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Autism: Poor Planning

04 Mar

Until that point, I had been taking him around in a stroller. However, he was 3 years old, and I had recently been encouraged to allow him to walk. It was on a day that we didn’t have the stroller, and were standing near the college waiting for a bus. A man complimented me on the fact that I was requiring him to walk when “so many children are taken around in strollers, who are old enough to be walking.”

Since it wasn’t a direct accusation against me (he was trying to compliment my parenting choices) I was able to consider this advice without defense. And in truth, I thought he was likely right.

We were in a hurry in those days, as I was in college, and my son was in daycare all day. The bus rides and wait times added another 3-4 hours to our days, and then I had to do homework when I got home. So to make things easier, I just put my son in the stroller, and away we went.

Only it wasn’t helpful to strengthening my son’s legs, and this man’s comment convicted me of this. Of course, I didn’t change my routine right away. Change takes me longer than a moment to make into a habit. But first year was about to end, and that short break seemed the perfect time to work on teaching my son he had to walk.

I had wanted to take him camping that summer, but on my final day of school, when I went to pick him up from daycare, I noticed a spot on his nose. As I was fast-tracking (I started my course in January 1999, and was to complete the 2 year program in April of 2000, with the students who had started in the fall of 1998) I only had a 5 week break between first and second years.

Well, for three weeks of that five week break, my son had chicken pox – bad! He was feverish, and sick, and very itchy. Living in an apartment, it was difficult to get outside (my neighbour across the hall was prone to shingles, so I felt the need to keep him in.) Instead of camping that summer, I set up the tent on the balcony, once my son was well enough to enjoy it.

However, as the illness started to heal, I decided it was time to start walking him. So at night, when I was sure my neighbour was not out, I would walk him through the neighbourhood. These were enjoyable walks, in the cool of the day – but they were not very long, and I wasn’t used to spending so much time close to home in those days, and needed to get out.

So when his illness was over, I decided to take him for a ‘real’ walk. There was a path just down from my apartment which used to be railway tracks, but were turned into a walking path. It was a very enjoyable walk, mostly in silence, with hills and trees surrounding us on either side. Only my ability to plan was not so great in those days, and we walked further than we should.

Albion Falls

Both of us were tired and hungry, yet to turn around, it was a long way home. Looking down the escarpment, I noticed some landmarks, and decided to walk down (a hilly area, rather than the cliff that split most of the town in two) and go to McDonald’s for lunch, before taking a bus home.

Only as we were walking down the hill, through a forested area, we came face to face with what at the time I took to be a very hungry, lost dog. I talked to the dog a bit – as I tend to do. It looked at us, and then turned around and walked away. Then we continued down the hill.

That was many years ago, and at the time, I didn’t realize how lucky we had been. After having seen many coyotes in the years since, both in pictures and real life, there seems to be no doubt in my mind that it was that animal which we encountered that day – and I am very grateful that it did not chose to eat my small son.

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