Posted in autism, motherhood, parenting

Child Progress Reports

Eli, Age 7

After age 1, Eli started showing signs of regression in the little speech that he had. He didn’t respond to his name (wouldn’t turn and look at you when you said his name). He preferred to play by himself and often didn’t like when people invaded his personal space. He enjoyed lining up any objects he could. 

He started receiving speech services around 18mo. He was diagnosed with Autism at age 2. We moved to San Diego where he started receiving weekly speech and occupational therapy sessions, intensive Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy 20hr/week, and eventually started attending a special education preschool 3hr/day. Eli consistently used around 20 signs to express his wants and needs but had a lot of difficulty understanding and handling his own emotions. 

Eli finally started to talk at age 3 ½ and his language exploded. He went from baby babble to over 100 words within months. He was fully potty trained just after age 4. Since he was nonverbal for so long, potty training was quite difficult. After putting him in preschool settings, he became much more comfortable interacting with others and started to prefer playing with others versus his initial solo play. 

At age 5, Eli was in general education kindergarten with and IEP for speech and occupational therapies during school hours. He has an unbelievable vocabulary, can read and write at grade level, has a lot of friends, enjoys social interactions, and is just overall- flourishing. 

He still, of course, has areas that he needs to work on. 
-His speech still needs a lot of improvement
-He often writes certain numbers and letters backwards
-He has a hard time understanding and controlling his emotions. This often leads to
uncomfortable interactions with his peers. It’s my personal opinion that he is
emotionally younger than his peers.
-Eli becomes easily and extremely frustrated and upset at very minor
inconveniences (more so than other kids his age)

I put together a quick little transformation video of Eli’s progress from age 2 to age 7.


Camille, Age 2 ½ 

As soon as Camille came around I knew what signs to be on the lookout for. I made sure keep an eye on her milestones and make note of any delays. By age one, Camille had no words, some baby babble (but not much), was not playing age appropriately with toys and did not enjoy playing with others. I referred her to the Early On program when we moved home while my husband prepared for his third deployment. Her Early On evaluation found her with a high risk for Autism Spectrum and we started speech therapy services.

Her official autism diagnosis has been quite a long, drawn out process. It took 6 months to even get the evaluation, when we arrived, we found out that we were not completing the entire thing and had to be put on another 6 month waitlist to be seen by the behavioral therapist to complete her evaluation. Without her medical diagnosis, we are unable to start ABA therapy and other private therapies (insurance funded speech and occupational therapies). Before the recent Stay-at-Home order was put into place Camille had JUST started attending a special education preschool. She got a solid 4 days in before she was sent right back home. Although I’m sure she wasn’t too upset about it. haha

Camille is still very young and doesn’t have as much of a timespan of progress as her brother, but she has shown amazing improvement just in the past few months!

What she was doing:
-Did not play with toys appropriately. Would just hold them, sometimes knock them
together. Did not attempt to stack blocks, use shape sorters.
-No imaginative play. Wouldn’t make dolls or toys “talk”, wouldn’t pretend to drink
or eat play food, etc
-No social interaction with anyone except for mom. She would ignore other people
in the room, *sometimes* just sit back and watch others, mostly just did her
own thing
-Only showed interest in about 5 shows/movies
-No words at all. Until Age two Camille was almost silent. She barely even babbled.
After age two her babbling took off but was still just incoherent baby talk.

What she is doing now
-Camille started paying more attention to the movies and shows she was watching.
She began repeating lines from the show (her own baby babble version that
sounded remarkably close to the real word). Then she started singing some of
the songs from her Disney movies.
-She started to engage more in social play (with mom and brother) and eventually
enjoyed some action and reaction type play (ready, set, go- then race the cars)
-She started saying a handful of words, at first very sporadically and not on
command, now much more frequently
*Hi, Bye, Thank you, Mommy, yes, no, bubble, baby, hello, its me, outside
pretty, what, yeah
-Her play time has become much more age appropriate.
*Using more toys correctly (vs just holding them, knocking them together)
*Making dolls and Barbies “talk” to eachother
*Imaginative play (answering a phone, drinking and eating pretend food)
*Starting to color with crayons

Camille is a little too young for a transformation video. Since her progress is still happening… I was having a hard time putting something together to show you all. I still wanted to include her in this blog because I want to keep everyone updated on how great she is doing! So instead of a transformation video, enjoy these random videos of Camille…just being Camille!

Posted in autism, parenting, Uncategorized

…I think my child might have autism.

