Why Kids with Autism Need Companion Dogs (Plus a Super Easy Dog Toy Tutorial for YOUR Favorite Furry Friend!)

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #FeedDogsPurina #CollectiveBias

Dogs may be man's best friend, but for many kids with autism, dogs can provide so much more than friendship. Should your child with autism have an autism companion dog? Here are a few things that they can help with. #FeedDogsPurina [ad]

It takes a village to raise a child, clearly. In many ways, it seems it takes even more of a village to raise a child with autism. For children with autism, you aren’t just talking about family and friends in your village. Your village includes therapists, speech therapists, and other doctors, too. But sometimes the best possible village has 4 legs instead of 2, and that’s where autism companion dogs come in.

Not to be confused with trained service dogs, companion dogs are those special pets that fill a need in the life of a child with autism without training. It’s why I am a big advocate for children with autism having a companion dog in their lives. Autism companion dogs are amazing creatures; they’re loving, calming, and passionate about helping their human companion in their struggles. Here are my 5 reasons that kids with autism need an autism companion dog. (Keep reading, too, because I have a fun DIY dog toy for the beloved pet in your life!)

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7 Things My Son Has Learned from Playing Minecraft Every Day

If Steve and Alex are household names, if your child hears a hiss and thinks "creeper," or if you see everything in block form... you might have a Minecraft player in your house! Don't Panic-- Minecraft teaches some really amazing skills to kids (and adults) of all ages! Here are some things my child has learned from playing Minecraft-- it's incredibly educational, but it also promotes good social skills, too! Here's how.

Minecraft. It’s one of those ubiquitous games that it seems most kids are playing at one point or another. I’m not too worried about the Minecraft fascination, though. The thing is, there’s a lot of educational value in Minecraft. Many schools are even adding it to their curriculum! At first, I really didn’t get the appeal… so it’s a game. With blocks. And… everything is super boxy. And there’s no real end goal* (I’m from the Mario generation… you play the game, you save the princess, game over) which just blew my mind. When we got it, I didn’t think much of the game, obviously. But there are 7 important things my son has learned from playing Minecraft every day.

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When Raising Your ASD Child is like Raising The Incredible Hulk

He was screaming. Covering his ears, full on shriek, in the middle of the living room floor. It was at that moment that I knew to prepare for the Hulk Smash. Any heavy toys had to be moved out of reach, FAST.

 

Sometimes, I feel like I’m raising two separate children. My son in meltdown mode, like he was, hands over his ears, poised to start throwing things, and my son out of meltdown mode.

My son out of meltdown mode is… easily the most delightful human being in the world. He’s funny. He strolls in casually from the backyard, coated head-to-toe in mud, and says “Hey, babe. I need a shower.” He gives extra cuddles as we read books at night. He sorts colorful plastic bears into patterns and asks me to think about how to continue the pattern. He’s bright, and he cracks me up.

My son in meltdown mode, well… it’s something not everyone can handle being around. He’s even torn a shirt or two in his transformation into meltdown mode… Hulk mode, really. He has no concept of the fact that he’s hitting so hard, biting or scratching, throwing things… for him, he’s defending himself. Sometimes, it’s from an invisible threat.

So why the meltdown today? I said I was going to take him to McDonald’s. See, last time we were at McDonald’s, a kid smacked him… hard. Multiple times. It was bad enough that I had to call on the manager to get involved because I couldn’t physically hold my son away from this child who was attacking him. I had forgotten the incident, which happened months ago… but he had not.

My son, with his Autism Spectrum Disorder, remembers everything… but he can’t always communicate those feelings or memories well. For him, he associated McDonalds with pain and with danger, and he didn’t want to go. Instead of telling me that verbally or with the signs we had been working so hard at, he stood there, and screamed.

He started… well, it can only be described as “picking.” He’d go poke someone until they were frustrated. He’d smack them and yell. And finally, it peaked at him screaming in the middle of the room. Every person in the house took their turn at trying to ease his frustration, calm him down, and get him to verbalize why he was feeling like he needed to melt down.

