Here are 5 subtle things you can do as a parent raising a child with special needs to make your life easier.
1. When flying, use valet at the airport.
Rather than spend the extra money on first class, the seat with more leg room, an extra bag, etc., valet your car at one of the parking spots near the airport. It doesn't cost much more than you would pay for parking anyway. You'll thank me for this tip when you get back. Some of the places will even wash your car. Those of you that already do this know the relief of not having to wander through another parking lot lugging all your shit and your kids in the sun. Well worth the extra 5 bucks!
2. Drive, walk, ride a bike, rollerblade, etc. to school.
For those readers that don't know me, I am a quintessential dude. I like a good dirty joke. I drink beer. I watch sports. So, this advice is not because I'm trying to be healthy or save the environment (both good causes), but rather I don't want my kid riding the bus to school. It has nothing to do with the stigma of the "short bus". If the boy took the bus to school (which he wants to, trust me), I would say good-bye at the doorstep and hello at the doorstep. I would only see his teachers/aides/therapists/classmates/parents of classmates/administrators and friends (yes FRIENDS), two or three times a year. I want to be involved in his schooling... not by volunteering or anything crazy like that, but by talking to the people he interacts with every day. You'll thank me when you're sitting in your next IEP staring at 5 faces you know well, rather than a room of oppositional strangers.
3. See a shrink.
Most health insurance plans cover it. Raising a child with special needs is hard fucking work. It's really nice to have a professional stranger to talk to. Don't worry, you're not "crazy" if you see a psychologist. The value of having someone that HAS to listen to you bitch about your life is priceless... and, God forbid, you might even learn something about yourself.
4. Take up golf.
Or take up any hobby/sport that gets you out of the house. Here's why I golf. I live in a world where I have very little control. Sure I can direct, or re-direct, or react, but I am never entirely in control. Those of you that golf know this feeling. Little in life is more beautiful than a perfectly struck tee shot sailing through the air on a perfect line. You watch your ball sail against a backdrop of clouds and blue skies and land on a lush contrasting green. Nothing is uglier than a shanked tee shot that sail 80 yards to your right off the cliff, either. Good or bad, your shot was entirely in your control. A picture perfect moment that makes you turn to your friends and say "I made that. That came from ME." Plus, golf is one of the few "sports" that you can drink and smoke while playing.
5. Accept the things you can not change.
I'm still working on this one, but I've heard it's Nirvana if you can.
While I was writing this, I thought of about 8 more, but I promised you 5.
Good luck, my friends. I'll see you at the airport valet, or the schoolyard drop-off, or the psychologists office, or on the links soon.
And hopefully, one day, sitting under that cherry tree.