In re-reading numbers 1-5 in my Top 10 Ways that Modern Conveniences Have Made Life With Autism Easier, I realized that I probably come across a complete lazy cow.
A tad bit of that is true.
But, really, these conveniences – and a lot of them involve never having to leave my house or car – have made life easier. You see, when you have a child with autism, everything has to be planned out in advance. For example, it’s better to not buy a whole grocery cart full of stuff at Walmart because that way I can nip through the Express Lane… which is good for three reasons…
1. 1, I can normally check-out in under 10 minutes (depending on the queue)
2. 2, The Express Lane doesn’t have cold drinks stocked on their aisle, which means Noah’s not sitting in a basket waiting for me to check-out while grabbing for Dr. Peppers
3. 3. I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to stuff all the grocery sacks around Noah while he sits in the back of the cart.
Speaking of which... another thing I have to plan ahead is grocery carts. Hobby Lobby and Sprouts have tiny carts. Noah can’t sit in them. And since Noah won’t walk in a store (except for Dollar Tree… long story), I have to make sure I don’t need a lot of items because I’ll have to push Noah in his stroller (a Maclaren Major). He will walk in Dollar Tree, but I have to make sure I’m not buying a lot (take the get in and get out approach) and we have to head straight to the toy aisle so he can buy a package of spinning tops and be out within 5 minutes.
So, you can see that everything has to be planned ahead. Which is why I’m all for these modern conveniences that take a tad of the pressure off. Let’s take a look at #’s 6-10…
6. DVD’s. Honestly, I used to be against modern technology. I mean, I still hold grudges. I don’t even know how to text. And there was a time when I refused to quit buying cassette tapes because I just knew that CD’s were a fad that would never catch on.
And now you can't even give boxes of tapes away at a garage sale. There's a whole generation of kids who will never know the greatness of a cheesy ballad mixed-tape.
Simeon, if you're reading this... Honey, You're the Inspiration. I get Lost in Your Eyes and I'm Crazy for You. I Can't Fight This Feeling. You're my Eternal Flame and I'll Never Say Goodbye because You Give Me Something to Believe In....
Anyway, we bought our first DVD player in 2001, but DVD’s were so expensive, so we just continued to buy VHS. Then, along came Noah. And his extreme fascination with all things Elmo and Baby Einstein. And then came the knowledge that Noah goes ballistic every time we have to rewind a video in order to play it again.
And, boy, did we have to play it again. And again. And again.
You would think, honestly, that after rewinding a tape for the 1,000th time that he would realize that we weren’t trying to torture him. That he would eventually get to watch his video, but that he’d just have to exercise a fraction of patience and wait a couple of minutes.
If you believe that’s possible, then you don’t have a child with autism. He still does that. My mom has an old video player and he still goes nuts when we have to rewind Baby Shakespeare. Still!
Which is why I count the invention of DVD’s as one of the Top !0 things that has made my life easier. You.just.push.play. Simple as that.
Meltdown avoided. Crisis delayed.
7. Pay-At-The-Pump Gas Stations - it would probably sound incredibly melodramatic if I told you how in love I am with pay-at-the-pump gas stations. I think they’re the best thing ever! I honestly cannot imagine having to drag all of your kids out of the car every time you had to fill up with gas. I know Noah and it would be a pain in my big fat rear end. Do you know how many soft drinks they have in those places? Enough for a child with autism to think he just walked straight into Heaven. It would be a nightmare. Plus, I can't resist the York Peppermint Patties that they usually have on the counter. Those and those red peanut pralines. And there's the hassle of having to get three kids in and out of their car seats… oh gosh, I feel for every mother who had to raise a child in the 80’s.
I salute you.
8. Online Card Catalogue for Our Local Library – our local library is small. They only just got their entire card catalogue online. But it is one of the best things to happen to our family.
We love the library. I wanted to be a librarian when I was kid. I used to play library and make all the neighborhood kids check out books from my “store”. I used to get in trouble for reading Judy Blume novels in class. I was the kid who always ordered the most books off the Scholastic Book forms. I majored in English Lit in college.
Reading is as essential to me as breathing.
Noah? He could give a flying fig. Taking Noah to the library is a total crapshoot. When he’s good, he’s good. When he’s bad… everyone in the whole place knows it.
