Thinking Ahead about Autism

Thinking Ahead about Autism

What do I mean?

I’m talking about planning.

Planning because you have a child with autism.

This is more than planning for an event or a trip because you just have kids.

I mean to take it one step further because you need to think a little more about your child with autism.

What about me?

I’m a planner.

I plan my day, I plan my meals, and I especially plan my vacations.

Not down to the minute or anything like that, but where are we and what are we doing on that day?

In other words, thinking ahead.

However, it doesn’t always work out.

When did we fail to plan ahead?

For some reason I thought of this one colossal mess up on our part.

On the part of two parents who have a child with autism.

In addition, I took this failure hard because a situation was created that ended up a bit embarrassing… for a wedding!

What happened?

Ten years ago. My college friend’s wedding.

The wedding took place at the end of our ten-day vacation to the East Coast (we live on the West Coast).

First failure was for us to consider that our seven-year-old might be tired.

It certainly wasn’t the first time we had ever vacationed… No, we raised our autistic child with strong feelings about not shutting ourselves up.

We always took a vacation. Having a child with autism wasn’t going to stop us.

What went wrong?

Second failure was we didn’t arrange babysitting.

Third failure was it was hot (especially in the church sans air conditioning).

Biggest failure…

We didn’t plan for the mixture of tired and hot and a crowded church being a problem for our autistic child. We forgot to plan ahead.

For instance, we didn’t say to ourselves…”It’s the end of a long vacation, it’s hot, and our child has issues being in unfamiliar places with large groups of people.

A packed, hot church.

How did we handle it?

We did not do well.

Because we had no plan.

“What should we do if our child can’t stay in the church?”

My husband wanted to see the wedding, even though it was my friend who got married.

The conversation should have been… “Look, a tired, hot, autistic child might be a problem at this dress-up event where the bride and groom have worked hard for everything to be perfect.”

That’s what happens at weddings.

Therefore, what is not supposed to happen is the bride and groom looking at each other, the priest between them, the onlookers smiling or wiping at tears, and an autistic child yelling out…”When is this going to be over?”

What happened after that?

The handled it like a pro…She said, “I’d like to know that, too.”

Which got quite the laugh from the crowd.

In addition, I was finally able to convince my husband to take our child outside.

How do I feel about this failure?

I learned from it.

This was a colossal failure of planning for different scenarios when parents attend an event with a child with autism.

I also wrote about so other parents who understand the need to plan ahead.

For anything! And, everything!

After that, I made sure to add one more wrinkle to my plans (for events and vacations).

Consider what could go wrong and how we (the two parents) can respond.

Post script…

The next day my friend read these notes that guests wrote.

One said, “Great wedding…except for the brat in the church.”

My friend tossed the card. She said, “No reason to keep that piece of garage.”

She was so cool.

It was a hard lesson for sure. I hated being responsible for what I felt like was ruining her wedding. I was embarrassed and angry at my husband (mostly angry at myself, though).

In conclusion, parents with kids with autism (especially younger kids), do your best to consider all possibilities if/when you attend an event or go on a vacation… and communicate what you would do if something happens.

Be prepared. Be ready for anything.

If you’re prepared, hopefully things we go well.

Fingers crossed.


More on Kimberly Kaplan:

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