When I was a kid, summers were magical. We had no school and, as latch key kids, we roamed outside all day with friends until it was time to go home. There was also the obligatory family holiday; some were fun, some less so. Nevertheless, it was a carefree time and strong friendships were forged, many of which still last.
As a parent of an autistic child, summer couldn’t be more different. When school is over, so is the structure and support that comes with it. Maintaining the services, structure and consistency that are required to keep our lives in relative balance becomes a big challenge; meltdowns and anxiety increase as our support structure melts away.
Juggling all these issues – along with work and finding appropriate childcare – is a dilemma faced by many parents of an autistic child. And that’s before you take into account that – oh, right, we are still in a pandemic.
Getting through the airport for a vacation is very difficult under the best of circumstances – now add mask mandates and social distancing for children with sensory issues, as well as the added time it takes to get through airport security. Patience isn’t something that comes naturally to my autistic daughter, and our societal tolerance for meltdowns has worn thin; airport staff are more stressed then ever and our collective mental health has deteriorated. In my house, this means that vacation will be a staycation this year.
It goes without saying that we all need a break and time off to recharge and plan for the schools’ reopening and for services they provide to resume. Even if it is only a day, we all need to make the time to be carefree and enjoy summer. To care for our children, we also need to look after ourselves.