How One Mom’s Idea Became a Fast Growing Franchise Opportunity

 

One of my favorite things to watch my kids do is use their imagination. Put aside the iPad, the iPhone and the Xbox and pull out the Legos. There’s nothing quite like listening to the sounds of a pretend fire truck coming from my son’s mouth and the enchanting sound of a rainbow-colored unicorn from my daughter. My kids think they’re playing (which they are) but they’re also spending precious time doing hands-on learning.

From the time my oldest was able to play with Legos, I would encourage him to build things to help him develop his fine motor skills. I realized the importance early on of allowing my kids the room to create and explore using the ideas they came up with. Not only did it occupy them with something fun to do, it gave me some quiet time!

As my kids have gotten older and entered elementary school, I have learned a lot about the different learning systems like STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math). Both of these programs are now state mandated which means they are a required part of our child’s educational curriculum.

Laura Coe, a mom from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, came up with the idea to incorporate STEM-based learning through Legos in a company she and her sister created called Snapology. Laura came up with the idea to develop a brick and mortar store where kids could come and learn through play. With two sons of her own, she said she felt like there wasn’t anything like this for them to experience so she started her own company in 2010.

Each activity at Snapology is themed: computer animation, sports, robotics, animals and outer space are examples of what they offer their students. Their goal is to “stimulate creativity and spark an interest in learning,” explains Laura. “Activities are designed to reinforce the state core standards being taught at every grade level.” U.S. News & World Report released an article about a study that showed the importance of emerging technological programs having a positive impact in the classroom.

Snapology has become so popular that it’s now become a franchise opportunity. There are 56 franchises in the United States and in five countries and Little Rock, Arkansas has just been added to the list of areas where there will be one available to open.

Opening your own business can be a scary thought but with the right mentoring and sufficient amount of support, you too could open your own Snapology location. Snapology currently offers 60 different programs, including birthday parties and camps. If you’re interested in owning a piece of this company but you don’t think you’re ready to commit to a brick mortar you have the option of developing a mobile site where Snapology takes its hands-on learning program to schools, day cares, after-school clubs and so on.

I love the idea of doing “Birthday Parties to Go” where the folks at Snapology come to you. They bring all of the necessary materials, guide your children through the programs and voila! You have an-house, built-in birthday party.

What I love most about the idea behind a company like Snapology is the inclusiveness with the special needs community. There is a direct link between STEM-based learning and children with special needs that creates a positive experience. In this article, you can read about the many different benefits this type of environment has the development of special needs children.

So, what are you waiting for? Have you ever thought about opening your own franchise? This might just be the perfect opportunity.

 

A Mom’s Survival Guide to Simplifying Your Summer With Special Needs Kids

Happy Summer!

I had the privilege of writing a guest post for Michele Cushatt last week. My post, “A Mom’s Survival Guide to Simplifying the Summer With Special Needs Kids”, was a therapeutic one to write. While I love and enjoy each summer I have with my kids, the unstructured time can throw us for a loop at times; especially for my son, Dylan.

You can find encouraging words and a few tips on how we not only make it through the summer but how we make memories doing so.

I’d love to hear some of your summer tips!

xoxo, Meagan

 

My Book Has Arrived!

It will be exactly one year this December that I was on the phone with my publisher, talking about wanting to write a book. Although I wrote the book over a three day period – it has taken an entire year to see it come to fruition. I could not be more proud to share with you my debut book, “I See You;” my true account of raising a child who has behavioral issues and what that looked like for our family.

I didn’t stop there, though. In the second half of the book I talk about how I went from an overwhelmed mom to a mom who was more in control of her feelings and actions. I help guide you along with a few resources I came up with when I was figuring out how to be less stressed. I have included simple worksheets and ABC scripture cards to get you started on your own path to living a less overwhelming life.

My reason for writing this book is simple. I wanted to write the book I had been looking for while trying to help my son and, I needed to do the actual writing down and documenting of our story so I could see how far we’d come. It’s been a long, struggling, stressful several years for our family and this book is my way of wrapping it up and sharing with you all – the raw, honest and, yes, sometimes hard-to-read truths of raising a child who requires extra attention.

I’m nervous. I’m nervous about sharing my hard parts of life with you but I’m hoping another mom will feel less lonely after reading my book. I want moms everywhere, to know that this is hard. It’s tiring. It’s worth it. All of it.

You can purchase “I See You” right here on my website.

The Behavior Jar

Dylan has started play therapy and while this form of therapy is not new for us – we are hopeful that this time it will work since Dylan is older and better able to cooperate. Watch this cute little video of me showing you what the jar looks like and how it should be used.

If you decide to use marbles, you can move your marker/level up a little bit higher. Since I used really tiny beads, I want to keep Dylan engaged and interested so I made his first goal about a half an inch high. His dad and I talked about the different goals and went over them with Dylan. Here’s what that looks like:

  • $5 at Target
  • Chuck E Cheese
  • Movie with a friend
  • Sleepover

These are in order of him reaching each goal. You can’t take any beads away since the point of the reward system is to have a “safe” place where the child can see their good deeds and good decisions. Once you start taking things away, the system becomes unstable and the idea is that the child will lose interest. Today is day one for us. I’ll keep you posted!

