The Story of Jenna

Jenna came to us as an occasional babysitter when the kids were very young. Back then she was a vivacious and quirky 14 year old, full of spirited energy and often showing up with her best friend with some off the wall on what they could do with the kids for the night. Those early times were quite the adventure as it wouldn’t be abnormal to come home to an arts and crafts hub, mani/pedi spa, bathroom explosion, mud party, dress up dance party and more. Jenna won our kids over with a sparkle in her eye and a smile that is absolutely stunning. She was amazing with T & N and we really felt comfortable having her sit for us.

So comfortable that when the situation arose the next year that we would have to look into full time care at home for the summer before the kids transitioned to a new daycare  (& Jenna was looking for a job) it became a natural fit to hire her as their “nanny”. We had just left a daycare where T was having an absolutely horrible time (see The Importance of Routine and Sensitivity of Sound for children with Autism) . He was undiagnosed at the time and was constantly getting in trouble with the centre for either biting or striking out at kids.

Hindsight being 20/20, the incidents were always happening around the time that free play would occur (when children were given no direction) and when they opened up the room from 20 to 40 kids. T often shows signs of sensory sensitivity and that much noise just became something he couldn’t handle and no routine absolutely threw him into a free fall.

If only we knew that when Jenna took on the job to keep the kids entertained and busy throughout the summer. We went to Scholars Choice. We got lots of crafts. We came up with adventure ideas that Jenna could do. We DIDN’T have a clue that T was Autistic. We just thought he was going through a phase. (I still remember one particular day, T kicked her and had a total meltdown- Jenna’s dad (now close family friends) let me know she was done. She wanted to quit. I was devastated. Fortunately, her dad is a pretty excellent voice of reason and managed to convince her to stick it out.

THANK GOD. The summer ended up being a helluva lot of fun. As I was just starting my business and was flexible in hours, we ended up on a number of adventures hitting up the Zoo, African Lion Safari, Canada’s Wonderland and more. It was a blast and Jenna added such a great dimension to every trip.

The following February we went for a developmental assessment and received the diagnosis of ASD. Jenna got busier as we reached out to her to help cover for the parenting classes we went to at Geneva Centre, the support group meetings we attended, the support group we created, the school meetings and date night. A weekly/bi-weekly effort that became constant in our lives to help maintain our relationship while navigating this new one.

Throughout these years, Jenna has never changed in the way she played and dealt with the kids. She is our steady, consistent support that bar none helped T (& N) stay relaxed at home and gave us the chance to get out and take a deep breath when we needed it. This past year, Jenna decided to do her co-op in an Autism class for her final year of school and she got to know more children with Autism, their particular pieces of the “puzzle” and the wonderful ways so many of these kids use to show they care.

Jenna is now 18 years old, a little quieter, an awful lot more mature and still has that sparkly smile. She is leaving this week for college to take Special Education as her major. Something she shared was inspired in part by being with T all these years. She has gone from babysitter to child-sitter (N cannot STAND Jenna being called a babysitter anymore) to an incredible friend. We’ve had a chance to enjoy an outstanding dance show together and even went skydiving this past June with her mom and another dear friend. We are so sad to see her go but beyond excited for the next chapter in her life.

We will miss you Jenn…Xo


Want to know what daily life is like with Autism?

Like a tigress stalking her prey, she stealthily creeps into our room and maneuvers oh-so quietly to lie in between us, sneaking under the covers without us hardly noticing…until that moment that “thwack!” She hits one of us in the head with her elbow, knee, or best yet a good ol’ kidney kick with the leg.

N is 5 years old and you could say that this is a fairly normal habit, however I believe that the result of her coming into our room for a “cuddle” is often precipitated by her older brother getting up early, heading downstairs to watch Super Mario How-To Videos. That’s right, not “PLAY” Super Mario but he very much enjoys the 80’s style instructional videos in which he acts out what’s happening on screen…usually with a “hi-yah!” Usually loud enough that we’re not going back to sleep.

I started thinking recently of what is different in our world since we have adjusted to having a child with Autism.

For those parents doing as we did and researching how life changes with Autism, here’s a few excerpts from our daily life…


We hear “Do you know Super Mario Galaxy 2??? You can get it at the game store. Can you put that on my home list?” an estimated 20-30 times/day.

T’s need for instant gratitude (patience is too abstract at times) has resulted in a new “list” developing. Your Christmas list, your birthday list (both he understands means waiting for a special date) and now his home list. His home list are those things he wants now. As in let’s go get it RIGHT now, “like now ok?” ..he might be flexible enough for after school but that’s about as far as his home list wait time reaches.


How we communicate

We don’t yell. Not that we really did anyways but T’s response to a raised voice is one that can set him off for the day and create an entire meltdown within seconds. So we laugh. And we try often to look at the humour of a situation cause it is so much about perspective with Autism. Crap can get you down daily (School boards, other kids and the way they treat your kid, how your child can lose it over the most perplexing situation) that we find ourselves reminding each other to keep perspective. We have two children we are completely smitten with, we love each other…nuff said.

Fashion Fairytales

We have a lot of pairs of crisp new jeans. I try…so often cause he looks so flippin’ cute in them but he says they feel like sandpaper. Wow! Nothing that adds to a mom’s guilt than thinking she is putting her kid in sandpaper pants. I had the pleasure of meeting a lovely friend named Vicky Bisson who is with a company called Peekaboo Beans. We spoke about sensory sensitivities in Autistic children and she mentioned many of their clothes are designed to really support sensory sensitivity and their pants/jeans are lined. This could be our answer to getting out of sweatpants! We talked about trying some of their line out to see. If you want to check out Vicky’s page, Click here. Stay tuned as I am sure I will be shouting to the rooftops if this option works.

We get up early

T’s brain is active and often sparks up between the hours of 5-6am. This has led to all sorts of tactics…1) We’ve tried to lie beside him to get him back to sleep 2) I have taken him for a run with me when I am heading out that early 3) We have taught him to get his own cereal 🙂 I like Option 3 a LOT!

The Louis Vuitton bags I have under my eyes are impeccable and I have just come to terms that it will be like this for a long time…

Original source

We get creative

Motivation is often different for T. We recently discovered that daring him to prove us wrong when it comes to doing his homework makes him laugh and very proud of his accomplishment. Trying to explain to him that skating away from the play during hockey wasn’t good finally connected when we talked about the fact that he wasn’t just quitting himself but quitting on his team. A key focus for us is simply that its REALLY important to stay, line up and shake hands with the opposing team at the end of each game. To get the social part of hockey as much as the sport.

This is not what we expected but then what parent is having an experience with parenting exactly as they imagined?

Life is full of surprises, I realize that more and more each day and these are just a few we have encountered so far in our day-to-day with Autism..