Normal is Just a Setting on the Washing Machine: Every Differently Abled Child is an Individual

Normal is Just a Setting on the Washing Machine: Every Differently Abled Child is an Individual

     While visiting our daughter and her family in Saline, Michigan we stopped at my favorite coffee shop for a sandwich. It is called Brewed Awakenings, and I love going there. This welcoming cafe takes pride in the local community. The food and the coffee are delicious, and you can sit by the fireplace in comfy chairs. There is a display of books by local authors and unique handmade crafts made by local artisans. I was drawn to some cute earrings, and as I looked at them, I read the card that told me about them. The card read, “Mags & Gilly We are a family artisan small business located in Saline, Michigan. Kelly Van Single creates jewelry and accessories inspired by her daughters living with autism–Magdalyn and Gillian. By combining beads and various fibers with French knitting, cord tying, and wire wrapping techniques, unique jewelry pieces are created that are lightweight and sensory-friendly. We seek to foster community connection, empathy mentorship, and disability awareness. Support of our small business helps create vocational opportunities and creative expression for those with disabilities and differences.” I bought the earrings and left smiling, knowing I got some cute ones while supporting a great cause.

     I took Kelly’s business card and asked her if she would be part of my blog post project. She graciously said yes, and these are her answers:

Q: What is one thing you wish teachers know about your child that is not on the IEP?
A: Just because you have seen one child with autism, means just that you have only seen one child with autism. Every differently abled child is an individual with their own likes, dislikes, and personal interests and purpose.

Q: Scores on tests do not define the child. What is something your child is really good at
that is not reflected on tests?
A: To our family—standardized tests are just statistical tools to find how one stacks up to“norms.” We believe that ‘normal’ is just a setting on a washing machine. Seeking parent and caregiver input (even if just anecdotal narrative) and from the disabled person themselves is key.

Q: How important is homework for your child? Is it just a burden, or is it a helpful
learning tool?
A: We have never really done school homework, but instead focus on functional and fun activities that help develop personal interests, communication/expression, and self-care.

Q: How old was your child when you first knew he/she had special needs?
A: I think it is possible our girls don’t even really know they are ‘different’ from others, I feel they just know that they are themselves.

Q: What is one piece of advice you have for someone who has a newly diagnosed
A: Avoid only using the ‘University of Google’ to get information, reach out, and connect with other parents who are caring for a child with a disability. The parents who have gone before you can guide you, empathize with you, and give you real hands-on information and understanding.

Q: What is one meal that everyone in your family likes to eat?
A: Deep dish Detroit-style Pizza!

Q: What advice do you have for interacting with children with special needs?
A: Just have fun like a kid—just say “Hi and Hello!”

Q: What activities do you recommend to other parents to foster self-care?
A: Don’t feel guilty to take a nap or take time for yourself, even if to be alone for a while, or to chat with a listening ear. Fresh air and mental health walks can do wonders.

Q: Are there any support groups that you recommend for parents or children?
A: Connect with other special needs parents and support organizations in your local area if you can. If there isn’t one, meet up with other parents for coffee and mentorship.

Q: What are your favorite family activities?
A: We like taking road trips, sleeping in, watching Wheel of Fortune, and short hikes in nature areas.


     I love her comment that her girls might not even know they are different from others. She said they know they are themselves, which is a wonderful outlook on life. Her comment that normal is just a setting on the washing machine was so great that I used it in my blog post title. There is a Facebook page that you can follow to see what craft fairs you can find her creative and fun jewelry. It is Mags & Gilly: Handmade Baubles and Fiber Arts. Following her allows you to find the next craft fair Kelly might have her handmade baubles and fiber arts. You can also find her creations on Instagram at magsngillyhandmade as well as Etsy and Threads.

     Please support this business, knowing that you advocate vocational opportunities for those with disabilities and differences.