Stories From the Heart: My Momma’s Hair

My husband, James, and I have been foster parents for the past four years. The touching moments happen often in the course of caring for neglected or abused children. Sometimes it just breaks my heart to see not only the physical suffering of these children but the silent, mental suffering no sees unless they spend time with each child. Currently we have two children in our care, David, age 4, and his sister, Susan, age 3.

Every time these two little ones return from a parental visit they are sad and tend to act out for a day or two. At the breakfast table after such a visit David appeared to be sad or maybe not feeling well. His head was down and his favorite breakfast of biscuits and gravy sat before him untouched. One hand covered his forehead and eyes so that we couldn’t determine whether he was actually sick or upset.

James, noticed and asked, “Say, Buddy, aren’t you hungry this morning?” David remained hidden and silent for a moment. Then in the broken language of his youth and speech impairment, he replied so softly it was difficult to decipher. “Hair.” Puzzled, my husband asked him, “Is there a hair on your food? Just brush it away, Buddy, and eat up!” “Face,” was David’s reply. James and I exchanged puzzled glances. After a while you get to know the intricate workings of a child’s mind.

From an inner intuition I suddenly knew exactly what he was saying…the reason he was sad and unable to eat. “David, did your mother hold you on her lap yesterday and give you lots of hugs and kisses?” I asked. He dropped the hand from his lowered head, looked up at me with pools of unshed tears filling his eyes, lower lip quivering and said, “Momma’s hair. On my face…” As he spoke his small little hand brushed the side of his face ever so gently.

My heart nearly broke. Barely holding back tears of my own it was all I could do to speak as I opened my arms. “Come here, precious, and let me hold you for a minute.” The sobs were released at last as he jumped from his chair and ran around the table and into my arms. I engulfed him in a fierce hug as I lifted him onto my lap. For long moments I simply rocked him and whispered in his ear, “You are so special…we love you…God loves you too…so special…” Until the tears were spent.

But the pain of this child will never completely go away. We can love him and try to reassure him that he matters…that he is special…but what he really needs and craves so badly is not ours to give. All he wants is to be with his mother. Oh that she could know what she is doing to her precious son and daughter. Would she try harder to get her act together and gain back custody of her children?

Every child deserves a mother. This is my wish and daily prayer…not only for this particular little boy…but for all the special children who remember the simple touch of a mother’s hair on his cheek.

Author Unknown

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism experience.

Soup for the Soul Stirs Up Mother’s Dedication to Autistic Children

There is a season for everything.

My continuing “season” of Motherhood has been nonstop learning since the birth of my two special needs Sons…who I adore.

Over the years I’ve spoken with and helped many parents that have their hands full with just one special needs family member.

One key point I’ve discovered through direct experience is this: Knowledge is power.

Power to learn, power to love, power to persevere and the power to educate.

I’ve needed that knowledge to empower me to handle the trials that come with two special needs family members.

There is also a season to be bold.

Being a bold Mother allowed me to leverage the power of education to make positive changes.

I chose to make changes that not only made me dig deep to help my own family but yours as well.  Over 15 years ago when I wrote Little Rainman: Autism–Through the Eyes of a Child. Soon after I pushed forward with, and other collaborations such as Chicken Soup for the Soul: Children with Special Needs in 2007. If “Soup for the Soul” sounds familiar then you must know of Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, creators of the infamous series.

Just two of many reviews such as these on make every moment of struggle and sacrifice worth their weight in gold:

“The stories in this book really touch my heart and allow me to understand children with special needs.”

“It’s just real people, telling their story.”

Soul searching my role in the realm of special needs individuals has surely helped me realize that obstacles are meant to be engaged head on.

What bold changes have come about in your life concerning special needs individuals?

What inspiration do you need to make a positive change for someone stricken with developmental disability?

Be bold and share your story by leaving your comment below.

Your voice will be heard.

Karen Simmons
Mother, Wife, Author, Founder & CEO of


P.S. I would like to recommend tips, strategies, and tools you need to help understand and cope with special needs individuals.

To download a video presentation that will help you understand the nature of special needs individuals, click this link:


Dinosaurs and Autism Lead to Unique Moment at Library

It was an embarrassing moment.

Their glaring eyes felt like piercing holes through me.

Nonetheless, it actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

It all started when my son Jonathan, in the back of the room, was frantically waving his hand in the air trying to get Mrs. Spalding’s attention.

