National Night Out got me thinking about how important it is that parents of Autistic children get out and meet their neighbors. But it also reminded me of how difficult this can be.
We are so busy with therapy appointments, IEP meetings, all kinds of things. We aren’t exactly on the “play date circuit” either as our children struggle to engage with other children in the neighborhood. It would be easy to just hide out in our homes and keep to ourselves.
So why do we need to get out there? We NEED our neighbors.
When our neighbors understand our situation, they can help us. They can understand why we decline play dates. They can teach their own children to understand why the little boy next door doesn’t say anything when their own kids try to be friendly. We can teach them about our situation and in doing so, we teach them how to interact with us.
When my son was about 8, he fell off his scooter, slammed his face into the pavement and broke off his 2 front teeth. I saw the whole thing happen. It was like a nightmare rolling in slow motion. In the moment, I HAD to focus on him. This bad situation could quickly spiral out of control if I didn’t get him understanding what happened and that it would be ok quickly enough. The problem: my FOUR-year old daughter was also outside playing.
My next door neighbor was in her kitchen making dinner and saw the incident from her kitchen window. She grabbed her husband and they came to the rescue. They knew my circumstance and because of that, they knew I needed help. I focused on my son. My neighbor collected my daughter and brought her into the house behind me. And her husband found my son’s teeth and put them in a little baggy for me.
I don’t know what I would have done without them because I don’t know how I would have divided my attention across my son AND my daughter. If they didn’t know my situation, they may have NOT come out, worried they may offend me by thinking I needed help. And as I repeatedly thanked them, I reinforced my need for them and my gratitude for them.
This is an extreme example but there were many occasions where my neighbors found my son wandering. He had escaped in the brief moments when I had looked away to attend to my daughter when she was first born. They knew my situation and because of that, they had my back.
So I hope we all take the time to get out and meet our neighbors and not by shy about telling them our situation and even being bold enough to say, “if you see my son wandering the streets, PLEASE, bring him back. This is a problem I’m dealing with right now.”