autism safety training

Ch-ch-ch-changes Coming for Autism Safety Training

Wondering where I’ve been? (Me, too. No, wait – that’s my sanity! That’s what’s been missing…) I’ve been agonizing over not bringing you my usual stories, tips and tools on a regular basis. I apologize, it’s been a very challenging summer.

My son has had a mystery illness for eight weeks that is taking all my time and energy at the moment. Who needs sleep? I’m happy to report the situation is letting up some, no thanks to the $1,000+ I’ve spent on doctors so far! Please keep up your prayers and positive thoughts for us :)

Aside from all that, I wanted to let you know what’s in the works…

Big News for Spirit of Autism

I’ve recently been called to serve the Autism community in a new way. I’ve already stepped into this new calling and I’m excited to keep the momentum going!

My Autism Training program for Emergency Responders has gained a lot of buzz and credibility in the community, especially since I just graduated the Citizen Police Academy and have become a Volunteer in Police Service. Being a part of this side of public safety rounds out my fire rescue and medic experience nicely and helps me reach more recruits, officers and detectives with this vital information.

The biggest joy for me has been the recent requests for custom versions of my training outside of public safety, including:

The schools in my county are suggesting I train their social workers, guidance counselors and administrators. Wow! Being able to customize the training for different groups while maintaining the integrity of the information has inspired me to reach out to additional businesses to participate in the training:

  • Daycare Centers
  • Campus Staff and Security
  • Event Facilities
  • Mall Security
  • Healthcare Facilities
  • Airline / Airport Employees

This is so exciting for me to be able to create not just Autism awareness but Autism action.

Asked to Never Return Again…

Personally, my son and I have been kicked out of so many retail establishments, restaurants, and festivals / parties because the staff did not understand the behaviors they were seeing. The school used to call me three times a week to pick him up during the school day because they couldn’t “reel in his behavior”. Even Delta Airlines asked us never to return when my son was three because he was having trouble sitting still in his seat and his ears hurt. I haven’t gotten on a plane in 8 years because of this. He wasn’t even being that disruptive in many of these situations!

It’s time to stop being left out. It’s time to stop avoiding public spaces with my family because business owners and employees are afraid of what they don’t understand.


Keep your eyes open for the launch of the NEW Spirit of Autism website. I will still offer practical tips and tools and some products for parents and caregivers, but it won’t be the main focus. I will still keep up the Blog, send great recipes and recommendations in my newsletter, and offer more Emergency Preparedness information for Autism families.

The new site will have a special section for Autism Safety Training for Businesses and more in-depth information for Emergency Responders. I am also launching to go hand in hand with this movement. Additionally, I will be looking for corporations to sponsor or offer scholarships for some of the Emergency Responders and smaller businesses that do not have the budget for this training program but really need it.

Keep your eyes peeled! I’m also open to more ideas from you – what other types of businesses or groups do you think could benefit from my Autism Safety Training program? Share by commenting below or posting to the SOA Facebook page!

autism monkey joes

Autism Resource Fair and Monkey Joe’s Gives Back!

I’ve got two fantastic announcements for my fellow Atlantans!

This Saturday, join One DeKalb and Center for Leadership in Disability at the DeKalb County Resource Fair. It’s an opportunity for families of children and adults diagnosed with Autism to learn about and connect with agencies and organizations that provide Autism services and supports for DeKalb County residents.

You can come visit me at my booth – I’ll be talking about Autism Disaster Preparedness and Autism Safety at home. I’ll have an example of a 72-hour Disaster Kit and will be raffling off a special gift!

Remember, this Saturday, April 27

10:30 am – 1:30 pm at the Manual Maloof Administration Building  in Downtown Decatur

1300 Commerce Drive | Decatur, GA 30030

To register click here or contact Donna Johnson at 404-413-1427

I hope to see you there!


Monkey Joe’s Lawrenceville gives back to the community with Special Needs Night!

Every third Thursday of the month from 6 – 7:30 pm Monkey Joe’s closes its doors to the general public and welcomes special needs kids aged 12 and under and their siblings. Admission is FREE!

As you can see here, Justin had a blast!

As a parent of a (loud) child with Autism, I took great comfort in knowing that my son and I were not going to be kicked out of a public place because he was screaming, running around incessantly, or needed a sensory break. We were greeted with a warm welcome and checked in with frequently during our visit.

