A note from Hope Katz Gibbs, publisher, BeInkandescent Health & Wellness magazine — It’s a pleasure to introduce you to special needs coach and wellness advocate Renee Carleson. I have had the privilege of working with the author of “A Be Like Me,” who this year will be offering coaching classes, seminars, and more for special needs families.
Becoming a Bee Like Me
A Sensory Bee was born out of the heart and desperation of my personal challenges to deal with my own special needs family’s ever-changing needs. With two special needs teens and sensory issues of my own, I have spent a lifetime learning how to take care of others in holistic ways.
My career began as a medical assistant using Western medicine as a base of my practice. I soon realized that form of medicine was managing and treating the symptoms.
My desire to heal myself and others holistically led me to become a massage therapist. To achieve effective healing, you have to heal from the inside out.
I have created programs to teach families how to effectively calm the body, mind and reduce negative behaviors while creating positive, purposeful interactions with their special needs loved ones.
I’m proud to offer the highest quality and most unique merchandise on the market today. From my family to yours, I’ve put lots of love and careful attention to each item. A Sensory Bee product lineup allows families to shift their focus to positive parenting and productive play through organizational and routine-building tools to help your family thrive.
Click here to learn more: asensorybee.com.
What’re Next? 4 Questions for Entrepreneur, Coach, and Author Renee Carleson
Hope & Cynthia: Tell us about your business/industry before the pandemic hit in March 2020.
Renee: Before the pandemic, I was a massage therapist with a thriving part-time practice where I helped my clients reconnect with their bodies through essential oils, meditation, and massage. I was also in the process of setting up an in-depth coaching program to help special needs families connect, grow, and address common challenges they may deal with daily. Finally, I was in the process of launching my first children’s book and organizing a small Orange County book tour.
Hope & Cynthia: Where were you personally in your life when COVID-19 arrived in the US? What were your short and long-term goals at that time?
Renee: When COVID hit in March, my businesses came to a crashing halt. I could not work as a massage therapist, and I was forced to close my office due to the change in industry restrictions. However, when the restrictions eased, the closure was permanent due to multiple online classes with my two children.
During this time, my aspirations of becoming an in-home coach started to die before my eyes. I had planned to launch my book and coaching business in April in honor of Autism Awareness Month, had booked several speaking engagements, and I was in talks with local bookstores and libraries to kick off my book tour. I had to put these amazing opportunities on hold. It was during this time that I was able to pause and pivot.
The good news: We got creative and worked with what we had. We held a successful Book Launch through Facebook, and I became an Amazon Best Seller on Autism Awareness day.
Hope & Cynthia: What are your thoughts now about your industry, your business, your personal life, your heart?
Renee: As a massage therapist, I still speak with my clients and give them resources, tips, and tricks, but hands-on appointments will not be an option for the foreseeable future.
As a coach, I took the time to pivot and created a community for special needs families to connect and grow. Before the pandemic, families had a lack of community, and due to COVID, those challenges have only increased. We lost the ability for play dates, group outings, and even doctor appointments had to be put on hold. For families who live on set schedules and routines, this was our worst nightmare made a reality.
While it’s true that I have been dealing with all these issues in my professional life, I was also dealing with them in my own household as a mother of two special needs teens that thrive with structure and routines. I watched my daughter become agitated and aggressive, as well as anxious and worried.
Our family has dealt with regressions and setbacks, medication changes, numerous calls with teachers and staff to create goals and safety nets for my children to keep moving forward. Now that my son is 18, we are working on transitional goals and best supporting him as a young adult in these unprecedented times.
Hope & Cynthia: Now the big question — What do you see coming next?
- For your industry: During these troubling times, my heart ached for community and friendship. I wanted to know that I wasn’t alone dealing with the challenges we were facing as a special needs family. I took it upon myself to reach out and build a community, and what developed was a weekly Zoom meeting where we would “Whine and Wine,” where we could share our highs and lows with those who understood. The women who attended these meetings have become my tribe. This group of women, all with special needs families, came together in understanding and without judgment to help each other through the struggles we all face as special needs parents.
- For your company: My tribe decided to take this a step further and create an actual community through Facebook that we call Our Bee Hive. We have several ways to connect and share our journeys, from our Weekly Buzz to our Mommy and Bee events to game nights and more. For those families who want hands-on tools to help their children connect and grow, we created A Sensory Bee. Our ultimate goal is to connect with other special needs families and let them know they’re not alone. We want to connect with local businesses and gain the support of our neighborhood communities. With A Sensory Bee, families will have the tools at their disposal to help their special needs families calm their bodies and minds to reduce negative behaviors. It also helps with positive parenting and productive play through organization and routine-building to help families thrive.
- For yourself: We are in the process of creating programs and additional resources for our community based on their requests and needs. These next few years are crucial to our children in creating opportunities for them to thrive in society. We need to continue to find ways to better integrate them into the working population by focusing more on their abilities and less on their disabilities. While we can change workflow or hours to accommodate challenging schedules, more needs to be done to help our children thrive.
- For women: As women and not just mothers of special needs children, we must honor ourselves and our bodies during these times. We must learn to be mindful, even when we don’t have a moment of respite for ourselves. We need to heed our intuition and bodies, to honor the amazing moments that make us the people we are and pass that on to the next generation.
Hope & Cynthia: One last question — now tell us the one question we didn’t ask you — and give us your response.
Renee: I’d like to talk about the impact this pandemic and its fallout has on special needs children.
Special needs families have been impacted the hardest, as our children need the structure and routines for stability and comfort. They need access to the world, and with it closed off more than ever before, it’s presenting a unique set of challenges that we must now overcome. The online platform for schooling is difficult for our kids to comprehend and utilize fully. We need to make it easier for them to connect and learn.
In addition to the difficulties found with schooling, therapy appointments are being canceled or hosted via Zoom, which has presented more challenges than what we had previously. Many of our children were struggling with their social skills or finally understanding them before the pandemic. Since then, nearly all activity and sense of community have come to a screeching halt, causing these children to regress.
Many special needs children deal with comorbid health issues, which makes socializing that much harder for them. Schools cannot always honor these needs, forcing parents to wear multiple hats, from teacher to aide to therapist, on top of the usual mother, driver, cook, and house cleaner.
Many of our children rely on reading lips and other facial cues to help them understand social cues and norms, with personal space being a difficult concept. For these children, social distracting is all but impossible. They explore through touch and taste, which goes against healthcare guidelines for the pandemic.
Even shopping has become more stressful and has placed more strain on our children due to food shortages and restrictions. Many special needs children are on a restrictive diet and have brand-specific needs. Finding gluten-free, dairy-free, and other food types are almost impossible, causing meltdowns and waning nutrition for our children.
How do we handle the deficits this pandemic has created? How will we address these lost services and skills? What standards need to be changed? What will normal look like for special needs families in the future? These are the questions that special needs families are dealing with daily. This is what our community designed for, helping families connect and share resources at this crucial time.
Stay tuned for our video and podcast interview with truly amazing Renee Carleson!