Sometimes it can be a little daunting to go to a busy play place with your child with autism.
Without a crystal ball, it’s so hard to know what the trip will entail.
It could go absolutely fine. He could laugh and skip and play without a single tear. There could be very patient and understanding families when things did get rocky. It could have just a few kids enjoying their time so no one had to wait too long or share.
Or it could all go wrong. There could be tears, anxiety, misunderstandings. There could be falling apart on the floor. And there could be people staring, shaking their heads, and making loud passive-aggressive comments.
Don’t get me wrong, no matter the uncertainty of the outcomes I find it important to bring my son out to public outings again and again to give him more exposure and practice. That’s how he learns.
But sometimes, just sometimes, I want a guarantee.
So this past summer I worked along with the owner of Play Days to establish a monthly play group for families with children on the spectrum.
No, it doesn’t guarantee that Brian won’t have a hard time out. It doesn’t guarantee that he won’t be overwhelmed. Honestly, sometimes it is more overwhelming as a dozen kids on the spectrum all in one place gets quite loud and rambunctious. It also doesn’t guarantee that there won’t be any tears.
But it guarantees I’ll be in a place where the other parents won’t stare. They won’t pity me. They won’t judge my son and think he’s a bad kid. Us parents might even manage to laugh with each other, with the twisted sense of humor I think we have all adapted to get through the hard moments. There will be no judgment, no one will make a comment about how if you were just a little bit more strict they wouldn’t have those behaviors. No one has to take the time to explain why their child is flapping or covering their ears or crashing into objects or repeating the same script over and over again. Everyone there already knows why your child is doing those things.
Parents can bounce ideas off of each other and become each other’s support systems. Siblings can befriend other siblings who get the ups and downs of having a brother or sister on the spectrum. And kids like Brian can just play and have a place where everyone accepts him for who he is.
The kids can play, the adults can breathe, and everything is just perfect in the world for an hour and a half.
The Autism Play Group takes place the second Thursday of each month from 5 to 6:30 PM at Play Days in Rockland. $5 per family. We hope to see you tomorrow night!