Are you noticing signs of delays in your child? Is your child nonverbal or behind on their developmental milestones? Are you wondering if maybe your child has Autism? Let’s go over some warning signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and the steps you should take!


*A disclaimer before viewing the warning signs… it is important to remember that autism is a SPECTRUM disorder… no two children on the spectrum are exactly the same. There is no definitive checklist for autism. The warning signs that I am about to give you are merely *common* signs.

Common early warning signs of Autism: 

Physical signs-

  • No speech or delayed speech
  • Repetitive speech or babble
  • Does not point to objects
  • Does not respond to his/her name
  • Avoids eye contact
  • Repetitive physical motions (hand/arm flapping, body rocking, spinning n circles)
  • Over/under sensitivity to sounds, lights, smells, tastes, and touches
  • Little to no social skills
  • Avoids or resists physical contact
  • Lack of safety/danger awareness
  • Lines up toys or objects
  • Plays with toys the same way every time
  • Prefers/focuses only on certain parts of objects (ex. Wheels)
  • Hyperactivity
  • Unusual eating and sleeping habits
  • Causes self-injury
  • Hyperactivity

Emotional/Mental signs

  • Lack of interest in objects or thing
  • Little to no imaginative play
  • Prefers to be alone
  • Difficulty understanding emotions (their own emotions and the emotions of others)
  • Easily upset by minor changes
  • Has obsessive interests
  • Unusual interests and behaviors
  • Extreme anxiety or phobias
  • Impulsive
  • Aggression
  • Meltdowns

*To reiterate, if your child has some attributes that are on this list, it does NOT mean they are definitely on the spectrum. On the flip side, your child may have little to no attributes on this list but could still have other indicators that may lead to an autism diagnosis. This list is merely a jumping off point from commonly seen signs. 

So if you still have concerns about your child, maybe they have a few of these common signs… what’s next? What are the first steps to getting answers? To getting your child help?


Here is my step-by-step list to starting the ASD process. 

1. Schedule an appointment with your child’s pediatrician to discuss concerns.

A. Generally a referral to a developmental pediatrician is needed for an autism diagnosis. Be aware that getting in to see a specialty pediatrician can often take a long time (upwards of six months). 

B. I suggest that while you wait for a medical evaluation to be conducted, you jump to parts 2 or 3 (depending on the age of your child) then return to 1c when you hear back from the office performing the evaluation.

C. The evaluation process can vary based on the office you’re using. (My son was only seen by the developmental pediatrician for about 1-2 hours, my daughter was seen by a developmental pediatrician, speech therapist, occupational therapist, and physical therapist, totaling 4 hours)

D. If the evaluation finds your child on the Autism Spectrum (or with another type of developmental delay) it can open a window for many fully or partially covered services under your insurance. 
-Speech therapy
-Occupational therapy
-Physical Therapy
-Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy

E. Get a referral from your doctor for the therapy services. You can do these therapies in addition to any Early Intervention or school services your child may start receiving.

2. If your child is between the ages of 0-3:

*Disclaimer: my knowledge of Early Intervention programs is largely based on Michigan’s program. It’s been difficult to find comparative data among all state programs, so take some of these details with a grain of salt and be sure to look up the steps for your specific State‘s Early Intervention Program!

A. Look up your State’s Early Intervention Program. All States and US territories offer early intervention programs, but each State’s program may vary from others. However, ALL Early Intervention Programs in the U.S. are completely free.

B. You can self-refer your child for an evaluation online

C. Someone from the program will reach out to you, send you profile questionnaires for you to fill out about your child, and get your consent for their program to perform an in-home evaluation.

D. Generally the program has a set amount of time from the moment you refer your child until the entire evaluation is completed. (Because every state is different, I’m hesitant to say that this is the case for every State’s programs. Michigan has 45 days from the time of referral to complete the evaluation.)

E. If the evaluation finds a need for services (speech, occupational, physical therapy, etc) State-funded, in-home services can begin. 

F. Services can run year round and your team will update your child’s plan yearly.

If your child is 3 years old or older:

A. Reach out to your School District’s special education department and discuss getting an evaluation for an Individualized Education Program (IEP)

B. Your child can get evaluated by a multi-disciplinary team. This team is made up of licensed professionals employed by the school based on your child’s specific needs (medical, physical limitations, learning delays, etc)

C. If the evaluation finds a need for special education services, the team can put together your child’s limitations, needs and goals into an IEP and school based services can begin. 

