It’s hard to believe it was almost two years ago that I wrote about visiting the Motown Museum in Detroit. Time does fly. Since then I have gushed about how the staff responded to our daughter’s behavior no less than a hundred times. Here I am doing it again….
It was a terrible place to take her. We knew that, which is why we had planned on taking turns. But they convinced us it would be okay. And just a few kind words turned what should have been a miserable experience into something we have been bragging about for two years.
The main reason I bring it up so much is because taking our daughter places is a serious issue in our world and at this point I don’t know if it will ever change. A few months ago we had breakfast at a local restaurant. It was during her constant screaming phase so we did manage to silence the room a few times. But then a few strangers told us how good she had been- and it’s now our new favorite restaurant. Because honestly? I can’t tell you how many times we have left a restaurant with the feeling that we can never go there again.
Every outing can be stressful and finding easy places to go is like hitting the jackpot. I know we are not alone.
Even basic errands can feel overwhelming, but sometimes we want to do things as a family. We have lucked out when it comes to grocery shopping; for years she just “zoned out” but now she likes to participate. She does attempt to run off, and on some trips she seems obsessed with throwing everything in the cart on the floor (or in some other unsuspecting person’s cart). But overall, as long as we keep moving she is an angel. Even the screaming has been significantly reduced. Easy.
Many autism parents complain that there are few options offered for church services. Unless a church’s childcare program is prepared for your child, you may simply be out of luck. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to things like church services, weddings, funerals, etc….one of us is outside walking our child around. Sitting quietly together is not an option.
We recently traveled back to Michigan for a funeral. At first my husband wasn’t going to go, but he decided it was close enough to my parents’ house that if the grounds weren’t entertaining he could just walk her back. When the funeral ended I was worried I had spent too much time talking. I didn’t see him waiting for me so I assumed they returned to the house. I called him to see where they had wandered off to, and to my surprise they had never left. They were downstairs.
I went down the steps and was greeted by my husband, who appeared much too relaxed. He was also drinking coffee. The basement was a large playroom with vending machines and a bathroom. There were no obvious hazards and only one door leading out, which was easily guarded. It was just the two of them down there and they both seemed quite pleased. I began to talk about the service when my husband interrupted me to say, “I heard the whole thing through the speakers.”
Of course. The speakers.
I realize this room was designed for parents with small children; but what works for screaming babies and disruptive toddlers also works for us. And why isn’t this kind of thing everywhere? I cannot begin to tell you how much these little stress-relievers change our world. Just a comfortable place where we can go without feeling disruptive or entirely disconnected.
More and more businesses and organizations are figuring this out. There are autism-friendly programs and activities, but not as many as there could be. I have found that even in places that offer childcare, such as fitness centers, they are still not equipped to handle our specific needs. Often I see events that say “child care provided” and I laugh. I know they don’t mean us. Or there will be games set up for the kids which actually becomes the reason we don’t go to something.
I don’t expect everyone to keep us in mind, but it would be great if a few more family-friendly businesses and event organizers would consider families like us when making their plans. Maybe they look around and don’t see the demand; but I suspect if they planned for it and got the word out we would come. And it’s not exactly the worst advertising move, either.
Have any of you experienced a business or event where your lives were made easier? Or a business where the employees made you feel welcome? I am always looking for ideas to pass along….