10 Encouraging & Inspiring Reads for Autism Parents

By on Wednesday, January 28, 2015 Be the first to comment!
Autism can be lonely world. Not just for the kids who have autism, but for the parents themselves. Or perhaps I am alone in my thoughts for this one. Regardless, I will admit that I find parenting a child with autism isolating and lonely. It's hard to explain, but non-autism parents just don't get why I parent so carefully, constantly armed with back-up plans and counter-moves in case something goes wrong. Because believe me, something always goes wrong. So yes, I do carry an extra calculator or two as a calm down tool. And yes, I scout out our environments for potential meltdown triggers like thermostats in public buildings that are always too darn low or are positioned strategically above a chair that a child could easily climb into. Like what is up with that?! And yes, I exchange glances with my husband in a restaurant as we quickly replace chicken nuggets from one child's plate to another because your husband mistakenly ripped a chicken nugget in half to cool (how dare he!) and we both know that a sensory meltdown in a restaurant is best avoided with ninja-like moves and silent exchanges. So what I'm saying is...I need to read other stories by autism parents. I really do. Their stories encourage me and give me hope that I'm not failing. Their stories remind me that yes, I've got a good handle on this thing called parenting or if not, that at least there's always tomorrow.

I don't care where you are in your autism journey, whether you are dealing with a fresh diagnosis or have had a diagnosis in hand for years, but I think it's safe to say that all autism parents could use a little extra encouragement and inspiration from time to time. So here are 10 must-read encouraging and inspiring articles for autism parents.

10 must read articles meant to encourage and inspire autism parents from And Next Comes L

1. Autism: It's a Colorful, Vivid World in There from An Everyday Story - A mother's inspiring and beautifully written view of what autism is like.

"Autism is a gift if we choose to see it. A gift which opens our eyes to new wonders and teaches us to be better people." - Kate from An Everyday Story

2. I Know What Causes Autism from Carrie Cariello - One of the most powerful posts on autism that I have ever read.

"At the same time, I don’t want to focus so much on the what and when and where and how that I forget about the who." - Carrie Cariello

3. The Numbered Chair Game: How I Got My Child with Autism to Try Something New - My story of how we got my son to break from his rigid routine that is characteristic of kids with autism. If anything it gives you hope and reminds you to celebrate the victories no matter how small they are.

"And it worked on the first try like magic. No fights. No tears. Just a plain old parenting win." - Dyan from And Next Comes L

4. This is Our Autism from Four Plus an Angel - No two individuals with autism are the same. Jessica writes a lovely post about what their autism is.

"But here is the thing, our autism is not their autism and it’s not your autism either." - Jessica from Four Plus an Angel

5. The Things I Know Because of Autism from Carrie Cariello - A good reminder of the things autism teaches parents and a real look at what daily life with autism is like.

"I love someone with autism. Some days this is my very hardest job." - Carrie Cariello

6. I Have a Secret. I'm a Bad Autism Mom. from Picklehead Wigglebum Mum - It's okay for autism parents to feel like they are failing. This honest post reminds you are human and that your feelings are valid too.

"Act like you’re strong, even when you’re not." - Picklehead Wigglebum Mum

7. What Raising a Child with Autism Taught Me About Raising a Child Without from Four Plus an Angel - Such fascinating insight from a mother with multiple children.

[Autism] "has taught me to cheer when my kids stand out rather than sigh with relief when they fit in." - Jessica from Four Plus an Angel

8. I Know Who You Are from Carrie Cariello - A mom's honest admission to hating autism. One that all autism parents can relate to, I'm sure.

"You must believe me, Autism, when I tell you that I will never pack up my ball and go home." - Carrie Cariello

9. To My Son's Autism Therapists on Huffington Post - Us autism parents are always busy with therapies and appointments. We rely on these people for help and support. I love this unique perspective.

"But I wonder if you know what it's like to be me. I wonder if you have given any thought to what it is like to parent these children you work with every day." - Rebecca Smith Masterson

10. What Would You Say to a New Autism Parent? from Four Plus an Angel - A wonderful collection of inspiring quotes from other autism parents.
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DIY Wooden Base Ten Blocks

By on Tuesday, January 27, 2015 Be the first to comment!
I've always wanted to get some base ten blocks for exploring math at home, but I find the plastic ones kind of...well, ugly. And the foam ones aren't any better. Ideally, I wanted plain wooden base ten blocks, but couldn't find any. Then I found the perfect solution at the dollar store! So here's how I made my own wooden base ten blocks.

