This guest post is written by Jen Dryer who is a mother to two children and has previously written an informative piece for Beltway Bambinos which helps parents navigate early intervention resources. She will be co-leading a class again called Raising Orchid Kids: Practical Strategies for Parents of Neurodiverse Children beginning July 22. She will lead the class alongside Gabriele Nicolet, MA, CCC-SLP, a family communication specialist and parent coach and founder of SpeechKids Therapy.
We took the plunge and brought our “orchid child,” who requires many specific conditions (like orchids do to thrive) to stay happy and self-regulated, to the Nats game over Memorial Day weekend. Miraculously, we made it all the way to the bottom of the 8th inning before my son, Max, started emphatically expressing his desire to leave. For any 9 year old child, getting to the 8th inning is a solid showing, but for Max, who is autistic, it was a fantastic accomplishment. He thoroughly enjoyed the experience, including the tour on which he led me of all the available elevators, and he even asked lots of questions about all the stats. While the Nats ended up losing, we definitely won!
For most families, the thought of taking their child to a professional baseball game evokes an image of a fun, exciting, and positive shared experience. For those of us raising kids whose brains work differently than their typically developing peers, you know the struggle and the stress of worrying about taking your child to an unfamiliar place with all kinds of new sounds, sights, smells and crowds. The image of you and your neurodiverse child at a baseball game might evoke images of meltdowns and overwhelm, and can seem a far cry from the fun, exciting and joy filled image parents of neurotypical children might envision in the same scenario. For those parents who are navigating the challenge of raising a neurodiverse child in a neurotypical world, hopefully our personal win at the game feels inspiring.
Our successful experience at the Nats game did not happen magically. We put a lot of specific preparation and supports into place beforehand to help Max prepare for the experience of going to what, for so many kids, is a simple, fun outing. We planned for Plan B, C and D, and had a slew of strategies at the ready in case Max started to get agitated or melt down. These are exactly the supports and preparation tools that experienced speech and communication therapist Gabriele Nicolet and I teach in our Raising Orchid Kids: Practical Strategies for Parents of Neurodiverse Children class, with the goal of making life less stressful and more joyful for those families, and to help parents find effective avenues to help their neurodiverse child thrive.
I can personally attest to how incredibly helpful it is to find your parenting tribe and get support from experts and others who are on that same path. The work that we have been doing to support parents of neurodiverse kids has been so inspiring to witness, as we’ve helped guide parents toward strategies and insights into how to better support their challenging child and help them thrive and become more independent.
Our next 6-week session of the online livestream Raising Orchids: Practical Strategies for Parents of Neurodiverse Children course starts Thursday, July 22, and runs for 6 consecutive Thursdays from 8:30-9:45pm. For more information or to register, click here. We also offer regular parent support groups for young children, elementary age kids, and teens/tweens run by veteran Orchid Raiser moms for those who just want to connect and find community. For more information or to register for our support groups, click here.