Your children's names and ages: GiGi 7, Kalen 17 months, and two step kids, Ayva 6 and Patrick 5
How do your children inspire you? In so many ways! They encourage me to continually be a better person to be a better example for them.
What’s the one thing you wish people knew about Gigi, who has been diagnosed with SPD and ADHD? Kids with special needs have different needs when it comes to learning and adjusting to different environments. Gigi was diagnosed with SPD at age 4 in preschool and just this past year, in 2nd grade, came the ADHD diagnosis. One of the determining factors in diagnosing ADHD is if the behavior is consistent in both home and school. Then you know that it's not just situational. She has a hard time focusing and staying on task and any change in her routine can really set her off. But as we know, life can throw lots of changes our way! And we have had a lot of changes over the past few years: I've gotten divorced, I'm in a new relationship and we just had a child, and we blended our families (he has two kids!). Lots of changes for GiGi! She adapted surprisingly well, but through all of the changes, I knew how important it would be to keep her routine and structure. People think we are crazy because she goes to bed at 7:30 every night regardless of what we have going on or whether it's summer etc. But this helps keep her from spinning off the rails. That is the biggest thing I have learned with a sensory kid – keep their day as structured as possible and they will thrive. Sometimes we get frustrated, as does she… It is a learning process for all of us! But like all parents, we do the best we can!
"The biggest thing I have learned with a sensory kid – keep their day as structured as possible and they will thrive. Sometimes we get frustrated, as does she…It is a learning process for all of us! But like all parents, we do the best we can!"
What is one activity your whole family loves to do together? We love to swim in our new pool!
How do you survive a tough day of parenting? Wine. Lol.
The one thing in your play space Gigi can't live without? Books! Maybe it's in her blood :)
What's the one thing you can't leave the house without when you are out with Gigi? Her iPad!
What are Gigi's favorite toys? She loves coloring and drawing, reading and games!
Her favorite apps? She especially loves singing on Smule.
Clothing Gigi feels most comfortable in? She pretty much only wears leggings and they can't go over her belly button or touch it! Sometimes it's hard to understand why she won't "just wear jeans" or why she can't have anything touching her belly button. It can be frustrating at times. But I take her shopping with me and sometimes when I'm pulling clothes for TV segments and I let her pick things that she gets excited about! I'd say our go to brands are anyone that makes cute leggings and comfy tops so everyone from Old Navy to Walmart! A lot of sensory kids have issues with tags but GG doesn't have this issue…
3 Moms you follow on social media that inspire you and why?
Jacqueline Laurita We co-authored "Get It!" together and she has been a longtime friend and resource as a special needs mom.
Kelly Rutherford I met her at a press event several years ago and her journey fighting for her children has been harrowing and inspiring.
Hoda Kotb My friend and co-anchor of The Today Show (I'm a regular guest) recently became a mom and I can't think of a better person for the job.
"The best thing you can do is face it head on, not ignore it, and do your best to understand your child and their unique set of circumstances. All kids have obstacles they need to overcome! Ask for lots of advice and lean on others for support. And Never stop learning."
What is the last thing you purchased for yourself that made you really happy? The pool we put in for our children! It's funny because if you had asked me this question several years ago I would have said shoes or a bag. It's amazing how things change when you have children.
What advice would you give to a (new) special needs mom? The best thing you can do is face it head on, and not ignore it and do your best to understand your child and their unique set of circumstances. All kids have obstacles they need to overcome and this is just that! Hunker down and get ready for the ride! Ask for lots of advice and lean on others for support. Never stop learning. When Gigi was first diagnosed with sensory processing disorder, I really did not understand what that even was. I have a friend and a cousin who are both occupational therapists and they were great resources for me. A lot of the recommendations for SPD kids mirror those for the autism spectrum so Jacqueline was a great resource. I've found that social media can be helpful to you if you are willing to reach out to strangers and join in on message boards. I belong to an SPD group and interact with other parents regularly. I even came across some friends who were in the group who I didn't even realize had special needs children. You can share ideas and resources and help each other along in your journeys!