Special needs at The Henry Ford

Special Needs at The Henry Ford Complex

(Scroll down to learn of an upcoming event at Greenfield Village, including a coupon!)

Last year the Accessibility Director from The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan contacted me. Caroline wanted to know if I’d be willing to participate in an interview about their Sensory Friendly Saturday program. WOW! Of course I would!

In January I found myself walking through the museum with Caroline, turning a corner behind the Rosa Parks exhibit area, and looking at a bunch of recording equipment. Whoa. This was for real! While I waited for the crew to finish setting up equipment, I chatted with the man who would do my interview. Guess what–he had a son with Asperger syndrome! This put me at ease and we had a great interview.

There are two things in particular that I loved about this experience.

  1. I was part of something bigger. The department interviewed other people as well. The video they wanted to create was not just about autism, but about how The Henry Ford adapts to welcome a variety of guests.
  2. Because of my online connections with other special needs moms, I was able to share ideas of how the complex could further enhance visitor experiences. Some of these ideas I would not have thought of if I hadn’t known these women. (Want to join over 10,000 special needs moms on Facebook? Visit Special Needs Moms Network!

Want to see the interview and learn about what The Henry Ford does for guests, including those with vision and hearing impairments, as well as autism folks? Watch below. Look for Caroline (in braids) and the lady who brings her friends for tactile tours! I chatted with both of them.

Great news! Greenfield Village in Metro Detroit is hosting a Sensory Friendly Saturday at the end of April, coordinating with A Day out with Thomas. Head over here to get the scoop and be sure to scroll down for a coupon!

(I was not compensated in any way for this interview or this blog post. I just love The Henry Ford. It’s been a great place for my son to practice social skills.)

Enter to win a $25 gift card from Fun & Function!

Christmas Giveaway: Fun & Function!

Give three cheers! Fun and Function, maker of awesome things to help our sensory kids cope, has a giveaway just for you. They’re offering a $25 gift card! What would you want to spend it on? Oh, that will be hard to choose. They’ve got many great products your child will enjoy.

Enter to win a $25 gift card from Fun & FunctionThe gel tiles look great for a winter wiggle break. Hug tees sound like a great way to get sensory pressure in a fashionable way. Chewy bracelets offer a discreet way to meet the need to chew.

If you need help deciding, browse their gift guide for young children through adults! In fact, that is how you enter. Head on over to their gift guide and poke around. Then come back and leave a comment telling me what you’d spend your gift card on. That’s it! And guess what! Since this is a gift card, there’s not limitation based on where you live.

Ready to browse and get a wish list going? Click here!

Remember to come back and leave your comment saying which goodie you’d spend your gift card on. Want a bonus entry? Fill out the form below to get a freebie from me and subscribe to my newsletter. Leave a separate comment if you are already a subscriber or you fill out the form now. You want to make sure you get both entries. 🙂

This giveaway closes Monday, December 19th at 8:59pm EST. A random generator will be used to select a winner. Winner will be contacted via email with their gift card code. THANK YOU to Fun & Function for providing this giveaway!

PSA: Holidays are not always fun for children with special needs! via jennyherman.com

PSA: Special Needs & the Holidays

Just a little PSA…

If you know a special needs mom or dad, more than likely their child has hit a rough patch. It may have started with Halloween and the sensory overwhelm and the extra excitement, perhaps some fear of the holiday.

Then a time change came, which is hard on the systems of kids with special needs. Then a full moon. These sound like small things, but they add up. Each one is enough to disrupt a child’s balance.

And now we’re into two months of holiday time, where routines are messed up, anxiety goes on high alert, sensory issues become more than unbearable, and many other challenges arise.

So if you see a special needs parent over the next couple months, give grace. They may not answer you enthusiastically or even smile. They may be holding onto sanity for all they’re worth, running on little or no sleep, wondering what one tweak would make a huge difference for their child, imagining how they’re going to afford Christmas gifts when therapies and medical supplies are so expensive…

They could use your smile. Your quiet support. A cup of coffee. A, “You’re doing great.”

And now you know. And maybe you can pass this along and spread the awareness. And thank you for reading.

If you’re a special needs mom who’d like to get encouragement and support from other moms who “get it”, check out the Facebook group Special Needs Moms Network!

 

PSA: Holidays are not always fun for children with special needs! via jennyherman.com

When Christmas Isn’t Fun: Special Needs & Holidays [FREE Printable]

“There’ll be parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting and caroling out in the snow. There’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago. …It’s the most wonderful time of they year! With the kids jingle belling and everyone telling you be of good cheer!” Can you hear Andy Williams crooning?

Unfortunately, for many special needs families, Christmas (or other holidays) are not the most wonderful time of the year. Many of the things mentioned in the song overwhelm their children. Parties become more of a challenge to navigate than a gathering to enjoy. Consider this article a little public service announcement.  What follows is a combination of personal experience, stories of friends, and input from the women of Special Needs Moms Network (more…)

Discover how special needs parents ruin holidays via jennyherman.com

7 Ways Special Needs Parents Ruin Holidays [FREE Printable]

This post may contain affiliate links.Click for more details.