All the little kiddies and their Moms were sitting on the library floor listening to a new author, Mrs. Spalding, read a children’s story that she had just completed about dinosaurs.

They were all behaving so nicely sitting with their legs crossed in perfect form.  This was the day we took the fourth grade class to the library and it was quite eventful.

When Mrs. Spalding was talking about the book she asked the kids in the class questions. Having spotted Jonathan and his exuberance, she called on him.  This was the moment when out of his mouth came the truthful but embarrassing words…

“Mrs. Spalding well, um, this is boring.”

I’m sure the other parents were wondering, what kind of a Mother does this child have.

Of course Jonathan, being very truthful, just said it the way he felt it. This is very typical of kids with autism.

Like I said, sometimes I think this is their biggest blessing. Yet at the same time it can be a curse because people just don’t understand autism.

I took the opportunity as a way to teach Jonathan how to apologize to people for things that might hurt their feelings. I also explained to Mrs. Spalding a bit about autism and how there was nothing meant to hurt her feelings.

It all worked out well in the end even though some of the parents probably still thought I was in need of parenting skills.

How have you dealt with an embarrassing moment surrounding a special needs person?

What did you do to smooth over the situation?

Please share your story with me by leaving your comment below.

Thank you for your input. I look forward to hearing from you.

Karen Simmons
Mother, Wife, Author, Founder & CEO of


P.S. Here is something I would like to recommend that will give you the tips, strategies, and tools you need to help understand and cope with embarrassing situations with special needs individuals.

To download a video presentation that will help you understand the nature of and how to handle embarrassing situations, click this link:


Sharing is Caring…Building Resources and Experiences of Autism

As a Mother, you want the best for your family.

That being the case, back in the 1990’s, my search intensified for any help or information that would further my role as parent.

I was compelled by the fact that our family had two special needs children.

Knowing that my love and dedication to the cause was burning with desire I set forth to make a difference in a sincere yet bold way.

Autism and other developmental disorders were acknowledged but not intimately understood over 15 years ago when I wrote my first book, Little Rainman: Autism–Through the Eyes of a Child.

Pushing forward with, and other collaborations, has been wildly successful and helped thousands of other special needs individuals and their care givers to tremendously improve their quality of life.

It’s important for me to say that many strategies and perspectives can work.  Although there are no cure-alls or silver bullets, you must continue striving to discover any avenues that gel best with your situation.

As expected, there is a lot of information on the internet so please heed this word of wisdom: Be sure you are seeking reliable sources. Having worked with many caring professionals over the last decade and a half, I can also say that a few were less than adept in niche areas of developmental disabilities such as autism.   Sharing is caring.

From the bottom of my heart I cherish my role as special needs parent, teacher and entrepreneur as well as the myriad of experiences I have had not only with my family but with those that have fulfilling lives due to the resources I’ve developed.

My hope is that you may learn from the challenges, trials and tribulations in a positive manner.

Allow yourself to learn from my mistakes…and priceless successes.

Let me know what can be done to assist your particular situation.

What would best help you move forward?

Tell me what obstacles you confronted and attempted to overcome.

You took the first step reading this far, now share your story by leaving a comment below.

Hearing from you keeps me energized and happy to further my work with the disabled.

Karen Simmons
Mother, Wife, Author, Founder & CEO of


P.S. Here is something I would like to recommend that will give you the tips,  strategies, and tools you need to help understand special needs issue.

To download a video presentation that will help you understand special needs issues, click here:

Stories From the Heart: Two Special Babies

The day I had waited nine months for finally arrived. My beautiful, perfect baby boy was here. Three years later my beautiful daughter arrived. Like every new parent, I had concerns. They were quickly put to rest by our pediatrician. By the time Emily was born, I was more relaxed. Many of my friends were jealous. I had gotten perfect children. My children slept while my friends’ children stayed awake.

I wasn’t experiencing the “terrible twos” and “horrible threes” my friends were experiencing. I gleamed with pride at the two gifts I had been given. The seemingly perfect reality I was experiencing was simply a facade of which even I wasn’t aware.

My son, Jacob had been receiving early intervention services at our home because of what we believed was a simple speech delay due to many ear infections. When he turned three, we were given the opportunity to send him to a full day speech and language school. Within months, Jacob was beginning to talk.

