"Ready, Set, Bloom, LLC is a family-owned and -operated company based out of St. Louis, Missouri," says McLain. "The company was developed after Matt and I worked to find a solution to keep our autistic son in bed during the night. We soon realized families of other autistic and special-needs children might find the bed tent useful as well, and Ready, Set, Bloom, LLC and the Nickel Bed Tent were created." The tent, which sells for $124.99, fits over a twin-size mattress and allows three points of access. There are safety straps to keep the tent from slipping, and it transports easily for travel.
The McLains have a son diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. "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," Libby McLain explains. "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."
"Transitioning our son from a crib to a bed" is what inspired the McLains to create their tent. "We needed something to keep him from destroying his room and roaming the house at night," Libby recalls. "Trying to get your 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. I 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 eight months, the business was in the black, and "we're picking up more business each and every day," McLain says. "That being said, the bigger success is dictated by the countless e-mails and letters we receive from parents who are finally seeing their child, and themselves, sleep through the night. For these parents and myself, the Nickel has changed our way of life (which is almost unmanageable at times), allowing us to get that much-needed sleep so we’re ready for the next day's challenge. Parents are always commenting about our business and how happy they are that someone took the initiative."
Pros and Cons:
Those comments are the best part of having a business, McLain reports. The hardest? "Finding time to dedicate to our family and the business. Raising a child with ASD requires so much of our time that it's difficult to carve out time for the rest of the family. We do most of our business efforts while the kids are at school or late at night."
McLain hopes "to continue to make improvements to the Nickel bed tent so it is optimal for all special-needs children and to be in every retail store and have the Nickel bed tent known everywhere." She recommends that other parents consider putting their ideas out there, too -- "I think some of the best products come from parents who have experienced difficulties with their kids and came up with ingenious solutions."
"Take a deep breath!" is McLain's advice for special-needs parents. "Get as much help as you can from anyone family member or friend who offers. Look for services available for support and be aggressive on obtaining that support. The case workers are often overwhelmed, and you need to constantly remind them of your needs. However, do this as politely as you can. Also, remember to find time for you and your spouse. It's taxing on the relationship and you MUST find time to 'get away' for a date or vacation. Finally, if you have other children, get them involved with helping and make time to spend with them alone."
More Advice and Inspiration from Libby McLain:
How has having a child with special needs affected your family?
Raising a child with ASD is often very challenging and takes a toll on each member of the family. We are blessed to have daughters who not only understand their brother's situation, but often assist in his care -- and at six years old, that’s pretty amazing! It also impacts our marriage, as my husband and I are constantly focusing our energies on our children, especially our son, which leaves little room for our relationship. When we finally have time to spend time with one another, we’re simply too exhausted to even speak. Financially, raising a child with ASD is costly and ever-increasing. Our son requires constant therapy, vitamins and supplements, medication, and a special diet (casein-free and soon to be gluten-free). Overall, it's been a very difficult journey, but the key to keeping us going is our love for one another and working together as a family to raise three exceptional children.
How is your son doing now?
He has made progress in communicating through the PECS program (using pictures to communicate) and other methods, from directing us and pointing things out to using a tech talker. He is still not potty trained and still cannot function on his own in most situations. That being said, he is clearly happy and has shown many signs of understanding and intelligence. He knows his ABCs and numbers, and can now follow directions on several things. He is now making more eye contact and often laughs and smiles at appropriate times, whether watching a show on TV or when someone is communicating with him. He has also started interacting with his sisters when they play, such as playing "chase" outside or blowing bubbles.
What does your child think about your business?
He doesn’t understand, but he does love his tent, so that’s enough for us.
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