Posts filed under: Special Needs

April is autism awareness month and with a prevalence of 1 in 68 children, you’ve probably heard of autism. It’s difficult to explain what autism is as it affects each person differently. My sons have the same diagnosis but are on opposite ends of the autism spectrum. Life is difficult for both the person with autism and their families as there are many challenges to deal with every day. Challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication as well as comorbid conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorder, sleep issues, gastrointestinal issues and sensory processing disorder. I don’t have it all figured out. I just do my best to know my kids and focus on what I can do to help them. What I didn’t expect is that they would teach me some of the most valuable life lessons in the process.

Focus on solutions, not problems

Autism families face challenges every day. Between the obsessions, the meltdowns, the lack of communication and the worry of what the child’s future will be, it’s easy to feel defeated. Like in any situation, if we chose to focus on all the problems, it will feel insurmountable. To focus solely on finding solutions helps to feel empowered. For example, my son can’t speak so we teach him to sign, he can’t write so we’re teaching him to type. I admit that I have to remind myself often, but my kids make me believe that there is a solution to every issue and that anything is possible when you focus on the positive.

See the wonder in everyday life

My son was born premature and the fact that we almost lost him to medical complications definitely gave me perspective on what’s important. However, in our busy routines, it’s so easy to forget to appreciate the little things in life.  Kids with autism see things others may not notice. They also have a fascination with things such as twinkling lights or bubbles. My son will stare into a flower and it’s as if he sees every tiny detail. Some might see it as a weakness but to me, it’s a strength. Being able to look at things differently and see details that might have gone unnoticed is a choice that we can make to be more mindful and grateful for the little things.

Don’t be afraid to be different

Whether it’s working from home or any other uncommon choice, do what is right for you. For kids with autism, anything that is the norm usually doesn’t apply. My kids taught me a  “whatever works for results” attitude when dealing with their sleep, feeding and sensory issues. Sometimes we need to get creative to come up with a solution that works, no matter how unconventional or unpopular. For example, no matter how much I wanted my son to fit in, public school was not a good environment for him to learn. Homeschooling is not a conventional choice but all that matters is that it is giving us the results we need. He is calmer, happier and more willing to learn than he has ever been.

Releasing preconceived notions will open your eyes

Everyone has a story that we’re not aware of and situations are not always what they appear. Autism is an invisible condition so people can’t tell just by looking at a child that they have autism. If you see a grown child having a meltdown in a store, you’ll  think that the child is a spoiled brat or that his parents have no authority. What you might not be aware of is that sensory processing disorder makes the child hypersensitive to lights, smells and the noises until it sensory overload causes them to have a meltdown. It’s these preconceived notions and judgment that cause so many autism families to isolate themselves. We can see things through a different set of eyes when we’re not limited by preconceived notions.

Learn to dance in the rain

We all go through difficult situations and some things in life are difficult to accept. If you wait for it to get better before moving forward, you’ll miss out. Getting a diagnosis for not only one but both of my children was heartbreaking but behind that label of autism is still my little boys that I love. All they want is to be loved and accepted as they are. My children will always have autism and although I have my moments, I try to remember that life happens with or without me. Don’t let whatever is not perfect in your life stop you from living it and enjoying it because life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.

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  • Special Moms Magazine

I am very happy to share that I have been chosen as a contributor for Special Moms Magazine! This free digital magazine was designed to celebrate the contributions of women, mom entrepreneurs who are making an impact in the special needs community. In each issue, you will find great resources and inspiring stories!

My first article for the magazine is Turn Your Staycation Into a Simulated Vacation. Since my sons were born, we have only taken staycations so I have a few tips to share on how to simulate a vacation even when you are not traveling. Just in time to help you plan your spring break. Register below to get your free copy right in your inbox!

Special Moms Magazine

 

Register to receive your free copy of

Special Moms Magazine!

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  • Teach Your Special Needs Child To Phone Home

Teach Your Special Needs Child  To Phone Home

*This post includes affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure.

How can you teach a child that doesn’t communicate how to call home? Honestly, I didn’t really know where to start. The concept of the telephone was confusing for Cookie. When I tried to have him “talk” with grandma for example, he would have a major meltdown. Why? He can’t tell me what he’s thinking but I believe that it is because a voice without a visual was confusing to him.

Cookie loves numbers and has a great memory so I was confident that he could learn our telephone number. I started by doing some activities to teach him his the number.

We made our phone number out of play dough numbers.

Play Doh Numbers

Click on image to buy Play Dough Numbers

We practiced during bath time with these foam bath numbers.

