A Better Person – Our Autism Journey

16 10 2020

I’m a better person because of autism; more specifically I’m a better person because of my sons with autism.

I’m more compassionate because of them. More aware of the struggles of the people around me because of them. I’m more understanding of those around me. More willing to acknowledge when people are trying, even if it’s not working.

I’m more caring and less judging.

I’m less worried about what people think and more concerned with how I can help.

I’m more willing to cut my way through the condescending stares of strangers as they judge struggling moms so I can put my arm around this other mom and offer support and help instead of criticism.

I know I am judged. I know I will continue to be. I know that not everyone will understand my life and the challenges we face with autism, and I don’t expect them to.

But if I’m going to be judged no matter what, it will be for doing the right thing. For stepping in and doing the best to love as the Savior did. He walked hard roads alone so that we didn’t have to.

And my autistic sons taught me these things. They’re helping shape me into a person like the ones I admire. Into the person I want to be. Into the person the Lord knew I could become.

Many days with autism can be hard and challenging. But I would not be who I am today without these boys in my life and I’m happy with the woman I’m constantly growing into.

Bump in the Night – JJ and Bandit Service Dog Files

6 10 2020

One of the jobs an autism service dog can do is help their person sleep.

My son, like many on the spectrum, has trouble sleeping. Specifically, he has trouble calming and regulating enough to be able to fall asleep. There have been some long nights, and even some nights that didn’t end. There were times when our medications were out of whack and sleep NEVER came.

As a reminder, Bandit is leaning to work with children – that’s how we’re helping as we foster. He sees me as the person to follow, because that’s what he’s used to. But he’s tethered to JJ most of the day and he’s starting to get comfortable with me farther away, which is exactly what we want him to do ❤️

We started a nighttime routine that lets JJ fall asleep with Bandit.

That’s what’s happening right now. I’m sitting on the hardwood floor writing this as those two snooze away lol. The goal is for Bandit to stay in JJ’s room with him throughout the night, but we’re not there yet. Bandit still gets up and leaves the room with me when my back decides it can’t sit on the floor any longer. But the ease of the transition is getting faster. Both boys are settling into this routine and I feel like there are only good places to go from here ❤️

Thanks for stopping by


As always, if you’d like to read more about JJ’s story, you can find it here: help JJ. If you’re interested, you can also donate to our fundraising efforts there ❤️

JJ and Bandit Update: The Service Dog Files and Fundraiser Reminders

3 10 2020

JJ and Bandit are doing so great things ❤️

If you’re friends with me on FB, you’ve probably already heard about these things, so I apologize. But for the rest of you, I wanted to share some things 😊

Between ADHD, Autism, Anxiety, and Dyslexia, school can be hard. But this is some of what I saw this week, that I haven’t seen before.

In the above picture, JJ was stressing over the work, I could see it. But before I could intervene, he reached out and pet Bandit, which is exactly what Bandit is there for! This was HUGE for JJ. I honestly didn’t know if JJ would respond to a dog in the beginning. But he has been. Then, I wasn’t sure if he’d reach out to Bandit in times of need. We’ve tried a lot of different fidgets and stress reducers to help him be able to calm down when he needed to, but those haven’t been that successful. But guess who’s been reaching out 🙂 And Bandit is there within easy reach.

In the picture below, I caught some good stuff, too.

I don’t think this looks like a kiddo who’s dreading school lol. We also switched online academies and that’s helped with completing school work, but now I’m worried JJ won’t WANT to go back to public school because this is just way too cool for him lol.

When not working, they’ve been able to work on Settle. Many with autism find deep, gentle pressure calming. Because Paws 4 AUTISM uses standard poodles, they weigh enough to provide that kind of pressure. Many times, you can find JJ resting on Bandit, but sometimes, he needs Bandit to rest on him.

Last but not least, LOVE. Bandit is a service dog, so by nature, he provides service. But he’s so much more than that. He’s quickly becoming JJ’s best friend. And as such, JJ works to make sure Bandit has the things he needs, including belly rubs.

JJ’s smile says everything you need to know about how it’s going.

And this is why we’re fundraising. The two fundraisers we have going right now are Ear Savers and Back to School Signs. You can find info about them below. And as always, JJ’s direct fundraising page if you just want to learn more about his story or donate.

Ear Savers to make wearing masks more comfortable.

Back to School Sign to bring a little smile to your face

Help JJ

Thanks for stopping by!



18 01 2020

Hey guys! This is for my local friends and family.

Granite City in Zona is doing another Dine to Donate fundraiser for us! We’re so excited to be working with them again ❤️

Hope to see you there!

Also, if you’d like to read more about JJ, or donate directly to our fundraising, you can go here: Help JJ

You can read about the organization as a whole, there, as well, by selecting the various tabs.

New Paws4Autism Flyer

Big Service Dog News!

5 12 2019

I wish I could tell you we’ve already met our fundraising goal – we haven’t. BUT, there’s still some really cool news in this part of our lives!

Everyone, meet Grady!img_9961

Grady is 10 and as far as we know, he was the FIRST Autism Service Dog in the Kansas City area!

