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Summer for someone on the autism spectrum can be difficult. The need for new stimulation or the open-ended days of summer can cause anxiety and frustration. As parents of children with autism spectrum disorder, we often find ourselves scratching our heads and wondering what kind of day we can cobble together that will lead to the fewest meltdowns. Summer camps are not always the answer. With limited staff, counselors are not always there to pick up the pieces after a missed social cue or to help with peer to peer interactions.

There are ways to put together a fun summer with minimal frustration. Here are my top 10 ASD-friendly ideas that will help make your transition into summer a little bit easier.

1 | Keep a schedule

ASD kids can feel the greatest anxiety when the structure is gone from their days. They may have the temptation to stay in bed all day or glue their faces to their iPad screens. A schedule of weekly events will help motivate them to get up and get going. A weekly trip to the library or to a local park will act as stabilizing points for the week. Joining a book club can add to this by setting aside time each week to read or create art work about the book. Print up a calendar with all the events listed so that your child can refer to it and know what is coming.


2 | Bucket list

Before the end of the school year, talk to your child about creating a bucket list of fun ideas. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. This can be a way of discovering your child’s expectations for the summer. The list might include trips to the beach or visiting grandparents. Developing a new friendship or spending time with a close friend might also be a part of the list. Once the list is complete, you can add a few to your calendar as things to look forward to.

3 | Have a plan B

As we all know, things don’t always go as planned. When an outing goes bad due to rain or unforeseeable events, an ASD child has a difficult time understanding why. It can lead to a real blow up. My plan B has always been a stop at the ice cream parlor, but there are many plan B options to keep in your bag of tricks. A board game battle, an art project that you have tucked away at home, or a special movie would be great distractions from what your child is missing. It may not diffuse the disappointment completely but it is a good way to redirect away from it.

4 | Season passes

One of the toughest things that we experience as the parent of an ASD child is the inability to stay in one place for very long. Trips to amusement parks and zoos might only last an hour or two as the crowds grow and the weather gets hot. If you live close enough, buying a season pass to parks or museums can make these trips easier. Your visits may include only a portion of a museum each time, allowing you to leave before the crowds come and giving you a reason to return another day. Many amusement parks have easy access accommodations for ASD children, helping speed up wait times. These visits can also be added to the calendar as perhaps an every-other-week outing.

5 | Don’t overdo it

As tempting as it is to pack the day full of fun outings, remember that many ASD children need down time. Putting too much into a day can lead to a meltdown later. Breaking the day into two parts, with a rest time in between, helps. Even on overnight trips, it’s important to factor in this decompression time, and sitting in the car doesn’t always count. A quiet place and a snack will, most times, reset the body and mind, allowing your child to move forward to the next adventure.

6 | Find fun in the things they love

My son loves cars. One summer, we made a plan to visit as many car shows as we could. It was inexpensive and always an adventure to see new car styles and their owners. Make a point to connect with your child’s passion (usually we have one to work with) and make plans. A passion for trains could lead to a weekly visit to different train stations in the area. A love of art could lead to galleries. An interest in animals might take you to farms or rescue centers. You can connect this with your library outings, searching for books on the topic to learn more.

7 | Touring

One year my son and I decided to visit every known park within a 10 mile radius. We checked each one out and then rated them on how much fun they were. The next year we did a tour of water parks and pools in the area. Creating tours can fill up slow days or add something to the end of a day. Forest preserves, arcades, ice cream shops, and pet stores are all great ideas. Add a rating system or scavenger hunt to keep it interesting.

8 | Find a friend

As we already know, one of the biggest struggles our ASD children face is making friends. Summer is the perfect time to make new friends and build on old friendships. Create a social day for the summer. Maybe take a friend on one of your outings or invite him over for lunch and a movie. Anything to keep those connections open or to develop new ones. Stay away from competitive ideas like games, and center around ideas that will keep everyone relaxed. Encourage communication and direct the focus on things that the children have in common.

9 | Charity work

With the pressures of school fading away, now is the time to focus on ideas such as empathy and independence. Getting involved in a charity is the perfect way to help your ASD child get in touch with that softer side. Keep it connected with their interests. Animal lovers can collect newspapers for local rescue centers. Gather food or clothing for donation.