D. Beginning School services
-If your child is school-aged already at this time, They will receive services during the school day. The most desirable option is to have the child in general education classes and have them pulled out for short therapy sessions.
-If your child is not school aged yet, but has aged out of early intervention programs (so between ages 3-5) your child can still receive services through the school system, either in the form of a preschool, special education preschool, or a drop in therapy program, depending on what your school offers.

Educate Yourself

A. Do your research
-Look up the above things I just discussed (the closest developmental ped in your area, your state’s early intervention program, and your school districts website)
– Get in touch with your insurance company and find out your coverage information. Do they offer supplemental coverage for autism? What therapy services are covered? Make sure you’re aware of your copays and deductibles.
– Find credible online sources to learn a little bit more about Autism Spectrum Disorder. You can get good sources from your pediatrician, health department, and school district!

B. Find online resources
-I swear just go to Pinterest and type in Autism Activities and you will get a million and more ideas for sensory play, fine and gross motor activities, etc.
-Find parent support groups. It’s just just whining and bitching (I mean.. sometimes it is…) but they are also a great place to share ideas and resources!

Relax.

A. The hardest parts are over. Honestly, trying to navigate where to start and who to reach out to was probably the most overwhelming part for me my first time around.


Honestly, this blog took me forever to write. Not ONLY because I’m quarantined inside my very small house with my two very stir-crazy, needy children who will not let me sit at my computer in peace for more than 5 minutes at a time….. but because I didn’t want to spread false information. Although all of these services are available in every single state, I can’t say for certain that every detail of these programs will be exactly the same. I really tried to do my due diligence here. Perhaps if my children would let me get some more research time in I could actually pull criteria for every single state, but I have a feeling until I can get these kids back in school that’s just not in the cards. So if you’ve stayed with me this far, let me just say once more, PLEASE be sure to look up the programs and services for your specific state!

Happy Autism Awareness Month
Stay Safe and Healthy!

Early Intervention By State List

Multi-Disciplinary Team / IEP : More Information

Common Autism Warning Signs

Posted in family, momlife, parenting

A Parents Quarantine Guide

Hi friends!

How are we all doing during Quarantine? 
Going insane? Kids eat all the snacks already? How many times have you watched Frozen II on Disney+ ? Running out of things to do with your kids? 

If you’re like me and answered yes to all of the above, let’s work it out together. 

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Dump screen time rules!

Honestly… when the kids are inside the house 24/7 for an undetermined amount of time, it’s unrealistic to slap a weak time limit on something that occupies our kids so well. Sure, we can put together a whole list of daily activities, but we all know that no matter how much you plan for your kids during the day, there’s always going to be a ton of boring downtime. So screw it. When we’ve exhausted all our other ideas… just let them go and enjoy your alone time. Look at it positively…. If your child gets down a Minecraft tutorial Youtube rabbit hole, you have time to watch an entire movie- uninterrupted. 

Does your family have any online streaming services? We made the switch a couple years ago to go from satellite TV to online streaming only. Currently, we have Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Disney+. Basically the options for my kids are endless; which means, more distractions for them and more alone time for me (hopefully).

Forget the toilet paper… Get those chips!

No matter what age child you may be stuck at home with during this time (or even an adult manchild for that matter) snacks are a MUST. When kids are in school we pack only a snack and lunch for them, but for some reason when kids are home they need to eat every 30 minutes. Load up on everyone’s go-to snacks. Now I’m not saying be that asshole that goes and clears the shelves at Walmart or Meijer of all the bags of Lay’s potato chips… but feel free to get yourself a few bags. Both my kids are on big fruit kicks right now, which I love, but obviously fruit doesn’t have a long shelf life, so make sure to stock up on your kids favorite non-perishables because trust me, they’re going to eat them. 

Pinterest is your new best friend

Running out of ideas to keep the kids occupied? Prepare to get lost in a Pinterest Black Hole. Now, I’m not saying turn into a “Pinterest Mom” Well, by all means… do your thing. All I’m saying is, there is no better place out there to get inspiration for literally ANYTHING other than Pinterest. I set aside a good 30 minutes the other day and pinned a bunch of indoor activities for children and wrote down what supplies I would need. Now that I have all/most of my supplies I am going to start testing out all the ideas. Since we don’t know just how long this quarantine is going to last, I’m going to do one Pinterest activity a day. That way I don’t use up all my ideas in 1-2 days. 

Time consuming activities

Nothing fancy or creative here. Just good old fashion time-consuming fun. Line up some activities that will occupy your kids for longer than 30 minutes Yesterday I wanted to clean the house while my daughter was asleep so I told Eli to go in his room and make Batman town out of his Imaginext playsets. He took it one step further and said he will do an Imaginext town and a Lego town and have them Battle. He was in there for almost 2 hours. Win for me. I got 3 rooms cleaned and my car vacuumed in peace. 