DIY wooden base ten blocks for math learning from And Next Comes L

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

I chose to only make tens and ones since it would take me forever to make hundreds and thousands. But I may make some in the future. Here's what you'll need to make the ones and tens as pictured above:


To make the ones, you will just use 10 mini wood cubes. No gluing involved. To make the tens, simply hot glue 10 mini wood cubes together until you make a long stick. That's it!

These DIY wooden base ten blocks look so much nicer than the plastic blocks and the foam blocks. They will be a great way to practice counting and place value.

Here are some other great DIY math manipulatives to try:


DIY wooden base ten blocks for math learning from And Next Comes L
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Counting Peas Busy Bag {Free Printable}

By on Sunday, January 25, 2015 Be the first to comment!
If there's one thing that is truly loved in our house, it's books. Especially alphabet books. The extreme love of alphabet books may have something to do with J's hyperlexia, but we have truly enjoyed our fair share of ABC books over the years. One alphabet book that my boys love is LMNO Peas. It's a super cute ABC book that inspired this counting peas busy bag. It comes with a free bilingual printable and encourages one-to-one correspondence, counting, and language learning.

Counting Peas busy bag to accompany the book LMNO Peas {with free bilingual printable} from And Next Comes L

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

This activity is part of the new Book Club Play Dates series that we're launching with some other fabulous kid bloggers. Each month we will give you a book and five accompanying activities (craft, snack, busy bag, game, and sensory activity) so that you can enjoy some hands-on learning and fun with your own kid book club at home. This month's book is LMNO Peas by Keith Baker, an adorable alphabet book featuring a cool cast of peas. We decided to make a printable busy bag to practice counting peas!

For this counting peas busy bag, you will need:


Print, cut, and laminate the counting peas cards. Then encourage the kids to count the peas after you read the story LMNO Peas. My boys absolutely love this book and we have signed it out from the library numerous times over the years.

The printable shows the numeral form as well as the written word in both English and French. Since J is in French Immersion, this busy bag was a great way to reinforce his French vocabulary. For three year old K, it was a great way to practice one-to-one correspondence and number recognition, in addition to building the literacy component in two languages.

Free printable counting peas busy bag from And Next Comes L

Free printable counting peas busy bag from And Next Comes L


Don't forget to check out the rest of the LMNO Peas inspired activities so that you can complete your own Book Club Play Date at home!

Snack: LMNO Peas Soup from Still Playing School
Sensory Activity: LMNO Peas Sensory Bin from House of Burke
Craft: Parachuting Peas Craft from Craftulate
Game: Preschool Alphabet Game for LMNO Peas from Fun-A-Day!

Book Club Play Dates series lineup for 2015 at And Next Comes L


Counting Peas busy bag to accompany the book LMNO Peas {with free bilingual printable} from And Next Comes L
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Months of the Year Scrabble Math {Free Printable}

By on Saturday, January 24, 2015 Be the first to comment!
I'm back with another Scrabble math printable. This time it's to work on the months of the year! My oldest is currently in French Immersion kindergarten, so he has been learning the months in French. Therefore, I created two versions of this printable, one in English and one in French. So this activity is a great way to work on spelling, math, and second language learning! 

Months of the year Scrabble math activity for kids with free English & French printables from And Next Comes L

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

To do Scrabble math, you will need:


Simply spell the words with the letter tiles and then add up the score! For added spelling practice, you can even write the letters for each month in the empty boxes. At least, that's why my five year old likes to do.



Be sure to check out the other Scrabble math printables here.
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Foam Heart Tangram Puzzles

By on Wednesday, January 21, 2015 Be the first to comment!
My boys love to work on puzzles so I wanted to make them some homemade heart puzzles for Valentine's Day. I ended up creating this quick and inexpensive busy bag idea that works on math skills. The puzzles ranged in difficulty. Sometimes even I can't figure out how the yellow heart goes back together!