Checking out a book from the library is the equivalent to going on a top-secret CIA mission. Everything has to be planned perfectly. Which is where the online catalogue comes in. Gone are the days when I would park Noah – in his stroller – next me while I searched the library computer to see what books might interest us. Now, I can check online from the comfort of my laptop and see if it’s available. I can jot down the reference number and even place a hold! Then I just run in with my list in hand and go straight to the books I want, grab them off the shelf, throw my card at the librarian and ask her to move like lightening. If we’re quick enough, we can make it out of there before Noah starts thrashing and flailing in his stroller, grabs my hand and clamps down.
Pitbulls have nothing on that boy.
So a big thank you to librarians everywhere who decided to make Dewey go digital. So worth it!
9. Family Bathrooms at SuperTarget - I’ve always thought Target was super even before they decided to put the word before their name. But once they become SuperTarget and introduced the Family Bathroom…well, I could’ve easily tattooed a bulls eye on my butt just to show my extreme love and affection for everything red and white.
The Family Bathroom is a must for an older child with autism. I mean, first of all, what is the age that it becomes unacceptable to take a male child into the women’s bathroom? Noah will never be able to go into the men’s room alone. I mean, he’s still in pull-ups for Pete’s sake. And do you know who hard it is to change a 9 year old in a cramped, stinky bathroom designed for one person?
But the Family Bathroom…. awww, my heart just swells thinking about it… solves all those problems. I can wheel the grocery cart in there, lock the door and it’s just me and the kids. No one has to know that I’m actually in there changing Noah. Noah doesn’t have to feel embarrassed about being changed in a public place. It’s big and clean and private. And I can honestly tell you where every SuperTarget is located within an 2 hour radius.
Anyplace that has a Family Bathroom is tops in my book. And that includes you, Cabela’s. Even though I hate your display of taxidermied exotic animals that should’ve never crossed the Atlantic, I do love your gorgeous and spacious family bathroom.
10. Online Shopping – you knew it, right? You knew #10 HAD to be online shopping, didn’t you?
I know online shopping helps a lot of people. Moms of kids with autism. People with agrophobia. Housewives who have crushes on the UPS man….
For me, it makes things so much easier because I can order things with just a click of the mouse and I never have to worry about taking Noah into a new place or an unfamiliar store where the fluorescent lights be too bright or they might actually be vacuuming (he’s terrified of vacuums) or where there’s the possibility that we might be subjected to a multi-stall bathroom.
I love Amazon.com. For the days or weeks or months when Noah’s behavior makes it impossible to go to the library, even for a quick dash in and out, I can order books online. Instead of taking the kids shopping for clothes, I can go to Gymboree or Old Navy or even Ebay and order online. When we’re out of Sambucus, Noah’s favorite brand of elderberry extract, I can order it online instead of having to drive an hour and a half to the nearest Whole Foods. I can get virtually anything I want or need online.
And it makes life soooo much easier.
Now, in closing, I want to make sure that ya’ll know that I don’t keep Noah locked up like some 16th century criminal. We do a lot of things and we go a lot of places. But because Noah’s mind works so differently from most kids, we have to be really prepared all the time. So, while we can drive through McDonalds, we can never eat inside. But we can eat inside Whataburger, but has to be in the back corner booth. And we can take the kids to CiCi’s, but only at 4 because that’s when the fresh pizzas come out but an hour before the supper crowd starts filtering in. We can also go to Sonic, but we can only go to the one that has the playground with the fence. And it has to be before or after lunch so that it won’t be crowded. And we can go to one park in town but we can’t go to the other because the swings are too far from the rest of the playground and Noah only wants to go on the swings. We can also go to someone’s house, but only if they don’t have a pool or if Noah doesn’t know they have a pool. Because once he knows, he’ll spend the entire time dragging everyone to the back door so he can get outside and swim. Even in the dead of winter. And I can never go anywhere without a backpack of two changes of clothes and a purse with at least three plastic spinning tops from Dollar Tree.
But I’m not complaining. Because I can’t complain. Because my life is so much easier than the lives of autism moms before me. And I think about my sisters in other countries who are living with autism everyday and have no help whatsoever.
So this list, that might sound… I don’t know… stupid, inane, greedy, lazy, or juvenile to some people, helps keep me in check. Because life with autism is hard… but we’re managing. And, honestly, we’re really, really blessed.
Now, if I could just get supper on the table and the dishes done with just a click of the button, then my life would be complete.
Oh, you lucky future moms of the 22nd century. You're gonna have it made!