Try these:

-100+ piece puzzles

– Lego Challenges: assign them certain designs to create, it will take longer than just tinkering

– Make a book: I have premade empty booklets (pictured below) or you can always DIY a book with paper and a stapler! If your child can’t write the words themselves yet have them draw the pictures and you can write the words for them!

– Outside Time: Spring is coming! Depending where you’re reading from, the weather may be starting to perk up. Sun is starting to shine a little more, the air is getting a little warmer, the snow is starting to melt, so kick those kids outside! Plan an outdoor nature walk, scavenger hunt, ANYTHING. Get them some fresh air and get yourself some space.

School is in session

Oh…that’s right…we’re supposed to be homeschooling our own kids during this quarantine. I almost forgot. The good news is, there are a lot of online options to help you out. 

ABC Mouse : New sign ups enjoy one month free. It seems after that it is $10/mo, cancel anytime. We have used this in the past and my son really did enjoy it. A lot of the activities are very play based but also have great educational bases

ABCYA : My son actually told me about this site. It is the one they use in computer class at his school. This website can be used for free, or you can upgrade to the PRO version for $10/mo
Teachers pay Teachers : If your child does better with pencil and paper learning, check this out. I saw some teachers recommend this to someone on facebook the other day so I checked it out. There is an endless amount of printable activities you can do with your kids. Certain items do require payment but there are also a lot of FREE options available too!
-Reading time: Whether your child is an independent reader, non-reader, or an inbetweener, try to set aside some reading time. When school was in session Eli had to read a new book for class every night (short easy stories) that we always did right before bed. To be honest we did slack off on this. After I was done spring cleaning and organizing his room I stocked his room with books so we can start back up with our nightly story times!

No matter what your plan is for this quarantine, you’re sure to go insane regardless. As much as we love our kids, my god… being trapped in the house with them day in day out is exhausting. Just remember to give yourself mental and physical breaks from your kids and your responsibilities. It’s fine if you’re not actively parenting or teaching every minute of the day. It’s fine if your living room looks like a bomb went off. The day isn’t ruined if the morning dishes are still in the sink. There are 24 hours in a day and we have no idea how long this quarantine could last, so as the flight attendants say- secure your own mask before assisting those around you. Your mental and physical health matters too!

Posted in momlife, motherhood, parenting

Common Misconceptions of a SAHM

  1. I’m sure you could work if you really wanted to….
  2. The military must be good money if most wives don’t work.
  3. You don’t do anything all day.
  4. I wish I had your life.
  5. Your life is so easy

These are some things I have heard since I became a stay at home home mom 7 years ago. None of them bother me. In fact, I’m sure I probably say similar things about moms with other family dynamics. Since being a stay at home mom is something I know a lot about… let’s examine some of these frequently said claims, as they pertain to ME.

1. Could I work if I really wanted to?

-Well, yes and no. My life the past 7 years has always been….unstable (and no, I’m not talking about my mental health lol.) Being a military family, we have moved more times than I can even count. I generally don’t stay in a place long enough to hold a decent job. Before Eli started school, he did 20 hours of ABA therapy a week and an hour of speech and occupational therapy a week, then moved on to a 3-hour a day preschool. To hold a full time, or even a part time job for that matter, I would need to hire a full time nanny to be home for therapies and be able to get my son to and from school.

Now that my son is in school full time, I was left at home with my daughter. Could I have worked then? Yes. And I did apply to jobs, unfortunately I didn’t get them. Currently, Eli is in school full time and Camille just started special ed preschool that is 3 hours T-F. So here I am again with more time constraints. I bring my son to school at 8, head back to school to drop my daughter off at 1130, then go back to pick both kids up at 230. Are there any jobs hiring Tuesday- Thursday between the hours of 12-2:30pm??

Furthermore, if I did get a job at any point in the last few years, without a Bachelor’s Degree, any entry level job I could would probably pay pretty closely to what my cost for childcare would be. At that point, is it worth it?

2. So how good IS military pay?

-To put this as vaguely, yet informatively, as possible… no, military pay doesn’t live up to the hype. Listen… if you were to look at the numbers before healthcare, rent, and taxes are taken out, sure, it would look pretty damn good. Then again, that’s true for everyone’s paychecks! I think two of the biggest misconceptions of military pay are: (1) we get free healthcare and rent (2) Military members get paid very well. Both of these are false.

