I love my kids. I’m so blessed to have them, and I wonder every day what they’ll be like in adulthood. I remember fondly their baby and toddlerhoods, and I love watching them grow into young adults.
But right now, I also see their challenges every day. I see their struggles, their complaints as we go to another 6 hour day of ABA or do another Barton Reading and Spelling lesson that is difficult for them. It’s hard for all of us.
The Physical Exhaustion
I’ve been busy plenty of times before, but never like this. Every week, we drive some days 2 to 2.5 hours a day. Other days, it’s just 1.5 hours. We burn through audio books while we burn through the miles on our nearly 15 year old minivan that has 205,000 miles on it. Our ABA center is 45 minutes away from home. Bookworm’s school is 20 to 30 minutes away, depending on traffic.
In the evening most of the weeknights, I get home at 5 with two of the kids and then get everything done that needs to be done–cooking, dishes, laundry, cleaning, getting the kids ready to bed, and finally, working on my freelance work. My husband stays at the ABA center with one of our children until therapy ends at 8, and then they’re home by 8:45. Three nights a week we split shifts like this. On Saturday and Sunday, there is more ABA therapy.
It’s exhausting, but we’re doing this because we’re committed to helping our kids in the way we feel is best.
The Emotional Exhaustion
But the physical exhaustion is nothing compared to the mental exhaustion. Both of our kids with autism are prone to meltdowns.
One’s meltdowns are reducing and becoming less explosive thanks to ABA. The other one cycles through periods of maybe a week or two with no meltdowns, and then explosive meltdowns that just suck the energy out of us as parents, and I assume out of the child.
At the end of the day, when this child is finally asleep and the meltdowns are over (this child tends to have several meltdowns in a day), I find myself completely drained but unable to sleep. I just need a long time to relax, and when I wake up, I still feel a meltdown hangover–a kind of sadness and lack of energy.
Thankfully, there are fewer meltdowns now, but because we are also get used to life without them now, when they do happen, they seem even more draining than before.
Having two kids on the spectrum affects everything we do. My husband’s contract is up for renewal, and we’re not sure if it will get renewed, so as he considers new areas of the country in which to apply for jobs, we have to carefully consider the location. Does it have an ABA facility nearby? If it doesn’t, we don’t even consider the location because we need our children to continue with their ABA therapy and learn alternative behaviors for some of the non-functional ones they have now.
Even though the statistics are grim–85% of people with autism and with a college degree are unemployed (Market Watch)–I have hope for my children. They are very bright, and they are getting the help they need now to learn skills to help them fit in socially.
Life Is Improving Every Day
When I get bone weary exhausted from the state of our lives right now, I remember The Truth Bomb Mom’s encouragement to look at where we are in life as temporary.
Right now, both kids have 25 hours a week of ABA therapy. . .but they won’t always. They will graduate from therapy, and these long, exhausting days will be just memories.
Last summer, my life was miserable. Then, I would have said, Right now, my kids are throwing daily, raging meltdowns, sometimes multiple times a day. Life is chaos, right now. And you know what, that version of our lives doesn’t happen any more. Things ARE better, and every day, little by little, they improve.
Parenting children with autism or other special needs can be exhausting. It’s not something I like to talk about often, but it’s there. However, my husband and I continue to believe that things will get better and that brighter days, more emotionally stable days, are ahead.
I’m participating in Blogging through the Alphabet. You can find more blogging through the alphabet posts at Mom’s Quest to Teach.
My Blogging Through the Alphabet Special Learners edition posts:
C – Change
D – Dyslexia