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5 ways to help our kids be more compassionate and understanding to children with autism

In the autism community, there is a saying, "If you've met one child with autism, you've met one child with autism." Children with autism are uniquely wired. They each have gifts to share and individualized ways of seeing the world. With the CDC reporting that 1 in 59 children is diagnosed with ASD, chances are high that your child knows or is connected with someone who is uniquely wired.

As humans, we tend to gravitate toward people and situations that we know, understand and with whom we feel comfortable. When we encounter someone whose behaviors are unexpected or difficult to interpret, it can make us feel unsettled or anxious.

Our natural tendency may be to avoid that person or situation. But that default response doesn't help us grow as a person or expand our compassion, and it can lead to a person with differences being excluded and isolated. Many times, children on the autism spectrum will behave in ways that are unexpected or different.

So how can we help our kids become more compassionate and understanding of those children with autism who are uniquely wired? Here are five tips.

1. Use your powers of observation.

Uniquely wired kids struggle with communicating their feelings, thoughts and actions. But if we watch their actions more closely, over time, we can often figure out what they are trying to tell us. Behavior is communication. All the pieces to the puzzle are there. We can patiently try different ways they may fit together.

It is also important to know that children diagnosed with autism typically don't learn by watching others. They mostly learn through direct, explicit guidance. That's why picking up social cues around them can be so difficult. A child with autism may need to be specifically taught certain skills directly.

Teach your child to communicate directly and calmly to uniquely wired kids. A child on the edges of the playground may want to play, but isn't sure how to join in: "Hey Sam, let's play tag." Before getting angry that another child isn't taking turns, calmly say what you expect: "It's my turn now."

2. Have empathy-building experiences.

For many kids with autism, their sensory systems are under-filtered and super sensitive. Some children hear a sound more loudly and intensely or can't separate background noise from their teacher's voice. Others see typical lights as shockingly bright ones.

Have a discussion on what it feels like when a flash from a camera goes off right in front of you. The light is so bright that it often makes us flinch. Do you have to look away because the light is so bright?

Imagine walking in front of a car and suddenly hearing the horn honk. Are you startled?

Hold up two empty paper towel rolls to your eyes. What can you see? What can't you see? Now try to walk through a crowded room.

This is how some people tell us they experience lights, sounds and surroundings and can help your little one better understand how other kids might see things differently.

These conversations build empathy for uniquely wired kids. They also help us understand why having quiet, calming spaces and schedules or routines can make some children more comfortable.

3. Recognize similarities + celebrate strengths.

Remember that we are alike in many ways.

"I feel bad when other kids are mean to me just like you do.

I feel alone when other kids don't include me–just like you do.

I feel hungry, tired, hurt, cranky, cold, hot, thirsty, yucky and sad–just like you do.

It's just harder for me to talk about it." (Uniquely Wired, 2018, Boys Town Press)

Everyone is good at something but nobody can be good at everything. Parents, talk openly about your own strengths and struggles, successes and setbacks. Demonstrate patience, persistence, and what it can feel like to ask for help. We all are more motivated and confident when working from our strengths and interests.

The same is true for uniquely wired kids. Is your friend obsessed with watches? Time each other on an obstacle course. Is your child obsessed with rollercoasters but refuses to practice handwriting? Pretend each letter is a rollercoaster with lots of sound effects and screams.

4. Prioritize quality time with every child.

Try to give each of your children your genuine, individualized time. All kids have unique needs. Children on the spectrum may require the majority of your time, but make it a point to schedule specific quality time with each child, or ensure your child's caregivers do the same.

Make sure you find a way to be present at important events. This may mean you need to designate another person to spend time with your uniquely wired child, and that's okay. The most valuable gift you can give to your children is your authentic time.

5. Foster effective relationships.

All human relationships must have two things to thrive: trust and communication. Do your best to build trust and communication with your children and those who help them navigate the world so they feel comfortable asking you questions or talking about experiences. Be a good listener. Keep the lines of communication between home, school, friends and health care professionals open.

Acknowledge that this can be challenging, constant work. Ask schools and health providers what tools they have to make communication successful. Always remember, no one knows your child better than you do. It's also okay to not have all the answers. You are growing and learning alongside your child so finding other parents and kids who have different backgrounds and behaviors can be a great start to your journey.

Special thanks to Beth Dierker, mom of a uniquely wired child, for her insight.

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Baby stuff comes in such cute prints these days. Gone are the days when everything was pink and blue and covered in ducks or teddy bears. Today's baby gear features stylish prints that appeal to mom.

That's why it's totally understandable how a mama could mistake a car seat cover for a cute midi skirt. It happened to Lori Farrell, and when she shared her mishap on Facebook she went viral before she was even home from work. Fellow moms can totally see the humor in Farrell's mishap, and thankfully, so can she.

As for how a car seat cover could be mistaken for a skirt—it's pretty simple, Farrell tells Motherly.

"A friend of mine had given me a huge lot of baby stuff, from clothes to baby carriers to a rocker and blankets and when I pulled it out I was not sure what it was," she explains. "I debated it but washed it anyway then decided because of the way it pulled on the side it must be a maternity skirt."

Farrell still wasn't 100% sure if she was right by the time she headed out the door to work, but she rocked the ambiguous attire anyway.