Healthcare, for the member and their family, is taken out before the money reaches the member. Same is said for rent. If you are living in military housing, the rent is taken out of your paycheck before it reaches the service member. I’m assuming this is where the idea comes from that these things are all free? Healthcare coverage depends what plan you’re on and your location. Sometimes everything can be covered 100% with no copays and no deductibles. Currently for my location and the plan that I am on, I pay both.

In all, the military pays decently- not horrible, not fantastic. My husband makes enough to support his family, but the sad truth is… there are a lot more stable and safer careers out there that make far more money. The military definitely doesn’t pay enough for the work and the sacrifices made for the job. Of course, the higher you go, the higher the pay. likewise, if you enter the military with a college degree, you start out with a much higher salary than lower enlisted, and rightfully so.

So if military pay isn’t all that, why are so many wives stay at home moms (or just stay at home wives)? Well… it’s hard. Realistically, service members generally move every four years and can deploy during that four year time too. Having a lot of short lived jobs on your resume doesn’t look the best, nor does having long gaps either. A lot of military towns are saturated with people, making job prospects minimal and hard to come by. A lot of wives probably choose not to work for convenience, and some probably do it because they don’t have any other options!

3. What do I do all day?

-Depends on the day. Back when we lived in San Diego, a typical day for me would be 4 hours of ABA therapy, pick up and drop off at a 3 hour special ed preschool, cooking, cleaning, evening speech and occupational therapy appointments, laundry, homework, blogging, and bedtimes. Lately, an average day for me has been: bring my son to school at 8, come home and work out, bring my daughter to school at 11:30, clean the house and run errands, pick both kids up at 2:30,  snacks, blog, computer work, dinner time, homework time, bedtime, then reclean the house. Is anything I do physically demanding? No. Do I have it easier than most people? Yes. Am I at the complete mercy of my children 24 hours a day and am slowly losing my mind? Also, yes. 

4. I wish I had YOUR life.

-Well, I wish I had YOUR life. The grass is always greener folks… If your hair is short, you have the urge to cut it. When you cut your hair short, you impatiently wait for it to grow back out. There are obviously a lot of appealing parts of being a stay at home mom: seeing your kids more, being there for all of the firsts, yadda yadda. I think a big part of being a stay at home mom that often gets overlooked is that- when being a SAHM becomes a part of your identity, different parts of your identity get forced out. I’ve given up a career, my independence, my freedom. I am at the complete mercy of my children and their lives, so much so that I struggle just to find my purpose and passion in life beyond my kids. I often feel like just a shell of a person, with nothing in my life at all outside of raising children. Don’t get me wrong, I’d make the same choice again and again if given the opportunity. Just know, when you choose to stay home or work, there will always be a little part of you that yearns for the other choice.

5. My life is anything BUT easy

-Am I chopping lumber every day or performing lifesaving CPR on a patient? No, but my life is pretty mentally and emotionally challenging. My routines are repetitive, my freedom is nonexistent, my social life is limited. I am surrounded by kids nearly 24 hours a day. I struggle to finish a single task without being interrupted by a child. Trying to find time to work on my computer, clean an entire room, or even take a shower is a struggle. So sure, being a stay at home mom seems like a pretty easy gig, and it is in a lot of ways… but it is a lot more draining than people give it credit for. 

This blog isn’t to try and say how hard working I am or make my life seem harder than it is. I’m not arrogant enough to think that I work harder than a working mom, another SAHM, or anyone at all for that matter.

A lot of people tend to have this perception that stay at home moms just sit on the couch all day watching real housewives all day eating snacks…don’t get me wrong… WE DO THAT.. we just don’t get to do that ALL THE TIME. There’s a lot more to this life than people think. There is a lot more mental exhaustion and loneliness than people think.

My favorite times of the day as a stay at home mom is the first thing in the morning when it’s dark and quiet and I enjoy my first cup of coffee in uninterrupted silence and at night after my kids have gone to bed when I enjoy a bedtime snack and do some yoga. Those two times are the only times during my day that are all mine. I still may not be able to do anything that I want to do, but at least I get that peace and quiet!

Posted in family, momlife, motherhood, parenting

What Screens are teaching my kids

I’ve never admitted to being a perfect parent. In fact, I am far from it. My kids eat like crap (processed foods, chips, Mcdonalds, really whatever the hell I can get them to eat..), we don’t follow daily schedules, I forget to brush teeth some nights, and I do not have a screen time limit. I wish I were a more structured mom, but honestly…. Whatever. 

