Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Help for parents with a newly diagnosed child with autism

If you know someone with a recently diagnosed child with autism, these links may be helpful in understanding autism and finding a good treatment.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Jacob turns 6!

This past week Jacob turned 6.  I can't believe my baby is 6.  Pretty crazy. 
We had a very fun autism-friendly birthday party last weekend.  We were thrilled that several kids from Jacob's ABA clinic came out to celebrate.  I was nervous about it, I didn't know if the kids would enjoy it there or if it would be stressful.  For the most part, it turned out pretty nice.  It was a blessing to see the smile on his face the entire time. 
    I've been doing a lot of reflecting this week.  I’ve been looking at how far Jacob has come and thinking about things that I had wished for him by now.  Birthdays with autism can sometimes be bittersweet.  I hate to write sad posts, but sometimes that's just really how it feels.  Although I am always joyful about Jacob, there's still a lot that comes with his disability that makes me sad.  I had hoped that Jacob would be closer to mainstreaming after his “kindergarten” year, but he is not nearly ready.  I had hoped that he wouldn't try to run to danger anymore.  I had hoped that he would have some conversational speech, but he only regularly uses basic functional speech.  I know that Jacob’s speech has come so far in therapy, though.  I recently got a video of him in which he is describing what is happening in pictures.

He can say things like, “The boy is eating” or “The girl is reading”.  That is so amazing.  I remember at one point not knowing if he would be verbal at all and the first time he ever said Mommy.  It’s confusing to be so thankful and yet a little sad at the same time.  At home, Jacob only uses speech for very basic wants and needs.  We have to really get his attention and ask a bazillion times for speech beyond hi, bye, and I want sentences.  However, his attention span has grown from about 4 seconds to a few minutes at the table with puzzles, coloring, or play dough.  He listens to NO now and will typically stop what he is doing when we say it.  He is still extremely lovable and sweet.  He always has the biggest smile on his face.  He loves to play trains, ride his bike, run, play video games like Thomas the Train and most recently found a love for roller skating. 
I'm so thankful for how far he has come so it is quite confusing to feel sad.  It makes me feel guilty, too.  I know I have so much to be thankful for.  I am reminded by so many people about how far he has come and all of the amazing things that the Lord is doing through Jacob’s life.  So I have decided to allow myself to cry a little and then to trust in what I know (God) rather than my feelings. I need to focus on where we go from here and how I can be a better mom for Jacob, which I know starts by giving it all to God and trusting in his sovereignty and obeying Him.  I wrote out a prayer on his birthday and would love for those of you that pray, to pray this for Jacob and for us for his birthday.
Thank you for being holy and good and loving.  Thank you for all that you have done in Jacob’s life.  Thank you for entrusting us to be Jacob’s parents.  Thank you for the joy he brings and for all the lessons his life has taught us.  Help me to raise him in a way that glorifies and honors you. I pray that I will not hold on to any bitterness.  Please give me Holy Spirit contentment that supersedes my circumstances.  Give me a right view of you and a right view of me, so that I can let go of anything that I feel I am owed or deserve to make way for tenderheartedness.  Help show me glimpses of your purpose in my life and Jacob’s so I can follow your will and see the bigger picture throughout the struggles.  Please use Jacob’s life to glorify You.  Help give me wisdom to know how to be a parent to a child that doesn’t understand the way my other children do.  Help me to teach and disciple him so that he can also grow to be a man that loves and honors you.  Protect my marriage from the stresses of raising a child with a disability, from the financial stresses to the lack of time we get to spend alone and the worry.  Help us to find a local babysitter.  Specifically for Jacob I pray for communication, calm and greater attention span, independence, safety awareness and mostly that he will be able to learn about You and grow to love and serve you.  God thank you for being so good to us and giving us Jacob and all of our beautiful children.  Thank you for your sovereignty.  I pray for your will to be done in our lives and for our focus to be always be on you first and foremost.  In Jesus' name.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Life is Stinkin' Hard

