When you’re a parent of a child with special needs, social media can be both a blessing and a curse. Whilst it can be fantastic to hook up with a friend who is in the same situation as you at 2am in the morning and have a cry on each other’s virtual shoulder, it is equally heart breaking to be constantly bombarded by photos and updates from others with (seemingly) ‘normal’ children – doing things that would be impossible for your family to do, because of your child’s disability. Holiday time is especially hard for me, as I realise that it is more than likely that all five members of my family will never be able to take a family holiday together again because of my son’s autism. His desire for routine, sameness, and to sleep in his own bed, combined with his extreme anxiety issues, mean that it is just too stressful for him.
My son is in Year 6 now, so will be moving up to secondary school in September. This week, my friends with children the same age as him are busy posting about taster days at their children’s new secondary schools and how their children are having to take the bus to school for the first time. Initially this made me really sad. Pondering over which secondary school we would have chosen for him and which subjects he would have been good at. After a while and reading more of my friends’ posts about missed buses, kids getting off at the wrong stop and other dramas, I actually started to feel quite relieved.
My son has been traveling to school on a bus since he started reception at four years old. He has always had the same lovely transport assistant that has helped him every day. At no point in his school career will I have to let him walk to school on his own, or get on a bus on his own. He will never be on his own – and this is my point. He will never have to ‘go it alone’. And do you know what? This gives me a whole load of comfort! When you enter the Special Needs World you will meet some truly amazing people. And my wish is that my son will always be surrounded by amazing people that love him (almost) as much as I do.
When I’m out and about and I see an adult with severe autism and learning disabilities with their carer, it does make my heart hurt – I cannot lie. Thinking about the future of your child is perhaps one of the most painful things about being a special needs mum. But I have trained myself to stop feeling sad. It doesn’t always work, but I try. I make myself look again at the adult with special needs and their carer. Do they look happy? Are they having fun? Does the carer look kind? And more often than not, they do look really happy and the carers do look kind! But more importantly, the adult with special needs is not alone.
My son will never be sat on his own in a café. Or catching the wrong bus. Or getting lost in a foreign country. Or wondering around a scary big new school on his own. September will bring new challenges and changes for my son, but he will not be doing it alone.