At the same time, our Emily was growing more beautiful with each passing day. She had a glowing personality. People everywhere were drawn to her smile and she warmed the hearts of all who met her. She wasn’t however, meeting some necessary milestones as quickly as other children her age. The pediatrician reassured us that Emily was merely “low tone” and that she would catch up eventually.

Months passed and Emily became more frustrated. When she was eleven months old I called early intervention services. She was evaluated and it was determined that physical and occupational therapies were required. Therapists were assigned and Emily quickly began meeting milestones. We cheered her on as the frustration lessened.

Our perfect world had been restored. Once again, however, perfection would be shattered by reality. We began to notice certain behaviors in our son had persisted despite his new found ability to communicate his needs. My husband and I realized that this needed further investigation.

Jacob would be entering kindergarten and we would have decisions to make. I took Jacob to a neurologist expecting him to laugh and say, “He’s a kid. This is what they do.” I sat in the office on that April afternoon, my stomach churning. I finally met the doctor, who instead of confirming my hopes, said, “Jacob is Autistic,” I was speechless. Questions loomed.

Autism was one of my worst fears. To me, Autism meant a child who could not connect with others, a child who did not want to be touched, and a child who would spend his adult life in a group home or institutionalized. Through tears, I tried to listen to the prognosis.

“Jacob could not be Autistic”, I thought. He loved to be held and hugged. Jacob was too smart for that-he already recognized all the letters of the alphabet! I didn’t understand. There were behaviors, the doctor said, which clearly pointed to Autism: the repetitive movements, the echolalia, the inability to make eye contact. Yes, this child was Autistic and would need a lot of work if he was to have any semblance of normalcy.

After Jacob’s diagnosis, I began to worry about Emily. I worried that some day we would get bad news about her too. She continued to improve and unlike her brother, she was very social. Fear subsided and we breathed a sigh of relief that life was once again returning to normal.

When Emily began to talk, however, we noticed that her speech patterns sounded muddled and she was difficult to understand. Once again, the wheels of fear turned in my head. Why was she having so much trouble? I felt an urging to find out, but chose to push the fear and doubts to the back of my mind.

I had been speaking with a family friend whose daughter has Down Syndrome. We discussed Emily’s therapies and she urged me to rule out bigger problems and not just treat the symptoms. I had felt this way too, but it’s unnerving to have someone else say it and not know your thoughts. Emily needed to see a specialist. We went back to the neurologist.

After looking at Emily, he said he felt it wasn’t anything terrible, just something that a simple blood test would reveal and could be “cured.” Much relieved, I took Emily home, thankful we had been spared. It took three weeks for the blood tests to come back. I went back to the neurologist’s office confident that all was well, while my son went to school and my husband went to work. I promised to call as soon as I was finished.

Finally it was our turn to see the doctor. He looked over Emily’s charts and said, “Ok, today we are here to discuss how to handle Emily’s Down Syndrome.”

“Emily has Down Syndrome?!” I asked in horror and disbelief.

Confused, the doctor looked back at the charts and quickly realized he hadn’t given me the bad news before because I’d had to cancel the previous appointment. Apologizing, he retraced his steps and explained to me that Emily had a rare form of Down Syndrome. This is why it had not been detected in my prenatal tests. Here I was, sitting in the neurologist’s office listening as he told me I didn’t have a normal child…..for the second time!

Hysterical and shaking, I left the neurologist’s office and called my husband. Now it seemed hopeless. Both of our “perfect” children would face insurmountable challenges that we could not take away. Over the next few days I cried. I begged God to inflict this upon me and spare my children. I begged Him to help me to understand why this tragedy had befallen our family.

Then, from out of deep depression and confusion came a soft voice in my heart urging me to do something. I realized that sulking and feeling depressed wasn’t going to help Jacob and Emily. I got to work. Using my knowledge as a teacher, I made endless phone calls to anyone I could think of.

Appointments with schools were made. Additional evaluations were scheduled. It took less than three weeks to place Emily in a half day preschool program. A process that should have taken months took a few weeks. Everyone wondered, how did we get it done so quickly? I had been through it before.

Emily’s diagnosis did more than help her. It helped my husband and me. We had been financially struggling and had been wondering all summer how we were going to pay the costly daycare Emily was enrolled in. With the diagnosis, Emily became eligible to attend a preschool program five mornings a week free of charge and a family friend became available to watch her in the afternoon.