In the words of my Pastor in a recent sermon, “Life is stinkin’ hard."
One of the blessings of being in graduate school for education is that almost all of my research papers can be tailored to things that apply to me as a special needs mom.  Recently, I did research on caregiving and stress.  Interestingly, caregiving is considered one of the most severe chronic stresses.  It’s actually on the government’s radar as a health crisis often causing heart issues.  I went further and read research into being an autism parent.  One article even went as far as to compare the stress of an autism parent to that of a combat soldier.  Now, I would be very careful comparing my situation to that of someone whose life is consistently on the line.  However, for some autism parents, I could see how this would be true.  Their children are head-banging, self-mutilating, wandering, non-verbal, and suffer from malnutrition or other eating disorders, gastrointestinal problems and the list goes on. 
It’s stinkin hard.
And it’s not just a childhood disorder.  So often the media portrays autism as something that only effects children.  It doesn’t.  It is a disability that affects the person their entire life. 
So research affirms that caregiving causes intense stress.  No one can deny it’s hard.  No one can even understand how hard it is, except those in the situation.  So now what?  What do we do with this information?
From a science standpoint, the research was clear that our minds effect our stress levels.  Stress was tested through interviews and blood work and guess what they found?  People who had good coping skills, social supports, and high self-efficacy (belief that you can be successful at helping your loved one) had significantly less stress than those who felt helpless, who coped through denial, substance abuse, or self-blame.  One study compared people who attended support groups to people who attended classes on communication and coping skills.  Stress levels were the same before the educational classes for both groups, however, those who were taught good coping skills and good communication had less stress than the ones who only attended support groups in the follow-up assessments.  This information shows that many of us could very much benefit from learning good coping mechanisms and ways to feel confident in helping our loved ones.  I will put resources below if you’d like to look at the research. 
But that research led me to something much deeper than that which can be explained through science.  Sure we can educate ourselves and feel confident about helping our loved ones, but then what? What if we are trying our best, but our best is leaving us worn out, stressed, or even depressed? 
What if it’s still stinkin hard?  Where do we turn?
God has commissioned us as His followers to be disciples and share the Gospel with non-believers.  He has given us grace sufficient to heal our pain and crush temporary hardships.  He promises us that if we surrender to Him, He will be with us through every trial.  The best news of all is that when we die, we will be able to live forever with Him in eternity with no more pain, no more struggling, forever at peace.  That future hope can bring a peace that nothing else can.
I used to wonder if my hardships had anything to do with the Gospel.  Do you ever wonder how you can live your life on mission for Christ? Can we even do that if we aren’t missionaries being thrown in jail for the Gospel?  How can raising a child with autism, one who can’t speak, who needs attention at every moment, how can any of this have to do with the Gospel?  But I realized it can and it does.  God has called His children into unique life circumstances in which they can be bold for Christ and show the world that through His grace, those hardships can be endured with joy and hope and freedom from depression.  The outside world can look into our lives and see something that cannot be explained except through Christ.  That example is living our lives in order to point people to the Gospel.  It can also be an excellent catalyst for us to share the Gospel verbally with unbelievers when they ask us about the hope that is in us.
Jesus Christ came into this world to pay the punishment of death for sin, sin separates us from a perfect (sinless) God.  Jesus lived a perfect life and didn’t deserve punishment for sin, but died on our behalf because He loves us. Through His death, burial and resurrection he conquered sin and death so that if we believe and surrender our lives to Jesus we can be reconciled to God through His sacrifice. 
When we place our faith in Jesus, the God that created the world, the God that overcame sin, the God that is in total control is living within us.  Through the Holy Spirit we can be used for God’s glory. 
When we choose to rely on God through our sufferings, God always renews us and His strength in you will restore you.  When we are self-reliant, hoping that we have the strength to conquer each new obstacle, we will always be let down because a new struggle is always waiting right around the corner. This is often when people turn to alcohol, victim-like behavior, or depression.   
As believers, we need to be STRONG for God and through God.  We need to struggle well.  That doesn’t mean it won’t be hard and that doesn’t mean that we won’t struggle.  It most certainly WILL be hard, but as Christians, let’s struggle with hope and joy knowing that we are hand selected by God to go through this difficult time in order to point others to Jesus Christ.
I know that for me personally, when I hold tight to Jacob’s accomplishments and successes at the clinic, no sooner am I saddened by some new trial that has come up.  I can’t look to his achievements for real joy, though I can absolutely celebrate when they occur. But if that is my only sense of joy, then not only in the world of autism ups and downs will I often be let down, but Jacob will see me let down and my life will be a rollercoaster. 
I have to hold tight to my Creator and not His creation for real joy, purpose, and life.  I have to worship my God and find my peace in Him so that my family, my friends and those around me can see a joy that surpasses circumstance. 

