Maralee Webber says autism revealed her path in life.
“I would never have gone in this direction had it not been for the special needs of my child. What I’m doing now is what I’m meant to do and it’s what I’m passionate about,” says Webber, a longtime Peachlander and owner of Irie Wellness.
The name comes from her family’s love of Jamaica (they’ve been at least a dozen times) and the spirit it embodies – being in a state of peacefulness and harmony from within.
It’s been a road to get to that point, says Webber.
“My son has always been different. He’s on the autism scale but we didn’t know, because he’s high functioning. By the time he got into the school system, it was just bad. We got him tested and we found out he’s on the spectrum.”
But she wasn’t encouraged when her doctor suggested prescriptions – with some unwanted side effects, and a literal file folder of advice.
“It was like, ‘we can’t do anything, here’s your pills,” she says, noting that 12 years ago, the amount of autism-related resources were fewer and far between.
She tried with the pills, “but he has a gag reflex and he couldn’t take the tiniest little pill. I tried for an hour and a half and I couldn’t get this pill down. Which actually turned out to be the best thing because then I had to start researching.”
A new counsellor helped – and as she started to delve into reiki, reflexology and cranial sacral therapy (which basically relieves compression and tension in the bones and muscles of the head, spinal column and sacrum – that triangular bone in your lower back), she realized her son was making new progress.
“After the first time he went, his face was more open. His eyes were different and he was standing taller. I asked him how he felt, and he said ‘I feel lighter.”
Tying shoes, brushing hair and cutting fingernails were always obstacles – but over time, he was conquering them.
“And I’m taking him to these appointments, and the ladies said ‘you know, you could take these courses. There’s no reason why you can’t take them and be able to help him at home.” Webber’s background and knowledge as a personal trainer was a good foundation, “and so I just consumed this information. One thing led to another and it’s just fascinating. I’m always learning and taking courses.”
Now that she’s a reflexology teacher proficient in massage and cranial sacral movement, Webber says her passion is to work with
others on the autism spectrum. She’s spoken to groups before, hoping that by telling her story, she’s giving others hope.
“That’s where I see my vision – to teach courses to parents so they can work at home with their own kids.”
Webber’s business is totally mobile, so she can come to you (with a mask, of course). Even if you can’t really pin down what doesn’t feel right, she can figure out the best treatment, pulling from her expertise.
“I call it a Maralee special,” she says, noting she treats clients of all ages and ailments.
Today her son is 20 years old and volunteers at a retail store in West Kelowna.
“He has a drivers’ licence, he’s in college, and he gets straight As. Just all these things I never dared dream of at the time.
Nobody knows what it’s like unless you’re living it, and it’s tough. So I work on as many special needs kids as I can.”
Irie Wellness has a Facebook page. Check it out!