Foam heart tangram puzzles for Valentine's Day from And Next Comes L

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

To make these DIY foam heart tangram puzzles, I used:


I cut out four large hearts using a different color for each heart. Then I cut each heart into random pieces. Some are more basic, like the purple one pictured below, but others, like the yellow one, have more pieces and are trickier to put together. Just be sure to tailor the puzzles to your child's skills and age.


Foam heart tangram puzzles for Valentine's Day from And Next Comes L

The boys loved putting these puzzles together. The purple one is really all three year old K could handle independently. 

Building foam heart tangram puzzles from And Next Comes L

Five year old J, who has "very superior visual-spatial skills," excelled at putting these puzzles together, even the ones that were trickier. And here I thought I could stump him...pfft. Of course not!

Building foam heart tangram puzzles from And Next Comes L

Building foam heart tangram puzzles from And Next Comes L

And that wraps up this year's Show Me the Love Valentine's series! Here's what my friends were up to:

Melt My Heart Valentine's Day Art from Still Playing School

Show Me the Love Series - Valentine's activities for kids

DIY foam heart tangram puzzles for kids - Valentine's math busy bag idea from And Next Comes L
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Homemade "Taco" Sensory Swing Tutorial

By on Tuesday, January 20, 2015 Be the first to comment!
I made a homemade "taco" sensory swing for my boys for Christmas and I have been so excited to share the tutorial with you. The actual sewing and assembly of this swing went so smoothly that I actually impressed myself by how well it came together. From start to finish, this DIY sensory swing took me about a hour to make. And I was hoping to do it for under $50. Well, not only does the final product look and work amazing, but I made it for about $25. How much does a store bought one cost, you ask? Only a whopping $175-300! 

Yeah, so how about that tutorial then?

Homemade taco sensory swing tutorial from And Next Comes L

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

Here's what we used to make this gorgeous DIY sensory swing:

  • 1.7 metres (1.9 yards) of canvas or other non-stretchy fabric - I found this beautiful striped fabric on clearance and paid $10. I did not end up using all of the fabric so I will save the huge scraps for another project!
  • 1" thick wooden dowels - We used two that were 36" long and paid $5 in total from Michaels using two 50% off coupons. More details to follow.
  • Carabiner hooks - We used ones that could hold 100+ lbs each. I think we paid around $8 for two hooks.
  • 1/4" nylon diamond braid rope - The amount you need will depend on the height you want the swing to be.
  • Drill with 1/4" drill bit
  • Sewing machine
  • Scotch clear tape
  • Heavy duty thread for sewing upholstery

We went fabric hunting as a family hoping to find a perfect fabric for our swing on clearance. We lucked out and bought some pretty striped fabric. Ooh, aah! And it's not even hideous fabric or a plain boring color! However, if you can't find any fabric you like to fit your budget, then why not try using canvas drop cloth as an alternative. It's 100% canvas and is fairly cheap to buy. It was going to be our back-up plan until I found the striped fabric.

Homemade taco sensory swing tutorial from And Next Comes L

When I originally priced out wooden dowels at Rona, it was going to cost me $20 just for that part. Well, enter the ever-brilliant husband: "Does Michaels carry wooden dowels?" I knew that I had seen them before, but I had never looked closely at them. The answer is yes. Michaels had 1" wooden dowels precut to 36" long. And to make things even sweeter, their coupon for the week was 50% off an original price item. So we ended up buying our wooden dowels for $5, plus we didn't have to worry about cutting them!

Okay, okay...on to the tutorial so you can finally make a pretty little sensory swing like ours, but first...


Important Safety Precautions & Reminders

I know some of these seem obvious, but I will state these reminders clearly.

  • Do not use stretchy fabric for this swing. 
  • Make sure the thread strength matches the fabric used. Also, make sure you use the appropriate needle on the sewing machine!
  • Always test homemade swings first before letting children play with them.  
  • Do not leave children unattended in swings. 
  • Put swings away when not in use. 
  • Make sure the swing is in a clear, unobstructed space. 
  • I am not responsible for injuries or damage pertaining to or caused by this homemade swing. 
  • Please use at your own risk.
How to make your own taco sensory swing from And Next Comes L

How to Make a DIY Taco Sensory Swing

1. Our dowels were much shorter than the width of our fabric. So I cut the fabric to be about 40" wide, just slightly larger than the length of the dowels (36").

