One thing that has been a constant pretty much since Nathaniel was born is that things rarely go the way we planned them. For better or worse, it’s just the way it is.
I mean, I could go into all the things you plan before you have a child, which is really probably unreasonable for anyone. You can’t predict the life of a child, let alone that of a family. Sure, I didn’t plan on having a child with developmental delays and Autism. But none of us know what is going to be for our children – we don’t sign up for anything but almost overwhelming love and responsibility.
Sometimes, our plans get scrapped or edited and it ends up being for the best. Sometimes we miss out on seeing people we want to see and don’t get to go places we thought we’d go, but then we end up being content with the three of us, just hanging out, doing nothing exciting. Our plan changes are often due to the unpredictability of Nathaniel’s moods and the fact that the kid gets sick with colds, sinus infections, stomach viruses & all kinds of fun contagions like there’s no tomorrow. When Nat was in the Early Intervention program, we had no real solid schedule that ever worked for weeks in a row, between him being sick, our therapists being sick & their own kids being sick. No one was to blame, it was just our gift of having fantastically messed up timing. And so far as our social lives, I could count on my hands the amount of times we’ve attended any kind of get together that we planned on going to. We’re just horribly unreliable people nowadays.
Here are some of the bigger, more memorable plans we had made just in the past year or so & their result:
Just prior to Nathaniel starting Early Intervention services, we went on a road trip to visit my oldest friend. It went way better than expected or planned. We wanted to do the same trip the following autumn, in 2012. We also thought that in the spring of 2012, we’d visit another close friend who lived even further. But then the neurology evaluations started in the winter of 2012, the ASD diagnosis was given; our days were full & our pockets a little lighter, so the longer distance spring trip was ruled out. We held out hope for a long weekend in the fall.
[One of my own biggest plans gone wrong happened in March of 2012, we adopted a dog from a shelter – the adoption went through two days after Nathaniel’s ASD diagnosis. Unfortunately, Nathaniel was not comfortable with the dog’s exuberance and he did NOT like how the dog had taken over Mommy’s lap and so much of Mommy’s attention and had majorly changed his routine. I’d have to say that our cat wasn’t really thrilled with the dog either. The dog was a total love bug – but needed way more constant attention than any dog or cat I’d ever had. After about three months of my struggling to balance everybody’s needs and crying again & again when I couldn’t make it work, I agreed with Eric that things were not getting any better, they actually seemed to be getting worse, and it was time to find another home for the dog. Thank goodness, we found a much better home for the dog, where he is reportedly getting all the love, attention and exercise that he could want – at least plan B worked out.]
In September of 2012, well after the dog disaster, as we were starting to get comfortable with being a special needs family, we found that a lot of plans were going to change again. We learned that Eric was going to be laid off from the company where we both worked, along with some of our other coworkers, as business was not good & was not expected to get anything but get worse, at least until the spring of 2013. No road trip for sure. I also had to change my schedule, which I hadn’t planned on doing until Nathaniel started preschool in February 2013. Up until that point, from the time I had returned to work after my maternity leave, I had been working half days at the office, being home with Nathaniel in the morning, able to be there for all of his therapy sessions & his gym class. I made up the hours in the evening. Now, I would have to take over Eric’s position at work & no longer be home for most of his therapy. Eric was going to be a stay-at-home dad, at least until another job was found – and we had never planned for that, nor are we able to keep that arrangement indefinitely. I remember sitting in the waiting area of Nathaniel’s ABA office when the word came that Eric’s days at our company had an official end date – I just sat & cried & couldn’t stop. People probably thought I was crying over some bad news I got from the associated neurology office.
In January, while Eric began really looking in earnest for a new job, as preschool was approaching and the morning therapy sessions would be ending, my health insurance, which was now covering all three of us, changed, and this caused us to change the plan we had with our son’s ABA therapy/neurology office. This office was not covered by the new insurance, except by a partial reimbursement. We remained there for about 5 weeks until the start of preschool, but it just was not affordable anymore or logistically logical. Thank goodness it hasn’t hurt any – again, sometimes nixed plans are okay.
And then came preschool. Now – prior to diagnosis, we had assumed that Nathaniel would go to the same private daycare/school where he had been going part-time through kindergarten. But private school would not allow for us to receive therapy unless we went all private for that too. So we’d have to leave that behind. It was a sad goodbye, but definitely for the best.
When we first started meeting with the public school child study team, before all their evaluations were done, when we were just wild & crazy newbies (maybe just crazy), we thought, we want Nathaniel in a general ed program, with pull-outs for therapy. And then he got evaluated & at our IEP meeting, the team said that he should be in a full-day self-contained Autism class. We were kind of on the fence, but over the next week, we started to accept the idea. Then we toured his future school & checked out all the preschool classes, with Nathaniel in tow. Our experience in his recommended class was not a positive one & Nathaniel was clearly agitated and had to leave the room. We visited the mixed disabilities self-contained class & it was a much more positive experience. General ed was clearly too huge – the student/teacher ratio was just overwhelmingly not right. This kind of feels like Goldilocks, eh? So then we met with the team for another IEP meeting & everyone agreed to have him spend the first half of the day in the mixed class, and the second half day in the Autism class, as the evaluations seemed to back that as a necessity. (Oh yeah & Nathaniel got a stomach virus for his first planned week at school – again, fantastic planning & timing there!) For the first month of Nathaniel being in school, the IEP was followed and we had no idea that it was not going quite as hoped; Nathaniel had been a little more difficult at home & he was getting a lot worse with handling transitions, but our contact with his teachers led us to believe that he was gradually adjusting to school. After the first month, we had a prearranged meeting with the team and his teachers & we learned that the plan was not going well for Nathaniel; he was very agitated even approaching the time of his Autism class and it was not benefiting him. However, he was doing fantastic in the other class. This fantastic class is only a half day. So our full-day preschool plans came to a necessary, but abrupt end. And Nathaniel is definitely the happier for it – so again, not as planned, but it worked out even better – at least in the matter of his real happiness.
Our next contingency plan was to enroll Nathaniel in a private preschool/daycare for the second half of the day. Eric had interviewed for a great sounding job and had been told a few weeks earlier by the hiring agency, good news, you’re on the list for the training class starting in April & an official offer letter will soon be in the mail. Therefore, we would need a daycare option for Nathaniel very soon, especially since he wasn’t going to be in school past 11:45am anymore (not to mention the social & developmental bonuses of an afternoon program) and it wouldn’t be fair to ask the grandparents to babysit the majority of the week. So we toured a place, really liked it and began discussing when Nat should start. But the offer letter for the new job hadn’t come. Eric was told that there’d been some delay, but it would be coming. But it didn’t come. And Eric was told that they hadn’t, in fact, finalized the list, but offer letters were expected to be sent out & should be received by Monday, which was the day we toured the daycare. Today’s Wednesday – no letter. It seems it was not to be.
Now we need another plan and a plan B, most likely. With the way things are going, maybe we should start having a plan for each letter of the alphabet.