And every person walked away with scratches, or bite marks, or having been hit. You see, when Zack is melting down, he doesn’t know his own strength. For him, the situation is dire. It’s not just about McDonalds anymore. It’s about anything that’s been stressing him out the past few days.

A meltdown is the only release– the only escape from how he’s feeling. Everything has piled onto him to the point that he can’t handle it. Lashing out is sometimes the only way he can hold on, because he’s so overwhelmed.

This time, the person who cracked through the shell was his Uncle. You see, Zack had been melting down for almost an hour, he was wearing himself out, and his uncle managed to get him quiet and calm. It’s not always his uncle that ends the meltdown, but it’s always someone. Sometimes we have to tag team, or sometimes it’s a smaller burst that someone can handle solo. But it’s always exhausting– for him, for us, for everyone involved.

After the meltdown, he becomes a puddle of tears. He worries that he’s a bad guy after he sees the scratches or broken toys or trail that his meltdown resulted in… but as always, we reassure him through speech and through sign that he is GOOD, and that we LOVE him… and we go on.

Right now, we’re at McDonald’s. All it took was some reassurance that the child who was there before would likely not be there today, that we could go to a different McDonalds if he was truly afraid the child would be back, and that I would protect him and if anyone touched him, we would leave immediately to keep him safe. Once he had those assurances, he was ready to go.

Unfortunately, I didn’t know that until after the meltdown.

But how does it relate to the Hulk? Well, in a few ways.

For one, Bruce Banner and the Hulk are like two totally different people. Bruce Banner is beyond intelligent– hyper-intelligent, really. He’s fairly well-spoken, and if you didn’t know, you probably wouldn’t peg him as being the Hulk. The Hulk, on the other hand, doesn’t communicate much with speech– usually, you hear grunts and groans as he smacks down his opponents. Outside of his catchprahse– Hulk Smash– he doesn’t say much at all. He smashes, without a ton of regard for what he’s smashing… there’s just no shred of Bruce seeming to still be in him.

But inevitably, when he does return to being Bruce… he’s Bruce again. You don’t see a whole lot of the Hulk there.

You see, my son is an amazing, bright, funny child. But you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

…and that’s okay. We love him through it. We take him to therapy to give him ways to cope with his anger and hopefully better verbalize why he’s upset, before he starts to smash. We give him plenty of hugs and cuddles after. We remind him that he’s good and that he’s loved.

Raising a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder is a little bit like raising two different kids– a compassionate, loving one, and a very frustrated angry one… and at times, that’s as challenging for you as the parent as it is for them as the child. But you’re going to get through it. He will be back to his Bruce Banner self someday. The meltdown won’t last forever. Ride out the Hulk Smash moments and you’ll snuggle through after.

It’s going to be okay.

DIY Sensory Calming Board

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #RestEasySolutions #CollectiveBias

When your child is very sensory seeking, you can stimulate their senses with this visual, textural board! Great for sensory-seeking Sensory Processing Disorder or Autism Spectrum Disorder. #RestEasySolutions [ad]

When you have a sensory-seeking child, bedtime can be rough. Some of the things that help a sensory-seeker sleep seem so counter-intuitive as a parent! It has taken me so long to find some things that have set Zack, my son who has a sensory processing disorder, up for success in sleeping. From sensory tricks to GoodNites products, it’s taken trial and error to figure out what worked, and today, I want to share what’s worked for us to help you get your sensory-seeker to bed!

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It Takes a Village… without Judgment

Can we all just stop judging each other and help each other instead? Parental judgment is everywhere today-- from the parents of the child in the Harambe the gorilla situation to the parents who had a son dragged away at Disney, can we just stop judging already?!

