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Dec 31, 2011

Healthy Coping Mechanisms

As an autism mom, I'm grateful for healthy coping mechanisms.  Sometimes you just have to grieve, to feel the sadness that your child/children didn't turn out to be who you expected.  You grieve for the child you thought they were going to be.  It's hard not to turn to unhealthy outlets for a release.  For me, the best way to cope is to write about it.  I have a mad journal where I can write anything I want and not feel bad about it.  I also write poems.  This poem was written at a time when I felt that my daughter had no connection with me.  I struggled so much with that sadness at the time...Luckily, my therapist told me to get into her world, to notice the things she loves and make myself a part of them.  Slowly but surely she realized that I wasn't just another fixture in the room, but someone fun that she could love.  :)

Help Me Know How To Reach You
My little baby. Beautiful Baby Caiti.
You brought me healing and sweetness and calm.
You were for my heart a miracle balm.
I remember how you would snuggle me close, let me hold you.
With a smile in your eyes, so beautiful and blue.
Your head on my chest and your curls framing your face.
You would always send me to a happy place.
Caiti it's been sad for me as you have grown older.
Yes, you still put your head on my shoulder.
Yes you still have that smile in your eyes
But it's different now, because you also cry.
You get so upset, I don't know what to do.
Caiti I wish I knew how to help you.
I want to be the mommy you need me to be.
I wish you had the language to communicate to me.
I wish I could get into your head,
and I could hear your thoughts as you place toys on your bed.
I could understand why they're all lined in a row
The thoughts in your head would be so great to know.
I think you know I love you, I adore my little girl.
I cherish your giggle as you run and you twirl.
Caiti, as your mommy, I want to know how
To love you the way that you need me to now.
I need to know just the way that I can reach you.
I need to know just the way that I can teach you.
Because Caiti I love you, I love you! I do!

Dec 22, 2011

Small Steps

As an autism mom, I'm thankful for the small steps my children make that would be nothing for other kids their ages but are little miracles in our lives: Calling me mommy for the first time, climbing the ladder to the slide, eating with utinsels, using the potty, saying "I love you."  There are so many small things that I rejoice in, and that I don't have the luxury of taking for granted.

Dec 21, 2011

Toilet plungers and Snakes

As an autism mom, I'm thankful for toilet plungers.  My daughter is going through a phase where she thinks the bathroom is some sort of fun water park for her toys.  She likes to place them in the sink and then fill it with water, their own make-shift pool.  Who knew plush toys floated?  She loves to put them in the toilet too.  Then she tries to flush them down.  What a fun water slide for the toys.  We learned the hard way not to give Caiti little figurines to play with anymore.  Those go down the "water slide" the best and then clog the pipes.  Toilet plungers are a blessing...and so are those snakes you have to spend big bucks on at the hardware store.  Although, from our experience neither works with the little figurines.  That's the big job of pulling the toilet out of the wall.  (Hooray for the maintenance men in our housing.)

Dec 20, 2011

School Pics

As an autism mom, I'm grateful for school pictures.  Now don't get me wrong, I am not one who actually is able to afford to purchase the picture package, but when they send the proofs for us to see, they send complimentary ID cards of the kids along with information as to what to do if they get lost.  I actually had to use Garrett's ID card a year ago when he decided to run off on us at the zoo.  I was so glad I had his picture on me...and that I had dressed him in a bright orange coat.  I was able to go to the zoo security and show his picture.  They put a dispatch out to all zoo workers, and we found him about 10 minutes later at a zoo gift shop.

Dec 17, 2011

No Need for an Alarm Clock

As an autism mom (I'm writing this at 4 a.m.) I'm grateful that I have no need for an alarm clock.  I can't remember the last time I slept past 6:30 since having kids. I remember when I had my babies and I would dream of the day that they would sleep all night and I'd get a straight 8 hours of sleep...and I still am dreaming of that day.