2 Timothy 2:8-13
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel,  for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!  Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.

If you don’t have a relationship with the Lord or hope like this and you want to surrender your life to the Jesus Christ or know more please email me so we can talk.
Much of what I have written was directly from one of my Pastor’s sermons that really spoke to me.  I would love for you to watch it.  Click here to listen.  

Gouin, J., Estrela, C., Desmarais, K., & Barker, E. T. (2016). The impact of formal and informal support on health in the context of caregiving stress. Family Relations, 65(1), 191-206. doi:10.1111/fare.12183
Mausbach, B. T., Roepke, S. K., Ziegler, M. G., Milic, M., von Känel, R., Dimsdale, J. E.. . Grant, I. (2010). Association between chronic caregiving stress and impaired endothelial function in the elderly. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 55(23), 2599-2606. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2009.11.093
Merluzzi, T. V., Philip, E. J., Vachon, D. O., & Heitzmann, C. A. (2011). Assessment of self-efficacy for caregiving: The critical role of self-care in caregiver stress and burden. Palliative & Supportive Care, 9(1), 15-24. doi:

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Autism and Obesity

Children with autism have many challenges associated with their disabilities, including a higher risk of obesity.  The obesity prevalence in these individuals is important for parents, caretakers, and teachers to understand in order to better care for these children and meet their health needs.  Additionally, research on how to reduce this occurrence is desperately needed in order to tackle this issue and reduce occurrence.  Obesity is not limited to children with developmental disabilities, however, like other physical and educational matters, it may need to be addressed in a different way for those on the autism spectrum. 

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary obesity is, “a condition that is characterized by excessive accumulation and storage of fat in the body and that in an adult is typically indicated by a body mass index of 30 or greater” (  There are multiple causes for obesity, but an unhealthy amount of fat in the body is always the problem.  No one is immune to obesity, however, some groups are prone to having a higher incidence.  Adolescents with developmental disabilities are 1.5 more likely to have obesity than those without and those with autism are even higher than that according to the CDC and Autism Speaks (  The exact percentages of adolescents with obesity are 13.1% in those without any developmental disability and 20.4 in those with a developmental disability, and more specifically, 31.8% in those with autism.  This is a staggering increase in incidence.

 The causes of obesity are numerous, but Srinivasan, Pescatello, and Bhat (2014) reduced the primary explanations down to 4 principal issues.  These problems include adolescents with autism partaking in less physical activity than peers, consuming poor nutrition and bad dietary habits, medication use and side effects, and metabolic abnormalities (Srinivasan, Pescatello, and Bhat, 2014).  Through their research, lowered physical activity was attributed to adolescents with autism being less likely to engage in prolonged physical activity and that they could not grasp the need for it, would not engage in sports with teams due to lack of communication skills, and had a hard time with physical activity due to poor motor skills or coordination (Srinivasan, Pescatello, and Bhat, 2014).  Often times, individuals with autism struggle with many physical tasks using coordination, so exercise seems to be no different.  Even more upsetting are the potential causes for poor nutrition among these individuals with autism.  Reasons such as problems with sensory modulation and gastrointestinal pain often produce poor eating habits and binge eating that higher functioning adolescents with autism use as a coping mechanism for feelings of social isolation and depression (Srinivasan, Pescatello, and Bhat, 2014).  The last two reasons for obesity would be accurate for anyone taking medications that slow the metabolism or increase appetite as well as abnormalities in the metabolic system. 

There is a lack of empirical research showing how to address the issue of obesity effectively in individuals with autism.  As with most individuals struggling with obesity, exercise and education on nutrition and good habits is important.  However, when working with individuals on the spectrum some behavioral interventions may be needed when addressing the issue (Srinivasan, Pescatello, and Bhat, 2014).  Behavioral intervention can address both eating and exercise habits as well as helping to train parents to be able to handle problem behaviors without giving in to poor eating choices. 

The effects of obesity on these individuals are numerous, “including high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, depression, fatigue, liver or gallbladder problems, low self-esteem, preoccupation with weight, early maturation and pressure sores” (Rimmer, Yamaki, Lowry, Wang, & Vogel, 2010, p.787). This is the main reason that obesity must be addressed by the child’s caregiver, parent or guardian in order to try to maintain the best health possible. 