When we began our charity work, it was difficult to get my son involved. Start slow. Research the charity online and print out pictures. Put aside 15 minutes at a time to work on the project. The end result can be a visit to the charity to show your child how his time helped others.

10 | Keep learning

It’s important to keep up with some continued school work. As the summer comes to an end, probably quicker than you anticipate, the transition back into school will be easier if there is just a hint of school work thrown into the summer. Not right away and not too much, but a little math or a small writing assignment will keep their minds ready to begin again in the fall.

I’m a strong believer that summer vacation should be a time of fun and regrouping. Our children work hard during the school year and they need a break both physically and emotionally. Even though summer should be fun, ASD kids have a difficult time transitioning into the break. Keeping a schedule, making it simple, and listening to your child’s input will help ensure a summer of fun and will minimize the stress and anxiety of the unknown. Start slow, plan your bucket list, don’t forget the sensory breaks, and have a fun-filled summer!  

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By: Justine LoMonaco

From the moment my daughter was born, I felt an innate need to care for her. The more I experienced motherhood, I realized that sometimes this was simple―after all, I was hardwired to respond to her cries and quickly came to know her better than anyone else ever could―but sometimes it came with mountains of self-doubt.

This was especially true when it came to feeding. Originally, I told myself we would breastfeed―exclusively. I had built up the idea in my mind that this was the correct way of feeding my child, and that anything else was somehow cheating. Plus, I love the connection it brought us, and so many of my favorite early memories are just my baby and me (at all hours of night), as close as two people can be as I fed her from my breast.

Over time, though, something started to shift. I realized I felt trapped by my daughter's feeding schedule. I felt isolated in the fact that she needed me―only me―and that I couldn't ask for help with this monumental task even if I truly needed it. While I was still so grateful that I was able to breastfeed without much difficulty, a growing part of me began fantasizing about the freedom and shared burden that would come if we bottle fed, even just on occasion.

I was unsure what to expect the first time we tried a bottle. I worried it would upset her stomach or cause uncomfortable gas. I worried she would reject the bottle entirely, meaning the freedom I hoped for would remain out of reach. But in just a few seconds, those worries disappeared as I watched her happily feed from the bottle.

What I really didn't expect? The guilt that came as I watched her do so. Was I robbing her of that original connection we'd had with breastfeeding? Was I setting her up for confusion if and when we did go back to nursing? Was I failing at something without even realizing it?

In discussing with my friends, I've learned this guilt is an all too common thing. But I've also learned there are so many reasons why it's time to let it go.

1) I'm letting go of guilt because...I shouldn't feel guilty about sharing the connection with my baby. It's true that now I'm no longer the only one who can feed and comfort her any time of day or night. But what that really means is that now the door is open for other people who love her (my partner, grandparents, older siblings) to take part in this incredible gift. The first time I watched my husband's eyes light up as he fed our baby, I knew that I had made the right choice.

2) I'm letting go of guilt because...the right bottle will prevent any discomfort. It took us a bit of trial and error to find the right bottle that worked for my baby, but once we did, we rarely dealt with gas or discomfort―and the convenience of being able to pack along a meal for my child meant she never had to wait to eat when she was hungry. Dr. Brown's became my partner in this process, offering a wide variety of bottles and nipples designed to mimic the flow of my own milk and reduce colic and excess spitting up. When we found the right one, it changed everything.

3) I'm letting go of guilt because...I've found my joy in motherhood again. That trapped feeling that had started to overwhelm me? It's completely gone. By removing the pressure on myself to feed my baby a certain way, I realized that it was possible to keep her nourished and healthy―while also letting myself thrive.

So now, sometimes we use the bottle. Sometimes we don't. But no matter how I keep my baby fed, I know we've found the right way―guilt free.

This article is sponsored by Dr. Browns. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Learn + Play

Adele's albums have soothed many hearts through hard times, and now she's going through a big relationship transition of her own.

The singer is separating from her husband Simon Konecki, the father of her 6-year-old son, Angelo James.