Dec 16, 2011


Today as an autism mom, I'm grateful that my kids show me how smart they are all the time.  I am ashamed to say that I underestimate them daily.  Today was the kids' Holiday party at school, and I had some mini cupcakes set aside for their party.  I don't go when their parties are morning parties because it messes up Garrett's whole day to see me leave school without him.  So, I decided to just send a treat.  I put the cupcakes in a plastic bag, tied the bag to my daughter's backpack, then placed her backpack outside so nobody would get into them.  I then spent the rest of the time waiting for the school bus and continually putting Caiti's socks and shoes back on.  When the bus came, I looked around for Garrett and found him in his bedroom with Caiti's backpack, frosting all over his face, and cupcake crumbs all over EVERYTHING.
I feel like sometimes my autism grattitude list doesn't show all sides of being an autism mom.  I have had to learn to cope with the hard stuff or the stuff that annoys me...I find something to learn from...or try to change my thinking to make it a positive experience.  So here's my attempt with this small example of the cupcakes: My total annoyance this morning was a result of my underestimating my son's intelligence.  He was smart enough to see me hide the cupcakes.  He was smart enough to go get them when I was otherwise occupied and wouldn't notice, and he was smart enough to hide in his room where he could enjoy those cupcakes in peace.  So I'll try and change my thinking and say it again:  I am grateful my kids are smart.

Dec 10, 2011

Autism-proof Christmas Decorations

As an autism-mom, I am grateful for shatter-proof ornaments, LED Christmas lights, our Little People Nativity set, plush Santas, Snowmen and reindeer.  I'm just grateful that celebrating Christmas can still be fun and pretty without worrying that all my beautiful decorations are going to break.  I love that my kids can touch the lights on the tree or try and bounce the ornament balls.  I love seeing how fun they think it all is.  :)

Dec 9, 2011


As an autism mom, I'm grateful I was able to develop patience.  I had an epiphany about this last year and posted it on my family blog.  Just thought I'd repost here:
Today in Sacrament meeting (church), the talks were about enduring to the end.  Sometimes, I feel like I'm enduring to the end...the end of the day when I can climb in my covers and go to sleep and just get a break from it all.  But then there are the moments that make up for being overwhelmed, etc.  The times when my babies help me see a little bit of the love Heavenly Father has for me through their beautiful spirits and the unconditional love they send my way...even when I'm ornery or in my own world.
Coincidentally, in Sunday School we learned about our roles as parents, and I was reminded of when Garrett was born and I was no longer just responsible for myself, but I had this beautiful child who was dependent on me for everything.  This was when I realized that I had a purpose in life.  This is when I realized that my life had meaning and that there was more to life than just progressing on my own.  My children are my textbook, and they help me to learn who I am and what I can become.
The Relief Society Lesson today was on Patience.  It's funny because I've had so many people tell me how patient I am, and the fact is that I just have to be.  I had to learn to be that way.  It was an evolution.  If I wanted to survive, then I needed to adapt.  And patience is the very definition of my life in so many ways.  I have to be patient and realize that my children learn things in a different way than I do or other children.  I have to be patient when they don't understand what I want from them or when they repeat the same mistake over and over.  I have to be patient and realize that potty training really doesn't happen in a day at my house, it happens in years...and I have to be patient that it really will happen some day.  I have to be patient when we start on different therapies, etc., and I want to see the results right away.  The truth is that they come, but they come in their own time and with hard work.  When they do come, the satisfaction is so much greater because it was so much harder to get there.  But the biggest thing I have to be patient in is getting to know my children and who they really are underneath the shell that is called autism.  I have to be patient and know that, if I live right, then one day I will be able to know my children in their perfect state, and that is what helps me through and gives me the patience to just keep going and enjoy the blessings that God bestowed on me in my amazing children.

