I realized very quickly when our son was younger that most parents didn’t really identify with the issues special needs parents have. Forget the movie theater or the amusement park; it was far too loud for our son. Any children’s plays or organized social activities like birthday parties, difficult to get him to sit down even for a minute, especially in places crowded with other people. No, for most parents going to the park or out to dinner may not be something they think too much about. Their main concern being either about hoping their child eats their “greens” in the restaurant or doesn’t hurt themselves falling of the swings in the park. But for parents of a child with autism, daily activities can be far more stressful.
When your child is a flight risk for example, how the park is structured is far more important than its distance from the house. Parks that are enclosed by fences from the road are preferable. Parks that are on a side street as opposed to a busy main street is also a factor. When our son was younger he would occasionally when in an open area, just run in one direction without warning, often oblivious to the dangers around him including cars and traffic. Thankfully, he has mostly outgrown this but the concern for us is always there. At the beach he was so anxious to get into the water he would run and dive in fully clothed if given the chance. At a restaurant after eating or if not hungry enough, he would get up from the table and walk circles around the restaurant, sometimes unintelligibly conversing with other hungry patrons. It was and still is difficult to get him back to the table and sitting down again. So consequently, we learned to eat fast when out anywhere and have the vast majority of meals from home.
I write this from the perspective that while you as parents of a child with special needs may feel like you’re the only one on your block with these issues compared to your neighbours’ more typical children, you are far from alone. After meeting up with other families of various special needs and sharing our experiences, it helped us to see that there are many people out there with similar stories. I don’t think of their child’s stories being necessarily better or worse than our own, just different. The great news for us all is that there are a lot more programmes for sensory kids available to us lately. These include sensory movie days in many theaters, summer camps, library activities and loads of other events that have sprung up over the last few years. Children with special needs today have more fun, activities and help than ever before.