Special needs parenting is an ongoing, often up-hill learning curve.
The craziest thing about special needs parenting is that no matter how good you get at it, your confidence doesn’t increase accordingly. Actually, it can weaken, depending on your situation. My situation is that I have six-year-old triplets with Autism. That constant shake in your confidence can happen even when you find your ‘groove’ and learn your children and their disability. Being educated about your child and their disability doesn’t always give you that feeling of power you might be hoping to uncover. For me, there is always an underlying and valid fear about keeping them safe. In fact, that is my biggest fear, especially when I am out with them alone, and there is only one adult to the three of them. If one runs in one direction, and another in a different direction, the moment is full of panic. This happens often.
Autism is deceiving. It deceives the public, it deceives the child, and it deceives the parents. Whether it’s power over a child is overestimated or underestimated, it deceives us all, at times. Take me for example. My children have been working on strengthening their skills and abilities their entire lives. From the time they were born at just over two pounds each, to being diagnosed with Autism, through their first three years of school, and still. I see their work, their successes, and their growth, and sometimes it deceives me. I expect, or believe for a moment that they are like any other typical six-year-olds. They’re not. Sure, they have certain skills that not only mirror your average six-year-old, but some of their skills even exceed those of an average six-year-old. On the other hand, there are things that scare the life out of me. For example, I’m always anxious when I’m cooking. It seems that no matter how many times I teach my children that the stove might be hot and they could get burned, it just doesn’t stick. My children have burned their tiny hands and still reached back out to try to stick their hand into a hot pot of food, because they’re hungry or just because they want to see what mommy is making.
So here is where special needs parenting gets tricky. It is infinitely important that as parents, we do not underestimate the potential and ability of our children. However, overestimating their ability could cost them their life. It’s that serious. It’s that scary.
I know that seeing is believing, so I want to take you on a quick journey to show you just how deceiving Autism can be. To document my message, I took Enrique outside for a little bit, and just let him be. At first, you will notice an adorable boy, who fits the boys-will-be-boys theory to a T. Also, he seems like any other six-year-old. As you go on, you’ll begin to understand my biggest fear, and struggle.
Enrique throws things. Sure, boys throw things. That’s typical. Enrique may or may not have a stopping point at any given moment. He might just throw rocks, but he also throws tables, chairs, forks, scissors, or anything within his reach, at what seems like a random moment. It’s probably not a random moment, but on the outside looking in, that’s how it looks. Something clicks in him, causes a meltdown or a breakdown, and fun turns into dangerous, fast. Special needs parenting has taught me this, over and over again.
Enrique jumps. That seems typical, right? It is, except that Enrique might try to jump from 2 steps up or from 10 steps up, and often is not able to distinguish the shift in danger. He has tried to jump out of windows and from the tops of large furniture items.
Enrique likes to climb. That was one of my favorite activities when I was a little girl. Like mother like son, right? Wrong. Enrique is not selective about what he climbs. He doesn’t consider whether or not something is stable enough to climb. He has tried to climb on glass windows and even cars. Speaking of cars, they are one of his and Andres’ favorite hiding spots.
In fact, parking lots became so dangerous over time for all of my triplets, that they were each given handicap placards. Just imagine if one of them runs off in a parking lot and decides to hide under a vehicle while I search frantically, with the clock racing against what could be their life. It’s serious. The parking lots they are most familiar with are also the most dangerous. School, the doctor’s office, and our own driveway are places they feel so comfortable, they just don’t think twice about bolting out into that dangerous space. There have been close calls. I hate parking lots.
My children talk to strangers, approach them, try to approach their vehicles, and wander off. They elope. Especially the boys. Just last week, Andres was found outside of his school, by himself, by Enrique’s Aide. That day, Andres had a substitute teacher who didn’t even realize he was missing. Things had been going so well. No one expected that, but we know better than to underestimate the dangers of Autism.
So, my biggest, most horrific fear, is really any parent’s fear. I’m afraid of my child(ren)…
Disappearing from my sight. From a place. From this world. There have been too many sad stories. I can’t. For now, I am very particular about where and when I take the triplets out into the world, if I’m by myself. I am confident, yet, afraid. They are typical, yet very different.
As their mother, it is my honor to be a part of #EmpoweringDifferent! That’s what I want to do for them. Empower them. Every. Day. They continue to build their arsenal of strengths, social skills, and cognitive ability. I work hard to make sure that limiting their exposure to danger doesn’t mean limiting their FUN!
So, I’m always on the hunt for the best resources. Recently, I was introduced to Fun and Function. Their main goal is empowering different and they believe that differences make the world a better, more fun, and more interesting place to be. So, I became an Affiliate! They have SO MUCH STUFF! Like, everything I ever thought I needed for my great kids. I LOVE it! Not only is it great to be able to find the right product, just looking online or through the catalog really inspires creative ideas of fun activities for learning and growing.
Fun and Function was started by occupational therapist and mom (of 8!) Aviva Weiss because she couldn’t find kid-friendly sensory tools that would fit her family’s needs. She channeled her frustration and turned it into a passion for creating the best sensory toys and tools on the planet.
Improving the lives of kids with special needs is Fun and Function’s driving mission. Everything they make is kid-friendly, affordable, and most importantly, makes a real developmental and therapeutic difference in the lives of children.
Special needs parenting is hard, but it’s also wonderful, and never dull! Our most recent addition to our indoor-fun list are scooters! They are affordable for any budget and have given my kids hours of fun so far. Also, it’s helped us working on skills such as turn-taking, listener instructions, safety awareness, and waiting. I absolutely love them, and the kids… Well, just look!
I dripped my heart all over this page. I have many joys, and lots of hopes, and that big ugly fear. What is your biggest fear? Share in the comments! I can’t wait to read your stories!
By: Alicia Gonzalez
Category: Special Needs