Yesterday, my family went to the “Rock the Block” party over at the JCC of Greater Baltimore. It was advertised as a “community block party”, featuring inflatables, art projects for the kids, games, shopping and booths from community partners.
To us, the more important thing was getting out into the sun and enjoying the weather with the kids. But the interesting surprise to us was the number of booths dedicated to services for children with disabilities.
It might just be a factor of our not noticing these things before the Monster was diagnosed. We certainly weren’t looking for these kinds of services – therapy, or specialized pre-schools, or advocacy organizations – before we knew that he had Autism, since clearly, we’d had no need for such things. On the other hand, it’s also just as likely a factor that a lot of these organizations didn’t exist a few years ago, and have been growing out of a greater demand in the community for their services. And this block party was a good opportunity to get all of them into one spot where parents could easily find out about them, rather than hoping that we’d stumble across them online.
Even groups that did not have something dedicated for special needs generally had some kind of ideas for them – from our synagogue, who offers a special-needs religious school program that’s tailored to the student’s needs, to the cub scout troop at the J that made it clear that they could probably work out something for the Monster if he wanted to join, so long as I come along with him to help keep him on track. I think it was actually rarer to find a booth that had nothing to offer the Monster, rather than ones that struggled to think about what to do with a child with Autism.
In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need all of these things – we’d have treatments that work and get our children mainstreamed, and be able to deal with the adaptations as minor changes to ‘normal’ life. On the other hand, if we have to have these things… it’s good to see that availability and options are growing with every passing year.