This episode features Jackson, Kristi’s thirteen-year-old son and brother to autistic sixteen-year-old J.R.

It’s important to note that amongst the laughs (and farts; real farts) there were moments Jackson became quiet or shook his head to answer. Some questions upset him; this interviewer mama did not pry. The hope is Jackson’s response to J.R.’s autism is a reflection of his age, and this interview acts solely as a starter conversation between Jackson, his parents, and therapist.

Jackson was not asked what advice he would offer other siblings, and looking back, maybe that was meant to be. Too soon maybe.

For more information about the webinar series Sam’s Sibs Stick together, visit Thank you to Alycia Halladay for presenting the sibling research studies mentioned in this episode, specifically Pavlopoulou and Dimitriou, 2020 and Shivers, 2018 (although Kristi confused the two during the interview- apologies, please). Questions, comments, or feedback can be sent to

Support is out there for siblings. Jackson greatly benefited from Sibshops, “pedal-to-the-metal events where [the sibling] will meet other sibs (usually for the first time), have fun, laugh, talk about the good and not-so-good parts of having a sib with special needs, play some great games, learn something about the services their brothers and sister receive, and have some more fun.” Search for a Sibshops program in your area; Jackson’s workshops were offered through our local JCC.

Most recently, Jackson attended a sibling virtual hangout room called Sibs Stick Together, not to be confused with Sam’s Sibs Stick Together (what could be so confusing about that)? For more information on this program please contact the lovely Kimberly Watterson-Rivieccio, Ed.D, Mental Health Counselor, Els for Autism Foundation at

The Disorderly Blondes Autism Podcast plans to interview more siblings in future episodes.

Terms To Know

  • Cats Jackson’s twin bro cats were present for this interview; they banged on the studio door during the pre-interview because, isn’t this all about them? Pictured: Junior, aka “the fat one,” aka the one who tolerates Dory (see Dogs)
  • Dogs Jack’s one year-old dog Dory (and best friend) was present for this interview; so much for trying to purchase a dog for J.R.’s sake; also goes by Dor-snore, Dory-toes, and NO NO NO NO STOP THAT WHOSE IDEA WAS IT TO GET A PUPPY?
  • Farmers (Only) Jackson mentions he’d like to study Agricultural Sciences, and Kristi attributes this to his obsession with farmers commercials; you don’t have to be lonely, apparently
  • Regular Show the Cartoon Network work of genius that constantly has the Vannattas in stitches; J.R. is obsessssssed with Muscle Man aka Mitch Sorenstein; J.R. relates to his “anger issues” (J.R.’s words, LOL!)
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  • screaming and yelling Jackson’s blanket way of describing J.R.’s meltdowns; for the record, J.R. doesn’t scream or yell much (let’s just say he PROTESTS LOUDLY) but yeah his meltdowns still suck; also see Regular Show, Muscle Man
  • TD The mascot for the Miami Dolphins, or an acronym to mean “typically developing” (news to the blondes, including the one who was a Miami Dolphins cheerleader).
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  • UM SIB SMILE Sibling Studies Measuring Infant Learning and Emotion; a sibling study both Brenda’s Oliver and Kristi’s Jackson took part in at the University of Miami; the goal of this research was to facilitate early detection of Autism Spectrum Disorder by identifying behavioral markers in young infants; the blondes have hours of footage to look back on, what a bonus

Jackson & Kristi, 2010

  • Wipeout we dare you not to laugh while watching one of The Vannattas’ favorite family TV shows; will ALWAYS turn J.R.’s frown upside down