Bathing Numbers

Click on image to buy Bath Numbers

I also used our magnetic numbers and I kept repeating: “what is your telephone number?” and then we would repeat the number together.

Magnetic Numbers

Click here to buy Magnetic Wooden Numbers

 He didn’t even understand what a phone number was but he learned it by heart in no time! Now to make the connection between the number and calling, I knew he had to do it himself. Before we started, I added a picture of me as the home phone contact in my cell phone. Then, I helped him use my cell phone to dial the number. He was happy to see my picture. I held the house phone and I showed him that by calling the number the phone started to ring.

Learning to call home

The next call we made I answered the phone and started talking to him. Since I was right in front of him and he could see me, he did not get upset. The third call, I answered in front of him and then left the room so he could still hear me but not see me. He quickly caught on and was having so much fun calling me that it was difficult to get him to stop. That is a whole other issue!

Teaching you child his phone number

It might be old school but I also took him to a pay phone. Aren’t they more and more difficult to find? Since he is too short and he doesn’t carry money, he won’t be able to call from a pay phone on his own. But, I still think it is important to expose him to it to help him understand.

Phone Booth
Phone Booth

Another great tool to help special needs children learn how to phone home is video call apps. Before using the real thing, you can practice with these adorable apps from Sesame Street: Cookie Calls and Elmo Calls. Where your child can Facetime with Elmo and Cookie Monster.

Elmo Calls

Being able to see the person on the other end is so beneficial to special needs children. I speak from experience when I say that children with autism love technology. So why not use it to help them learn? There are plenty of apps for video calling but my two personal favorites are Facetime and Skype. By accessing my contact list and clicking on the pictures, Cookie can now use Facetime to call his aunts and cousins. He doesn’t say much but he is happy to see the person that he calls. Even if you feel like your child will not understand, anything you teach him or her can be useful. The more your child understands about the world around them, the more you both will feel safer!

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  • Safety Apps for Kids

Safety Apps for Kids

Keeping his or her children safe is a concern for all parents. For families with a special needs child, safety has to be priority number one. It certainly is very important at our house. Children with autism tend to wander and are at high risk for getting lost.

Having your child’s information on hand is crucial if your child gets lost. I have made a list of safety apps that allow you to log your child’s height, weight and other vital details. Entering your child’s information in the app only takes a moment. Do it today! It is invaluable to be prepared in the case of an emergency.


United States

FBI child ID

FBI Child ID App

FBI Child ID app is available on iTunes and Google Play.

Visit these links to find valuable safety tips, how to report a missing child and how to get involved.

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Amber Alert

Missing Child Alerts

Missing Child Alert App

Get Missing Child Alert on iTunes and Google Play.


Canada

 Find Me ID

Find me id app

Find Me ID app is available on iTunes and Google Play.

Canadian Center for Child Protection

Missing Children Society of Canada

Amber Alert by Province

Missing Kids Alert

Canada – Province of Quebec

Enfant Alerte

Enfant Alerte App

Enfant Alerte is available on iTunes and Google Play in English and French.

ADR Alerte

Enfant Retour


United Kingdom

Find My Child

Find my child

Child Rescue Alert


International

International Center for Missing and Exploited Children

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  • Personalized Plates

If you’ve been here before you know I am a super fan of personalized products. Well, here I go again …

*This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see my full disclosure.

Birthday Express Personalized Plates

These personalized party plates are a new products from Birthday Express. You can upload any photo and design a unique party plate. How fantastic is it to be able to add a personal touch to your party without having to settle for what’s in stores? Your guest will be pleasantly surprised since there is no decor more original than one customized by you! Perfect for all occasions, from birthdays to graduations and from anniversaries to retirement parties. Imagine the possibilities!

We have a birthday coming up in the spring so I am glad to have found this idea well in advance. A set of 8 plates is just $9.99. So they are not only fun but affordable too! Check out the personalized plates I created of my son Chocolate Chip.

Personalized Party Plates
When I find a new product, I always think of what benefit it can bring to my kids. Chocolate Chip could be called an extremely picky eater but the truth is, children with autism spectrum disorder often have feeding problems. I worry about his health and I welcome anything that might motivate him to eat more!

Any child would be impressed by being featured on a plate just like their favorite character. For a small party, you could even get plates made of each child attending. There would not be any confusion as to which plate belongs to who. What a nice way to make each guest feel special and the left over plates could be part of their loot bag!

You might not have thought of a plate taking your party from good to great but this one just might! Don’t forget to check out other personalized party supplies like party banners, centerpieces, and invitations at BirthdayExpress.com!

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