Autism Watch: 2007

Economy Changing Your Autism-Related Expenses?

Posted on: September 30, 2008

Living in California, I’m frequently asked how I can continue to drive my car and keep my air conditioning on in the face of the current economy while living in an expensive area of the country. (See, I’m one of those ‘bad’ people who drive a monstrosity, a gas guzzler, a boat on wheels…I could justify by saying I have four children and we tow a trailer with the tank and I work-at-home so I rarely drive during the day, which are all true, but it’s something I don’t feel guilty about. It’s not against the law, like all those people still driving around while talking on their cellphones, which is definitely against the law AND more dangerous.) The reality is that our gas prices are currently cheaper than they’ve been in a long time, and we’re very cost-conscious in regards to our utility bills, by shutting off lights/tvs when not in use, unplugging all chargers when not in use, turning off surge protectors/power strips when nothing’s on, shutting the blinds/curtains to keep the hot sun out, using energy-conscious curtains (yes, they’re real, and they’re not expensive), cutting back on lighting, using a newer laptop instead of the full PC when I can, and so on. So, yes, we can afford to gas up the tank fully and pay the a/c bill without crying each month.

In reality, the economy hasn’t changed our lives a whole lot…yet. Food costs a lot more so we’re making more of our meals by scratch, making sure we really do keep to the one night of fast/restaurant food per week. I bake our breads, cookies, snacks, not just for cost but mainly so I can keep the preservatives, additives, dyes, and now the HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup) out of my son’s and the rest of the family’s diet. We’ve always been careful with our money, so this hasn’t been a drastic upset for us. But, I know that for a lot of people, it has.

For the people I’ve spoken with, they’re telling me they can’t shop anymore, can’t afford to eat like they were, and some can’t afford their house. A sad picture for our country right now, but I want to bring it to a more specific angle: is the economy changing your autism-related expenses? Is it changing what therapies you try for your child, how often? What equipment you’re buying? What appointments you take him to, or what supplements and dietary changes you’re making? Are you buying books to try new therapies at home?

Already, treating autism is expensive. Schools and regional centers have long waiting lists of people who need things, who deserve things, but we parents are still left with a lot. Now when we think about signing ds up for social skills, we have to consider the cost of the gas it’ll take to get him there. Will it cut into working time and make it harder to pay the next bill that comes along? These are just examples, but valid ones that parents have to think about now twice as hard as they’d have to think about it prior to the economic collapse we’re seeing…and collapse may not be the most appropriate word, but what exactly do we call it?

I hear about bailing out the banks, people who signed home loan docs without thinking that they really couldn’t afford it, or simply not caring and assuming it’d work out somehow (“The bank approved us, it must bve okay.”) Low-cost spay/neuter clinics are being funded by major corporations. People are striking for more benefits/money. All kinds of programs are being created to help people, and some people still want more, but where does that leave us, people who just want our kids better but between the rising cost of transportation and everything else that goes into producing products, getting them to us, and services (especially those where the person has to drive to your house) things are getting harder and harder to find?

How is it affecting what you’re able to do for your child? What services are you able to find that maybe you didn’t know about before?

Yet, on the other hand, there are positives. I’ve been baking our own cookies, breads, snacks, etc., for a while now, but I make it more of a point lately to include my son, instead of feeling I need to find some other activity to do to fill our time together. Baking cookies, rolling out the dough, watching his little fingers manipulate it into shape then beaming at me when he’s done a full tray properly — that’s priceless. A trip to Gamestop, where he always wants to go, wouldn’t be as fun. And now I have more time at home, as I save all my errands for one night a week, where I still get a respite nurse, so I use less gas and am home a lot more. Another positive is renting movies instead of blowing $60 to go see one on a Saturday afternoon, where we have to buy the requisite popcorn and sodas. (Am I the only one who loves those $1.49 boxes of candy in Target, the ones that fit into your purse really easy?) Watching a movie together in our own home theatre is much more fun than the crowd and drive to a ‘real’ theatre, and ds is more comfortable. Those flame-print flannel pants? He can wear them at home without the looks, especially with his oversized but comfy t-shirt. We can also get a table at our park, and walk around uninterrupted. Usually, it’s so jam-packed with people who rent a covered table yet tape the whole playground off, but now it’s quieter. And we’re all experimenting with more foods, as we try new vegetable dishes. I’ve even mastered using the barbecue, which is really exciting to me but matters not a wit to anyone else. Last week, ds started eating carrots like he was half-rabbit. This week? He asked for celery. Too bad the first bite ended up in the trash and he’ll never try it again (it was spicy) but hey, he tried. That in itself is a new thing, and I really think that keeping him away from the sugared lemonade in favor of only organic lemonade, and less general crap in his diet may increase his interest in food…that remains to be seen, but even if he only adds carrots in as a new food, I feel like it’s a help.

So, share me your feelings on both sides. Economy hurting? But you’re finding a hidden silver lining anywhere?  (And if this entry is fragmented, all over the map, and only held together by a tiny little string, bear with me, I caught the cold that ds got then passed to dd then passed to dh, who passed it to me. All the extra treadmill and weight lifting time and vegetarian meals sure haven’t decreased my susceptibility to the common cold. Ack, mighty mom struck down by a germ…colds suck.)

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2 Responses to "Economy Changing Your Autism-Related Expenses?"

I too drive an SUV. Its so I can be the cool Girl Scout leader mom for my typical 10 year old girl and pile them all in for any outing. (One of the many things I do…that I don’t have time to do… to make her life more like that of a typical girl without an autistic brother, so they continue to have a loving and wonderful relationship…)

So far, I can still juggle the activities for both kids. I can’t take away ‘C’s swim lessons as he is like a fish gliding in the water and loves it so much. And I got him into a better–and cheaper–martial arts program, so that’s good.

And I’d eat mac and cheese every day before I took anything away from my daughter. (I know you probably think she’s spoiled but she’s really not. She’s one of those angels God sent to make up for the shitty autism card he was going to deal me!)

The diet ‘C’ is on is amazingly expensive and time-consuming. Its the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. It makes GF/CF ‘s options look like an endless smorgasbord. I need to make all his food from scratch…no mixes comply. Argh! (But it’s worth it!)

I hate to think it’d get so bad that it’d affect what I do for my kids.

Maybe I’m living in a dream world. But, um, wouldn’t I have to actually be sleeping for that to be the case?

Yes,
The economy has effected what it we can do for our son treatment and therapies. To me it is sad that only the rich can get the services that will help their child be a more productive member of society. It is a sad statement about our society.

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