}

Monster Sensory Bottle

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)

I like googly eyes. I blame my friend Christie. She thinks that everything is better with googly eyes and puts them on random things like plants all over her house. It’s funny and cute and it’s apparently rubbed off on me because now I buy googly eyes and use them for strange things like this monster sensory bottle.

This monster sensory bottle is great for Hallowe'en or for monster theme units.Materials needed:

To make this monster sensory bottle, pour hand sanitizer to almost the very top of an empty water bottle. Next, add the googly eyes and the googly eye finger puppets. Note that you will have to straighten the finger puppets to get them through the small opening at the top of the water bottle. Once they are pushed through, they will go back to their proper shape.

monster-sensory-bottle-squareIf you want to make this sensory bottle even more fun for children to play with, give them some foam stickers to add to the outside of the bottle to personalize their “monster”.

monster-sensory-bottleI like the large googly eyes myself, but my kids seemed to prefer the eyes in different colours. This is a very simple and inexpensive sensory bottle to make. Kids can explore different sizes and colours while playing with this monster discovery bottle.

If you are looking for other monster ideas, you may also want to check out our Monster Sensory Bin or our Eyeball Sensory Bin.

Eyeball sensory bin with purple water beads

Sleep Solutions for Children with Sensory Needs

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)

Any parent who has children with Sensory Processing Disorder knows that sleep can be a challenging endeavour. And when you’re a special needs mom, you need the break that sleep provides!

It’s been interesting over the years to see how our kids’ sensory issues affected their sleep in different ways. We have been able to come up with solutions for most of the sleep issues in our home.

Sleep Solutions for Kids with Sensory Processing DisorderIf your child is not capable of expressing what their sleep issues are, play detective. Try lying in their bed in the dark and using your senses to troubleshoot what issues there may be. Is there any type of noise that may be bothering them? Are the sheets scratchy? Are the walls painted a bright colour or is there too much clutter in the room? How is the temperature in the room? Is there a smell? Children with SPD are extra sensitive to these types of things so putting yourself in their shoes may help you pinpoint some of the problems and begin to find solutions.

Auditory

One of our sons’ sleep was affected because of his extreme auditory sensitivity, which makes it difficult for him to fall asleep if there is any noise (such as his parents watching TV!) in the house. We found that the simplest solution was for him to use a pair of noise cancelling headphones. He is now able to fall asleep much more quickly. I don’t understand how he sleeps with them on and is still comfortable, but he likes them!

One of our other kids isn’t quite as sensitive but does need to have white noise to sleep. We have tried different things over the years such as fans but have found that this sound machine is what works best. It is soothing as well as providing white noise and makes sleeping much easier.

Proprioception (Deep Pressure)

One of our daughters used to have a hard time settling her body down at bedtime. We found that sleeping with a weighted blanket changed that for her. She is able to settle herself more easily now. Two of our kids have weighted blankets and like them while our other sensory kiddos hate them. The place that I purchased my weighted blankets from allowed us to try them first to see if they worked for our kids before committing to them.

weighted blanket for sleepAnother option for weighted blankets is to make your own. You can find tutorials on how to make your own weighted blankets which will cut the cost significantly.

You can also try stretchy sheets which will provide a similar effect to a weighted blanket. You can purchase them or make your own.

Deep pressure hugs or massages before bedtime can also help with proprioception input.

Visual

Some children need it to be completely dark in order to fall asleep while others need to have a nightlight. It’s a good idea to use a dimmable night light because that way, they can adjust to the amount of light they are comfortable with.

Important Tips:

Be sure to offer a variety of sensory activities throughout the day. Meeting your child’s sensory needs during the day will positively impact your child’s ability to fall asleep at night.

Limit screen time during the day. This will improve their body’s ability to fall asleep.

Have a consistent bedtime routine and bedtime. This structure and predictability around bedtime is especially important for kids with sensory processing disorder.

This sleep smoothie contains some natural sleep help and most kids will happily drink it.

Nutrition is an important piece of the sleep puzzle. Ensure that your child has a well balanced diet, limited sugar and no caffeine.

Some parents swear by putting lavender oil or another calming essential oil in a diffuser. You can also use lavender oil and epsom salts in a warm bath before bedtime.

One last note:

If you have tried everything else and your child is still not able to fall asleep and this problem persists for months, talk to your child’s doctor about other options. They may suggest that it is time to try Melatonin or prescription sleep medications. Choosing to medicate your child is a difficult decision for any parent and not to be taken lightly, but sleep is an important part of your child’s health and all options need to be considered if nothing else is working.

Parenting with Special Needs Series imageI am pleased to have joined a group of amazing special needs mommas to bring you this series on Parenting Special Needs Children. Be sure to read their stories this month on sleep.