As stated by Phillips, et al. (2014), “Obesity poses significant chronic health risks within an already vulnerable population of adolescents with DDs” (p.1973).  The only logical next step in this unfortunate epidemic is to educate parents, teachers, and doctors of the increase in obesity in these individuals and to work with physicians to try and reduce obesity.  Also, more research is needed in order to develop a behavioral or physical education program to decrease fat and increase overall health in adolescents with autism. 

If you have a child with autism that is suffering from obesity:

·         Talk with your child’s pediatrician to see if the medication they are taking may be effecting their weight and ask if there are any alternatives

·         Consult with a Speech therapist or Occupational therapist for sensory issues in order to help the child manage those problems and learn to eat more foods or exercise

·         As always, consult with an Board Certified Behavior Analyst for an evaluation and behavioral intervention plan for eating, exercising and help for parents with problems behaviors



CDC Study Flags High Rate of Obesity among Teens with Autism. Retrieved February 11, 2016,

Obesity. (n.d.). Retrieved February 10, 2016, from http://www.merriam-

Phillips, K., Schieve, L., Visser, S., Boulet, S., Sharma, A., Kogan, M., …..Yeargin-allsopp, M.

(2014). Prevalence and impact of unhealthy weight in a national sample of US adolescents with autism and other learning and behavioral disabilities. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 18(8), 1964-75. doi:

Rimmer, J., Yamaki, K., Lowry, B., Wang, E., & Vogel, L. (2010). Obesity and obesity-

related secondary conditions in adolescents with intellectual/developmental disabilities.

Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 54(9), 787-794. doi:10.1111/j.1365-


Srinivasan, S., Pescatello, L., & Bhat, A. (2014). Current perspectives on physical activity and

exercise recommendations for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Physical Therapy, 94(6), 875-89. Retrieved from

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Taylor Swift donated $10,000 towards Jacobs service dog!

I’m having a hard time putting to words just how thankful, humbled, and excited we are about the recent events surrounding our family. If you haven't seen the girls' video yet and Taylor Swift's donation, you can view it here:
If there is one thing that we understand, it’s that we really didn’t deserve this gift. 
Yes, these compassionate and creative girls did an amazing job on their incredible video.  They worked hard and selflessly to try and raise money for Jacob’s service dog.  But, I am sure Taylor Swift sees hundreds, if not thousands, of renditions of her songs all the time. 

Although we do feel like Jordan and Makaylee are some of the cutest 12 year olds in the world, we also know that God has been caring for Jacob since he was just a little guy.  We have diligently prayed as a family for Jacob’s provision for years and God has always provided in His time and in His way for our family.  This time God worked through none other than TAYLOR SWIFT to take care of sweet Jakey-poo and has left us once again in complete and utter awe and wonder.

How can we even thank someone like Taylor, the world’s most famous, beautiful, amazing pop singer, for making such a huge donation to complete strangers?  Nothing that I say could do her gift justice.  We are amazed and deeply grateful.

We also sit in reverence of our God, who is sovereign over all things.  It is no coincidence that Taylor Swift or her mom saw Jordan and Makaylee’s video.  God orchestrated this in order to provide Jacob just what he needed.  It makes me wish that Jacob could understand how blessed he is that the creator of the universe is working so beautifully in his life.  I hope that one day we will be able to explain to him the miracles that God has done in his life.  God is so good.  God cares about each one of us and wants a relationship with every single person.

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,[a] not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

John 3:16
16 “For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

But until I can express to Jacob these things, all I can do is give all the glory to God.  My words cannot even express how my heart is feeling.  We have seen such an outpouring of love from friends and family and now from this huge world famous singer…Thank you. We don’t deserve it, but we are so grateful and feel so blessed by this donation. 

I can’t wait for Jacob to meet his new dog.  I can’t wait to see him walking all on his own, safely.  I can’t wait to see the day that Jacob realizes that the dog is his friend, and he connects with him.  I can’t wait to see their bond and how it grows Jacob.  I am such a happy and appreciative mommy. 

Thank you, Jordan and Makaylee for spending your free time giving to someone else.  Thank you friends and family, for your donations.  Thank you, Taylor Swift, for donating $10,000 to complete strangers! Thank you, Lord, for your perfect and astonishing provision.