Don’t forget to sign up for my free newsletter where you will find more fun ideas like this one!

I Don’t Like You

It’s been a tough morning and it’s only 730am. My son’s sensory issues have been really bad lately. I’d say for the past month or so, he’s been having a hard time with his pants not feeling ‘right’. Most mornings are bearable but today in particular – was a doozy. My heart is sort of breaking right now. It hurts me to see him struggle like this and know that there is nothing I can do to help him. I sometimes let my own personal junk get in the way when parenting him and that results in both of us yelling at each other.
He managed to fumble out of the house this morning with only his pants on. I followed behind him with his shoes and shirt – only to get in the car to hear his screams and see the tears rolling down his face. What do I say when he asks me why his pants don’t feel right? I really don’t know. Our morning bus stop routine ended with him declaring that he was not taking his stupid coat, slamming the door and yelling, “I don’t like you” at the top of his lungs. Well, how’s that for a Monday morning?
I will say this, I’ve learned a lot when it comes to parenting a child like this. You can’t take a moment, not even a second for granted. Because the times that he is smiling and enjoying being a kid – are the moments I hang on to when I see him like this. Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is difficult. Some people don’t believe it’s real and some people say, just tell him to snap out of it. Oh, I wish it were that simple. If you’re reading this post today and you’re frustrated, sad, upset, confused, let me tell you this, it will be okay. There IS light at the end of the tunnel and things WILL be okay again. I’m already working on a few things for Dylan to do when he gets home because I just don’t know what kind of mood he’ll be in come 3 o’clock. Here’s what I do when a morning like this sneaks up on us…

1. First thing, I email his/her teacher. You should too. Open communication with your kid’s teacher is key to his/her success in the classroom. No need to write her an essay. Just send her a quick note telling her that your child is having a tough morning, etc.

2. Clear your schedule – if possible. Luckily, the only thing I had planned for today was going to the gym and writing…so I will clear my schedule of the first and stay home with my girls in case I need to get Dylan from school.

3. Pull out the sensory tricks. I’ve got Dylan’s rice bucket, playdough and moon sand ready to go for when he gets home. Any one of these will help him calm down. See my post on making your own rice bucket.

4. Don’t take it personally. Sure, it was hard to hear Dylan say that he didn’t like me this morning but I know it’s not me. I know this is hard for him and I’m the only person he can take it out on and feel safe to do so. When I see him hurting, it just fuels me to love him that much more.

5. Grace. I have to remember to give him grace through these moments. I’m pretty tough when it comes to disciplining him but I know there are some things beyond his control…sensory processing is one of them. As long as I remember that there is a sweet, loving little boy inside there, I can keep my focus lazer beam. Give yourself grace, too. This is hard stuff.

You know I’m all about helping other moms out there. You’re doing a good job and you can do this. Today may be a setback but you’ve got the tools to keep going. If you’re just starting your journey with SPD, I encourage you to get a referral for an occupational therapist. This is where I got a lot of my “tools” for helping Dylan. You got this, momma!

When the Dust Settles

This is a hard post for me to write. But, I think I’ll find freedom in sharing it with you. My life is good. Really good. I have three amazing kids and a husband who loves me more than I’ll ever know. We live in a beautiful home in a nice neighborhood and are all happy and healthy. I’m in my seventh year of being a stay-at-home mom and have settled in nicely to my role. But, there is something I struggle with day in and day out…my words.

Sometimes, when my son is having an especially hard day and he can’t quite help himself with all of the stimming he’s got going on – I find myself short, rude and impatient. I say things before thinking. I give him weird looks without realizing the effect they will have on him. I yell when I should be taking a “time out” for myself to collect my thoughts. It’s not until the dust settles that I realize just how awful I’ve been. Often, it’s too late. My apologies are accepted and we’ve both gone on to other tasks but I can see it on his face. I can see the scars I’ve left and am still making all over his sweet soul.

I spend the rest of the day beating myself up about the way I’ve just behaved and beg for mercy that he’ll give me another chance to be the right kind of mom. I pour myself into parenting books and cater to his every need in the hopes that I will change my ways the next time. I talk to him all the time about bullies at school but inside I’m thinking, “I’m the real bully.”

Not all days are like this. We have really good days, mediocre days and terrible days. It’s only on the unbearable days that I let my words flow out of me like poison. Why is it so hard to be a parent to a child with special needs? Because not every day is the same. What worked today won’t work tomorrow. Because I want my child to be happy and to not have to have special circumstances that call for stress balls, rice buckets or medication. I want him to be free of worry and doubt. I want him to relish in the innocence that is childhood.

So when I see one of his friends being mean to him after I’ve just yelled at him – it’s all I can do not to curl up into a ball and just roll away. I have to make this life a better place for him I think. And so, I tell myself that I will do better tomorrow and I do.

