I write this right now with my eyes brimming over with tears. Why? You ask. It’s a simple one word answer – HELP. I have help! How interesting that something as simple as help could bring me to tears. Consider this, as a parent of a child with autism, my days can be extremely unpredictable. Because I am homeschooling, my days are intensely and intricately planned to deliver curriculum to my son for 5 to 6 hours each day, while also accounting for difficulties that may arise. This has been an especially trying and emotional week. I am balancing homeschooling, autism research (which includes a once a week 4 hour commute), and the once a week emotional meltdown that has become common for my son. All of these things seemed to collide tightly together.
This afternoon, I saw a horrendous article about a child with autism who found a used condom on a school playground and proceeded to chew it like gum. The 1 to 1 aide was not attending properly, and the parents were not notified until 2 days later. Needless to say, this ended in an uproar with the family and the school. But I digress… Reading only a portion of this article sucked the last drop of emotional energy that I had and I collapsed on my bed for several hours. When I awoke, I proceeded to close out my son’s school week by collecting all of his work, scanning them into the computer and file sharing with his assigned homeroom teacher. When I opened the computer, I saw that all the files had been neatly stored in separate folders, labeled and file shared. It seems that my son’s aide, my “Helping Hand” had taken care of it. The tears just brimmed over nonstop. I did not realize how tired I truly was. It’s like being at the place where you feel you don’t have any more breath and someone comes along and shares their oxygen mask with you. That was today.
I have other “Helping Hands” – my husband and my daughter (who I lovingly call “My First Baby”). She was a freshman in college when her baby brother was born. Talk about an age difference! The truth of the matter is, it was empty nest anxiety. So, I filled my nest again – twice! Each of them deserve their separate post. So, tune in…
Moving on, I want to express how important it is to have help. I know that having a child with autism can be socially isolating and emotionally draining for immediate family. Just going to the store, the doctor, the movies, etc. can be an exercise in strength and endurance mixed with patience and flexibility. It is extremely difficult when family is not near and there is no one you trust to give you a much needed break.
My suggestion is to reach out to another Mother and offer to trade babysitting. You watch her child, then you switch and she watches your child. Maybe, you could even do things together with the kids. The point is, find others. You would be amazed at the relief you will feel when you allow yourself to embrace “Helping Hands.” You are already an AMAZING and AWESOME parent. Give yourself an oxygen mask and breathe.