RAMONA, Calif. — April is Autism Awareness Month and one local mother hopes her business will break barriers.
Giselle Kongdara started making and selling sensory play products from her Ramona apartment.
Her husband is on active duty in the U.S. Navy and one of her sons is non-verbal. She wanted to make a difference in her son's life as well as others on the spectrum.
Seven-year-old Bruce's smile says it all. “Bruce is an amazing kid, and I couldn't ask for a better son,” said Kongdara.
Underneath that smile is a boy who has a hard time verbalizing.
Bruce's mom, Giselle Kongdara, says her non-verbal son was diagnosed with autism at three-and-a-half years old.
“For a long time you feel like you're grieving because this world is not nice to kids with special needs,” said Kongdara.
UC San Diego Autism Center of Excellence found that 1 in 24 four-year-old children in California are identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and that ratio grows the older they get.
“I know that when my son got diagnosed they tell you the diagnosis, they don't tell you what to do,” said Kongdara.
However, Giselle knew that sensory play like rice and sand turned Bruce’s self-harming into self-soothing.
“Having this and say we dig, dig, dig and he copied that,” said the mother.
In September the military wife started her own business, Tiny Tot Sensory.
“I get to advocate for my son,” said Kongdara.
Kongdara says she makes nontoxic Montessori toys such as playdough.
“My son Bruce has Pica so he eats non-edible stuff, ‘oh no, what if he gets sick,’” said Kongdara.
From rice and sand kits to scented slime, Kongdara is budget conscience and says growing up her family struggled at times.
“’We can't buy that because we have to pay a bill.’ I didn't understand that until now because I am a mom and so we try to keep everything under 25 dollars,” said Kongdara.
“A lot of our stuff is nontoxic and I make it here at home,” said the mom.
Giselle says her sensory products are doing more than make her son smile and hopes it will help another child on the spectrum.
“It's so overwhelming that I get to hear him say mom or mouse or wheelbarrow or horse. I never thought in a million years my son would be able to say something,” said Kongdara.
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