I love what Monkey Joe’s is doing for the special needs community – I certainly hope more businesses are inspired by their Special Needs night.

We hope to see you there for their next Special Needs night on May 16 at Monkey Joe’s Lawrenceville | 665 Duluth Highway | Lawrenceville

Call 770-338-7529 for more information!


autism oz

Finally! An Autism Magazine FOR Parents BY Parents – autism Oz

I’m so proud to be a part of this fantastic new resource, a monthly digital autism support magazine known as autism Oz.

It was given the name because the magazine is produced in Australia (Oz) but aimed at the global autism community.

They have a fantastic team of contributors (including me *wink*) who are highly respected scientists, therapists, nutritionists and parents living autism’s day-to-day experiences. These contributors bring the latest and most innovative news, views and tried and tested advice from across the autism spectrum.

autism Oz uses the Internet’s interactive ability to create magazines that come alive and serve the community. In addition to written content, videos can be played straight from the pages of the publication.

What drew me to this project was that families are be able to connect from all over the world and share their own stories and video of struggle and success. Much like Spirit of Autism, the messages are REAL, uplifting and authentic.

I was introduced to the Editor, Iain Croft through LinkedIn. He’s a former journalist with the BBC in London, where he worked for 23 years. He was Assistant Editor at Hardtalk on World TV, Planning Editor at World Service Radio News Programmes, and Assistant Editor at the BBC’s most influential news and current affairs program called “The Today Programme”.

Now living in Perth Australia, Iain is a parent of three wonderful children Riley (sadly deceased), Isabella who is six and Rafael, five.

It is because of what happened to his son that he has now put his energy into child welfare and helping parents assist children reach their full potential. This was his inspiration for birthing this major project aimed at people with autism and their carers.

I’m honored to be a contributor to autism Oz iMagazine. You can find my article on why I train Emergency Responders and Autism Safety at home in the April issue. Once I got to know Iain and his driving force to help the community, I immediately volunteered to create and manage the magazine’s website.

autism Oz is more than a project, it is a global movement. It goes beyond autism awareness; it is autism in action. Whether you are just starting out on your autism journey or if you are a seasoned professional, autism Oz is with you every step of the way.

HeART of the Spectrum

HeART of the Spectrum Community Arts Center

I was recently introduced to an amazing organization called HeART of the Spectrum. It’s an inclusive art center in Seattle, WA founded by Michael Tolleson and Jack Anderson to encourage and support the artistic abilities of individuals with Autism and Asperger’s. A variety of classes as well as the HeART of the Spectrum Mentoring Art Program are offered at the center, geared toward individual interests and abilities.

In addition to the Mentoring Art Program, HeART of the Spectrum also has a unique gallery that features emerging artwork by individuals on the Autism Spectrum. Artists of all ages and styles have contributed their work, and over 50 pieces now hang in the ground floor storefront.

With so much focus on Autism as a disorder or disability, I think it’s extremely encouraging to see these two artists changing that by showing us the creative, focused and brilliant minds of those on the Spectrum. They are truly celebrating the gifts of Autism.

Because art can be the only form of expression for some of the artists who work at the gallery, Anderson and Tolleson say they strive to help them gain understanding through exposing their art to the greater community.

You can see video coverage by The Seattle Channel here:

For more information on HeART of the Spectrum, visit the gallery’s website or call 206-478-8342. I can’t wait to visit in person SOON!

autistic child worry

Why Won’t You Go to Sleep?!

9 pm: the witching hour.

This is what a typical night in my house was like. Either the entire bedtime routine was a harrowing struggle or my son would go to bed willingly and get up every 7-1/2 minutes. Yes, really that often. Then, to add insult to injury, he would fall asleep just as my alarm went off at 5 am.

I did all the right things: the warm bath, stories, and bedtime milk… but by day six my “perfect” routine would transform into begging, threatening, bargaining, and sometimes even having a meltdown myself!

The worst part was when he kept me up all night literally bouncing off the walls, screaming, laughing, torturing the dogs, even torturing ME! If I did get to actually go to bed he would come into my room and climb all over me like I was a jungle gym, poke my face, stick his fingers up my nose, bounce on the bed, and giggle obnoxiously for HOURS. I used to think he was an android, because he would seemingly function perfectly the next day as if he required no sleep whatsoever.

