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When you’re the parent of a kid with special needs, you’re constantly in this state of preparing for battle. You’re anticipating all the things that could go wrong and preparing quick solutions for each scenario. It’s exhausting in a way that you never thought parenting would be. We aren’t even talking about dealing with kids (or herding cats, it’s all the same). It’s also scary. Who likes to think about all the ways your child could escape from you when you’re at the grocery store? Or what might make the best hiding spot at Costco? You plan and you prepare and you bring all the things that might help your kiddo if they’re struggling, but you’re never truly prepared.
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I had one of those days last week. We went to a protest in support of our family and friends that are part of the West Virginia public employees strike. I wanted to go. I needed to go. But I also had to consider how hardthis was going to be for my autistic child. Heck, I knew it was going to be hard on me to drag two kids to this event- and I’m neurotypical! The location was right near a busy highway intersection. It was going to be loud; lots of yelling, clapping, and cars honking. We were going to see a ton of unfamiliar people. There was also the chance for rain, which meant wet clothes.
I was petrified that she was going to dart into traffic. If you have an eloper, you know how fast they are when they run. They only need a millisecond of opportunity and they’re gone. It’s horrifying. Add in the extra layers new people, new place, wet clothes, loud cars and I was certainwe were going to head for disaster.
But we didn’t.
The mental hell I had put myself through getting ready was worthless. It wasn’t even necessary. That’s the thing about parenting an autist, they surprise you in ways that you’re completely unprepared for and it’s overwhelming. I’d like to think that it was everything that I had done to ensure this adventure would be successful. You know, packing the right snacks and bringing the right headphones. But let’s be honest, that had nothing to do with it. It had everything to do with how incredible my kid is.
Sure, we had tough moments. No outing with children is ever going to be easy. As soon as we got there she saw a giant pile of big rocks in the ditch and wasso madat me when I said she couldn’t play with them; but she recovered. She spent a bit of time relaxing in our stroller with her iPad (cozy phoneswork great under hearing protection affiliate links) and once we pulled the canopy down on our stroller, the commotion didn’t even exist. She was able to get some respite and recharge. After a few minutes she was ready to go explore with my sister and found a nice brick wall to climb and walk on.
As we were leaving, she was helping me push the stroller. I could tell she was done, the event had completely drained her. She was making a beeline to our van, a safe place where she had books and movies. Plus I had explained we’d chicken nuggets after we left and she thought I had forgotten that promise. She reminded me at least 50 times as I was getting her into the carseat that it was ‘nugget time’. I know she’ll need a day or two to recover, and that’s ok. I’m getting better at reading those signals.
Maybe I should spend less time worrying, planning, and preparing. That’s what my kiddo taught me that day. Maybe I should trust her and start to roll with it, although, that completely defies my type A personality. I’ll start work on it though. I owe that to her.
Chrissie Riese, MS, ATC is a nationally certified and licensed healthcare professional, special needs mom, and a self-proclaimed badass. She shares her evidence-based insight on child health and safety at Joy Through Chaos where she strives to find the balance between medical jargon and realistic, actionable advice.
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