2. Fold the edge of the fabric along the long side of the fabric and tuck the raw edge inside. You'll likely use about 2"-2.5" worth of fabric for this hem. Pin and sew. This edge will be the front (or back) of the swing.

3. Repeat on the other long edge, making sure that the finished rectangle is shorter than the length of the dowel.

4. Now we need to make pockets for the wooden dowels. Fold the fabric around the wooden dowel, tucking the raw edge inside, to create the pocket. Don't make the pocket too tight! Pin into place. Remove the wooden dowel. Then sew.

5. Repeat step four on the remaining edge of the fabric.

6. Drill two holes in each wooden dowel, about 1" in from each end.

7. Determine the length of rope you will need. This step depends on the height of your space. Our swing hangs in an extra-wide doorway so we used about 70" of rope per side. You will use one solid piece of rope per side.

8. Put a piece of tape on the end of a piece of rope. It makes threading the rope so much easier! Plus it keeps the rope from fraying. Tie a knot or two on the underside of the dowel. Repeat for all four holes. See picture below.

Closeup of DIY taco sensory swing details from And Next Comes L

9. To attach the carabiner hook, locate the middle of the rope for each side. Loop the rope around the carabiner hook. See picture below.

Closeup of DIY taco sensory swing details from And Next Comes L

10. Now that the swing is assembled, you will need to install some hardware to hook the swing onto (if you don't already have a swing set-up in your house). You can get a better view of our swing hooks here. We use two eye bolts (about 18" apart) screwed into the frame of a large doorway. Swing hooks should always be installed into a ceiling joist or door frame.

11. Test it out! Before I ever put my own children in a homemade swing, I always test the weight limit myself. The swing held me comfortably. I also had my husband try it out, but he was definitely just too much for our swing to hold. He's roughly 175 lbs.


Storing & Playing with the DIY Taco Sensory Swing

The wooden dowels make this swing easy to roll up for storage. Voila!

How to store your DIY taco sensory swing from And Next Comes L

But more importantly, it works amazing! You can fly it in by laying on your tummy.

Swinging in a homemade sensory swing from And Next Comes L

Or you can encourage a good core workout and balance by standing in the swing. This type of play is better for older kids.

Swinging in a homemade sensory swing from And Next Comes L

Our favorite way to play is to swing while laying on the tummy, picking up toys, and throwing them at a target. It usually results in the most giggles too!

Suggestions of how to play in a homemade sensory swing from And Next Comes L

We're using this swing as part of our OT at home alongside our homemade stretchy resistance bands, DIY woven wrap swing, and homemade sensory tunnel.

This post is part of the Gross Motor Activities from A to Z hosted by Still Playing School. You can see all the other posts in this series by clicking here.

Gross Motor Activities from A to Z

Tutorial for making a DIY taco sensory swing from And Next Comes L
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Valentine's Writing Tray on the Light Table

By on Monday, January 19, 2015 Be the first to comment!
Here's a Valentine's themed salt tray for the light table that's great for toddlers and preschoolers to practice their writing. Both of my boys like to write so we used this writing tray as a way to practice writing Valentine's themed words and shapes. It's quick and simple to set up too.

Valentine's themed salt tray for writing on the light table from And Next Comes L

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

For this Valentine's themed writing tray, we used:


Valentine's themed salt tray for writing on the light table from And Next Comes L

The feathers were perfect for practicing writing and helped to encourage good fine motor skills. J practiced writing words like heart and love in the salt. He also drew some hearts freehand and traced some of the plastic hearts.

Drawing in a Valentine's themed salt tray on the light table from And Next Comes L

The boys also liked to press the plastic hearts into the salt to make little heart impressions. They continued to do these impressions for a few minutes before declaring they were all done. So it wasn't major success in their books, but it did keep them busy for like 10 minutes.

Making heart impressions in a salt tray on the light table from And Next Comes L

Don't forget to check out these other Show Me the Love Valentine's Activities from my co-hosts: 

Bubble Wrap Heart Prints from House of Burke

Show Me the Love Valentine's activities for kids

Valentine's themed salt tray on the light table - great prewriting activity for toddlers and preschoolers from And Next Comes L
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