Today, we decided that since my husband was off work we would take our two girls to the park! Lucy is 14 months old and Opal is 3 years old, and diagnosed with Autism. Her favorite, and only really thing she likes to do at the park, is swing. That girl could swing for hours.
We have a new park by our house, so whenever we can spare a few minutes, we like to take the girls. The weather was beautiful today, and because it’s Oklahoma, it will be in the 30s and 40s for the next week or so, so we wanted to get in all the fresh air that we could! And the girls love it!
We were right. The park was packed! It was the kind of full that you can’t even walk three steps without a kid running past you. That is obviously what a park is for, but it can get overwhelming for me, let alone for a kiddo on the spectrum. We let Opal swing for a little bit, but then tried to get her to run around or go down the slide. But, with all the noise, kids running her over, and her extreme love for the swing, she wasn’t ready to try something different today, so back to the swings we went!
But on our walk back to the swing, something happened. As I looked around the park, there were kids of all ages. All doing things that kids their age should be able to do. There were kids playing tag and making music on a gigantic xylophone, but this one got me. There was a three or four year old girl (Opal’s age) and she looked at the swing Opal was about to hop in, and said, “I don’t want to swing in the baby swing.” Tears welled up in my eyes because it was the only swing my child could sit in. She can’t sit in a “regular” swing because she would lose her balance and fall out. She has to sit in the swings that are meant for the kiddos with special needs, the ones that look like massive chairs with a harness that roller coaster rides have.
And I selfishly thought, “How am I the only one here with a special needs child? How is that fair?”
As I’m trying to keep the tears from falling, I look around to see that only one swing was open, and it was RIGHT next to another child. We all know. We all like to grab the chair, or swing in this case, all alone in the corner, so we don’t have to “small talk” with others. Or maybe that’s just me!
There were multiple special needs swings at this park. And honestly they were probably used for babies and small children as well, so there were multiple people without special needs using these swings. But, as I sulked in my own selfish thoughts, in Opal went to the only swing available.
But something magical happened, or as I like to call it, a God wink.
As I stood there and pushed Opal over and over again, I noticed the little boy we were swinging next to. His mother was pushing him as well. He wasn’t talking and he was around Opal’s age if I had to guess. Then all of a sudden, he let out an extremely loud yell/shriek/roar, and I knew that sound all too well.
I was too scared to strike up conversation with this mom and maybe I just assumed this little boy had Autism, but she had two other children not much older than the little boy and they were running around and playing like crazy. This mom never left his side.
I tried not to stare, but as I kept getting glimpses of him, and watching his hands, and motions, I was almost positive he had Autism.
I wish I was brave. I wish I could’ve said something in conversation, but I was frozen. I hope she noticed Opal and realized the same thing.
But I’m saying all of this to say that I wasn’t alone. That there are so many other special needs parents out there. I can’t tell you how alone I have felt before, and even today when there were dozens of people around me. I was so quick to assume that no one around me could understand, and that I was the only one.
You are not the only one. You aren’t the only one who has heard the piercing screams, gotten bit on the shoulder, begged your child to say your name, or chased after your child because they eloped. You cannot believe you are alone. This life is fun and amazing, but has oh, so many challenges too.
I found a support group on Facebook called Coops Troop and it has helped tremendously. There are HUNDREDS of people who know exactly how you feel, and who are there for you time and time again. I can’t tell you how much it has changed my life. If you are a special needs momma, grandma, grandpa, etc. you would benefit tremendously from joining this group.
But I’m not trying to sell anything or peer pressure you into joining a group on Facebook. What I am hoping is that you will reach out to others. Living this world alone is no fun and honestly so crippling. I cannot tell you how amazing of a feeling it is to relate with someone else and to get advice from someone who knows what they’re talking about. To KNOW exactly what you are facing and going through.
Just know this. You are not alone. Other special needs mommas are out there, sometimes it just takes a few minutes to find us!