Distressing Behavior Shouldn’t Keep Special Needs Parents at Home
This past Saturday we had the honor to attend the high school graduation and celebration of my nephew. James is an extraordinary young man who is smart, kind and generous. There is no way we would miss his graduation. I was excited for him and the celebration but I also kicked my planning into high gear to get prepared.
If you’re a parent of small children there is always some level of mental and physical planning that occurs before you embark on an outing. It goes something like this: snack/drink (check) favorite toy (check), diapers (check), mental armor to handle tantrums/meltdowns (umm, missing). Okay, I am being a little silly, but this is true to some degree.
Because I have both small children and a child with special needs, I’ve added more to my checklist. It includes all the items listed above with the following: frustration (leave it at home), Plan A (check), Plan B (check), Exit Plan (in progress). Now, I’m not being silly.
We try to attend as many functions as we can, despite knowing that Juliana may not do so well when she gets around others. My husband and I decided early on that we would not stay home in fear of Juliana’s behavior. We just head out the door and manage it as best we can. Two weeks ago we had a great outing that I would love to bottle and duplicate. We went for a visit to my in-laws. I got Jessa settled to play and then I got to work on Juliana. With favorite toys and everything dangerous out of her immediate reach, I moved on to enjoy my visit. Much to my surprise, Juliana entertained herself for nearly an hour with not a mention of a fuss. As fatigue set in, she started to get a little fussy. So, that’s when I started to execute our exit plan. All in all, it was a great visit.
Things did not go as smoothly for graduation. Juliana sat in the auditorium for a good while and as a snack time neared she started to get antsy. We made a quick exit and headed into the lobby. Juliana was screaming so loudly, that we were asked to take her further away from the festivities. Even with doors and glass in between, she could still be heard inside. Oh boy!
When she calmed down, we stayed in the lobby and I peeked through the glass so I wouldn’t miss anything. Juliana covered a lot of ground pacing the empty lobby, busying herself with a lot of walking. She did well as long as there were not a lot of people around. But, hello it’s a graduation so there is no avoiding a crowd for long. She lost it again when the ceremony was over and the crowd was unleashed to spill into the lobby.
When I originally started this post, I was all set for it to turn out as the things I’ve learned about managing outings for my special needs kid—like how to make things smoother. Saturday wasn’t a total bust, but it wasn’t the best day either. But as I started running the mental playback, I reminded myself that it’s okay. I accomplished just what I wanted; to be there to see my nephew graduate and to celebrate with him as he begins a new chapter. By Sunday, I was still working to recover from the busy day of meltdowns. But, I’m nearly recovered now and that’s okay too.
We do the best we can as parents and sometimes our little ones are doing the best they can too with what they are facing. With each outing we’ve got a fifty-fifty shot of things turning out pretty good. We wish the odds were better and sometimes we get a break and they are. But for now, I’m learning and appreciating that fifty-fifty will just have to be enough.