There are a few things that I shy away from doing, since the Monster got his diagnosis – mostly due to what experience has taught me is going to cause a problem – but by and large, I do try to make sure that he’s going to get as many ‘normal’ activities as he can.
This includes going to the playground, to baseball games, out to eat, museums… you name it. And it’s not always with special supports.
The fact is, the real world doesn’t come with supports for children with special needs. There are all the places we can visit that have accommodations for the Monster… but then again, there are going to be things like the ballpark where such things don’t exist, and all you can do is pray.
The fact is… we’re very fortunate that the Monster is flexible about things. He’s definitely better than he was, in terms of transitioning between activities, and his tolerance for sensory-filled experiences is rising with every year (thankfully). I can still remember a year ago when we’d have to pack all kinds of supplies, and sneak food into some places with us out of fear that he’d have nothing to eat and have a meltdown… and now, most places we go, he can find something on a menu that he’ll eat. (We’re down essentially to carting drinks in for him, and I’ve found that a great many of the most food-restrictive locales are willing to bend the rules slightly for a child with Autism.)
And of course, it requires some adaptation on the Monster’s part. We’re still not expert with using the Talker to get him to convey what he’s thinking, and we’ve only really started taking it with us recently. Some of the things we do when we’re out, like ordering from kids’ menus, is still easily enough done through his pointing to the pictures for the items, or with some of his IEP accommodations (reduction of options, extra time to answer, et cetera…) And some of it is simply through other accommodations that we can put into place easily enough, such as taking along his headphones, or arranging for ‘quiet’ places where he can decompress, or making sure there’s a preferred activity in the mix somewhere.
Doing these things is also more fair for R. The last thing that I want is for R to decide, at some point, that the Monster’s holding him back from doing the things his friends get to do. We can’t always promise that he’ll get to do it in the same amount as his friends… but we’ve also yet to have to leave a ballgame early, or leave an amusement park, since we can always divide-and-conquer, and one of us can take the Monster somewhere to cool down for a bit and get back under control. It’s going to be harder on him as he gets older, though, trying to make sure that we find opportunities for him to continue to have typical experiences, with or without his brother tagging along.
But at least for the time being, things are going just, just fine…