The Playground can be Isolating for a Special Needs Parent

If you live in a city apartment and don’t have your own backyard, the playground is THE place for kids to burn some energy and let off steam.

Every other day we pack cookies, water, and a soccer ball and head to my most feared opponent.

The park is packed with laughing children.

Parents stand in groups and exchange the latest neighborhood gossip. Some have made themselves comfortable on carefully arranged picnic blankets, setting up a snack buffet that could feed half of the city.

Others sit in the sand pit with their kids, cheering for slushy sand cakes and crumbling sand castles.

I see fathers ambitiously playing soccer with their little ones who have just learned to walk. Better teach em’ young, I guess…

My son Jim runs around. And I look around to see if I might spot a familiar face. Nope, nothing.

Well, then I’ll just try to mingle with the parents.

I slowly trot off, put on my mom smile and say hello to everyone. In the meantime, Jim makes his way to the sand pit.

There he stands, moderately motivated, takes a shovel in his hand, drops it again and stares into nowhere. He really doesn’t know what to do with the sand or the shovel.

A group of children race past him on scooters, and he takes up the chase.

The children notice him and start speaking to him.

There it is, the moment that always happens: Jim smiles at them, but doesn’t say anything. He cannot answer the children’s questions, he does not know what to do.

The other children shrug their shoulders, quickly lose interest and continue doing their thing without Jim.

These situations used to hurt me, they really got to me. You see, Jim tries to make contact in his own way, but since there is no dialogue, his story ends right there.

I also learned a lot from these situations: Parents come into contact with each other when the kids are in contact.

For Jim it is difficult to get in touch with others. He is a social kid, he enjoys
company, but being verbally limited makes it really hard for him.

Jim has no playground friends, we have no play dates. And so I wander around the playground, trying to keep my mom smile, even though I feel like crying.

On some days I envy the parents’ groups how they stand or sit together, laugh and gossip, or have a pizza delivered to the park. Someone usually brings a bottle of wine or prosecco. Cheers, guys!

I sit on the bench and feel like I’m in a theater: it’s all happening on stage, and I am the audience, watching the play while Jim picks all the dandelions for me until he can’t find any more.

Like every other day, I will probably not make friends on the playground today.

I won’t arrange a play date for tomorrow, next week, or any other week this year.

And so I sink into my thoughts and almost have to laugh a little about how lonely one can feel on a busy playground.

While I giggle to myself, someone pulls my sleeve and points vigorously to the slide. There is Jim, at the top.

Behind him is a long queue of kids. Everyone wants to go down the slide, but someone is in their way. Jim. And he is enjoying the view, he probably feels like being on top of the world up there. He also seems to enjoy the fact that he is the center of attention.

The sleeve-pulling mother becomes more and more agitated and orders me to get Jim away from there. After all, the slide is there to slide and not to sit around.

The other parents nod in agreement. Sigh…

So I get Jim from his lookout, we slowly make our way back home, still hearing the outrage of the other parents.

As usual, we were the strange ones, the ones “who don’t belong”.

Every time I think to myself…’I’ll never set a foot on the playground again!’

But I know that we will try again tomorrow anyway. Even if it takes all my courage.

Sometimes being different is scary.

Written by, Marison Dantas da Silva

Hi, I am Marison, a German living in Vienna, the beautiful capital of Austria, together with my boyfriend Ollie, our 4yr old son Jim and our dog Bob. Jim was diagnosed last year with Autism Spectrum Disorder, although we had suspected it for quite a while. He is a very social kid and limited verbal. I started writing about our journey because there are not many German-speaking blogs on Autism that focus on the positive side of the diagnosis. On my blog, I let you join our family virtually while I focus on all the things that Jim CAN do. You can follow Jim’s Journey on FB and Instagram.

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Finding Cooper’s Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you’re never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village….all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook, subscribe for exclusive videos, and subscribe to our newsletter.

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!

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