Yesterday Rachel’s class went on a field trip to the Ft. Worth stockyards. I cringed when I heard the location. The stockyards? Sure, that is a great tourist destination for typicals unaffected by a myriad of sensory and communication issues. But Rachel with her autism? Not so much.
I sucked up my fear and signed up to go. I told myself just because it will be difficult doesn’t mean Rachel shouldn’t get to go.
The trip ended up being better than I expected. Rachel has made great strides in her ability to stay with me and to wait for me–something I never thought I would see. I believe a lot if that progress is due to some work we did with our RDI (Relationship Development Intervention) therapist.
Anyway, while on the trip I had an epiphany. Rachel may have grown a lot, but I have some changing to do. Let me explain:
Rachel and I sat by ourselves on a riser to watch a horse demonstration. I thought everything was fine until one of the teachers came over to adjust Rachel’s dress because her underwear was showing. I am sad to say I hadn’t noticed. I am far too used to Rachel pulling her dresses up. Even though she wears pants now, she still pulls them down sometimes. Why, I don’t know, but I somehow have learned to ignore it.
The incident made me think. When Rachel was little, I fought to have the world change around her to some degree. For example, I had to adjust things in the house. Many things are locked away, such as my speech therapy toy kits. They are stored in our attic behind a keyed door because Rachel will get into them otherwise and dump them all over the floor. We have no Legos in the house for the same reason–our feet couldn’t take it.
For years, I’ve had to apologize for things like Rachel screaming in the library and grocery store because of her sensory issues. I’ve also had to explain to people about her autism when they come to our house. In other words, I’ve bent the world around her autism.
At the stockyards I realized the entire world cannot be bent around Rachel and her autism. I also need to bend Rachel to fit into the world.
It was a painful revelation. In a sense, I felt like a failure because I hadn’t realized what I was doing. (Feelings of failure and despair are constant companions for me as I parent Rachel because I so often don’t know what I am doing.) My gut tightened too because this means more hard work for me. Rachel is resistant to doing anything someone else’s way. I have rarely encountered the kind of will Rachel has, so helping her see things from another perspective will take time (lots of it), perseverance, and lots of energy.
Pray for me, my friends, and I will pray for you. Parenting is not for wimps!