It was killing me. Night after night after night after night of no sleep. When sleep deprivation is caused by another, even your innocent child that can’t help himself, the resentment builds and the patience lessens rapidly.

So I did something about it.

Now I want to help you do something about it, too!

It is estimated that between 60% and 80% of Autistic children have difficulty sleeping. This can include trouble falling asleep, restlessness and poor sleep quality, thrashing about, and early rising.

After spending month after month dealing with my son’s erratic and frustrating sleep patterns, I know and understand the challenges, hardships, and heartache associated with sleep deprivation. I also know the extreme health risks associated with sleep deprivation and insomnia, because I was experiencing them, and, even though it didn’t seem that way, so was my child.

After researching, experimenting, playing, and sometimes pulling my hair out, I found some really practical things that shifted our entire bedtime experience and brought sleep and peace back into my home! I was so excited about these solutions that I spent the last few months compiling them into one place so no one else has to live the way we were living night after night.

In my new book, 30 Ways To Get Your Child With Autism to Go to Sleep, I share everything I learned through months of research and trials and tribulations to not only cope with my son’s sleep struggles but to overcome them.

If you would like to learn things like:

✔ Sensory routines that instantly calm

✔ Suggestions for safe supplements to give your child

✔ Foods that may be making your child hyper and keeping him awake

✔ An ancient Chinese massage technique that greatly improves mood, behavior and sleep patterns

✔ How the color of your child’s room may set off unwanted stimulation

✔ Links to helpful resources and more

I encourage you to check out 30 Ways To Get Your Child With Autism to Go to Sleep.

Take back your nights and give yourself the gift of peace of mind and much needed downtime! YOU and your family deserve quality sleep and these tools will help you get it back!

Please share this post with other sleep-deprived families that struggle with bedtime, and send me your comments below or post on the SOA Facebook page to let me know which ones worked best for you!

be like buddy

New Video Tool: It’s the ‘Be Like Buddy’ Online Launch Party!

There is a new series of educational videos and teaching tools for children with Autism coming out this week called “Be Like Buddy” and I am joining my friend Cathy of Autism Home Rescue to spread the word to as many people as possible.

Though we, as parents, are typically inundated with every “new breakthrough Autism resource”, this one is really different.  It’s not therapy, nor does it promise any type of “cure.”

Be Like Buddy” was created by one Dad, who enlisted a creative team of people like us:  Autism parents who really know what works, what helps, and what our children need.  This project was born out of one parent’s love for his child, and his desire to give his son the tools he needs to be able to experience life to the fullest extent possible.

On Thursday and Friday of this week (August 30 and 31), there will be an online launch party at, where you’ll be able to get the videos for FREE and they will work on virtually any device you have – your iPad, iPhone, or laptop!

I haven’t personally viewed these yet, but I love the story of their creation and am looking forward to downloading them! Though my son is 10, overrides his favorite video games by writing his own custom computer code, and does high school math, he still gets his social cues from Nick Jr.  I’m excited to see a video that will meet him on his level without any judgment or negative undertones.

Please “like” the Be Like Buddy Facebook page and tell your social friends, fans and likers to do the same.

Here is the formal “Be Like Buddy” press release.

Remember, “Be Like Buddy” launches Thursday, August 30th. Both pilot episodes will be offered for FREE until September 1.

Can’t wait to share comments about this great series with all you guys!

Guest Post with Exclusive Sneak Peek: Legends of the Boo-Monster

I am proud to present this guest post by Shawn Colton, who is currently working on a book called, “Legends of the Boo-Monster.” It is a fictional story based on the real-life family adventures of him and his son, David, who lives with low-functioning autism.

It was a piece of artwork that turned what originally had been the idea for a non-fiction e-book about my son David’s low-functioning autism into the fantasy project that I’m working on today. Last year I commissioned a piece of artwork which would depict our little family of three as fantasy characters, but in the style of a very earthly family portrait. Seeing my non-verbal son David, who we affectionately call the Boo-Monster, as an actual monster immediately made me rethink what kind of book I’d be writing. What if I decided to tell David’s story as a sweeping adventure that just happened to focus around a little monster with autism? It might be a very good, and very different way for kids and adults alike to better understand the condition and the challenges that come along with it.

