By Serenity Kids Co-Founder Joe Carr
Hi. I’m Joe and I am Autistic.
I grew up undiagnosed and had a very difficult childhood. I had HUGE energy. I was loud, intense, rambunctious, and took over any classroom or social group... which made me very unpopular with the other students and teachers, alike. I was excluded and bullied, and constantly in trouble. Doctors labeled it as ADHD, but that didn’t help. In the end, my only “diagnosis” was being labeled obnoxious.
I also had a multitude of physical problems. I was a picky eater. I was overweight. I had constant stomach pain, fierce anxiety, and insomnia. I lived mostly off of canned ravioli and nachos… not knowing then that I am highly sensitive to gluten and dairy.
My mom figured out that I was gifted in performing arts. She got me into theatre, dance, and really anything that involved a stage. My mom’s support and dedication to my passion allowed me to become a professional actor. I held leading roles in Kansas City’s top theatres and appeared in commercials on TV. I was able to utilize my huge energy as a powerful asset on stage, but off-stage, I was a mess.
What changed? Well, I met a girl… but not in that way (yet). One of the popular girls in my middle school decided that instead of being mean to me, she was going to teach me how to be cool. And obviously, I said, “Okay, I’ll do whatever you say!”
And that was when I learned the most important lesson of my life: I can take feedback and change myself for the better. Thus began a personal growth journey that continues to this day. In high school, I realized that I could also change the world, and I dedicated myself to community service and social activism.
Because of my difficult childhood, I decided to focus my passion on changing the world for children. I am outraged by the disgusting junk food that is currently being marketed to kids. I want to end the restrictive spirit-crushing nature of our school system, and the constant use of shame and emotional violence to control children.
It wasn’t autism that harmed me, it was a society that doesn’t value neurodiversity and the rights of children to be children.
And yeah, I met a girl. At the time, Serenity was a foodie turned Health & Nutrition Coach that helped others heal themselves through food, which she had done for herself by eliminating grains and sugars and eating only clean meats and veggies. Serenity loved my passion, my intensity, my sensitivity, and encouraged me to embrace my autistic traits rather than dumb them down. She helped me transform to a Paleo diet and lifestyle that helped reduce my anxiety, improve my focus, and cure my digestion problems. She was most certainly the girl of my dreams!
When we started family planning, we went looking for healthy baby food options. We were astounded by how much sugar and how little nutrition was available on the market. We decided to combine her passion for food and nutrition, and my passion to help children, and start Serenity Kids Baby Food.
This became especially personal when we gave birth to our baby girl, Della. We want her to grow up healthy and strong, which is exactly what we want for your little one!
Since we founded the company, I have harnessed my HUGE energy to gain attention for our business.
All of these traits come directly from my autism and they are well worth all of the challenges.
I am proud to be autistic. Autism motivates me and empowers me to improve the lives of children. Autism has helped me build and continue to grow Serenity Kids Baby Food. Autism has deepened my relationships and has heightened my experience of the world. Autism has connected me to a worldwide community of people and families that are different, like me.
In this Autism Acceptance Month, I say we celebrate autism and all it has done and can do for the world. Let’s celebrate our differences, embrace our gifts, and join together to create a world that is healthy and inclusive for all.
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When Della was born, all of Serenity’s attention rightfully went to the baby, and I discovered how much emotional and practical support I had grown dependent on. It’s hard to admit, but on an unconscious level I still want someone to take care of me. Now suddenly my wife has an actual child to raise, and any parental-like support I used to receive went to Della. I had to step up to not only parent my new child, but also to parent my inner child.