Has anyone heard the parenting tip: “Don’t let the TV be the babysitter?” Let’s all laugh together.. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that your kids shouldn’t be staring at a tv screen 18 hours a day. But isn’t parenting just easier when you can make dinner, take a shower, or clean the house uninterrupted because your kids are content and distracted? 

I will say that my children are learning things from their screens that I couldn’t teach them. Not that I haven’t tried to teach them certain things.. but often times with my kids I’m just the teacher from Charlie Brown 

Both of my kids have always had intense focus when it came to TV. Camille for instance, has learned so much from her favorite movies and shows. She had no desire to sit down and read books together. She did not take to using picture cards or sign language. One thing that she is doing, however, is watching shows and repeating words and phrases that she hears. I have heard her say SO MANY words, none of which are consistent or used for actual communication. She has memorized the lines and the songs from these movies and knows most of them by heart.

Just because she’s not actively trying to communicate with me, there isn’t a doubt in my mind that she doesn’t have an age appropriate vocabulary by now….. it’s just stuck in her head. Her favorite show, Word Party, just added a new season with a brand new character. A baby turtle who speaks mandarin. Camille is starting to say the words they say in Mandarin! 

As for my son, Eli, he has always been a lover of TV. We brought him to his first movie at a movie theater when he was a little over a year old and it was true love ever since. 

Now that he’s a little older, he’s let his love stretch across all different kinds of electronics. He watches shows and movies, watches Youtube videos, plays on his ipad, Nintendo switch, and WiiU.  At a glance it looks like he’s just wasting his time with his face in a screen… and maybe he is, but honestly he is learning a lot more than he is wasting. Let me explain.

What Minecraft is teaching my son:

  • Geology: One day he told me he was having a hard time finding more obsidian. I’m like….what? I had to google what he was talking about. He knows all the different kinds of rocks, stones, gems, and soils.
  • Agriculture: He’s learning how to start and maintain gardens, what foods grow in the ground and above of the ground, what certain animals eat, etc. 
  • Survival skills: when he plays this game in “Survival Mode” he has to keep track of his health and hunger levels. He has to keep his character out of danger, learn how to ward off things that can hurt him, he creates fire, makes shelter. He’s a regular boy scout!
  • Architecture: When Eli finishes a house, it honestly blows my mind. He can make the most elaborately designed houses. He makes secret passageways, hidden rooms, basements, attics, spare bedrooms. I’ve tinkered with the game in the past and I can tell you… this stuff is NOT easy.
  • Creativity: Watching him play this game is so mesmerizing. He gets so lost in this alternate universe. He creates scenarios and storylines; it’s truly great to see him in love with something so much. During his free time at school he creates Minecraft story books with hand drawn artwork and a story to match.

His love for Minecraft is insane. It’s an obsession, really. For his birthday this year, in lieu of a party I bought tickets for us to go to Minefaire in Indianapolis. He gets to meet all his favorite Youtubers, play the game on big screens and via virtual reality, watch stage shows, hang out with other Minecraft-obsessed kids his age. 

What Super Mario Maker (Nintendo Switch) is teaching my son:

  • Creativity: If you’re unfamiliar with this game, you are creating your own levels from all versions of Mario Bros. he’s taught himself (I was no help) how to use all the features and how to make a new functioning and achievable level. Each level he makes is completely different from other ones he has done before. 
  • Problem solving: Once you make your level you can then play the level. If he goes to play a level that he had just made and realizes that it is not achievable, he goes back and adjusts the problem areas.
  • Hand-eye coordination: Playing games like this is really helping him in this area. Holding the remote in his hands while concentrating on the screen is actually a great thing (in small doses, of course!)

How can Youtube possibly be helping my child?:

*Just a preface- this is based entirely on my son’s personal watch history on his kids Youtube account. I am fully aware of how much pointless, and often, inappropriate crap is on Youtube, even kids Youtube!*

            – Minecraft: He knows all the top Minecraft Youtubers. He pays attention so well to these videos and is actually learning from them. He remembers different things these people make in the game and tries them on his own later. I would love to add that this is improving his listening skills when it comes to listening to his mother, alas it just appears to be for the TV.

            – Life Hacks: The new craze Eli has been into on Youtube is Lifehacks. One day he came barreling out of his room asking me for solo cups and an empty paper towel roll. He watched a video on how to make a DIY speaker for a phone or Ipad and he wanted to make a speaker so he could “hear his games louder”

Listen… I know sitting in front of a screen all day is no way for a child to live. Kids need to be kids. I want my kids to be with friends, run around outside, play sports, make mud soup after a rainstorm. But let me be honest, if I’m busy, we have no plans, the weather is crappy out, or I’m just honest-to-God too tired to parent… my kids will be watching tv, playing games, or whatever. The whole “don’t let the TV be the babysitter” thing is not my style at all. As long as you are monitoring WHAT your kids are watching and HOW LONG they are watching screens for, it can actually be a great learning resource for them. 

