What Happened to August?

ChecklistSometimes I find that as a special needs parent I focus so much on what needs to be done in the future, that I often lose track of how far we’ve come. I was given a little reminder this past week.

Like most special needs kids, Katie attends summer school. Every district does summer school in its own way. In Dublin, when the regular academic year ended, there were two weeks off, then six weeks of summer school, five days per week, then two weeks off again, and then the new school year started. This meant Katie never had more than two weeks off from school year-round. It sucked for vacation planning but made the often rough transition back to school much easier. For three years, this was our schedule. As a single mom, I loved it.

The Pleasanton Unified School District (PUSD) does things a bit differently. When the academic year ends there is only a single week off in June, then five weeks of summer school, four days per week, and then an entire month off before school starts again. When I agreed to transfer Katie to PUSD, I didn’t think to ask about summer school. When I found out near the end of the school year, my heart sank. The four-day week was bad enough for a working parent, but a month off? This may simplify vacation planning, but it complicates nearly everything else—at least for me.

Katie and I got through the month. I didn’t get nearly as much work done as I wanted, and we never took the elaborate vacation I fantasized about last spring, but the month went just fine. Last week I complained to a friend about how August just vanished, how I couldn’t seem to get work done, couldn’t seem to get much of anything done. She reminded me that I’d been home alone with an autistic child. Did you have a nanny? No. Did you enroll Katie in summer camp? No. Did you pray to get through the month in one piece? Well, umm, no. Not even a little.

It was that last “no” that gave me pause. Because I used to pray—really, truly pray—to make it through a two-week break with my daughter. Other moms would talk about all the fun things they had planned for their kids’ time off and I would pray that we both survived intact. I had to white knuckle it like an alcoholic in the early days of sobriety, one day at a time. It made me feel terribly guilty until a few other autism parents confessed to feeling tremendous relief when their kids returned to school, and I realized I wasn’t the only one. Our kids thrive on structure and predictability, two things school provides in spades. It’s hard to replace that when school is out because real life is simply not that predictable.

But this summer I hadn’t prayed at all, hadn’t even thought of it. I’d been busy making a launch schedule for my new business, and then beating myself up when it didn’t happen the way I’d planned. Hmmm. Somehow I went from praying to survive to enjoying time with my child to expecting to work while I was with her. Yeah, I’d say that was progress. A whole lot of progress I managed to overlook.

Suffice it to say next summer I will do things differently. Either I’ll take the month off with Katie and read books and write or I will hire a nanny or maybe even consider summer camp. She’ll be ten by then. It might work. I’ll figure it out next year. But one thing I know for certain. I will not be praying to make it through the month.

Until next time,
Cynthia Patton

About Cynthia J. Patton

Writer, Editor, Advocate, Speaker, Special Needs Attorney, and Autism Mom. Also the Founder and Chairperson of Autism A to Z, a nonprofit providing resources and solutions for life on the spectrum.
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