Q&A with Cathy Beukema McNulty Autism Parent

 

“Laurie sleeps in a special bed that keeps her contained.  She would not ever go to bed otherwise. She’d be up jumping and roaming around.  Since you can’t bring a bed like that with you, we have a special tent that we bring along.”

Q&A with Cathy Beukema McNulty Autism Parent
photo credit Cathy B. McNulty

My name is Cathy, and I have two amazing daughters and an excellent husband.
Annie is 8, in second grade, and is neuro-typical.
She’s into seemingly everything:  theater, cheer, softball, soccer, Zumba, and most of all reading.
She is wonderful with her little sister Laurie, who is five and on the spectrum.

Laurie loves all things electronic and is better than most people at navigating things like her iPad, iPod, LeapPad, the computer.
I know she’d be happy if all things were just one big touchscreen.
Laurie enjoys therapeutic horseback riding and aqua therapy.
She’s also the physically strongest person I’ve met, and has a stubborn streak 10 miles wide!  If she doesn’t want to do something, it’s a struggle.

Laurie is in a specialized autism classroom housed in Annie’s school.
While she isn’t mainstreamed at this time due to her behaviors and her inability to be “tested” on command, we all (including the teachers/aides/therapists) believe that she’s quite bright and will eventually get there.
We are just working on letting that shine through!

We use an iPad for communication, and if something is motivating to her, she’ll spontaneously say the word for the item she wants.
Her teacher uses a TEACCH philosophy, but she also draws from ABA, Floortime, and any other method she thinks would be helpful.
The challenge of educating Laurie is that things are rarely motivating more than once or twice at a time, so it’s important to be able to switch things up.  Her teacher is fantastic with this, and we are SO fortunate to have her teach our girl!

Traveling with Laurie is a challenge.
We haven’t flown with her since she was a baby, mostly because there’s not been an opportunity to do so.  But right now keeping her safely restrained in an airplane seat would be a huge issue.
We can’t even have her sit in a regular seat at a restaurant.
Rewards do not work with her.  When we do travel, we drive.  She has a special car seat with a 5 point harness that we use on a daily basis, because if not, she pops herself out of her chair and dances in the back of the minivan!

When we travel, we tend to visit family if it’s an overnight trip, but most trips are day trips.  Day trips are fun.
We tend to go to amusement parks or hands-on museums.  Both girls LOVE amusement park rides, and they’re fearless!!
We use a special harness for Laurie so that she can walk on her own, but she’s still kept safe because either my husband or I will hold the lead to it.  She doesn’t seem to mind it much.

We prep Laurie by telling her we’re going to see (fill in the blank), going to the beach, whatever.  She seems to get excited when she sees that we have the ABC blankets all piled up by the door, ready to be placed in the car – that means a road trip.

Annie helps with that excitement too.  She often picks things to do for both girls or makes sure that I do.  We pack DVDs, books, crayons & paper, and every electronic in the house, including an extra DVD player in case the one in the car stops working or if Annie is just sick of watching “Elmo in Grouchland”.
Laurie has Celiac as well, so we make sure to bring extra of her favorites (Snyder’s Gluten-Free Pretzels are pretty darn close to their original !)  We take along fun things like bubbles.

Laurie sleeps in a separate bed that keeps her contained.  She would not ever go to sleep. Otherwise, she’d be up jumping and roaming around.  Since you can’t bring a bed like that with you, we have a special tent that we bring along.
It fits a twin sized mattress.  The hard part is that we do need to use an actual bed rather than an air mattress because Laurie can make the tent flip over!  If we have to use the air mattress, we have to move furniture around so that the tent simply is immobile.  We also have special pajamas we use with her because she’s a stripper!

Suffice it to say that it is never a dull moment around here.

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Margalit Sturm Francus
A reformed dentist who gave up pulling teeth to show her son the world! Need tips on how to #travel with #autism? Follow me on Instagram & Facebook
Margalit Sturm Francus

Margalit Sturm Francus

A reformed dentist who gave up pulling teeth to show her son the world! Need tips on how to #travel with #autism? Follow me on Instagram & Facebook

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