Autism Watch: 2007

Planning for the Future: Missing the Now?

Posted on: November 25, 2008

When you have a child with autism, life is one big plan.

You plan what to cook for dinner. Keeping in mind the few items your child will eat (can’t touch certain textures, smells, tastes….) you also still have to find food the rest of the family will eat, too.

You plan what outfit your child will wear the next day. Be sure the tags are off the shirt and pants, the socks aren’t too tight, the zipper goes up easily, the shirt and pants are as soft as possible, remembering that long sleeves are good on hot days and rain boots work with shorts. (You also plan to ignore the people that stare at the unusual ensemble, and you plan to appreciate your child’s unique sense of style, comfort in his own skin, and lack of concern over what others think.)

You plan what to take on a car ride, and what path you’ll take. You plan entertainment for the trip, which for us means the Nintendo DS, a car charger, a charger for a wall outlet, the case with the games and the buddy battle cord. You plan adequate music or a movie. You plan timing to avoid sitting in traffic, yet avoiding sitting and waiting too long upon your arrival.

You plan your daily schedule. You plan to fit in adequate cuddle time when they wake up, textra time in case of a pre-breakfast meltdown, time to say goodbye at school so you’re there not too long and not too little, and you’re sure you’re back at school in time so he’s not walking too far to the car. You plan your errands so he doesn’t have to go with you unless it’s a short one, and you plan the more fun errands for when he has to go with you so he’s happy.

You plan your social events. Can he handle the crowd, the noise, the smells, the lighting, the speed, the activity..the list goes on.

You plan who you’ll socialize with. You plan only on those who are accepting, understanding, and flexible. (That comes before ‘fun.’)

In life, it seems like people are either planners, or not planners. We were already planners or maybe it would have been a rough adjustment. It’s a known deal that if you plan the future too much, you can miss the spontaneity of the present. So do we parents of special-needs children, miss the ‘now’ because we’re planning the future? How much of the future do we change because we’ve planned so much? Is there more to be said for winging it? Maybe so, but I still think the ‘now’ would be so overwhelmingly difficult in some situations, or many, without the planning. So where does that leave us?

This last week has been a whirlwind of planning. All new appliances in the house, on a last-minute notice, meant a lot of preparation. Then moving bedrooms around to give ds his own room was even more preparation. (And I’m sad to say, we’re still finishing that, and the piles of things left to put away in ds’s new room is bugging him, but we underestimated the time involved in moving the multitudes of stuff and sorting through it all, deciding what to keep and what to give away..or what to sell in the infamous garage sale.) We’re 90% done, but still planning on what to put where, and when to do it. With Thanksgiving in two days, and a camping trip, even more planning: what are we making? what ingredients do we need to buy? what clothes to pack in the RV?

And some things you just can’t prepare. Tonight, on our way home from ds’s behavioral therapy, thump-thump-thump while on the freeway in the carpool lane. Flat tire. Ds was so afraid, and he chose that moment to have a meltdown. The police officer who stopped to check on us was very nice, and immediately picked up on ds’s fear. Spare on, and we were off in under 15 minutes. It was entirely unplanned, but ds and I had a good talk, as we’re walking along the edge of the freeway in the dark, ds kicking rocks and me watching for snakes. We can’t plan everything, and sometimes the unplanned things pan out in a way you don’t expect. I think I’ll stick with planning, at least for now, but I did learn to appreciate the unexpected, and if you think about it, what’s more unexpected than an autism diagnosis.

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1 Response to "Planning for the Future: Missing the Now?"

I’ve always been a planner (drives my husband crazy) and it’s one of the first things I thought after figuring out about the Roc’s Autism – “but I didn’t PLAN for this!” “this changes EVERYTHING!”

sounds like you’ve had a lot of planning recently! gets tiring doesn’t it?!

ps: thanks for the wonderful comment on my blog! I really appreciate it!

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