"Adele and her partner have separated," Adele's people wrote in a statement to the Associated Press. "They are committed to raising their son together lovingly. As always they ask for privacy. There will be no further comment."

Our hearts go out to Adele. Of course, she doesn't owe anyone any further explanation or discussion of her separation, but by announcing it publicly, she is shining a light on a family dynamic that is so common but not talked about as much as it should be: Co-parenting.

Parenting with an ex is a reality for so many mothers. According to the Pew Research Center, "the likelihood of a child – even one born to two married parents – spending part of their childhood in an unmarried parent household is on the rise."

Angelo James' experience will be similar to many of his peers.

"Increases in divorce mean that more than one-in-five children born within a marriage will experience a parental breakup by age 9, as will more than half of children born within a cohabiting union," Pew notes.


Adele and Konecki already know a thing or two about how co-parenting works, as Konecki has an older child from a previous relationship.

They can make this work because so many parents are making this work. The reality is, two parents can still be a family, and be a team for their child without being romantic partners.

Decades ago, co-parenting after a divorce wasn't the norm, and a body of research (and the experience of a generation of kids) has changed the way parents do things today. Today, divorce isn't about the end of a family. It's about the evolution of one.

Research suggests joint physical custody is linked to better outcomes for kids than divorce arrangements that don't support shared parenting and that divorced couples who have "ongoing personal and emotional involvement with their former spouse"(so, are friends, basically) are more likely to rate their co-parenting relationship positively.

Co-parenting is good for kids, and clearly, Adele and Konecki are committed to being a team for Angelo James.

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If you've had a baby in a hospital you know that those first few nights can be really hard. There are so many benefits for babies sharing rooms with their mamas (as opposed to being shipped off to those old-school, glassed-in nurseries) but tired mamas have a lot of conflicting messages coming at them.

You're told to bond with your baby, but not to fall asleep with them in the bed, and to let them rest in their bassinet. But when you're recovering from something that is (at best) the most physically demanding thing a person can do or (at worst) major surgery, moving your baby back and forth from bed to bassinette all night long sure doesn't sound like fun.

That's why this photo of a co-sleeping hospital bed is going viral again, four years after it was first posted by Australian parenting site Belly Belly. The photo continues to attract attention because the bed design is enviable, but is it real? And if so, why aren't more hospitals using it?

The bed is real, and it's Dutch. The photo originated from Gelderse Vallei hospital. As GoodHouskeeping reported back in 2015, the clip-on co-sleepers were introduced as a way to help mom and baby pairs who needed extended hospital stays—anything beyond one night in the maternity ward.


Plenty of moms stateside wish we had such beds in our maternity wards, but as but Dr. Iffath Hoskins, an OB-GYN, told Yahoo Parenting in 2015, the concept wouldn't be in line with American hospitals' safe sleeping policies.

"If the mother rolls over from exhaustion, there would be the risk of smothering the baby," she told Yahoo. "The mother's arm could go into that space in her sleep and cover the baby, or she could knock a pillow to the side and it's on the baby."

Hoskins also believes that having to get in and out of bed to get to your baby in the night is good for moms who might be otherwise reluctant to move while recovering from C-sections. If you don't move, the risk of blood clots in the legs increases. "An advantage of being forced to get up for the baby is that it forces the mother to move her legs — it's a big plus. However painful it can be, it's important for new moms to move rather than remaining in their hospital beds."

So there you have it. The viral photo is real, but don't expect those beds to show up in American maternity wards any time soon.

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A new study has some people thinking twice about kissing their bearded partners, or maybe even letting those with beards kiss the baby—but there's a lot to unpack here.

According to Swiss researchers, bearded men are carrying around more bacteria than dogs do. A lot more. But read on before you send dad off to the bathroom with a razor and ask him to pull a Jason Momoa (yes, he's recently clean-shaven. RIP Aquaman's beard).

As the BBC reports, scientists swabbed the beards of 18 men and the necks of 30 dogs. When they compared the samples, they learned beards have a higher bacterial load than dog fur.