"When I got to work I googled the brand and realized not only do they not sell clothing but it was a car seat cover."

The brand, Itzy Ritzy, finds the whole thing pretty funny too, sharing Farell's viral moment to its official Instagram.

It may be a car seat cover, but that print looks really good on this mama.

And if you want to copy Farell's style, the Itzy Ritzy 4-in-1 Nursing Cover, Car Seat Cover, Shopping Cart Cover and Infinity Scarf (and skirt!) is available on Amazon for $24.94.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy.You've got this.

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Daycare for infants is expensive across the country, and California has one of the worst states for parents seeking care for a baby. Putting an infant in daycare in California costs $2,914 more than in-state tuition for four years of college, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Paying north of $1,000 for daycare each month is an incredible burden, especially on single-parent families. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines affordable childcare as costing no more than 10% of a family's income—by that definition, less than 29% of families in California can afford infant care. Some single parents spend half their income on day care. It is an incredible burden on working parents.

But that burden may soon get lighter. CBS Sacramento reports California may put between $25 and $35 million into child care programs to make day care more affordable for parents with kids under 3 years old.

Assembly Bill 452, introduced this week, could see $10 million dollars funneled into Early Head Start (which currently gets no money from the state but does get federal funding) and tens of millions more would be spent on childcare for kids under three.

The bill seeks to rectify a broken childcare system. Right now, only about 14% of eligible infants and toddlers are enrolled in subsidized programs in California, and in 2017, only 7% of eligible children younger than three years of age accessed Early Head Start.

An influx of between $25 to $35 million dollars could see more spaces open up for kids under three, as Bill 452, if passed, would see the creation of "grants to develop childcare facilities that serve children from birth to three years of age."

This piece of proposed legislation comes weeks after California's governor announced an ambitious plan for paid parental leave, and as another bill, AB 123, seeks to strengthen the state's pre-kindergarten program.

Right now, it is difficult for some working parents to make a life in California, but by investing in families, the state's lawmakers could change that and change California's future for the better.

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When a mama gets married, in most cases she wants her children to be part of her big day. Photographers are used to hearing bride-to-be moms request lots of pictures of their big day, but when wedding photographer Laura Schaefer of Fire and Gold Photography heard her client Dalton Mort planned to wear her 2-year-old daughter Ellora instead of a veil, she was thrilled.

A fellow mama who understands the benefits of baby-wearing, Schaefer was keen to capture the photos Mort requested. "When I asked Dalton about what some of her 'must get' shots would be for her wedding, she specifically asked for ones of her wearing Ellie, kneeling and praying in the church before the tabernacle," Schaefer tells Motherly.

She got those shots and so many more, and now Mort's toddler-wearing wedding day pics are going viral.

"Dalton wore Ellie down the aisle and nursed her to sleep during the readings," Schaefer wrote on her blog, explaining that Ellie then slept through the whole wedding mass.

"As a fellow mother of an active toddler, this is a HUGE win! Dalton told me after that she was SO grateful that Ellie slept the whole time because she was able to focus and really pray through the Mass," Schaefer explains.

Dalton was able to concentrate on her wedding day because she made her baby girl a part of it (and that obviously tired Ellie right out).

Ellie was part of the commitment and family Dalton if forging with her husband, Jimmy Joe. "There is no better behaved toddler than a sleeping toddler, and she was still involved, even though I ended up unwrapping her to nurse her. I held her in my arms while my husband and I said our vows. It was really special for us," Dalton told POPSUGAR.

This is a wedding trend we are totally here for!

Congrats to Dalton and Jimmy Joe (and to Ellie)! 🎉

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The internet is freaking out about how Peppa Pig is changing the way toddlers speak, but parents don't need to be too worried.

As Romper first reported, plenty of American parents have noticed that preschoolers are picking up a bit of a British accent thanks to Peppa. Romper's Janet Manley calls it "the Peppa effect," noting that her daughter started calling her "Mummy" after an in-flight Peppa marathon.


Plenty of other parents report sharing Manley's experience, but the British accent is not likely to stick, experts say.

Toronto-based speech and language pathologist Melissa James says this isn't a new thing—kids have always been testing out the accents they hear on TV and in the real world, long before Peppa oinked her way into our Netflix queues.

"Kids have this amazing ability to pick up language," James told Global News. "Their brains are ripe for the learning of language and it's a special window of opportunity that adults don't possess."

Global News reports that back in the day there were concerns about Dora The Explorer potentially teaching kids Spanish words before the kids had learned the English counterparts, and over in the U.K., parents have noticed British babies picking up American accents from TV, too.

But it's not a bad thing, James explains. When an American adult hears "Mummy" their brain translates it to "Mommy," but little kids don't yet make as concrete a connection. "When a child, two, three or four, is watching a show with a British accent and hears [words] for the first time, they are mapping out the speech and sound for that word in the British way."

So if your baby is oinking at you, calling you "Mummy" or testing out a new pronunciation of "toh-mah-toe," know that this is totally natural, and they're not going to end up with a life-long British pig accent.

As Dr, Susannah Levi, associate professor of communicative sciences and disorders at New York University, tells The Guardian, "it's really unlikely that they'd be acquiring an entire second dialect from just watching a TV show."

It sure is cute though.

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