Special Programs For Special Kids Are Useless If We Can't Get To Them

4 years ago

My neighbors are wonderful people. They often direct information my way that they've come across pertaining to autism services or programs in the area. I've gotten flyers stuffed in my mailbox, they've handed things to Anna at the bus stop to bring to me, or they'll make a point to phone or stop by.

Last night was one such night, when a neighbor was good enough to call me and let me know about a soccer program being run in the area that caters to kids with special needs. The coach is the father of one of the players, and his kid has Down's Syndrome. My neighbor's son is on a soccer team that played against them last week, and she was gushing about how wonderful and inspiring they all were.

Then she went on to tell me how perfect this would all be for David, and how she couldn't stop thinking about it and just had to let me know. I thanked her sincerely - how terrific is it that she has a vested interest in my son's happiness and socialization? She's amazing and it was so good of her to think about us, and about David, especially.

 

But.

I've already heard of the soccer program. I looked into it a year or two ago when someone (I believe it was David's learning support teacher) gave me a flyer about it. My eyes lit up and I smiled wide and then I read the flyer, lost the smile and tossed it away. Just another thing that David can't do. Why?

Because they practice at 5 o'clock on Wednesdays. And just like the gymnastics class I wanted to put him in (4-5pm), the karate class I was looking into (immediately after school two days a week), the summer camp for autistic kids (9am-3pm, no transportation provided) and the dance school that I was assured had evening hours for kids his age (when did 4:30 become evening?), I can't put him in any of it.

It seems that being a parent of a special needs kid is geared toward stay-at-home Moms, part-time working Moms, and Moms with husbands who can adjust their schedule. If you're a single, full-time working Mom, you're just out of luck unless you can find a friend or a family member who's willing to commit to being a chauffeur.

I don't have any family around, and my friends and neighbors are busy people who are willing to pitch in here and there but can't take on a long-term commitment like that. I might be able to coordinate a half dozen of them into some kind of whirling, always-confirming-at-the-last-minute schedule that I'll need two planners and eight phone calls a week to arrange, I suppose, but the thought of doing that realistically on top of my full-time job and my other job isn't very likely.

And unfortunately, I'm not an exception, by any means. Having a special needs child means that I'm twice as likely to be divorced. And being divorced means I'm more than likely in need of full-time employment. In this economy, single parents like me are willing to take jobs  further away from home for better wages or better health benefits. Add that commute onto an eight hour work day, and you've got a schedule that needs an evening class for your kid. I'm talking 6pm or later, at the earliest.

I asked my neighbor for the coach's number. What the heck, it's worth a phone call. Maybe he can give David a ride. Or maybe he can adjust his practice time. At the very least, I can let him know what a lot of us single moms with special needs kids want him to know: we want our kids to do this stuff. We'd love to give them the opportunity. It just isn't feasible, and it's heartbreaking all around.

How do you manage extra-curricular activities for your kid? Do you find it a struggle to navigate around your work schedule?

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