When Nightmares Become Reality | Every Star is Different

When Parent Sleep Deprivation Becomes Deadly | STEAM Powered Family

Sleep Solutions for Special Needs Parents | My Home Truths

The Sleep-Deprived Mom’s Guide to Survival| Life Over C’s

Sleep Solutions for Children with Sensory Needs | The Chaos and The Clutter

Sleep Strategies for Kids with Autism or Sensory Needs | And Next Comes L

The One Overwhelming Thing that Keeps Me Up at Night | Kori at Home

Seasons of Sleep for Special Needs Parents | 3 Dinosaurs

6 Steps to a Calm Bedtime Routine for Your Highly Sensitive Child  | Carrots Are Orange

Surviving Night Terrors | Grace and Green Pastures

Tight Fitting Clothing: a sensory mystery unravelled (plus…what in the world is proprioception?!)Tight Fitting Clothing: A Sensory Mystery Unravelled

Money Saving Sensory SolutionsMoney Saving Sensory Solutions

Simple Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)

I don’t think it would be quite fair to say that my crock pot is my best friend, but when it comes to kitchen gadgets, it’s clearly in the running for my favourite. I use it often, especially on days when there are appointments to run to or field trips to attend. Over the years, I have compiled a large repertoire of delicious crock pot meals that I rely on for just those types of days.

This simple slow cooker beef stroganoff is a hearty meal that includes vegetables and is served over egg noodles. This slow cooker Beef Stroganoff recipe is hearty and great for a midweek dinner. I like that it includes vegetables so that I don’t feel the need to make side dishes with it.

Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff Recipe:

1 lb. of cubed beef stew meat
1 cup beef broth
3 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups white mushrooms, sliced
2 cups carrots, chopped
3 medium onions, chopped
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 of an 8 oz. brick cream cheese (4 oz.)
2 cans (10 1/2 ounces each) cream of mushroom soup
12 ounces medium egg noodles, cooked and drained
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley  (optional)
Salt, pepper

Add all ingredients except egg noodles, parsley, cream cheese, and salt and pepper to a crock pot. Set heat to low and cook for 3-4 hours, until beef is fully cooked and so tender that it flakes apart when pulled with a fork.

When preparing to serve, bring water to boil in a large pot and cook the egg noodles according to the package directions.

Add the cream cheese to the slow cooker, allow it to melt completely while the egg noodles are cooking.

Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff with vegetablesGive the whole crockpot a stir and then season with the parsley, salt, and pepper.

Serve the beef stroganoff over top of the egg noodles.

When we try out new recipes, I always ask everyone at the table to give it a rating from 1-10 and then I make note of the average rating so that I know which recipes are worth making again. When you serve this, ask your family to let you know their rating. I’d love to hear what they think!

Summer in the Slow Cooker squareSummer in the Slow Cooker

Breakfasts in the Slow Cooker squareBreakfasts in the Slow Cooker

12 Things That Special Needs Mom Needs from You

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)

I am that special needs mom. It’s not something I aspired to or wished for, but it is what I am all the same. I was the friend that gave. I dropped off the casseroles, offered to babysit, organized the fundraisers, gave a shoulder or listening ear, hosted the get-togethers. Now, I’m the friend that needs.

I was more comfortable helping that I am accepting help. It hurts to feel vulnerable. It’s lonely being the mom who is always just a bit on the outside of the discussions that other moms have. And yet, I am here. I am that special needs mom.

12 Things a Special Needs Mom Needs from youI now need the village. I don’t know what I would do without my support network, those who have stood by me during the hardest years of my life. They have listened even when they haven’t understood. They have cried with me, prayed for me, and made sure that I still have the chance to laugh. Some of them are special needs moms themselves, part of this sorority whose initiation we didn’t mean to take. Some of them are women who’ve never walked this road themselves but still chose to willingly come alongside and help carry some of the weight with me.

What That Special Needs Mom Needs From You:

Just be there.  When things get hard, people leave. She is lonely. She has already had people slowly back out of her life now that she is walking this road. Don’t be one of them.

Encourage without advice or judgment. Tell her that she’s doing a good job. Remind her that her instincts as a mom can be trusted. Support her decisions even if you don’t understand them.

Don’t ask, “have you tried xyz?” The message that can send is that there is more this mom could be doing. Believe me, she is exhausted enough already. She has tried so much already, only to be disappointed. The last thing she needs is another serving of guilt. She’s got enough of that to go around as it is.

Include her. When my special needs kids were younger and still super cute, I still got invited to the playdates and my kids got invited to the birthday parties. But as the kids got older and the differences became more apparent, the invitations grew less and less frequent. Sometimes I’d even hear about a group of my friends (ones that I had introduced to each other) getting together without me. I still remember crying when I heard about a birthday party taking place for my friend’s little girl and my daughter, who considered that girl her best friend, hadn’t been invited.

Include that special needs mom. It might make your gathering less predictable or more stressful to have her kids there, but it’s only a few hours of stress for you. For her, it’s a few hours of feeling like she and her kids are accepted. It’s everything to her and it’s worth some measure of your discomfort.

Include her in your conversations too. It is common that when a friend becomes a special needs mom, you stop telling her your stories or stop complaining to her about things your kids do or hard things in your life because you assume that your small trials are so trivial compared to her big ones. Or maybe you think it will make her feel jealous or angry.