The blessings have been endless. We are watching them learn and grow at their own pace. We realize that it won’t be easy, but we are prepared. We were especially excited to discover that Jacob’s prognosis has improved and with the right help he should be able to grow up and be like everyone else.

Happiness shines through Emily and it is impossible to feel anything but joy in her presence. Her ability to light up the world outshines her disability and all who meet her are amazed by her warmth and compassion.

Truly, a lesson has been learned. God gives us not what we think is best, but what He believes we need. He knew I needed them to teach me about love and acceptance. He knew that I had strength I thought was impossible. He knew that I was exactly the mother these two special babies needed. I am honored to know that I have been chosen to do His work.

By Susan Friedenburg

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism experience.

Born Again with Baby Oil and a Birthing Pot

“Well, it looks like the pots giving birth” she said.

After dealing with another mischievous adventure of Jonathan’s, we just had to be grateful.

“All’s well that ends well” as the saying goes.

You see, it was supposed to be a simple get together with our next door neighbors who were brave enough to invite our family of eight over for dinner one evening. With our children born within a period of 10 years, they were handful to say the least.

We were all having a great time socializing and sharing stories when all of a sudden we heard this bloodcurdling screech coming from the other room.

It turned out that Jonathan, who was around five years old at the time, decided to crawl inside of a flower pot just barely big enough to squeeze his body in. Well, when it came time for him to try and get out that is when all hell broke loose.

At first we tried to squeeze and pull him out but it was no use.

We tried and tried as many ways as we could think of to get him to get out of the pot and were about to give up when my son Matthew suggested pouring baby oil around the top of the pot to see if we could pull him out.

That is what we did and he finally popped out making a sucking noise as he did.

And that, my friends, is what prompted my oldest daughter Kim to shout out the “…pots giving birth” line.

What a night that was.

Besides our family being large in number, we had two special needs children to boot.

We’ll never forget Jonathan being “born again” and the hospitality of our brave neighbors.

Looking back, I say kudos to them for seeing the humor in it all.

What mischief has your special needs child gotten into as a guest at another’s house?

How have you helped a special needs individual get out of a jam?

Share your unique story with me.  What happened?

To share your story, go to:

As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

Karen Simmons
Mother, Wife, Author, Founder & CEO of


P.S. Here are recommended tips, strategies, and tools you need to help understand and cope with your mischievous special needs loved one.

Download a video presentation that will help you understand the nature of and simple solutions to cope with mischievious special needs individuals. Click this link:


AutismToday Founder Applies Special Needs Lessons to Aid School Programming

Welcome and thank you for taking a sincere interest in developmental disabilities and autism in particular.

Many years ago, Little Rainman: Autism–Through the Eyes of a Child, was my first book.

Though Little Rainman appeals to children, it has tremendous value for educators and parents too. It enables them to learn and understand what autism is all about, early on.

As an educator, you know how important the learning principles of “primacy” and “recency” are.  These principles are even more critical to a special needs child.

Being a special needs parent you can imagine what I’ve experienced and learned.

I’ve actually become a “teacher” in a manner of speaking.

The “school of hard knocks” (direct experience) and academia (reading and studying) have blended well for me and my family in our quest of loving and providing for our special needs children.

Early on, I was a bit shocked that many professionals didn’t seem to have a firm grasp of the particulars of autistic children.  Early detection of any developmental disability is critical and varying modalities of treatment abound based on accurate diagnosis.

Although I’ve learned much from the medical and professional community we both know that a black and white diagnosis, although helpful, doesn’t tell the whole story. Daily life with special needs children is as real as it gets.

By loving and guiding two special needs children one might say I’ve earned a PhD in real life special needs care experience.

Please share your story, what you did and how it worked as an educator or other professional in touch with special needs children.

To share your story, go to:

As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

Karen Simmons
Mother, Wife, Author, Founder & CEO of


P.S. Here is something I would like to recommend that will give you the tips,  strategies, and tools you need to help understand special needs children, autism in particular.

To download a video presentation that will help you understand the nature of special needs children, autism in particular:


Stories From the Heart: My Sister Isn’t Stupid

My little sister Kelly was diagnosed with Autism and Sensory Inauguration Disorder. The day my mom told me about this I was shocked. Until that day I thought my sister was just stupid. I know that’s not nice, but I was just a little kid who didn’t know better.

I didn’t take the time to care for her like I did when she was a baby. I didn’t take the time to see why she was different, or how I could help her. I was embarrassed by how she was. I know better now because I’m 12, and my little sister is 4.

