As parents to 3 special needs boys we have made many sacrifices along the way. We have also had to set limits because our kids are so VERY easily overwhelmed and overstimulated. However, at the same time we have to be careful that in our attempt to shield our kids from things that will most likely cause them distress, we aren’t robbing them of valuable life experience.
As a special needs parent, this is something that I struggle with…fairly often. With 3 kids on the spectrum and a wife w/ Aspereger’s and various other health problems, we have, over time, learned to avoid situations that could “rock the boat”. This is honestly more of a survival technique we have employed as a means of avoiding the destabilizing fallout from these potentially overwhelming situations. The situations I’m referring to are things like birthday parties, large family get-togethers, holiday’s or other large gatherings that will be noisy and crowded. I think many of you can probably relate to this. “Typically” these types of situations don’t go well and we end up with a few meltdown filled days of fallout to deal with as our kids slowly decompress. However, sometimes things go just fine and the fallout is both minimal and manageable. The problem is we can’t see the future so we never know what the outcome is going to be ahead of time.
The real danger here is isolation. After a while, it becomes SO much easier and safer to just avoid these things all together. However, as special needs parents, we want our kids to live full and happy lives. We want them to reach their potential and learn to be independent. How can they reach these goals if we shelter them? I mean, I know we have the very best of intentions but still. Speaking for myself only, I started to wondering who exactly I’m trying to protect? Am I really protecting my kids or just trying to preserve what’s left of my sanity? Does that make sense? It’s actually a really fine line between the two. However, just because my boys are Autistic doesn’t mean they shouldn’t experience life right? Even the situations that could be disastrous can provide them with valuable life experience. I have realized, even this late in the game, that it’s important to allow my kids to fail or fall down, because then I can show them how to pick themselves back up and keep moving forward.. For them to succeed in life they MUST be able to pick themselves up at least one more time than they fall. This is SO important to instill in our children at a very young age because it will help them the rest of their lives.
The reason I wanted to share this tonight is because I was faced with one of these situations today. My grandmother was celebrating her 86th birthday today. Most of our family was gathering at her condo to have a cook out in celebration. I was VERY concerned about this because her condo is kinda small and there were going to be a lot of people. Gavin was just released from the hospital yesterday afternoon and I didn’t want to put in a situation that could prove to be destabilizing to him. Plus Emmett gets into EVERYTHING and her house isn’t “EMMETT proof”. So Lizze and I debated about the right thing to do. I was also concerned that the stress of everything would be more than Lizze would be able to handle. However, after originally canceling, we decided to give it a try. We simply told my family that we would arrive right before it was time to eat so the kids wouldn’t have to wait to long to eat dinner. If necessary we would just leave if things got out of hand.
As it turned out, things went really well with the exception of Gavin getting sick and breaking out in some weird, “hives-like” rash. Even Emmett did really well and that was something I didn’t expect. So I learned that I’m still learning and probably will be for a very long time. I thought I would share this experience with you because maybe this can benefit someone else. I know things won’t work out this way every time and we will probably still avoid a lot of these situations. However, I walk away today with the knowledge that maybe sometimes the potential gains out weigh the risks……..