Dudes who love their beards are already clapping back against the way the science was reported in the media though, noting that the sample size in this study was super small and, importantly, that the scientists didn't swab any beardless men.

The study wasn't even about beards, really. The point of the study, which was published in July 2018 in the journal European Radiology, was to determine if veterinarians could borrow human MRI machines to scan dogs without posing a risk to human patients.

"Our study shows that bearded men harbour significantly higher burden of microbes and more human-pathogenic strains than dogs," the authors wrote, noting that when MRI scanners are used for both dogs and humans, they're cleaned very well after veterinary use, and actually have a "lower bacterial load compared with scanners used exclusively for humans."


Another important point to note is that most bacteria aren't actually dangerous to humans, and some can be really good for us (that's why some scientists want us to let our kids get dirty).

This little study wasn't supposed to set off a beard panic, it was just supposed to prove that dogs and people can safely share an MRI machine. There is previous research on beards and bacteria though, that suggests they're not all bad.

Another study done in 2014 and published in the Journal of Hospital Infection looked at a much larger sample of human faces (men who work in healthcare), both bearded and clean shaven, and actually found that people who shaved their faces were carrying around more Staph bacteria than those with facial hair.

"Overall, colonization is similar in male healthcare workers with and without facial hair; however, certain bacterial species were more prevalent in workers without facial hair," the researchers wrote.

A year after that, a local news station in New Mexico did its own "study" on beards, one that wasn't super scientific but did go viral and prompted a flurry of headlines insisting beards are as dirty as toilets. That claim has been debunked.

So, before you ban bearded people from kissing the baby (or yourself) consider that we all have some bacteria on our faces. Dads should certainly wash their beards well, but they're not as dirty as a toilet.

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New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo is on a mission to level the playing field for young women and provide them with the tools for success. In 2017, he implemented free two- and four-year public colleges for New Yorkers, and now Cuomo is adding a budget proposal that would provide on-site childcare at community colleges.

Under the proposal, single parents participating in the program would also have access to tutoring and help when applying to four-year schools. It's the kind of idea that could be a game changer for parents in New York state.

Currently, childcare centers are subsidized for student-parents but can still cost parents $50-$60 a week; under Cuomo's budget proposal, childcare would be free. Students who are already enrolled in similar programs acknowledge that the benefits are enormous.

"As a single parent of two children going to school full time, I wouldn't be able to come to school and afford for childcare," says Michelle Trinidad, a student at Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) and parent to a 4 and 5-year-old. "Thank goodness for BMCC Early Childhood Center that is very much affordable. It gives me the opportunity to advance my career and be confident that my son is in good hands. School is hard enough on its own, having reliable child care means a lot to me and my children."


The plan is a part of Cuomo's 2019 women's justice agenda, legislation that addresses the gender wage gap, as well as economic and social justice for all New York women. According to a 2017 report from the Institute for Women's Policy Research, 11% of undergraduates, or 2.1 million students, were single mothers as of 2012, which has doubled since 2000. Additionally, that same study found that 4 in 10 women at two-year colleges say that they are likely or very likely to drop out of school due to their dependent care obligations.

"This is an exciting initiative for New York that addresses a critical need, and if implemented, will have a far-reaching impact on various aspects of society, especially for the next generation," says Ryan Lee-James, PhD an Assistant Professor at Adelphi University. "I view this initiative as both a direct and indirect pathway to address the well-documented achievement gap between children reared in poverty and those growing up with higher income families, as it provides moms, who otherwise may not have had the opportunity, to further their education and thus, afford their children more opportunities."

Additionally, many view campus childcare as a safe haven for college students. "During my 18 years working in campus childcare, I have witnessed how the student-parents can complete their courses and stay focused by having childcare on campus," says Sori Palacio, a Head Teacher at BMCC Early Childhood Center. "Parents usually express how thankful they are for having their children traveling with them to school as well as having their children nearby while they complete their degree. They concentrate in academic work without worrying about their child's wellbeing. This service helps the entire public by preparing more people to serve the community."

Parents have so many barriers when it comes to accessing higher education, but free childcare could be a game changer that benefits multiple generations.

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