My little sister didn’t ask for this no one did. It came as a shock to all of us because of how beautiful she is and how “normal” she looks. We later found out that she couldn’t intake a lot of information at once because of how her brain processes things. Don’t get me wrong, my little sister and I are very close now.

I was eight when she was born. I was able to be in the room when she was brought into this world and I cut her cord. Then was the bond that begun. I broke that bond when I thought she was dumb for being what she is. She isn’t dumb though. She’s very smart in her own way, and she is my world!

I couldn’t have gotten this far without her. She knows when I need to talk to her or someone to play with. She is very tall for her age. She is smart in my mind because of certain things she can do that I can’t. She is a great person to be around when you need to be cheered up.

We always play this game called tickle game. I run after her and she screams and tries to hide but I find her and tickle her like crazy. Her laugh and her smile light up my world. She knows how to make you feel happy. If it was possible everyone would want a little sister like Kelly.

She goes to Early Childhood at an elementary school where a lot of people understand her and help her needs. She has a terrific teacher and I am glad she has taken time to help her.

All I can say to you is if you have ever made fun of a disabled person you better think twice. They may indeed be smarter than you think they are. And they are somebody’s sister, brother, son, daughter, or best friend.

Author Unknown

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism experience.

Hyperlexia…Mistaking a Disabled Child as Gifted


He just read his first word!

My husband Jim and I looked at each other in amazement.

We had just taken our two and a half year old son Jonathan to the park in Edmonton, Alberta for a family outing.

My husband and I were one each side of Jonathan walking forward holding one of his hands.  We lifted and swung him and forward, then gently lowering him to the ground while continuing to walk.

Jonathan loved it.  We called it the “123 weeeeeee…” game.

Jonathan had spotted a truck with the word “recycle” on it. He was just barely learning how to talk let alone read and we were so taken by surprise that we actually didn’t believe it at first.

We thought wow we have a gifted child on our hands.

We were so excited that we called the autism society to tell them all about it. I believe we spoke to a woman by the name of and Anita at the time who informed us that this was hyperlexia.  She said it was wonderful that Jonathan was able to speak, however he may not be comprehending what he is saying.

Long story short, some children with autism demonstrate this phenomenon and can lead many parents down the wrong pathway.

I’m glad that Jim and I recognized it for what it was and took immediate measures to get him into the proper intervention program to encourage his comprehension skills.

Has your child demonstrated any special or extraordinary skills for their age?

“Special needs” children can be either disabled or gifted.  What has been your experience?

Share your story with me now by leaving a comment below.

I look forward to hearing about your special needs story.

Karen Simmons
Mother, Wife, Author, Founder & CEO of


P.S. Here is something I would like to recommend that will give you the tips, strategies, and tools you need to deal effectively with special needs in your child’s life.

To download a video presentation that will help you understand the nature of early detection of special needs, click this link:


Love, Dedication and the Gift of Sharing a Little Rainman

True beginnings are a gift to be treasured.

Since two of my six children have special needs I felt strong compassion and dedication, as a Mother, to share my experience with you.

Many years ago, Little Rainman: Autism–Through the Eyes of a Child, was my first book.

That is where it all began.

From the bottom of my heart, in Little Rainman, I share many personal issues surrounding autism through the experiences of my family. Trials and tribulations are unique yet occur in similarity within many families of special needs children.

My hope is that you may learn from my challenges so you will be further ahead of the autism and special needs curve by learning from my mistakes and successes.

It’s important for me to say that many of these strategies and perspectives are working with us, and may provide a jump start for your family.

It’s not often that a significant opportunity opens itself in one’s life.

Challenges help you move forward. You discover what is really important.

I poured my hopes, dreams, desires and shear willpower into making a difference.

No matter where or how you seek help, always remember to shine like a beacon of hope for your special needs children…they need you.

Do you wonder how you’ll manage with special needs children?

Have you ever wanted to just throw-in-the-towel sometimes?

What have you done to make things work in your family with special needs children?

Now is the time to share your story, please leave your comments below.

Be a beacon of hope.  Provide the foundation your children need.  I’d love to hear from you.

Karen Simmons
Mother, Wife, Author, Founder & CEO of


P.S. Here is something I would like to recommend that will give you the tips, strategies, and tools you need to help understand special needs children, specifically autism.

To download a video presentation that will help you understand autism, click below:


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