NEVER let people guilt you for your parenting choices. If your children are loved, clothed, and fed you are doing just fine. 

Posted in autism, family, parenting

The Cost of Autism

In January we finally got to do Camille’s autism evaluation.

Now, I could go on and on about the inner workings of the four hour appointment, but that is not going to be the meat of this blog, so let’s just go with an overview.

We started the eval process in about July 2019. We had to go to their regular pediatrician for an appt and to get a referral. We went on the waitlist for the developmental clinic and finally got our appointment in the middle of January 2020. The day comes, and we get to the pediatric specialty clinic and we spent about an hour with each specialty. One hour with a developmental pediatrician, one hour with speech therapy, and a shared hour with both an occupational therapist AND a physical therapist at the same time. The time with all three specialists were pretty much all the same: mostly asking me questions and having me fill out scantron-style forms, watching Camille, and trying to get her to do certain tasks. I would say about 75% of each session was spent mostly just talking with me.

The evaluation is not even finished. We still have to get Camille evaluated by a behavioral therapist, who’s waitlist is six months long. WHY we were not put on their waitlist back when we got on the waitlist for the developmental clinic is BEYOND ME. Now, by the time we get in with the behavioral therapist, Camille’s autism evaluation will have taken one year to complete. Although I could write a whole blog about that and my annoyance with it, this isn’t the topic of the blog either.

This week, about 6ish weeks after Camille’s appointment, we got a statement from the evaluation appointment, along with the bill for the remaining balance. YA’LL….. The total for this *partial* autism evaluation was $1,846.48. 

Let me break the bill down for you:
Clinic (developmental pediatrician): $773.65 <—for ONE HOUR
Occupational Therapy evaluation: $305.61
Physical Therapy evaluation: $342.28
Speech Pathology evaluation: $424.94

Total: $1,846.48
Tricare Insurance covered 98% of the total costs
My remaining balance: $33

…Thank GOD for decent insurance! Who could afford that otherwise? I don’t know much about Autism coverage with insurances (outside of my own experience), but I did read once that a lot of states now are requiring major insurance companies to now cover some autism services, as it is becoming much more common (or should I say, more diagnosed/recognized). 

We have been very blessed with our Tricare coverage when it comes to autism services. When my son was two years old and diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, we became eligible for a supplemental coverage within Tricare called the ECHO program. This program covers additional medical supplies, therapy tools, and specialty therapies that are not available with the general Tricare plans: you must have a medical diagnosis of some type to qualify for this program.

After seeing the cost of this evaluation (especially being in a rural location in Michigan vs an Urban city like San Diego) it got me thinking…what is the average cost of Autism in the U.S.? Are other people struggling like me? What if people don’t have good insurance like my family does?

*Disclaimer, this information came from about an hour of web searches, so I cannot confirm the validity of this data. If you have knowledge of more accurate data PLEASE let me know!*

The total cost of Autism Spectrum Disorder in the United States is $126 billion. The average cost for providing care to one person with ASD throughout their lifetime is $2.3 million (compared to $1.4 million for a healthy average functioning person). So what is this cost for? Obviously a bunch of different things that can vary for each individual person… that was a boring answer, so here are some of the main factors:

  • Regular doctor appointments
  • Specialty / developmental doctor appointments
  • Speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy
  • Applied Behavior Analysis therapy
  • Medication
  • Childcare (some children with more difficulties can require specially trained childcare)
  • Parent’s loss off income for taking time off for therapies, frequent appointments, IEP meetings, etc

It’s safe to say that life in general is just so much more expensive these days. Medical costs for EVERYONE are insane. We all know that pharmaceutical companies make so much money off their horribly overpriced medications, but don’t let that overshadow all the other overpriced medical treatments in the healthcare field. 

When we were in San Diego and my son started Applied Behavior Analysis therapy (ABA), we were blessed to never have to pay a cent for the service. I did however receive the monthly statements showing me the hours, costs, and confirmation of payment. All I can say is… HOT DAMN. It was around $5,000 a month for ABA therapy in San Diego. (Because we are in Michigan at the moment, I do not have the physical records with me to give you an exact cost of this therapy, but that amount of money is not easily forgotten.)