Dec 8, 2011

Visual Supports

As an autism mom, I'm grateful for choice boards, picture schedules, picture cues, etc.  It's amazing how visual these kids are and sometimes the words just aren't enough (actually most of the time).  It is such a help to pair a picture with the words.  We use pictures in our choice boards, and then when they hand us the pics, we prompt them to say the words.  That is how Caiti, who is mostly nonverbal, learned the word "popsicle."  The choice board is also used often in their therapy:

We have an after-school picture schedule:
This was great, because this is how I got my kids to start doing chores with help.  Now they see the pictures of the chores and will do them with much less prompting.  The good thing is the schedule board has velcro on it and then the choices for chores, snacks and activities can be switched up depending on what we have to eat or what needs to be done that day.  These kinds of schedules are very helpful to our family.  We have one for a potty routine, bedtime routine, etc. 
As always, there are many expensive resources out there for these kinds of supports, but you can easily make your own.  My kids respond best to photographs of pictures rather than drawings.  Any pictures I use are from my own photo library or from Google Images.  I save them to my computer and insert them onto a word document, making sure to size the pictures appropriately.  Then I cut them out, laminate them (there are self laminating sheets for people without access to a laminator.  Staples, the fed-ex store, the UPS store and usually teacher supply stores will laminate your stuff for a small fee).  I buy self-adhesive velcro strips at any craft store or the sewing section of stores like Wal-Mart, and put velcro squares on the back of the choices.
Basically, for the actual board, you just use card stock and either write on it yourself or print out what you want to say and cut and paste.  Then you laminate the board.  For the choice board or the schedules that have choices, just add the velcro (which I cut into small squares) where you want their picture choices to go.  I have found that it works better for me to velcro the actual board to the wall than to use staples, tape or nails.  For some reason, my kids don't take them off the wall with the velcro.  Whatever works, right?  :)

Dec 7, 2011


As an autism mom, I'm thankful for the gift of hindsight.  It is amazing to look back at where I started and see how upset I was at first to find out about the diagnoses of each of my three children, how helpless I felt as far as how to parent them, and to see that now I'm in a much better place.  It is good to have hindsight to see that even though back then I had no hope, I have some hope now.   I have the ability to see the strengths that have developed in each of my kids, and when I'm feeling frustrated about how things are going, I have the hindsight to look back and see that things are so much better now.  Here's to hoping that they continue to get better.

Dec 5, 2011

Life Lessons

As an autism mom, I'm thankful for the many lessons my kids have unknowingly taught me about perserverence (and perseverance...just a little autism humor), taking things one step at a time, celebrating the little victories, patience, unconditional love, finding joy in the simple things, and most importantly, that although God's plan may be different than my own, he knows what will truly bless my life and those around me in the end.


As an autism mom, I'm thankful for how genuine my children are.  What you see is what you get.  They are who they are.  I love it!

Mental Health Help

As an autism mom, today I'm thankful for my own individual therapy sessions and for psych drugs.  I have come to realize over the years that I have some issues with anxiety, depression and ADD, and I'm grateful for the skills I learn from my therapy sessions to cope with these issues. 
I'm also thankful for my psychiatrist who understands how to correctly manage these symptoms with medication.  I've always been a strong believer in taking care of your mental health.  It is not a weakness, but a strength to acknowledge that you may have mental illness.  It is strong to see something that is affecting your life and those around you and to take the steps to manage it.
I can't tell you how much I have learned from my therapy sessions: The most important of all was finding myself again after losing my identity in the overwhelming experience of just being an autism mom.  I learned that I need to take breaks throughout the day to do something for myself.  I need to shower every day, put on makeup, eat, exercise (not that I am so good at remembering to exercise, and I just may be too good at remembering to eat).  As they say, "You can't give anything from an empty well."  You are the well, and you need to replenish it by remembering what you used to enjoy doing, how you used to take care of yourself, before you had these wonderful but challenging kids.  Investing some time in yourself can only help those you love.


As an autism mom, I'm thankful for my ward (church).  They have been there for me even when I wasn't in a very religious place and wasn't seeking their support.  I have made some great friends, and they have made every effort to help me feel comfortable and for my kids to feel accepted.
It is very important, to ask for help from your church and not just wait for them to approach you.  If church is too much for you with your children with autism, reach out to those around you.  Ask your church leaders if there is someone who can sit with your children during services.  Would someone be willing to take them on a walk or to play with them outside when they are acting up so that you can get that spiritually uplifting time you need to be replenished for the upcoming week?
I have done the church thing several different ways:  My first ward called someone special to be Garrett's teacher.  (That was when Caiti and Jason were too young to know they had autism).  It was nice to have him there every week, and Garrett loved him.  We also had a couple older ladies who didn't have children, who would save us a spot and help us out.