May I tell you a secret? For many special needs families, the hustle and bustle of “the most wonderful time of the year” is not so wonderful. From Halloween through Valentine’s Day, and the time change, other holidays, and family events in between, these families face challenges others don’t realize exist. While other children enjoy throwing snowballs, some sensory kids all apart if cold, wet snow touches their skin. Huge families enjoy gathering and playing games, exchanging gifts, and eating a feast. Children with crowd anxiety become sick with dread over facing such an outing. Friends wonder why a family declines an invitation to a New Year’s Eve party, not understanding that the child with autism needs a break from too many events. Some children with severe medical issues wear out quickly and cannot handle too many extra activities. See what I mean? I could expand the explanation even more, but I won’t.

I have another secret. Many of those families screw up. I speak from experience. I have made my share of holiday messes. Consider this list a cautionary tale of things to avoid over the next four months. How do parents of children with special needs ruin the holidays?

  1. They have wrong expectations. Have you ever been in a situation where your daughter falls apart and later you realize you were asking too much? Your daughter simply wasn’t able to handle it. You didn’t have realistic expectations. During this holiday season, I recommend you keep asking yourself, “Can my child really deal with this today?” It could change even hour by hour, minute by minute. When you have realistic expectations or lower your expectations during a stressful time, it helps both you and your child. Your stress level goes down because you understand it’s just not the right time, so you’re not pushing to make it happen.
  2. They don’t trust their gut. You know those times when your gut says, “I don’t think this is a good idea…” and then you forge ahead anyway. Despite the fact your child is afraid of heights or tired or hungry or hates crowds or…you get the idea.  Remember to trust your gut.
  3. They neglect to overpack. That may sound silly, but being without an allergy-friendly snack when you got stuck in holiday traffic and your son is HANGRY! well, it’s just not pretty. Pack extra clothes, extra calming items, favorite little toys or games, extra medicine, anything that can help your child succeed should you end up being out longer than anticipated.
  4. They forget to leave “white space”. Think of empty space on your calendar as mental health space. This applies to both you and your child. More than likely your child needs time to recuperate after a busy family gathering. You will, too. You were busy watching out for her, making sure she had what she needed. You were on high alert. Leaving blank space lets you both reset and better handle the busy holiday season. For example, it may not be the greatest idea to expect your child to go Black Friday shopping the day after Thanksgiving.
  5. They push too far. One of our jobs as special needs parents is to get our child out of his comfort zone. If we didn’t, they may never grow. However, we also need to be careful how we do that, particularly during a time of the year that already adds extra stress on their systems. When your child is overwhelmed and going inside himself, that is not the time to push. That is the time to leave or accommodate with a calming space.
  6. They leave out others. Sometimes we’re so focused on solving problems and helping our child have a good holiday season on his terms we special needs parents exclude others. Maybe we don’t explain our child’s preferences (Make sure you read all the way down to find your FREE printable to help with this!). Perhaps we don’t take the time to educate family so they understand our child’s challenges. Whether it’s due to fatigue, being in hypervigilance mode, or just plain laziness, we could probably all improve in this area.
  7. They beat themselves up. Ah, guilt. The ever-present nagging voice inside a special needs parent’s head. “We should have left sooner. I should have stuck up for him more. Maybe if I had picked a different time for the party…” You can do this all day, and many of us do. As much as you’d like to be the perfect superhero, you’re not. Even the best of us are going to make wrong calculations. Give yourself the Christmas gift of less self-criticism this year.

Autism mom Annie Eskeldson takes readers on a tour of the holiday season through the eyes of autism and sensory challenges. If you’re looking for a picture book to help others understand some of the things your child faces, I recommend her book Ashi’s Birthday and Other Dreaded Days. (affiliate link)

Would you like a way to help others understand your child this holiday season, to reduce overwhelm and increase positive interactions? I’ve created a freebie to do just that. Many times our friends and family want to spend time with our child at holiday gatherings, but they don’t understand how and they don’t understand the extra pressure the holiday activities put on your child. Use this free fill-in-the-blank “About Me” type page. Fill it out and hand it to others so they can have fun with your child! It will be a win-win-win. I made three styles–two with picture backgrounds and one without for those who like to reduce printing cost. I’ve had many people tell me they love it. What are you waiting for? Just complete the form below and tell me where to send your freebie!

What do you think? Is there another way parents of children with special needs ruin the holidays? Tell me in the comments!

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Special Needs Parenting vs. Helicopter Parenting: When Do You Get Involved?

It’s time for a little advocating for those in the trenches of special needs parenting. But first, a story.

Once upon a time there was a child. This fifth grader enjoyed playing at the pool with other children. One day a first grader decided to follow him around the pool. Nothing wrong with that, just a younger child wanting to play with an older child.

But the older child asked him to stop. And the older child swam away. The younger child followed, and so the fifth grader kept swimming away and saying, “Please stop.” Eventually after asking multiple times, he started yelling and splashing the other child. (more…)