While I can’t speak for all special needs moms, speaking for myself, I want to be included. I haven’t forgotten what it was like to have toddlers. I haven’t forgotten how hard just regular parenting can be. Yes, I have a lot on my plate but I still want to share my friends’ burdens, to be given the chance to be there for them. Don’t protect me. Don’t think that because my problems are big, I can’t understand yours. Burden me.

Extend grace. This is a bit of a tricky one because I just finished saying that you should still treat your special needs mom friends normally and now I’m saying that you need to make exceptions for them. You do. You need to both include them and extend them grace.

They will be late. They may cancel on you often. They can’t be as dependable as they want to be.

Their life is often determined day by day or minute by minute and a medical emergency or being up all night the night before or an epic meltdown ten minutes before they were trying to get out the door mean that they can’t control things like being on time.

I used to be the one bringing the snacks shaped like ladybugs with the perfectly packed diaper bag and the kids in the coordinating outfits with their hair done beautifully (true story). Now, I’m the one arriving with a bag of tortilla chips I picked up at the convenience store on the way, asking if I can borrow a comb to fix up one of the kids’ hair, twenty minutes late, and even my own clothes don’t coordinate. 

Don’t give pat answers. Don’t say, “Everything happens for a reason.” or “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle”. I was so relieved when I discovered that it is a myth that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle because before that, I’d been feeling a bit angry about what God felt I was capable of. When we found out that our daughter had progressive hearing loss on top of all of her other special needs, hearing pat answers made me want to scream.

Pray for her. As I type this, our family is walking a particularly hard road with one of our special needs kiddos, harder than I ever imagined possible. There is a group of women who have offered to sign up for days to pray for us. Sometimes on their day, they send me a scripture verse or song to encourage me and remind me that they are lifting us up in prayer. It makes me feel like we are not alone.

I had a friend last week who stopped by with a Slurpee and a hug and then stood in my driveway and cried with me before wrapping her arms around me and praying out loud right there on the gravel.

Champion her. This is similar to encourage without advice or judgement, but this is specific to those times when she is low or when others are judging her or gossiping about her. When she is low either due to her circumstances or just the weight of everything, she needs you to build her up. Help her to be stronger. Remind her how strong she is.

I recently had a friend tell me that she thought of what I do as being similar to an athlete in the Olympics, that it took the same type of strength and determination as elite athletes. To have someone tell me they admired those qualities in me and to have someone see what I do and acknowledge it gave me what I needed to push through an extra hard week.

You don’t know when your words could be the difference for someone. When you see that she is down, send her a card or a text or pick up the phone. She needs you to build her up so that she has more to give to her child. And if you ever hear anyone judging that special needs mom behind her back, kindly remind the one speaking that she has not walked in that mom’s shoes and that you think that mom is amazing.

12 Ways to Support a Special Needs MomGet to know her child. Take the time to get to know her kids as individuals and celebrate their small successes. Talk more about their personalities than their limitations.

Help. Don’t ask, “what can I do?”. See a need and meet it. Say “I love doing laundry. Would Wednesday or Thursday be better for me to come over and do some laundry for you?”

It is hard to accept help. It’s hard for that special needs mom to admit that she needs help. Sometimes when someone asks me how they can help, I’m too overwhelmed to even know what to ask for. That’s why if someone tells me something specific they would like to do, I am better able to accept it.

Create fun. Bring over a comedy. Tell her funny stories. Text her jokes. Like as a special needs mom has too much seriousness. I miss laughing until my sides hurt.

It’s during those rare moments when I’m having fun that I feel like a normal human again. I love it when a friend plans an outing or brings over a board game to play in the evening after the kids go to bed. It’s in those moments when I can forget about all the heaviness for just a short time. It feels so good to be able to stop thinking about the hard things for even a short time.

Support her marriage. Divorce rates are higher among families of special needs children. It’s a statistic that likely scares that mom. Offer to have her kids over during supper while she and her husband go out to eat. Encourage their relationship. Have them over as a couple.

It’s ok to not say anything. Don’t bring up the worst case scenario or tell the story of your cousin’s friend’s neighbour whose child had the same type of special need and something terrible happened.

If you feel the need to say something, “I don’t know what to say” or “I’m sorry” or “I’m here” will suffice.

Parenting with Special Needs Series imageI am pleased to have joined a fabulous group of bloggers to bring you this series on Parenting Special Needs Children. Be sure to read their stories this month on support.

Supporting Yourself and Your Child with Special Needs | Natural Beach Living

Am I Going Crazy? | Every Star is Different

Tips For Supporting A Child With Trauma History | STEAM Powered Family

Special needs parents: we all need support (even you) | My Home Truths

12 Things That Special Needs Mom Needs from You | The Chaos and The Clutter

Simple Ways You Can Support Special Needs Parents | B-Inspired Mama

Classroom Supports & Accommodations for Kids with Hyperlexia | And Next Comes L

A Letter to Parents with a Child on the Spectrum | Carrots Are Orange

Supporting a Family with High Medical Needs  | Grace and Green Pastures