That piece of artwork was created by the man I named my son after, David “Ragz Dandelion” Hanson, and I’m very fortunate to have Ragz at my side to do the artwork for this illustrated novel.

When I began my Kickstarter campaign to get this book made, Debi Taylor of Spirit of Autism was one of the first to contribute to the project. So instead of writing a guest post in the blog, telling the story of the project, I decided to give her readers a sneak peek with an exclusive excerpt of the book.

This excerpt focuses on the Boo-Monster’s unique mind, and how his parents deal with it, in the fantasy world known as the Continent of Monsters.

The Boo-Monster was creating Boo-namis in the bath tub. I was getting soaked. “Has it ever occurred to your unique mind,” I asked him “that perhaps I wanted to wait for my bath?”  He laughed. I was still trying to wash the mud out of my fur, maybe he was trying to help.

The Boo-Monster loved water. But a bubble bath?  The one thing the Boo-Monster loved more than water was bubbles. Water and bubbles equals Boo-Monster heaven. He also liked to splash; and by splash I mean he liked to create tidal waves that soaked not only the bathing room floor but whoever was giving him a bath, which was usually me. The Boo-Monster had an endless supply of bath foam delivered secretly each month for the last couple of years by the mysterious “Friends of the Boo-Monster.” They always just left it on the porch. I had an idea who these angels of suds might be, but I didn’t want to ruin their fun by staking out the porch all night to be sure.

Monsters who meet the Boo-Monster for the first time are always stunned by, and maybe a little afraid of, his energy level and ability to create cheerful havoc. The Boo-Monster rarely stops moving. He’s forever running, hopping, flapping, shaking his head back and forth like he’s dancing to some dissonant music that only he can hear. The Boo-Monster may not speak but he yelps, yodels, babbles, buzzes, and occasionally delivers a thunderous “Ah-BOO!” Boo-Monsters also like to jump. A lot. The impact from his jumping results in what might be described as small earthquakes. Things needed to be practically glued to shelves in the “prime jumping zones” or they’ll come crashing to the floor; which he seems to enjoy seeing. Recently a group of industrious web-spinning monsters and pluckables have created a trampoline for him to jump on that absorbs some Boo-Monsters seismic impact. We love the web-spinners here at Stately Boo-Monster Manor.

As I reached for a towel to dry Boo-Monster off I saw a reminder that the Boo-Monster was not indestructible. It was lizard-skinned, water-proof sheath we needed to use when bathing the Boo-Monster after he fractured his wrist at school a couple of years ago.

One of the things that always amazed Selana and me about the Boo-Monster, during his first seven years, was how infrequently he got hurt. He seemed fearless, but his balance was amazing, he hardly ever fell, never tripped over anything, or stepped on things that would hurt him. While non-distant monsters were frequently getting bruised and scraped during play, the Boo-Monster seemed impervious to any sort of physical damage. It was as if he was more keenly aware of his surroundings than other little monsters. As it turns out, however, he is not as keenly aware of the presence of other little monsters.

One morning, at the Brehm School for the Distant, the Boo-Monster was attempting to swing from some playground equipment and a tiny classmate ran underneath him, surprising him and caused him to crash to the ground. The note I received from the school nurse when he returned home told me of the incident and noted that he had scraped his face and seemed in shock, not wanting to do much else for the rest of the day, but showed no signs of pain such as crying or whimpering.

I sat Boo-Monster down to have some juice and an after school snack and I noticed that he wasn’t using his left hand for anything, and he was left handed. By the end of the night we Selana and I decided it would be best to take him to urgent care the next day.

The Boo-Monster had fractured his wrist in the fall. Now I know if I fractured my wrist I’d be in a lot of pain and would not be able to ignore it, but the Boo-Monster proved to us that he was a warrior. With the cast they provided he was able to use his left hand a little bit and dealt with the whole process bravely. Eight weeks later he had the cast removed. There was some difficulty in keeping him calm during the whole process, which was a frequent challenge in public places. Other monsters looked on disapprovingly as if we needed to control our child better, which was a fairly typical reaction from monsters that just didn’t know any better, but if I started letting that bother me I’d be in an asylum by now.

