Supervising a child with autism is something I do all the time. You wouldn’t think you could forget your child has autism, but I sort of did the other day. I suspect every parent with a special needs child fantasizes about what it would feel like to parent only neuro-typical children. Because typical children practically raise themselves and are never exasperating. I am only speaking to my own experience with a relatively high-functioning child on the spectrum (who has a full-time aide at school). Several of my friends parent incredible low-functioning children. Those parents operate in a totally different frontier for which I have mad respect.
In my world, my fantasy would entail being able to send my child outside alone to explore on his bike, which he can mostly ride. To let him cross the street without holding my hand and me not holding my breath. Additionally, I would tell him to do homework and he would. Ideally, he would sit down in a chair designed for sitting. Then, he’d do homework independently. I’d have no experience with side-by-side supervision and four thousand questions about google maps or ritz cracker flavors.
I Have Great Bad Parenting Skills including not supervising a child with autism
Getting to the Bad Parenting confession
Last week I drove my 4th grade twins to a school event a few miles away at a nearby elementary. It was an ordinary day. I had some errands to run. The twins climbed out of the car to head into the cafeteria. Thereafter they’d meet up with their friends and teachers for a year-end celebration. I was doing what every other parent was doing: Letting the kids out of the car and driving away to pick them up an hour later. As I pulled my car out of the parking lot, I had the faint feeling of something I’d forgotten. The feeling passed quickly.
Half an hour later, one of Devlin’s teachers I didn’t know called. She called to say she had Devlin in her car and was driving him home. Somehow, she’d miraculously seen him running along the roadway by himself and knew something wasn’t right. Then it dawned on me. I hadn’t made arrangements for an adult to be with Devlin. Hell, I hadn’t even told the twins to stay together. I dropped them off without a care in the world. What happened was completely foreseeable and has happened even when Devlin has had one-on-one adult supervision. Predictably, he got overwhelmed with the crowded auditorium and fled the building.
bad parenting saved by resourceful child on the spectrum
Now, the good thing is that Devlin memorizes maps and knew exactly how to get home. The bad news is he has little appreciation of danger and the sense God gave a pineapple when it comes to personal safety. That’s not the kid you want running home a couple miles from a stressful environment down a busy street. If there is a hole in the pavement, he’s the kid that will fall into it. He was winded and upset when the teacher dropped him off, but no worse for the wear otherwise. What an idiot I am. I totally forgot my son had autism for half an hour.
Sheesh. Kids these days. Supervising a child with autism? Enough with the coddling already. We’re expected to remember their lunch bag AND that they have autism? Clean baseball uniforms AND epilepsy? Do you know how many permission slips I sign in a given school year? You mean we have to keep all this shit straight on a continual basis? I need a permission slip permitting me to be an idiot. I can’t keep all their shoe sizes straight or all thirty of their toenails clipped. How can I be expected to remember something so mundane as food allergies? I’ve barely memorized their birthdays and I was there for the whole thing.