I was sitting at McDonalds, glancing up at Ketchup playing, and working on my laptop, when suddenly, all eyes turned to the top of the playset as a sudden shriek rang out. This was a small, young child’s wail, and you couldn’t block out the pain and fear in her cry. Her mother ran over in a panic. She had no clue that her little baby got up to the top, and wasn’t fully sure how she’d gotten there. In that moment, every other parent– and their children– sprang into action to get the young girl down.

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When I Tell You my Son has Autism, Please Don’t Say “I’m Sorry.”

Please don't apologize when you hear about my son's autism diagnosis. He's the same child he was before he was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder... it doesn't change him, but here's what his Autism Spectrum diagnosis DOES change.

I know we’ve all been trained to look at Autism as a bad thing. We’ve been taught that it’s a disorder, simply because it says “disorder” in the name… Autism Spectrum Disorder. So I can’t fault you for saying “I’m sorry,” when I let you know that my son was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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“Quick Change” Baby Car Bag

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SnugDryUltra #CollectiveBias

From overwhelming spit up to realizing you didn't re-stock the diapers in your diaper bag, having an emergency bag in your car for quick changes is essential! This baby car bag is perfect for new moms, with everything she might need at a moment's notice! #SnugDryUltra [ad]

I remember it like it was yesterday… I was pushing the cart through Walmart, smiling at my sweet baby boy, when it happened. He puked. All over him, all over me, all over everywhere. While I often brought a change of clothes for him in the diaper bag (just in case!), I didn’t happen to bring any change of clothes for me. It meant that while he was nice and clean, I wash pushing the cart through the rest of Walmart with a lovely splatter all over my shirt. Yuck.

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Online Safety For Teens

Keeping our teens safe online is becoming harder and harder as more apps and technology become available. Here are a few tips to help keep your kids safe online!   | Online Safety | Safety for Teens | Internet Safety |

The Internet can be an amazing place at times– endless pages of content and information, music and videos, books and movies, stories coming together and people crossing paths. But it can also have a very dark side to it… it’s a dark side that I’ve experienced firsthand, but also witnessed far too many teens going down the same path. Even when I was a younger teen, and even though the internet was a relatively new thing at the time (as in, we were still on dial-up), I managed to have some close calls that could have ended really badly. Luckily, I had parents who kept a watchful eye over my online behavior and were quick to stop these issues in their tracks. You can help your teens experience better online safety– here are a few ways to keep your kids safe online.

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Splish Splash: 5 Ways to Make Bathtime Fun Again!

End the bathtime fights by making bathtime a ton of fun for your child! They'll love these ideas, and beg to get all scrubbed clean! | Mom Hacks | Life Hack | Parenting |

Sometimes, bathtime is awesome. Sometimes, it’s a fight… depending on the type of child you have, you may be looking for tons of new bathtime ideas to keep their love of bathtime fresh, or you may be seeking out ways just to get them in the tub. While a new study just said that most kids only need to bathe a couple of times a week before they hit puberty, bathtime can be a source of plenty of fun (and some relaxation before bed). Here are 5 fun bath ideas for kids!

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5 Ways to Break Phone Addiction and Be a More Responsive Parent

Do you have a New Year's Resolution to stop staring at your phone so much? Or maybe you just want to break the cycle of cell phone addiction and see the world around you. This post has tips on 5 ways to help break phone addiction and help you interact with your kids more. | parenting | self care | self help | phone addiction | internet addiction |

I was checking my emails. The phone had just buzzed, and I switched from Instagram over to my Gmail to check an email from a work contact. It seemed innocent enough. And then I heard my son say “Mom. Look. Please look.” What started as a momentary distraction to post a cute photo of him turned into a much longer journey through posting the photo, crafting a perfect caption, adding hashtags, liking friends’ recent photos, and then switching over to read emails. It wasn’t intentional– I wasn’t trying to give up attention to focus on my phone. But I had unintentionally stopped watching my son’s craft project because I had stopped to post “just one photo” and gotten lost in my phone again.

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