Eli had two separate therapists (rotated days) that came M-F 8am-12pm and a case manager that came maybe about once a month. One of his daily therapists told me that they didn’t need any certain degree for their job and only made around $12-$15 an hour (in southern California!) Meanwhile, the case manager that came once a month for an hour would drive up in a nice BMW… So why the insane costs??? What is all this money going to? The actual therapists who get screamed at, hit, kicked, and are the ones actually doing the work aren’t getting the money they deserve, so who is getting it? The supervisors who have never met my child?

I think it’s worth mentioning that more often than not, families with a child with some type of disability usually have one of the parents leaving the workforce to become a full time caregiver to the family member, thus leaving the entire family to rely on one income. This, if you’ve followed my blog or know me personally, is the case for my family. I have been a stay at home mom for pretty much 7 years. Between in-home speech therapy, in-home ABA therapy, 3 hour special education preschool days, in-office therapy sessions, I would either need to have a costly full time nanny that I trust to transport my kids around all day or we need to take the loss of an income. What is a solution for this?

 This blog isn’t going to end with my grand solution to this ridiculous high medical costs dilemma. Honestly, I don’t really have any solid ideas at all. Could the government step up and create a solution? Doubtful seeing as how far in debt we are already… What we need is someone or some powerful agency/group and get a control on overpriced healthcare costs. Insurance companies should cover more specialty services. There should be more free state and federal resources for families with disabilities. Until a solution comes to light, all we can do is spread awareness and bring more light to the struggles that SO MANY families are dealing with on a daily basis.

https://www.autismspeaks.org/press-release/new-research-finds-annual-cost-autism-has-more-tripled-126-billion-us-and-reached

Posted in depression, momlife, motherhood, parenting, weight loss

Winter Break is Over

I haven’t blogged in a while, I haven’t been working my Usborne Books & More business, and I haven’t been posting much on social media in general. So what have I been doing? I’ve been trying to get my life together.

I’ve been quite vocal about my struggles with my mental and physical health. I really needed to take a step back from everything I was doing so I could focus on changing my life. I have been focusing on changing my lifestyle and building long lasting routines. To do so, I felt that I needed to cut out some of the extra things in my life so I can dedicate my time to my workouts, meal prepping, and being a better parent. 

I cut out some of my extra “to-dos” so my main focus can be completing my morning workout, getting in my protein smoothie and meal prepping, and creating solid routines for myself and my kids. As I mentioned in a past blog that I am taking Phentermine to help with my weight loss. The key to really making the medication work is using the time you’re on it to create a new lifestyle. This is what sets you apart from yoyo dieting. You can try all the fad diets and see great results, but once you stop the plan or have a few extra cheat days, the weight comes back on. What I am trying to achieve is changing my entire lifestyle to ensure long lasting results. 

I have cut out soda, I very rarely eat sweets, I have very little carbs, have upped my protein and healthy fat intake, and having meal replacement protein shakes. My exercises are all in-home. I follow a work out Youtube channel, The Body Project. They are between 20-45 min cardio workouts ranging from beginner to advanced. I rotate which workouts I do so my body doesn’t get too comfortable. Every night before bed I do between 15-20 minutes of stretching and yoga. Since gaining weight I have had a lot of knee and back problems and I can’t move as well as I used to. The stretching and yoga at night has helped SO MUCH! My back feels amazing, my knee hardly ever bothers me, and I am increasing my flexibility greatly!

-20 lbs

and still cruising!

So now that I’m getting back on track, what’s the next move? Throughout my hiatus I still have been working with the State of Michigan and my local health department as a Parent Representative for Home Health programs. I am helping the state and my community while also learning a lot of great information for myself. I plan on taking this experience and the information I’m learning and spreading awareness of so many great state-funded programs!

I will be going back to my Usborne Books & More sales. I am currently working on a better business model. I have never really been an outspoken person and I HATE being that pushy “buy my stuff” girl. But I, and this is no bullshit, honestly LOVE these books and my kids love these books. Unlike fake weight loss products, overpriced t-shirts, or cheap jewelry, I truly believe that children’s books is always a good investment. Keeping kids interested and engaged while learning is one of the best things parents and families can do for our kids. 

I also plan on keeping a better record of my weight loss and bringing you all along on the journey! I am working on a consistent blogging schedule and really committing myself to something that I love doing so much. 

I appreciate all the love and support that my readers, friends, and family have given me. Despite all the stress and low moments that may happen in my life, I am truly blessed. My life is worth working hard for!