In my current ward, I don't have people from church who work on an individual basis with my kids, but everyone knows who my kids are and try to give them the same chances to participate in their classes, etc.  On our first Sunday, I went into their classes and explained to their classmates that my children had autism, that they might act a little different or not talk to them, but that doesn't mean that they don't want to be their friend.  I asked the kids to help them out. The classmates have been very cute, and look out for my kids.  I have used our respite providers to sit with my kids at church so that I can pay attention; I also have left my kids at home with the respite providers so that I could have some alone time and get that spiritual break from the chaos in my house.  Both ways have worked out fine. 
It's just finding what works for you and voicing your frustrations or what can be changed to those in leadership positions at the church so that they can help make it a better experience for your family.
If you don't currently have a church to go to, I'm biased, but I love mine.  There are chapels throughout the world.  To locate one in your area, visit this website:  It will give you the address/directions of your closest meetinghouse as well as the phone number of the Bishop of that ward.  I would call the Bishop before attending and let him know your situation so that the ward can accomodate any special needs your family may have.

Respite Care

Today as an autism mom, I'm thankful for the respite providers that come over and give me breaks once in a while.  I don't know how I survived before I figured out how to get the benefit of respite care.  It is so nice to get a nap in and not worry about what my kids are getting into, go to the store ALL BY MYSELF, have some help when they have doctor's appointments or when we want to go out as a family or get a date night with my honey.  They really are lifesavers for me, as far as my mental health is concerned. Right now I get respite care through our insurance, but I know that many states give respite care to parents of children with autism through their Medicaid programs.

Sensory-Friendly Films

As an autism mom, I'm thankful for AMC' Sensory Friendly Films, shown at different AMC theaters throughout the country on the first Saturday of every month.  It is great to go the movies and have a nice environment that isn't overwhelming for my kids.  It's nice that the other moms just smile or laugh when they see my kids acting up or when my son grabs a handful of their popcorn because their kids are doing the same thing.  :)  
To find information on Sensory Friendly Films in your area visit:

At-Home Thanksgiving

As an autism mom, I'm thankful that I've gotten used to the idea of an at-home Thanksgiving.  It's much less stressful to make my own meal and let my kids eat and wander and use their fingers instead of forks.  It's nice not to be anxious about whether they will get overwhelmed or do something crazy at someone else's house.  I get sad not to be with my family, but actually it's pretty pleasant to have a day at home with the people who I'm most thankful for.

Caiti's Friends :)

As an autism mom, I'm thankful for the cute way Caiti plays with her toys. They are her best friends and make her such a happy girl.  I love walking into a room to see her toys left in different scenarios (

Other Parents

As an autism mom, I'm thankful for the other autism parents out there that I have learned from and can learn from me.  We automatically are a part of a community of people from all backgrounds that have something in common.  I have found that when I find other parents out there with children with autism, I automatically have another friend.  I used to try and participate in the typical playgroups at the park where the mom's would all sit and visit while their kids would play with each other...but I would just have to follow my kid around and feel stressed.  It was so nice to meet some ladies who would have playgroup at my house so we knew where they were.  It was nice when our kids were doing weird things and no one was staring at them.  It was nice not to have other kids try to play with them and to feel sad that my kids didn't get it.  I liked that I didn't have to apologize to other kids for my kids' social akwardness.  Since we were in a confined area, we were able to actually sit and visit with the other moms like those lucky moms at the park playgroup. 
I also love that we can talk and cry and laugh together and say things that other people wouldn't understand or would think we were horrible or make comments about how amazing we are when we were given this and had no other choice.  It's nice to hear that other people's struggles are similar to our own and that we aren't alone out there. 
I follow, and I loved this post because I could relate so well:
I also attended an IMFAR Conference, and one of the speakers spoke on this very topic.  Here are my notes:

Digital Music and Movies

As an autism mom, I'm thankful for iTunes, my ROKU player and my DVR player so my kids can listen to music and watch digital movies without destroying a CD or a DVD. That is such a nice money saver.  I don't have to buy Shrek, Madagascar, Over the Hedge, etc., over and over and over like I use to have to because my kids can't live without certain songs/movies and they destroyed the DVDs or CDs within a week of getting them.  I get my digital movies and music on iTunes and Amazon.  We are able to stream our iTunes movies on our iPad or the computer, and we use the ROKU player to stream Netflix and the movies we purchase on Amazon.

