What the Magazine Missed: When parents of children with autism started complaining about the lack of autism coverage in the April issue of Parents Magazine -- which might have been expected to recognize the fact that it's Autism Awareness Month -- a response on the magazine's Facebook page mentioned that "our April issue does have an item in the Kids Health section about a bed tent for kids with autism and other special needs." That brought further complaints that an item about a bed tent hardly encompasses the autism experience.
Ironically, though, Parents could have had a pretty decent feature if it had given that bed-tent company -- Ready, Set, Bloom -- a full article instead of a small box. I featured the company in an Enterprising Parents profile last year, in which owners Libby and Matt McLain told about their son, who was diagnosed with autism at age two: "He is completely nonverbal and requires 24-hour supervision. Our son is one in a set of triplets. He has two sisters who are not on the spectrum. He is making progress, but defining progress on a child with ASD is sometimes hard to spot by people outside of his world. He continues to win little battles and is very happy. He's certainly not ready for mainstream -- far from it -- but our son shows small signs that maybe, hopefully, someday, he will be."
The McLains started thinking about tent-making when they transitioned their son from a crib to a bed. "We needed something to keep him from destroying his room and roaming the house at night. Trying to get our child to sleep in a 'normal' bed is next to impossible, and we caught him one night roaming the halls while we were sleeping, which terrified us! One night, we tried a kid's tent for our son to sleep in; within a few hours, it was completely destroyed. We began designing a tent that would be able to withstand the constant abuse from a child with ASD and keep him contained throughout the night." After creating one that worked for their son, they started a company to share it with other parents. Based on comments about the first model -- the Nickel Bed Tent, pictured -- they've created a sturdier model with thicker mesh, and also introduced a limited-edition tent in girl-friendly pink and purple.
Judging by that Enterprising Parents profile on the McLains, it's clear that they're dealing with a lot of issues that many parents of young children with autism face, and that could have created an opportunity for Parents to share useful information for families just receiving or suspecting a diagnosis. So how did that great story get boiled down to a small "item in Kids Health about a bed tent" -- and how did that item become the sum total of autism coverage in the issue of a month dedicated to autism awareness?
After the McLains commented on my earlier post about the Parents controversy and mentioned that it was their tent in the issue, I e-mailed them to ask for their reaction to the lack of coverage. Did they expect to see more about autism in the issue? "Yes, we did expect to see more about autism. Unfortunately, we were so excited about the opportunity, we didn't ask as many questions as we should have. We simply assumed, April issue ... they must be spotlighting Autism for Autism Awareness Month and tying our bed tent and family into their feature."
The family part seemed to get shortchanged, too. Did they expect there to be more about their company? "Yes, we really thought this was going to be an article on our company. When we were contacted they stated that they wanted to write an item about our bed tent and requested a high-res photo of our bed tent. We were in production of a newer, sturdier tent at the time so they had us ship a new tent out to them so they could do a professional shoot of it. We honestly didn't expect this to be a small box (not that we're complaining ... we're quite thrilled we were even in the magazine). That being said, they didn't actually write an accurate depiction of what the Nickel Bed Tent is and they posted the wrong price."
Still, for a small family-run business, any sort of publicity in a national magazine is a huge help, and the company is now taking back-orders for tents and welcoming new customers. "All in all, we're very happy to be in the magazine," the McLains wrote. "However, as parents of an autistic child, we were quite surprised when the issue had nothing on autism and a little let down that we weren't featured the way we thought we would be. We don't think it was the magazine's intent to ignore Autism Awareness Month, but we think they now have a very good understanding of how large our community has become and how real this issue really is. Autism is not going away -- in fact, it's getting worse. We can only hope that society will open their eyes rather than turning a blind eye to this epidemic."
They also want to make sure that those upset by the magazine's lack of coverage don't dismiss the tent inclusion as an ad from some faceless company. "As we always state, at Ready, Set, Bloom, LLC, our goal is to provide special needs children and parents of special needs children, a safer night's sleep using our Nickel Bed Tent. We do not want the autism community to think we placed an ad for our tent in the issue. We want them to know that we live in the world of autism and we were hoping that the write-up would have been more about the story of a mother designing a bed tent for her autistic son and then sharing this solution with the community in a cost-effective manner."
For more about Ready, Set, Bloom -- certainly more than you'll read in Parents -- read my Enterprising Parents profile, visit the company's site, and stop by its Facebook page. This is a company that deserves to be celebrated, even if Parents didn't throw much of a party.
Photo courtesy of Ready, Set, Bloom