My son has special needs, but I'm not sure what they are...yet.

by Karen I've recently begun writing about our experiences going through the system to get our son assessed.  It all started last summer when we were having communication difficulties around potty training. Eventually, we decided to talk to our doctor about motor skills as well. We've since added emotional development and behavior to the list.

That's a heavy load on our minds as parents, but in the grand scheme of things we are very blessed. We simply have challenges that may be considered by some to be outside of the "norm". And yet, life is just like that.

"Normal" is Relative

I have three family members who are on the autism spectrum so I've always known it was possible that Brandon could be as well since there's a strong genetic link. One family member was diagnosed as an adult and it explained so much about this individual. Resources and knowledge are far different now than they were when I was a child.

It can feel like such a punch in the gut to hear someone you trust tell you that you should think about getting your child assessed, but it's worth it to be proactive.

My experience so far has been so positive - friends are quick to offer support, helpful advice. The specialists we're seeing are incredibly compassionate professionals who take Brandon as he is and work with him. The waiting feels like it will never end, but we're finally seeing results after nearly 11 months.

The Testing Begins

It can be intimidating to go for an assessment, but the specialists we've encountered have been outstanding. They play with Brandon and work hard to engage him in ways that he will enjoy and respond to. When it's clear he's had enough, they generally don't push him too much further.

We've had two assessments so far. There are more to come.

The Goal

This is all part of a grand plan I have to give my son the very best life he can have. These assessments will put us on the right track. I want to know what makes Brandon tick. I want to know how to help him understand me better and vice versa.

Unexpected Inspiration

When I attended a conference recently, I got to see Jason Goldsmith - of The Big Blue Hug - speak about his son Ellis, who is autistic. Check out this video excerpt of the session:

Hearing Jason talk reinforced beliefs I've had all along:

  • Nothing is "wrong" with my son. He is exactly right just the way he is.
  • Assessments are just a jargony way of saying you have to be creatively vigilant and diligent to learn how to reach a child in the way that works for them.
  • I will do whatever it takes to help my son, because just as I get to share my stories in a way that works for me, I want him to find a way to share his.

I'm going to write about this from time to time as we go through this process. My hope is that I can help parents who may have fears about this process by sharing my story.

Do you have a child with special needs? What is the one piece of advice you'd give other parents?


Karen Wilson is a wife to Matt and mom to Brandon (4), who blogs about her life at Karen’s Chronicles. She can be found at Wellman Wilson, helping businesses use social media more effectively. Lately, she’s also busy planning a little conference and doing her part to keep the coffee industry alive.

Question of the month: Potty Training

Every parent knows the day will come when their child is ready to start potty training. Some start very young, before their first birthday. Others start a bit older. Every age presents unique challenges, but parents who have been there always have clever little tips and tricks they used to help make the process go more smoothly. One thing we've employed with my son is giving him gummy vitamins as a treat. He loves them and looks at them as a treat and they're good for him! I tried to give him chocolate and he didn't want them. (We're debating whether there was a switch in the hospital - how IS that possible!? ;)) We also got him a portable seat that fits in his bag for outings, though I don't think he's comfortable going anywhere but home.

Given that little fact we didn't know in advance, we've had to accommodate for possible accidents and found a waterproof liner for his car seat so that we don't have to take out the entire seat in the event that we don't make it home in time. A bonus benefit? It'll catch crumbs too! Well, some of them anyway.

Tell us your best, brightest and most clever potty training tips! We know they won't all work for every child, but for anyone who's struggling you might just suggest the magic formula for success! Also, don't hesitate to offer up a "I wish I had known better than to..." tip as well. :)

Potty training. Cold turkey.

by Brigitte There’s lots of ways around it, there’s a lot of different methods and tools– it can be fancy, but really it’s a human necessity and I don’t try to glamourize it with fancy potty’s or themed underpants or even absorbent pull-ups that look like jeans. I take it for what it is: the human need to eliminate. I’m not saying my way is the right way, the best way or the way that’s going to work for you – but hopefully it’ll give you a perspective and maybe even a method to try for yourselves.

I’m currently in the process of potty training triplets. My trio is 20 months old and 2 of them are just about fully potty trained. The first question I always get asked is “how did you know they were ready”.

You can go ahead and Google the signs of readiness, but I don’t really believe in them. My kiddos never held their bladder for more than 2 hours ( before being potty trained), they couldn’t sit still for 5 minutes and they certainly cannot pull their own pants and underpants down – but that didn’t discourage me, I just “knew” they were ready – I guess it was an intuitive mother thing, and maybe the fact that I was tired of changing diapers lol!

Before potty training and for their entire lives we’ve always been an “open door family” I don’t think I’ve ever closed the door while going to the washroom and the kiddos come in and out freely as I explain what’s going on and what you do – so they had been introduced to the concepts from early on.

When we decided it was time to train it was cold turkey. We used the same method that the Montessori school used for our oldest son (sometimes I joke that the tuition itself made up for the ease in potty training). Initially we wanted to just use the toilet (with a child size ring inside, not a fancy Dora one with handles and padding – just a plain $4.00 one from Walmart, this is peeing and pooping here folks not a birthday party) but because we have triplets this was almost impossible because they all wanted on the toilet at the same time, so we bought them each their own potty, again from Walmart for $12.00.

First things first. Get the diapers off. Gone Garbage forget about them ( except for naps) only underpants from here on in, no “well it’s just for a car ride” no “well we just have to go to the grocery store” get them off! Once you’re ready for that commitment for the first 3 days you bring the child to the potty every 15 minutes, you sit them down you say pee pee and you wait a minute or so – if they pee you say “yes, you went pee good job” and that’s it – if they don’t pee you say “OK, you don’t need to pee now, we’ll come back soon” – this takes commitment from you as a parent – you need 3 days at home, consistency is key. After the first 3 days increase the time to every 25 minutes for 2 days, and continue gradually increasing the time between potty breaks.

It will work. But you cannot go back. You cannot use pull-ups. Keep the diapers off for good ( except naps and nighttime when they are not conscious that they’re peeing…for now) Potty training I think is 80% adult commitment and 20% child readiness. You need to learn your child’s cues, you need to take the time to bring your child to the potty and you need to be consistent! It will work – and when it doesn’t you just need to say “oh dear, that pee-pee was supposed to go on the potty” sit them on the potty and say “Is there anymore pee” and finish off like that. During the first week I leave the potty somewhere visible and the babes naked so they can go and use it as they wish – and it works!

The hardest thing for me has just been preparing – keeping lots of back up clothing, change of underwear, pants - even shoes for any “on the go accidents” I’ve found that my wetbag from Spoiled Sugar has come in even more handy now than when I was doing cloth diapers!

What’s you’re biggest fear about potty training? Mine is bringing the trio into the bathroom while one pees and the others are touching everything in sight in the bathroom –ohhh that just makes my skin crawl! Whatever your obstacles are share it here – maybe we can come up with some awesome recommendations and help each other say bye bye to diapers!

Thanks for reading!

Brigitte is a stay at home mom to 20 month old triplets and a 5 year old boy and owner of

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