As part of our journey, we’re helping foster and train the dogs in the Paws 4 Autism program. But we’re new, so Grady, the veteran of the dogs, is training us 🙂 He’s semi-retired and is switching into this new role of training people 😀

Already, we’ve seen good changes for JJ. Some repetitive motions are being interrupted as he takes on some responsibilities of caring for Grady, and he’s providing a WEALTH of positive interactions with people.

One of the other things that sets Grady apart from the rest of the pack, is that he’s the ONLY lab in the program. The rest of the boys are poodles 🙂

Grady joined us about five days ago. We’re still learning each other, but it’s getting smoother. I’m so excited to be working with such a great dog ❤️

As always, here’s JJ’s Donation page, if you can give a little, it will be appreciated a lot.

Thank you!


Giving Tuesday and Service Dogs

2 12 2019

You know we’re fundraising for an autism service dog for my 8yo son so he can feel safe going back to school.

On this Giving Tuesday, I just wanted to remind people that his fundraising campaign is an option. The organization we’re using is a charitable organization so any donations to my son’s page on their site are tax deductible. You can read more about them on their website: paws4autism.org

The money we need to raise will to train future dogs so our family and others will have hope on some of those hard autism days. We’re paying it forward. Can you help us by donating on his page and sharing his story?

Thank you.

Service Dog Thank You Cards

20 11 2019

Nice people should get thank you cards.

It’s a thing I believe. And I just so happen to like making thank you cards, so this works out for everyone 😀

I’ve had these designed for a while, but finally had time to sit down and put them together. It took a medical intervention to create the time lol. I’m at the sleep clinic with one of my daughters, so I was able to put the cards together while I wait with her. It’s been a LONG sleep study. We’re doing overnight and nap monitoring…I’m pretty sure we’ll head out by evening though 🙂

In the mean time, a dozen cards were finished and my blog updated. They didn’t turn out how I designed them – my printer ran out of blue ink, but I made it work, because I have some people to get these out to 🙂 If you’re one of our donors – THANK YOU SO MUCH! JJ’s so tickled by your willingness to help him. He even cried a little. You guys are making a little boy so very very happy. These cards are for you ❤️

Thanks for stopping by!


And as always, if you feel it in your heart to donate, or if you want to  see more of JJ’s story, here’s the link to our donation page. paws4autism.org/jj.html

Craft Project 1


Autism and Touch

26 08 2019

In case you don’t know, touch can be different for people on the autism spectrum.

It can range from physically painful, to uncomfortable, to almost not feeling at all.

My 7yo falls kind of in the middle, with some tendencies toward not feeling physical things as much. He’s considered high functioning on the spectrum.

It’s a strange world for him. He WANTS the hugs and affection, but at the same time, it makes him uncomfortable.

I’ll ask him to come sit next to me on the couch and put my arm around him to snuggle. He’ll lean closer, but doesn’t melt into me. He stays kind of stiff. And he never initiates.

Except today…

While we sat side by side at church, he threaded his arm through mine to link our arms. Then he tentatively laid his head against my shoulder.

This might not seem like a big deal, but it was ❤️ He still struggled with the closeness and how much he should lean in and how completely he should let his head rest on my shoulder.


I’m so grateful for those tender moments and hope I’ll never be too busy to appreciate them.

Thanks for stopping by!


Autism Spectrum Disorder – Round 2

17 10 2018

Today was a day I dreaded and looked forward to with equal measure.

A day that brought relief but sorrow.

Today, my 6yo (he’ll be 7 next month) was diagnosed with Autism. He’s a level 1, which means he’s high functioning. If they still used the Asperger’s label, this is probably where he would fall.

Because he’s high functioning, it’s difficult for people to see. Without gathering all of the information, it’s very difficult. So difficult in fact, that in the last 18 months that I’ve really been pushing, we’ve had two places that deal with autism do a cursory glance and tell us they didn’t see anything. He’s verbal, doesn’t flap his hands, and he makes eye contact, which completely excluded him in their minds.

But autism is a spectrum. It’s so much more than those three things. Yes, he’s verbal, but he has difficulty expressing his needs. His conversations are one sided – there’s no reciprocity, no back and forth. So while he can tell you (in detail) about his day, he struggles to carry on a back and forth conversation about it. He has words, but lacks age appropriate communication skills. I wish they’d change “verbal” to “communication”, because communication is so much more than words. It’s body language – gestures, how we hold our bodies, facial expressions, eye contact – all things he still struggles to do and understand even though we work on it weekly. He does have repetitive hand gestures, they’re just very subtle, and he doesn’t flap. He’s usually touching things or manipulating it to form a spiral or circle pattern of some sort.

I dreaded today, because the thought of baring myself and my family, of making us vulnerable to criticism  is hard, especially after being turned away while asking for help over and over again. Along with the places that said they didn’t see anything, we went to multiple specialty clinics to rule out other things. They couldn’t help me because he checked out fine in those clinics. Their only advice was to keep doing what we were doing. That didn’t help because those things didn’t work.