Aunt Michelle

As an autism mom, I'm really grateful for is my sister (a.k.a. Aunt Michelle) who has been the biggest support to me and the favorite aunt for my kids. She gave up her life in Indiana to come help me out when I was struggling during Kevin's first deployment. She is the person who is able to get through to my kids when no one else (including me) can. My kids all do a happy dance when she comes walking through the door. It's like everything fades in the background and she's the only one there. :) During my harder days, she helped me to find the joy in being their mom when I was too overwhelmed to be able to focus on that aspect, and I will always be grateful to her for all that she has done for me and my family. xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox

Fenced in Yard

As an autism mom, I'm thankful for a fenced in yard so that my kids can be outside as much as they want to without having to worry about their lack of safety awareness.


As an autism mom, I'm so thankful for the technology that helps my children, specifically that on the iPad.  I previously posted a blog on this on another website I am affiliated with: 

Not only has it helped my family, but it has helped so many people with autism find a voice.  I love the choice board ap the very most.  I also love that it can be used as a communication device for so much less money than the communication devices that were previously used for children with autism.

Nov 23, 2011

My Marriage

As an autism mom, I'm thankful that today I have been marrie for 9 years to my honey.  I'm grateful that even though we have both gone through so much, we endured it, and we never gave up on our marriage.  Marriage is very hard work, but I'm happy to have that support and the love of my husband.

Nov 18, 2011

Fridge and Cabinet Locks

As an autism mom, I'm thankful for fridge and cabinet locks, so I still have groceries the day after I go shopping. :)  Let's not forget the fact that these locks prevent my kids from cracking eggs all over the house, pouring the spices out onto the floor, drinking medications they shouldn't be taking...the list goes on and on.
I used to use the Safety First fridge locks (, but after Garrett figured those out, I shelled out some money and bought these locks that have adhesive on the back (  Of course, adhesive isn't enough, I do use super glue as well, so the kids don't just yank the adhesive part off of the fridge.  I also decided to use combination locks instead of the key locks that come with the kit, because my kids figured out that the key opened the fridge, and they would carry it around and bring it to me all day.  I finally lost it after they carried it off somewhere... 
For the cupboard locks, we ended up drilling holes in our cabinets to make a spot for handles because the best cabinet locks for our needs go around the door handles.  (  However, the reviews for this product say that it is too hard for adults to open.  It is pretty hard to open, but we figured it out, and luckily, our kids didn't.  :)


As an autism mom, I'm grateful for Garrett's awesome sense of rhythm. He's always had a need to beat on the walls, his tummy, whatever. This morning he was pounding on the big exercise ball Aunt Michelle brought, and he was "rapping." He'd pound a beat and then say different words, like "cookie monster!" and "spongebob." It made my morning.


As an autism mom, I'm thankful for Garrett's silly echolalia (repeating stuff from TV, etc).  He always makes smile when he says, "We solved the puzzle!" or "Better ingredients, better pizza, Papa Johns." It makes my day a lot less boring to hear the cute little things that are going through his brain.

**Disclaimer - I'm not grateful that Garrett picks up any cuss words we say without thinking and says them all day in front of everyone else...that can be quite embarrassing.  It has helped us to watch our mouths maybe I'm thankful after all.

Showing Affection

As an autism mom, I'm thankful for the ways my kids show my affection. I love when Garrett says, "Want the mommy show," or when Caiti slaps my lips with her hand over and over as her way of giving me kisses. I love how Jason moves my head to the side so that he can nestle his head on my shoulder when he's giving me snuggles.

Nov 14, 2011

Sensory Integration Products

As an autism mom, today I'm thankful for all the things that help my kids with their sensory issues: Garrett's body sack, the yoga ball, the trampoline, the disk swing...etc.  It's so nice that they have ways to regulate their little bodies.  A good book on Sensory Processing Disorder is The Out of Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder, by Carol Kranowitz ( ).  It was a blessing to find out through occupational therapy how to meet my children's sensory needs.

