Autism and the Dreaded Playground
Am I wrong for saying that? I mean, I really do hate it there. Nothing puts an already anxious autism mom over the edge than hearing your child or partner say, "Let's go to the playground."
Sure, it is highly recommended because it provides:
- Exercise for your child!
- Making new friends and socializing!
- Helping with the overall performance in school!
- Fresh air! It's good for the soul!
But I hate taking my kids there. My anxiety, which has tripled since the diagnosis, kicks in every time.
- How many people will there be?
- How will the other children react to the kids?
- How will the adults react to them?
- What if one of them has a meltdown? Or both of them? Or all of them?
- What if I can't control them?
- What if I lose my cool?
- Ack! People!
Public outings always have a potential for high stress levels for parents. Malls, dining out, movies are on a different level though. You and your children don't necessarily have to interact with other people. Those outings are more family time activities. The playground holds different expectations, added pressures to make sure your children are behaving appropriately as per the "norms" of society and the "rules" of the playground.
Daniel has become a grabber. If I don't meet his needs right away, he'll just grab on to whomever is around to get his needs addressed. I need more than my 4 eyes when I'm in the playground with him. I don't think a stranger would take kindly to being grabbed by some random kid. And Ms. Chloe's is becoming a wanderer. When she's done with this or that, "Let me walk on over here and see what's going on." All by herself with no warning. Those two things are so stressful!
And I hate those looks. The bendito looks people give you once they realize DANIEL DOES NOT SPEAK. Those looks are enough to put me on edge. In my already anxious state, I ready myself for any comments or "suggestions" on how to parent my special needs child(ren). Has anxiety in autism parents been addressed? Am I the only one?
Let me be clear. I have yet to receive unsolicited parental advice from strangers. But I've heard the stories from other parents. I know it's coming. People just can't help themselves. But I am now heading to a place where Daniel being nonverbal is becoming less of an issue for me. In these past few months, I have been through the ringer with the loss of my mother. And if I am surviving daily without my strongest supporter, I can certainly handle my son being a nonverbal child. Is it ideal? No. Why are some days a bigger deal that he doesn't speak?
I need to know what is going on with him and what he is feeling about things almost obsessively. And some may find this unnecessary, but I always ask him how he's feeling anyway. "Did you have fun in school?" "What did you have for lunch?" One day he'll remember that I cared enough to ask even though he didn't respond. And maybe one day he will.
But the dreaded playground always gets to me. It's probably because like every parent, I want Daniel, mostly, to be able to make friends. Lifelong, trusted, and loving friends. Friends that will understand his needs and challenges and despite all of it, will push that aside to nurture a loving friendship with my adorable boy. It's a lot of pressure to put on another child but I really am asking that of their parents. Please teach your children kindness. It really is a beautiful thing.
Would you like to play with me?
I know I put too much emphasis on the social aspect of the dreaded playground. I know that it is my issue to overcome and I try not to judge myself over Daniel's ever present challenges, delays and his diagnosis. Over Chloe's social challenges and level of understanding her surrounding. Over Adriana's new need to begin to pull away because she is a preteen and has no time to play with little kids. I'm trying to be the perfect mother to 2 children on the spectrum and to one that always feels left out. I know a perfect mother doesn't exist, but still.
The kids are just happy to be out of the house and getting some fresh air! I'm the one that needs to get with the program.