I was drying a very squirmy, flapping Boo-Monster when Selana walked in looking stunning, as always. “I’m off to the Research Symposium where I plan to dazzle the academic world.”

“You dazzle well,” I said, and gave her a light kiss on the lips.

“How’s my lipstick?” she asked, as she always did when I kissed her before she went somewhere.

“It looks lucky to be on such a pretty face,” I answered.

The Boo-Monster, no fan of displays of marital affection from his silly parents, forced himself between us before I could get him dressed.

“Stop!” I roared and chased after him with his singlet in hand. Selana laughed and told us she loved us before leaving. I managed to get the Boo-Monster in his singlet and looked out the window as her carriage with a dragon horse driver trotted down the road. The Boo-Monster was saying something like “Ba-be-ba” behind me and I was struck in the back of my head with a big rubber ball. Someone wanted to play catch.

If you want to read more about the wonderful adventures of the Boo-Monster, make sure you head over to Kickstarter and make a pledge to back it. Every dollar helps this creative project come closer to fruition.

Intro to NVC for Asperger’s Teens and Adults

If you are a teen or adult on the Autism Spectrum or a parent or professional that engages with someone on the Autism spectrum, you may be interested in how the Social Skills practices of NVC can serve you.

My new friend Bob Yamtich is an Aspie adult who is trained in a social skills process called Nonviolent CommunicationSM (NVC). He has shared this process at Asperger’s support groups in the San Francisco Bay Area and many people shared how much it contributes to them in their communications.

He is visiting Atlanta and offering an introductory Tuesday, June 19, from 7 to 9 pm at the workshop space of local NVC trainers in Tucker. It will be will be a combination of mini-lessons, live modeling, and active practice will help participants get an introduction to Nonviolent CommunicationSM. Bob invites teens and adults on the autism spectrum, and professionals and parents who work with people on the spectrum.

Some great things included in this workshop:

  • Mini-lessons include distinctions between needs and strategies and between empathy and sympathy
  • What clues can we use, both cognitive and feelings-based, to connect to what we and others care about?
  • Learning self-connection, using logical abilities to hear what is important to somebody, and developing authentic self-expression

So what the heck is NVC?

I absolutely love the description on the site of local GaNVC trainers, Sacred Space:

What is unique about Nonviolent Communication (NVC), beyond other restorative and life-enriching tools, is that it gets us out of our stories — the stories that we’ve already told over and over to no avail to deaf or disinterested ears, without relief. NVC moves us beyond relating what’s happening to us via analysis, blame, criticism, evaluation, or judgment — beyond stories based on verbal violence. NVC helps us address what’s alive in us today … this moment … so that our histories don’t continue to overshadow and dictate our present.

The tools of Nonviolent Communication help us reach the frustrated needs behind strong feelings and the stories. NVC connects us with others through attention to the universal needs that we all share, thereby fostering empathy. NVC fosters understanding, genuine connection and the resulting opportunity to jointly co-create strategies for resolution that can address the needs of all concerned. This practice can help assure that all voices are valued and heard before strategies are formed.

I am very excited to learn more about the connection Bob has discovered between NVC and helping those on the Autism Spectrum be more in touch with their needs and feelings. I know this knowledge will help me in my training programs for Emergency Responders.

If you are local to Atlanta and wish to attend this workshop, please RSVP to Bob at

Download the flyer here for more information, or to print and share.

I will be posting a follow up regarding what I learned, so look for that soon!

It’s My Birthday!

It‘s my Birthday!!

And guess what…

today I’m giving YOU the gift!

In celebration of turning… um… 21+ and the upcoming release of my new eBook, 30 Ways to Get Your Child with Autism to Go To Sleep, I’m giving you a F.REE copy of my mini-book!

Click the photo to download Aut-spirations, a collection of inspiring thoughts, quotes, tips, and perspectives from Spirit of Autism’s Debi Taylor. It’s guaranteed to uplift you about parenting a special needs child.

Full of little nuggets and observations, you’ll find sections on:

Wisdom ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………5
Inspiration ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………14
Perspective ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..21

Enjoy this gift, and please feel free to pass it on to anyone that lives, works, and plays with someone on the Autism Spectrum! You can also hop on over to the Spirit of Autism Facebook page and wish me a Happy Birthday if you feel inspired to ; )