Many people look forward to the Summer as a time to unwind, drink too much and wear too little.
It's when we get to slather our blue-white Irish shins in factor 50, in the hope that the sun will actually make the odd appearance from behind a dense layer of Ireland-shaped cloud.
Parents of autie kids aren't Many People though.
Summer, for me, is usually preceded by an intense desire to run away and join the Foreign Legion for a nice little lie-down.
Many autie parents start the day at 5.30am with a screaming, semi-nude Ninja cannonballing through the hallway, primed to explode like a cuddly, tickle-seeking octopus across their sleepy bed.
Well, OK, maybe that's just my house.
And I'm lucky that my autie kid is generally really good humored.
It's usually a pleasant (if early
) start to our day, but the thing is that my high-octane, turbo-injected human dynamo just doesn't stop.
During the academic year our kids have structure and focus, which channels their energy in a positive way.
Usually by bedtime they are ready to sleep.
Plus SuperMom (that's me) has a few hours during the day to do mad stuff like clean the house and cook meals...hell, I could even go wild and have a shower.
Remove that structure and replace it with one over-stretched, under-valued mother and you get a recipe for tantrums, sleeplessness and an ever deepening cyclone of stress.
And that's just me.
When you have a pint-sized escapologist who insists on playing the same episode of Bob the Builder on a loop (on three separate devices at the same time), autism fatigue sets in fast. Brushing your teeth and going to the loo become tasks of impossible complexity.
To say exhaustion, stress and isolation take hold is like saying that Amy Winehouse enjoys the odd small sherry.
You see how the Foreign Legion sounds attractive?
Thankfully most of us can avail of July Provision, but August stretches before us like a grimly empty road.
I would prefer to populate it with calm, happy autie kids instead of over-wrought, fragile creatures that proceed directly to Meltdown...do not pass Go and do not collect €200.
In my (*cough*) vast experience of Autism (3 years as an Autie Mammy, but 17 years as an Autie Auntie which counts a bit), there are a few things I'll share with you that have helped me to cope with Summer.Change Gears
It's difficult to put the brakes on when we've been coasting along nicely at 90 miles an hour all year.
When the support of school is removed in the Summer it is just not possible to be a Domestic Goddess while making sure your kids are safe.
Preventing your child from making a break for the motorway trumps the ironing every time.
Let the housework slide. In September you can go back to dusting the oranges and fluffing the parrot's feathers.
God invented frozen pizza and chips because He knows what August is like for us.Get Real
It would be lovely to enjoy the various family festivals and shows that happen over the Summer.
It is very easy to feel pressured into appearing like a "normal" family and attending activities that other families find routine.
But if your autie kid is going to have a fit of the Screaming Heebeejeebies (I have referenced this disorder before) because he can't handle crowds, then don't be bullied into going by Great-Auntie Foghorn, who only wants to show off her entry into the crocheted knickers stall.
Either don't go, or have an emergency escape exit and leave without apology if required.Have A Holiday, Autie Style
For many autie parents, holidays are a logistical impossibility.
If you want to spend two grand to spend a week "specialing" (a nursing term used when intense, constant attention is required to maintain patient safety) an over-heated, disorientated autie child who is inconsolable over the loss of his WiFi access, then knock yourself out.
Personally I'd rather spend the money on day trips to the zoo (if your child likes animals), or a return intercity train ticket (if railways are his thing).
Get to know what your kid likes and go with that.
If your child can cope with "proper" holidays, that is wonderful.
If he can't, WHY
would you pay to put yourself and your kid through torture?
...and finally (phew! I knew I'd run out of wind eventually),Be Nice To Yourself
I have learned rather late in life that being a martyr is not sexy.
Get your hair done, use moisturiser and paint your nails.
The outside is just window dressing to how you feel about yourself on the inside. I don't want my kids to think I feel like Jabba the Hut. And I especially don't want them to think it's because one of them has Autism.
In August you may be lucky enough to have a relative who has a couple of weeks off work...and any offers of babysitting should be not only accepted gratefully with both hands, but dragged into a solicitors office and pinned into a chair while a legally binding agreement is drafted.
Don't refuse help.
And have a facial while it's available.
Grab your Survival Kit.
And have a great Summer, folks, autie style.