I promised to keep this website real, and to share the things that have worked for me…so here are a few tips that have helped.

1. Take a breath. A big one.
2. Tell yourself he’s only 6 (or 4 or 5 or whatever age your child is)
3. Pre-plan what you’re going to say. Meaning – if you think your interaction could go south – think about what you’ll say or won’t say to avoid mean words spewing out.
4. Take a time out for yourself. Tell your child you need a minute and you’ll be right back. (Obviously, only leave your child alone if they are old enough).
5. Keep reciting the good things about your child in your head. This will help you stay positive.
6. Give yourself grace. No really. Do it. This is something I have to continually work on. I can say it but I don’t always do it. Parenting a child with special needs is so hard. Harder than anyone will ever (truly) tell you. You’re doing the best you can. Today is done. Tomorrow is a new day.

Thanks for letting me be real.

Integrating Special Needs Families Within the Church: 5 Simples Steps that Helped Me

Today was a day of many firsts. I networked with my children’s pastors from church to talk about ways to integrate special needs families within the church. How do we make families feel more comfortable? How do we share our resources? I was pleasantly surprised to hear that our church has access to sensory toys and has accommodated several children with special needs. I think this is a great thing. All we want is to feel ‘normal’ and fit in with everyone else. However, I think there is a negative connotation when it comes to the term special needs. Why is that?

Well, I think it’s because we don’t really know how to define special needs. If a child has a behavioral disorder – is he or she considered special needs? Or is that term only coined for those who have physical disorders that we can see? I mentioned on my web page that I didn’t even know I had a child who was considered special needs until I was talking on the phone with a friend. I remember what happened after that phone call – clear as day. I thought, huh, why did she say that?

I took my question to one of our pediatric doctors and asked him what he thought. Does my child have special needs and I just didn’t know it? His response to me was something that helped me process and make my own decision. He said, “I think any child who has special circumstances or needs some sort of additional help to allow them to succeed or function in certain settings/environments would be someone who we would consider to have special needs. Literally, what it says…this child has special needs in order to learn and behave the way he or she is supposed to.”

Okay, that helps. It sucks. But it helps. It’s helped me be more patient. It’s helped me see things more clearly. And I think it’s helped me be a better mom. When I know better, I do better. So back to my original question, how do we integrate special needs families within the church? Here’s what I think based on my own experiences:

1. If you’re looking for a church, get online and listen to a few different sermons. Is the pastor engaging? Is he saying something in a way that gets you excited about the Bible?

2. Once you’ve picked a church you want to visit, drop your children off in their rooms. When service is over and you’ve picked them up, check in with your children about how it went. There’s no need to point out what this person has or that person has unless you feel like your child would benefit from their teacher having that specific information. I will say this, I don’t walk into a room and announce that my son has XY and Z. But I do keep my eyes and ears open. What I mean by this is, if a teacher says something to me about something that may have happened, that’s my opening to say, okay, yes, I’d like to talk with you for a few minutes about this. And then go on with whatever it is that you want to say about what would help your child in the future. This is a great opportunity for open dialogue between you and the children’s pastor.

3. In my experience, most families don’t want to talk about their child who has special needs. Often times, it was hard enough for them to just show up, in one piece, to attend church. They live the hard times every day and want church to be a place of rest for them. It’s a place to recharge. Unless there is blood, or some sort of emergency, don’t bother the parents in service. They need a break. On the flipside, if you have a child in the nursery who won’t stop screaming, then by all means, bring it to the parents’ attention and ask them what you can do to help. You can’t make someone tell you what’s going on with their child but you can show concern, empathy and sympathy for a situation that looks like it might need some prayer.

4. Small groups are a tough thing for me. I love the idea of small groups and up until just recently, it wasn’t something our family could continue to do based on our situation. I’ve noticed that churches group people in common themes for small groups (young adults, 50+, singles, etc.) Offer a special needs group if you think there’s a need for it, or if you don’t want to call that much attention to it, make a group that provides childcare so the parents don’t have to worry about watching their children while they’re fellowshipping. Some families can fellowship alongside their children. But some families are in the thick of it and are getting diagnosis, medications, you name it…and just need some space from their kids. They need to feel like people again. For us, church was the only time when we could have time alone – away from our kids – and know that they were in the same building being well taken care of. So, I’m sure this is true for many other families. Church might be their only time together, to reconnect.

5. Acceptance. I think this goes without saying but we just want to feel accepted. What does this look like? This is, saying hello to every member of the family. This is smiling. This is encouraging and praying for the family. This is reaching out to the family and inviting them to something. I was just telling a friend today that it’s been six years that I’ve been hearing the same message, “We have elders in the back and the front who are ready to pray for you and with you.” And I still haven’t had the courage to get up there and say, “Yes, I need prayer for my family.” So, I know there is only so much that a church can do to extend their help – especially when the family chooses not to share it. But, keep asking, because one day, that family will say something and it will be life-changing for them.

xoxo Meagan