Isaiah 46:8-11

“Remember this and stand firm,
    recall it to mind, you transgressors,
    remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
    I am God, and there is none like me,
10 declaring the end from the beginning
    and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
    and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
11 calling a bird of prey from the east,
    the man of my counsel from a far country.
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;
    I have purposed, and I will do it.


Thursday, December 31, 2015

Autism Service Dogs of America have accepted Jacob into the program!

I have the most exciting news! After months of prayer, Autism Service Dogs of America have officially accepted Jacob into the service dog program. 
As you can imagine, a service dog will absolutely change Jacob's life.  A service dog is not a therapy dog.  A therapy dog is trained to help many, Jacob's service dog will be trained for his specific needs.  Right now, when we go out in public, Cret has to hold Jacob or he must ride in a stroller (with someone in front and back in case he makes a run for it) to keep him safe.  Soon, Jacob will be entirely too big to hold and it will become increasingly difficult to go out and do things as a family for long periods of time.  I know Jacob wants the freedom to walk alone as well.  While we are ok with making adjustments, a service dog will provide an answer to this dilemma.  The service dog will be tethered to Jacob's waist and will allow him independence, keeping him safe from bolting off.  A service dog is also trained to provide deep pressure for Jacob when he needs it, to relieve anxiety, they can even be trained to search and rescue if something awful were to happen.  The sweetest thing, I think, is the friendship that Jacob will find in his new best pal.  Although it may take time, I can't wait to see that relationship grow.
The service dog program takes 1.5-2 years to train the dog from a puppy to become a fully certified service dog.  This will mean the dog will ride in the car with him, go to school with him, go in stores, on airplanes, anywhere that he may go as he grows up. 
I am so incredibly thankful that Jacob has been selected for this program.  After videos and an interview they felt that Jacob was a good fit and needed exactly what their service dogs provide.  God is so good.
We are now in the fundraising process for the service dog.  We must raise $13,500 before they begin the training process. Honestly...I really, really dislike fundraising.  Its never cool to ask people to donate money.  I just recently raised money for Autism Speaks because I feel that organization is changing the lives for the 1 in 68 individuals with autism, and now just a few months later I'm fundraising for our family.  However, I know the difference it will make in my baby's life, in our family's life, and I have faith that this will all work out.
I am so grateful that we have already raised $1,600!!! Friends, family, and strangers have donated and we are so thankful. One friend donated $1,000 through her work.  The company allows its employees to put a little aside each paycheck pre-tax to donate to a non-profit and she chose to donate to ASDA in Jacob's name.  YAY!
I know some people can't make financial donations, but if you feel led please share our GoFundMe page so that others can read and donate if they feel inclined.  My mom wrote a sweet letter to help me set it up.  Click here to check it out:
The organization is a non-profit and will be sending me fundraising ideas soon.  If you have a fun idea, please private email me.  Thank you thank you thank you to those who have given and especially those who have prayed through this journey with us.  Please continue to pray that the Lord will see this through to the end. I am so excited for Jacob to meet his new best friend, his life-saving service pup.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Therapy Dog Update

I wanted to give an update to our therapy dog status because several people have asked me about it.  We still have not heard from Autism Service Dogs of America.  They received our application months ago and I believe we are still waiting to be processed. 
A friend of mine was able to donate in Jacob's name through her work, so I hope that helps us get approved.
Although Jacob is making vast improvements in speech and his attention span, we are still in desperate need of a therapy dog for his safety.  Jacob is 5 and very smart and very independent.  In fact, if he ever got out of the house or the clinic I am certain he would run towards danger.  When he rides his bike around our cul-de-sac he tries to ride off down the street and we have to chase him down and redirect him and he tries to run often when we are out in public.  He is the sweetest little guy, but still has little awareness of danger. 
We are going to purchase Angel Sense GPS this month for him.  Unfortunately, this is a device used to locate a child after they have wandered, which may be too late for children like Jacob who are attracted to water and traffic.  However, it is what's available, so we are going to get it.  As he gets older, I had hoped that this behavior would subside and that he would become more aware of his surroundings and less likely to bolt.  That just isn't the case.  He is at the prime age for running because he is so incredibly smart and independent. 
I just wanted to ask for prayer please.  Could you please keep Jacob's safety in your prayers and that he will get accepted into the therapy dog program.  This would be a potentially life-saving animal for him. It amazes me how God created these dogs to be so brilliant and such an aid to children with disabilities.  Thank you for prayer.