It is easy to get overwhelmed, just by being a parent in general. When your child has special needs being “overwhelmed” often seems like an understatement. Avery’s autism diagnosis, brought with it therapy, additional doctor appointments, meetings with specialists and organizations, as if being a parent to three young children wasn’t stressful enough.
I have often used my few rare moments alone, usually when I am trying to fall asleep, to think about how one word, one diagnosis, had added hours of additional stress and physical needs to our lives. At first I would find myself almost to the point of tears. This was unfair, not only to me and my family, but to Avery. His life was consumed by all this craziness. Sometimes it seemed like he didn’t have the chance to be a typical kid. There were days and sometimes weeks, that were so filled with formality that a simple trip to the park was undoable, we just didn’t have time.
One piece of advice that I got was to allow for “me” time. Taking a few minutes, even if it was just to take a bath or shower. Though I don’t get these moments as often as I would like or need. I was amazed how just a few minutes alone allowed me to regain a level head, de-stress slightly, and overall, give me a renewed sense of myself. This got me thinking, how beneficial could “me” time be to Avery? He is the one who is living and experiencing this diagnosis first hand. As stressful as it is for me as his mother, when he can’t communicate or has a meltdown, I can’t even imagine how it is for him.
ALSO SEE: Through The Storm, Part 1: Surviving & Accepting The Diagnosis
Where my “me” time allowed me a few minutes of escape, for Avery, there was no escape. Autism was apart of who he was, there was no “leaving it behind”. However, the concept was still interesting to me. My goal became to allow Avery some “me” time. What would “me” time for a three year old entail? Unlike for me, he would not always desire alone time, but sometimes he would rather do fun things like play dates with other kids, park visits, one on one time with mommy or daddy, everything that a typical three year old would enjoy. Our biggest challenge would be finding and setting aside time, but I was determined to make it work. I had to see if it made any sort of positive difference. Even if the difference wasn’t noticeable at first.
We had gotten to a point where Avery dreaded his therapy, he wanted to be outside and play, not inside practicing his letter sounds. Even though he enjoyed the games and activities his speech therapists provided, I think he was starting to feel a loss of control, like he had no say in what was going on. Everyday was planned, with barely any time for unstructured/unscripted play. I knew something needed to change and fast, if we were to be successful and see growth. I spent some time thinking and created some goals to incorporate “Avery” time.
My goals for Avery’s successful “me” time were:
- Make sure Avery had a few minutes each day to do something he wanted. Some days it was to watch his favorite show or having a little time to play what he wanted, other days it was a trip to the park, or some one on one time with mommy or daddy.
- Make sure we didn’t over-schedule him. Space out his appointments, allowing for down time.
- Paying attention. Learning his triggers and signs allowed me to know when he was beginning to feel overstimulated or overwhelmed. These became perfect times to incorporate a little “me” time.
After a few weeks, I began to notice changes. Not only was he overall calmer, but he started to enjoy his therapy again. We allowed him some control over his life, even though to us it seemed like such a small thing, in just confirmed what I already knew. Everyone can use and benefit from some “me” time.
Through the Storm, Part 3: Everyone Needs Some “Me” Time
A Very Splunky Mom – “Anonymous Mother”