This post is dedicated to all those special needs families out there doing the very best they can in a challenging situation. This post is meant to help educate those who are quick to judge.
I want to provide an example of the kind of things that frequently occur to the Lost and Tired family. These occurrences often, completely disrupt our lives and force us to re-prioritize.. As a result, many things happen that otherwise wouldn’t. Chores don’t get done and bills don’t get paid -just as an example-.
I feel it’s important that this is understood because there are so many families out there that go through a very similar thing. The absolute worst feeling is when you know that you are doing everything possible and it’s not enough.
When people don’t understand this or otherwise judge you or your family based on the ignorance of simply not knowing or understanding what a family is actually going through, it’s beyond demoralizing.
Trust me when I say that as a special needs parent, I’m already beating myself up, because I know that everything I can possibly do will never be enough. I don’t need anyone else to remind of something that I’m already all to aware of.
This is what happened last night to the Lost and Tired family. It was unexpected and has completely thrown everything out of balance. I’m hoping that something good can come from our struggles.
When we first arrived in the ER at Akron Children’s Hospital, we have to go through a triage of sorts. They gather information and take his vitals. They decided where we go from there. In our case, whether we go to the regular ER or the Behavioral Health ER.
We were sent to the Behavioral Health side and basically go through another triage process. I have to mention that the staff is really friendly and supportive.
A tech comes into the room and explains the process to us. Unfortunately, we have had to do this enough that they already know who we are. We were asked some basic questions and had a chance to ask some of our own. I explained why we were here and that we need to make sure that Gavin doesn’t see this as a vacation. He remembered and was very supportive, which is very helpful.
The next step is meeting with the ER doctor for a medical exam. They get a detailed history and access him for any immediate life threats and get him medically cleared in the event he is admitted to the psychiatric unit.
Once that happens, you meet with the counselor. This is were we struggled the first time. They interview everyone separately. In our case, they met with Gavin alone and then met with Lizze and I. During this time, a more detailed history is collected, particularly the events that lead to us bring him in. Once the interview is done, options are layed out, discussed and a plan is made.
In our case, Akron Children’s Hospital had no open beds. Our two options were to possibly have him placed in a psychiatric hospital in Youngstown -assuming they had open beds- or bring him home.
The counselor took a great deal of time talking with us and helping us make the right decision, both for us and for Gavin.
In the end, we opted to bring him home. There were a few reasons for that decision but basically, they had already ruled out any life threatening conditions and said, we needed to get Gavin into his psychiatrist ASAP.
Hospitalizing him at this point would likely only serve as a deterant and the chances of it working were slim to none. Gavin was actually excited to go and viewed it in a positive, fun way. He was excited about the food and so, much like the last time, there isn’t really a point.
The other reason is that we simply couldn’t afford to make the trips to Youngstown. It’s about 1.5 hours away and we would likely be driving back and forth several times. Gas prices are about $4.00/gal and whether or not we want to admit it, that is a very real thing we have to consider. It’s a very ugly truth but a truth nonetheless.
They also didn’t want to adjust Gavin’s medications because they don’t have a long term relationship with him and he’s so complex that it is best to leave it to Dr. Reynolds. We agreed that was best and the decision to bring Gavin back home was made.
It’s not that we don’t want him home, it’s that we have to ensure everyone’s safety. That includes protecting Gavin from himself.
To say that the experience of having to make decisions like this is gut wrenching and heartbreaking, would be akin to calling the Amazon River just a creek. Nothing in my life has ever prepared me for having to make choices like this…nothing.
People can be quick to criticize how poorly we keep up with, what I consider expendable things. Our yard isn’t as well maintained as my neighbors. Our bills go unpaid and we’re behind on our mortgage. The house is almost always in a state of disarray.
From the outside looking in, maybe it’s easy to judge me or my family based solely on how this look to the naked eye. However, there is simply no instruction book that comes with special needs kids, trust me. We aren’t irresponsible or lazy. No matter how hard I work or how much my wife and I plan for the future, something always comes up. I get up each morning with every intention of accomplishing the many, long overdue items on my to-do list.. Things like dishes, laundry, mowing the lawn or basic house repairs.
Instead, I spend my time putting out fires and moving from one appointment to the next.
The thing about special needs parenting is that my to-do list is more of a luxury that I simply cannot afford. Ours lives are like a constantly shuffling deck of cards. The cards are constantly being shifted around so you can’t plan or predict anything. Put simply, we live at the mercy of the hand we are dealt and it’s typically a loosing hand.
This is something that I just can’t overstate. Speaking for the Lost and Tired family only, control over our lives always seem elusive and just out of reach. Why do I share this? I share this because I know that the Lost and Tired family has not cornered the market on this kind of struggle. While we may have more than our fair share, there are many other families out there going through a similar struggle.
I think that as #Autism Aware message month is upon us, this is something that needs to be highlighted.
All to often, families like mine are unfairly judged based on what people see from the outside. Sometimes those people are the ones that you would like to think could understand. The truth is, that if people only took the time to see what was going on beneath the surface, they would see the truth. They would see that the special needs parent is not lazy or irresponsible. Instead, they would understand that they are dedicated to caring for the unique and ever changing special needs of their beautiful child(ren). It’s beyond a full time job and literally takes up all available time, energy and resources.
Please keep this in mind before making snap judgements. Maybe you could use that time and energy more wisely and instead of judgement, perhaps offer understanding, compassion and support.