We went on an extended road trip with kids. hmmm? Not bad. Better than I expected and better than it has been in the past, but kids on the spectrum are not really spur of the moment, go with the flow types of kids. They need to know what is coming next, and that is something my husband and I are not really good at. The kids both kept saying something really “normal” for 9/10 year-olds. “Are we THERE YET?” and “Can we go home now?” Strange how I have never imagined I would want them to be less “normal” for once.
My husband and I often refer to our days together “before Kids” or BC. We spent a lot of time being vagabonds, traveling and exploring. He is a photographer and I am a writer. So we would sit for hours, he taking pictures and me writing or reading. We also moved to a wonderfully scenic area of the country and have often attempted to continue this way of life, with kids in tow. But it just hasn’t worked out in this way.
I remember one time, around the time the kids were first diagnosed. We visited the very beautiful city of Moab, Colorado.
We planned to take them hiking around The Arches, go to lunch, and then maybe stop at the park before we headed back home. Hiking went well, not too many issues for the most part. When we went into the Mexican restaurant, my son wouldn’t sit at the table they seated us at because of the parrot statues near the table and the Sun plaque on the wall; my daughter spilled her drink and had a meltdown; and both kids had accidents in their pants. We both sighed and said, “Okay, let’s try the park.”
Being new to Autism, I didn’t realize that if a kid doesn’t want to do something that most kids want to do, why force it?
I had a whole park full of parents looking at us while I dragged my kids into a fabulous interactive and inclusive park. They had special swings and musical instruments to bang on and things to climb on. It was a really cool park!! But my kids didn’t want to be there. That completely perplexed me! I shouted in my head. “Why am I such a horrible parent when all I want is for my kids to enjoy this totally awesome and cool park?!?” I literally dragged my daughter over to the play area while Dad was trying to keep my son from bolting away.11
I have learned a lot since then. I guess my lesson from that day is that sometimes you have to just relax and let the kid direct the “play”. Stop trying to push them into the kind of activities that “normal” kids are supposed to do. Who wants to be normal anyway? ASD parents are way too hard on themselves and have too many expectations about the things that the kids are supposed to do. Relax and let them be who they are. That’s my advice, at least.
I don’t even notice anymore how un- “normal” my kids are, I like them that way.
Katherine Goodsell M.ED is the mother of two amazing children on the Autism Spectrum. Her children were the catalyst that started her journey down the road of Early Child Development and Education, Developmental Disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorders Advocacy.In a 25 year span, Katherine is proven as an effective and culturally sensitive Life Coach; a capable director of resources and designer of Behavior plans and individualized educational plans (IEP) for children with developmental delays.