But this doctor we’ve been working with, she listened. She took in the history – eye contact is “good enough to get by” so might not be noticeable to most people, but she heard us when we said it’s a skill we’ve been working on for YEARS. You guys, we’ve worked on SO MANY THINGS FOR YEARS because I KNEW there was something going on and I refused to NOT help my son just because no one would help me.

On this journey, we’ve been judged by outsiders and at times, well meaning insiders. Early on, I was the ONLY one who worried that my son wasn’t processing his world the way we expected him to. Slowly, some of the others came around. It was a hard place to be, but as the people close to me started seeing what I saw, it lightened the load.

We’ve been on a long hard road and today, we got off that road, thanks to this doctor who took in the whole picture.

It’s still going to be a long hard road, but this road has AAA insurance. I’m now in the process of assembling a team to help my child. And thanks to my 2yo’s autism diagnosis earlier this year, I have so many more connections and people mostly ready to go, which is a huge relief. They’re my AAA team 😉

I’m trying not to be angry at the wasted time. When four years ago I was saying, “hmmm, my child sees things, reacts to things differently,” if someone could have helped me then, when I started asking, then early intervention would have been amazing. But I can’t go back. I can’t change that, so I’m trying to leave it alone and focus on the positive. Today I got answers which will enable me to get help for my son so he soar within his boundaries and that’s what’s important.

So here’s what I’ve learned. Here’s what I can pass on from this journey so far.

  1. Moms, dads, if you think something is going on, FOLLOW YOUR GUT. Keep pushing for answers. Document things so when you get a chance to be in front of someone who can help, you can just hand them a piece of paper (or a note book) and say, “these are the things that worry me.” I found that trying to remember on the fly was hard. If we were in a calm time, those things didn’t come to memory so easily. If we were in the middle of a rough patch, I was venting more than sharing helpful information.

Because these behavioral clinics have months long waiting lists, I had my son on    multiple lists. If I got the help I needed, I could cancel the others. But I was wasting time waiting if the first ones didn’t provide the help needed. Which was exactly what happened in our case. Today, I’m glad to say, I was able to cancel a future appointment and open up the slot for another family who needs it.

2. Not every Viking belongs in your boat. Some Vikings may be great, but they just don’t work in your boat. And that’s okay. Find the ones that do. It’s worth it. This last doctor was my missing Viking. The place that turned us away after 10 minutes of interaction with him because they “didn’t see it” may be fantastic for another family, they just weren’t a good fit for us.

3. You need a couple of really good friends that will stop you from driving to Iowa when you realize that Viking doesn’t belong in your boat and you’re feeling hopeless and begin doubting yourself. What I learned from others, is that it’s often difficult to get a diagnosis for our high functioning kiddos. That going through multiple doctors is pretty common. Which brings me to my next point…

4. DON’T GIVE UP. You are the best advocate your child can have. You are the one who knows him (or her) best. You know their daily struggles. To be frank – this is your job. Take a breath, take a break, take time to beat on bongo drums, but don’t stop. Without you, your child can’t get the help they need. You KNOW there’s something going on, you just have to get your child in front of the right person, and that might take a couple of tries and those tries, might take a couple of years, so grab an energy drink and keep pushing forward.


That Time the Physical Therapist Did Her Job Too Well

4 09 2018

and now we have to say good bye.

At four months of age, our youngest started receiving physical therapy in our home through our state’s early intervention program. His muscles were so tight, we had to physically bend him to help him sit on our laps.

In the early weeks of his prenatal development, a part of his brain didn’t form quite right. When the neurologist told us about the finding on the MRI, she couldn’t tell us how or if that damage would affect him.

What we learned is that he needed help meeting EVERY milestone. Rolling. Sitting. Crawling. Walking.

Everything. We’re still working on speech.

BUT, he hit every single one, just in his own time, and not too far out of the normal range. But he was resistant  to them all. Our best guess is that the challenges are a combination of the brain abnormality and our autism diagnosis. But you can’t tell how much work it took to get him to this point because he overcame all of those challenges and most of his success is because of a WONDERFUL physical therapist.

She’s the one that first saw and noted the autism red flags. And when my son needed a break from the PT, she addressed some of those issues. She wrote letters outlining the team’s concerns over these red flags. These letters were so helpful in a number of areas, but especially in his autism diagnosis.

He’s 28 months now…she’s been part of our family for the last 24 months. For two years she showed up each week and worked with him. She explained things to me so I could help him. She found just the right mixture of concern and calm. She listened when I was worried and cheered with us when we saw progress. I think she may have been almost as eager as we were about the adoption 🙂

For two years, my son was her son for an hour a week. I couldn’t have asked for a better woman to work with him.

But now, it’s time for her to go help another little one. So I made her a dozen roses and a card as an inadequate thank you. It took a week, but it was well worth the time.


I cut the roses out of white paper. I used ink and a water brush to watercolor the rose pieces before I put them together. What you can’t see, is that I sprayed them with glimmer mist to give them a little sparkle.


I happen to know she likes humming birds, so I included a little tiny one on this card and used a sketch pen for the greeting.


Thanks for stopping by.