Has anyone else had the thought that being the parent of a special needs child is like EXTREME parenting? Parenting by itself to a typical child is like golf, baseball, or basketball. Each parent chooses the style that best suits them to games that almost everyone at least knows the basics of. Not to say parenting is a walk in the park, because it's not. You sure break a sweat and get a nice work out. Parenting a child with special needs is like, all of the sudden being handed a snowboard and asked to go down an expert black diamond run. Or how about that moment when you all of a sudden feel like you are in a free fall, when you realize there is something wrong with your child?
There are lots of different Extreme sports just like there are many different special needs. They all have different rules and require different skills and the only way you get good at them is practice and time, and a LOT of self sacrifice. I guess the biggest difference is that you don't get a choice. You win the worst lottery out there, but there is always rewards, even if they are hard to find sometimes. Also extreme sports fans seem almost obsessive about their chosen sport and can appreciate that same zeal in fellow aficionados even if they love an entirely different activity. It's the same for special needs parents. They turn into advocates and pretty much eat, sleep, and breath whatever special need dominates their lives. They can also appreciate what it's like for other parents even if they live with a completely different set of issues. Maybe the isolation and love of our unique amazing children unite us. Or maybe it's the humbling moment of acceptance that the world is harsh and you want it to be softer for your child and ANY other child or person that doesn't live up to that heartbreaking term "normal".
My extreme sport is Autism. I think Autism is like the UFC. It certainly kicks my ass sometimes. It feels like ultimate fighting but I'm pretty sure I'm NOT going to be the champion. My awesome little guy might be though. It's just that the fight isn't over and never will be. He will fight it his whole life and never get a break from training and duking it out with the world at large. All I can do is be his coach and sit on the side lines hoping he doesn't get too hurt and soothing him when he inevitably does. Cuts and bruises aside, there is nothing like the moments when he SHINES.
With Autism its not "Hey Mom, I'm hungry" Its: Hey mom try to figure out what I need while we both get frustrated.
It's not "What should we have for dinner?" It's "What will you EAT without screaming from the room if I put it in front of you"
It's not "Oh, my child is such a chatterbox! All I want is a little peace and quiet." It's "I wonder if he will ever have a conversation with me or speak in complete sentences."
It's not "Hey let's go to the store" it's "Do we REALLY need toilet paper?"
It's not "Don't you take that tone with me!" It's "OMG did you hear him use that inflection in his voice?!"
It's not " Look at me when I'm speaking to you!' ...well I guess that one is the same except maybe a little more like "Hey buddy, remember to look at my eyes when I'm talking to you"
And with high functioning Autism it's not "Get him away from the computer before he messes something up." it's more like "Get him off the computer before he spends $500 on Amazon!"
I only know what it's like to play Autism, but I have EXTREME empathy for all of my fellow extreme parents. We are a breed apart and I have never met another group of people that are so supportive and giving. Always willing to share advice or just a shoulder, without saying "It could be worse." or "It'll get better." Just "I understand." That is the most soothing balm for the black eyes and broken bones that come along with living this extreme life.
Maybe we should call it extreme kidding because folks, let's face it, when raising a special needs child, a sense of humor is essential. :D