Autism Means No Lazy Summer Days

by Eileen Shaklee
Originally Published: 

Rumor has it that some moms and their children truly look forward to the summer and all the great gobs of free time that they will have to sleep in, drink lemonade and run around the backyard at night catching fireflies. I think this is an urban myth. At least it is to me, an autism mom.

Nothing really changes in this autism house. There are a few schedule changes, but they are carefully crafted ones. You see, I have to present these switches to my “boss,” and the negotiations can be more intense than a union contract dispute. Plus, I can’t threaten to “walk” either.

A typical house can look forward to sleeping in, but my Kiddo will still be up at “dark thirty”: 1) Because he always gets up that early no matter what day of the year, and 2) Because unlike your kid, we still have school. Yep, you heard me right, sunshine. You know that year-round schooling idea that you joke about sounding awesome with other moms around the first week of August? We get that. Now, before you start thinking, “Oh my god, she’s so lucky,” slow your roll. My Kiddo is going so he doesn’t completely regress over the summer. This isn’t some perk. This isn’t free summer camp. (Pro tip: Call it that to my face and I will cut you.) My son NEEDS school. Oh, and guess what? It starts even earlier than it does the rest of the year. I bow before my coffee maker as it has made me its bitch.

An unplanned day? HA! Not only are we still going to school, we still have all our therapy appointments too. Plus, we get the added joy of trying to prepare our kids for appointments being switched around because those therapists like to go away on vacations and stuff. How dare they! Two years ago, my son’s music therapist took a week off because his wife had a baby, and my first thought was, “Well, it wasn’t you that had the baby. WTF?” Yeah, I’m kind of an ass like that.

At some point in the winter, my husband and I always get what I like to call “Vacation Amnesia,” and in a fit of inspiration book a week so we can have a classic family vacation. Then the reality sets in as I start to write out my “To Pack” list; it grows longer every year. Nothing says maternal love like whisper-yelling through clenched teeth, “Please be quiet! There are other people sleeping in the hotel.” If you don’t think your kid is too loud, take him away on a vacation. You’ll see how loud he is when you get the first phone call from the front desk with a noise complaint. (Pro Tip: Leave the housekeeping staff a big tip. Trust me.)

There are no long, lazy days of summer here. We start out at the same freaking time, and I’m not too far behind my Kiddo going to bed each night. The schedule is key to helping my Kiddo cope. Yes, we do get a little time between “End of the school year” and the start of “ESY,” aka Extended School Year, aka “Summer School,” but it’s not much and it’s tricky keeping him busy. Down time is just asking for trouble and anxiety. Autism doesn’t go away for the summer. I still try to make it a good time for him, but there are just some things we have to tweak. BBQ gatherings? Yeah, I’m feeding him before we go and/or bringing food for him with us. Fireworks? Oh lordy, where are those noise-canceling headphones, or my boy will try climbing back into my womb. Pool parties? You ain’t seen a helicopter mom hovering till you seen an autism mom doing it. His attraction to water and his “NO FEAR” attitude is scary sometimes.

It might not be your idea of a fun summer, but for us, it’s all we know. Now pardon me. I have to write a social story about why wearing sunscreen is important for a Kiddo who has sensory issues about putting it on.

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