Nov 13, 2011


As an autism mom, I'm so thankful for all of the wonderful tutors/therapists who have worked so diligently with my kids Not only have they helped my children on their journey to reaching their fullest potential, but they have done it with love and compassion and also have become some of my dearest friends.

Carpet Shampooers

As an autism mom, I'm thankful for our carpet shampooer. It is a necessity when you are potty training some cute kids.  That is $150 well spent,  considering it costs just about that much to have a carpet cleaning company come clean the carpets one time.  I am on my second shampooer, and I use it at least twice a week.

Nov 11, 2011

Happy Veteran's Day

On Veteran's Day, as an autism mom and a military wife, I'm so thankful for the benefits that being in the military gives our family.  They take such good care of us, making sure we have a home and that our children get the best services for their autism.

Nov 10, 2011


As an autism mom, I'm thankful that my kids are so cute when I put them to bed and Jason chooses the same song every night and Garrett helps me say prayers. I love to hear Caiti repeat, “Love you! Nigh Nigh!”

Nov 9, 2011

Comfy Clothes

As an autism mom, I'm thankful for comfy clothes so my kids won't walk around naked. :) Garrett loves the soccer shirts and basketball shorts. I think it's funny cause all the soccer shirts have these statements on them that are so not his personality, but he loves how they feel. 
Caiti will only wear knit/stretchy stuff. I had to give away all her jeans...dang it. She will only wear trouser socks too. I'm grateful I figured out what they like best so I don't feel like I live in a nudist colony.


Nov 8, 2011

Door Chimes

Today as an autism mom, I'm beyond thankful that housing has a free alarm system, so our door chimes really loud any time my kids open it. We got the chime activated a couple months ago after Garrett figured out our safety latch at the top of the door and decided to go swimming by himself one day and to walk to McDonalds the other day. At least now, there's a really loud noise to let me know when he's feeling adventurous.
For those of you that don't have an alarm system, you can find several different types of door chimes/window chimes at your local hardware store or on  The best deal that I found was on Amazon:

YouTube Playlists

Today, as an autism mom, I'm thankful for YouTube playlists. They are a great teaching tool (i.e., a playlist for Caiti on seatbelt safety, video modeling to help them learn some skills or videos of their daddy to watch while he's deployed so they know he's still around). They are also great because they allow them to see a bunch of short clips of things they love. Garrett loves all the beginning movie logo things, i.e., fox, pixar, and all those others. Each of those last about 10 seconds, and he has a playlist of so many of those that make him happy. Jason loves the playlist of Sesame Street songs. :) I love that they can be occupied with their playlists if I need some me time.
Here are some links to our favorite ones:
Seatbelt safety:
Sesame Street:
PBS beginning songs:
Movie Intros:

Nov 7, 2011

Shower Curtains

As an autism mom, I am thankful for shower curtains with pockets in them so I don't keep finding dumped shampoo bottles.  In case you want one for yourself, I got mine in the shower curtain section at Wal-Mart.  I also found the link on their website.

Autism Dad

Today as an autism mom, I'm thankful for my husband, who is my companion in raising these kids. I'm thankful that he loves them and cherishes them so much.

Help at Church

As an autism mom, I'm so thankful for the two wonderful women who work with my children and are willing to attend church with us. I am so glad they sit with my kids and help them learn how to act at church. It is such a good way to start my week when I am able to attend my own classes and actually get something out of them because I know my children are in good hands. :)

EZ vest

As an autism mom, today I'm thankful for EZ vests (harnesses) for the school bus. I need to get one for my car. We call Caiti Houdini because she can get out of any seatbelt and walk around and do whatever in vehicles, but she can't with the EZ vest. Hooray. (She hates it, but the rest of us like it.)
For other issues with car safety, there are buckle guards so that your child can't unbuckle their seatbelt.  I found them online at:  This website has buckle guards for both types of safety belt buttons.
I also have a playlist about seatbelts on YouTube: