Potential, who delivered a strategic online marketing plan with targets, budget, designers, etc.. It took six months in total but then our business became a reality and a dream came true! It’s been a great project for me. There have been challenges but as my father in law used to say “Life is not easy, but that’s the way it just is - get on with it”.
3. What inspires and motivates you? What wakes you up every morning, make you get the work done and do it all over again the next day?
It takes a village to raise a child but a whole community to raise a child with special needs. I belong to several community support groups locally, and in other countries too, We recognized there was a real need for a powerful understanding and acceptance of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder,
We believe that it is important that there is an increased global awareness of autism. We decided to create a better understanding of the breadth of the autism spectrum and advocate increased support to those in the community and their families. We have done this by providing an awesome selection of T Shirts and Sweatshirts printed with powerful and positive messages. Together we can make a difference!
My aim is not to wake up everyday and get a sale….its about empowering individuals with Autism, and supporting their family members in some way. Either with a chat, inspirational verse, thought of the day, sharing our journey, our story or our message. It’s about building relationships and sharing experiences. Only THEN do I share our company news, our range and testimonials
4. How do you differentiate yourself from your competitors? What makes you unique?
We are a niche market so there is not a lot of competitors ,thankfully. None that I am aware of anywhere in NZ, so we are unique. I want to spread the word globally. Let’s get this Awareness, Inclusion and Acceptance of Autism spread far and wide, after all, it is an invisible disability!
GET IN TOUCH WITH GAYLENE CHAMBERS: