15 Minutes (#191)

Ever since Charlie started his new school and we figured out that the “red school bus” can get him home by 3pm at the earliest, Jim and I have been in a state of near panic about 15 minutes of Charlie’s day twice a week.
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Because our speech therapist and best babysitter (she has been with us for three years) can get to our house at 3.15pm after she gets off work, but not earlier. Because Charlie, being Charlie my son who has autism, cannot go to any old after-school program or just have any old babysitter babysit. Daycare–not only respite services–for special needs kids is not exactly readily available. Charlie attended an afterschool program for developmentally disabled children and adults in the fall but he was not happy there.

But what to do about those 15 minutes?

Jim works in New York City and the last class I teach a couple days a week ends around 3pm–and I am a half-hour away if I employ Autism Working Mom In An Extreme Extreme Hurry driving procedures. We hoped that it would take “a bit of a while” for Charlie’s bus to drive him home. On the first day, the bus took almost 2 hours–and thereafter, around 37 minutes, sometimes 29.

Charlie is again a happy schoolboy and had a busy schoolday. (Despite an awkward start to the day when the bus driver asked me to “help her out” by driving him one day–Doesn’t a bus driver, by definition, drive the bus?–I said, No.) Charlie has started the Edmark reading program and did plenty of talking (“May I have more green apples?”). He had a ten-minute tantrum sometime in the afternoon, sat in a chair to calm down quickly, and went on to do video modeling.

But those 15 minutes?


Jim and I have been calling and scheming and asking people, to no avail. Then yesterday I called my neighbor; we’ve bought Girl Scout cookies for the few years from her daughter. I explained the situation: “We just can’t have anyone with Charlie.”

“I’ll make some calls,” she said. “How does he like his new school?”

I felt a quiet joy in saying, “Loves it.”

As Charlie did speech today, my neighbor called with the name of a mother who had been a lunch aide for a child in one of Charlie’s special ed classes a few years ago; the mother came over, we talked, she remembered Charlie……….. and not only 15 minutes twice a week but 15 minutes three times a week of Charlie’s days are covered.

Is it when you start asking for help that help comes through the door? Only connect.

Charlie and I got into the drive-through line at McDonalds behind a dented green minivan with an Autism Awareness ribbon, then drove up to a clinic meeting with our ABA/Lovaas team (in which he manded a lot and played Colorama independently as we discussed how to redirect his stimming and scripting). He curled up next to one therapist on the couch, and squeal-smiled when another one gave him a surprise tickle–yes, very cute. He helped carry back his reading-writing board to the car and, after rocking himself in his little beach chair atop the big blue pillow and listening to music and playing with Model Magic, took himself to bed.

I can sleep a bit easier knowing that I have 15 minutes times 3 less to worry in the coming months. But I’m haunted knowing that true luck has come my way and it could as easily not have. Autism Working Moms and Parents, and Autism Parents in general, do not have many options when it comes to childcare. I have chosen to keep working through all these years of raising Charlie and there have been many benefits and many headaches (what happens when Charlie is sick?), just as staying at home and being his chief therapist would have also had both its benefits and challenges.

15 minutes in Autismland can be a really long time.

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Comments
5 Responses to “15 Minutes (#191)”
  1. gretchen says:

    I can SO MUCH relate to this! Henry gets home around 3 pm. My teenage daughter gets out of school at 3:15. Bill works a 6am to 2:30pm shift, but often has to work late.

    I spent most of the summer saying “WHY WHY WHY can’t I make this work?” It seemed like if I just kept wishing it, something would work out.

    It has worked out ok, but that is because I am blessed with a flexible work schedule. Some days I have to leave work at 2:30, drive home, wait for Henry, pick Kate up, drop them off at home, and come back to work for about an hour. It’s ridiculous, but we do what we have to, don’t we?

    I hope everything works out.

  2. Eileen says:

    I am glad you got those 15 min X’s 3 covered! I have been going over and over with my husband trying to figure out if and how I can go back to work, but it is those 15 min here and there in the morning and afternoon that make it difficult. Hard to find someone willing to just come for 15 min. I am glad you did and can rest a little easier now. I have to start getting better at asking for help. We are all forced to do and ask a lot more than we used to living here in Autismland.

  3. Over the summer, our sitter told us she’d be away for 4 weeks and Guy and I made arrangements with work and with the grandma’s to fill that time. BUT…. 4 weeks came and went and then 4 weeks turned into “I’m not coming back” and we had to scramble to figure out what to do – a situation made more complicated by the fact that India was getting 3 hours a day of ABA and ST. Ugh. Everything falls into place somehow but man oh man, the time between point A and point B can be so stressful.

  4. mom-nos says:

    I’m so glad you were able to work things out. We are very lucky because my mom does the bulk of childcare with Bud, and I work in an environment that is very child-friendly, so they are flexible when I need to bring him to work or work from home. I don’t know what I’d do otherwise!

  5. Mothersvox says:

    Wow Kristina, you nailed another autism care question! What do autism working moms and dads do when their regular childcare doesn’t work? I’m so glad you found a solution, but it so often happens that people don’t.

    Parents who have only experienced raising NT kids just don’t get it when we say that we can only use one babysitter . . . our babysitter of 7 years! And a (powerful) colleague who was looking for some babysitting work for his teenage daughter was genuinely offended when I didn’t sign her on. At that point I didn’t know what to say–we were still in Dx search mode–but I didn’t know how to say that I would never put your child through what an evening w/ Sweet M. and a newcomer to our household would look like!

    Thanks again for your on-point post!

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