One of the more difficult tasks I have as a special needs parent is having to treat my kids differently. I hate having to treat one of my different than another.
This is however, one of those unavoidable things I have to do as a parent to 3 very special little boys.
Part of what is so difficult about this inevitable situation when dealing with 3 boys, in different places of the Autism Spectrum, is having to exclude someone from something. Feelings are almost always a causality.
The Lost and Tired family has had to deal with this for many years. Despite those many years of having to do this, it never gets easier or feels any better. In fact, as the kids get older, they become more aware of being treated differently, and thus making things more complicated.
Why would we ever treat our kids differently?
That’s a good question with a very simple answer. That simple answer is, that each of my kids are different and they have different thresholds of stimulation and stress. Gavin is a really good example of this.
For example, I recently took Elliott to Chuck E. Cheeses. This is something that Gavin in wants to do in the worst way. The problem is that Gavin could never handle it. Gavin is the kind of kid that can’t go to the airport because he freaks out when the buzzer goes off at the baggage claim.
Imagine Gavin at Chuck E. Cheeses, with all the bells and screaming kids. It’s an absolute sensory nightmare. While he would want to go, it would result in complete and utter overstimulation. That overstimulation will lead to massive meltdowns, if not there, shortly after and likely for days.
Elliott, one the other hand seems to handle these situations differently. There doesn’t appear to be much side effect in Elliott’s case. So should Elliott miss out on this experience, simply because Gavin can’t handle it? The answer is complicated, but simply put, no, he shouldn’t have to miss out on things because his brother can’t handle it.
Where things really get difficult is holidays and birthdays.
The reality is that Gavin can’t handle any of these situations. We have to do what’s best for Gavin and yet allow those that can, to experience things like this.
This is not easy…at all.
We have to take many things into account when deciding what we do in these situations.
Another example is this Christmas with Gavin. The doctors have strongly suggested we avoid any and all holiday celebration. These types of events will cause Gavin to further decompensate. Clearly, avoiding these situations is in Gavin’s best interest.
With that said, what about the needs of those that could enjoy the holiday celebration? Should we all stay back so we can be together? Should we divide and conquer, meaning, one of us stay back with Gavin and the other take Elliott and Emmett to visit family?
While we have to protect Gavin from overstimulation, we also have the responsibility to the other boys to ensure that they get the life experiences that they can handle? My boys need that social interaction and I think it’s important that they get a chance to have as normal a life as possible.
As I said previously, I really hate this part of special needs parenting. I have to decide whether it’s the needs of the many over the needs of the few, or the other way around.
In truth, my heart breaks for Gavin because he needs to miss so many things in order to survive. That may sound dramatic but it really isn’t. Not only is Gavin dealing with Autism, but also schizoaffective disorder. Kids with schizo-type disorders are extremely rare. Kids like Gavin really need to limit their exposure to the situations mentioned above and others like them.
It’s not easy to find a balance or some type of equal librium because, regardless of what we decide, someone is going to be upset. Feelings are going to be hurt and people will experience disappointment.
I also understand the benefits of us all staying together for the holidays. However, at the same time, restricting the entire family because on one person, isn’t necessarily fair either.
I often wonder why I was picked for this job. It would seem that there has to be some one better suited for this out there somewhere.
For better or worse, these are the cards the Lost and Tired family as been dealt. All we can do is what feels right at the time. We will make mistakes and look back wondering what the hell we were thinking. However, we do the very best we can to give our kids the very best life possible.
Who knows, maybe at some point, these decisions will become easier and the right answers more apparent. Until then we will continue to feel our way through the dark, while ensuring, no one gets left behind.