The Trade-offs You Make When Your Kid Has Special Needs

This is a post in the weekly Autism Hopes series by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, a mom who blogs  over at AutismWonderland.

It was just a typical Friday at the office. I was emailing my co-worker making plans for lunch when my cell phone vibrated. It was my son’s school and I picked it up immediately.

The school nurse told me that Norrin had just thrown up and had a fever of 101. The nurse didn’t need to ask, I knew I had to pick up Norrin from school as soon as possible. I quickly hung up and my mind started to race. I dialed my husband’s cell phone – the call went to voice mail. I slammed the phone in frustration. I emailed my bosses to let them know that Norrin was sick and that I had to leave. Then I called my dad to tell him I didn’t need him to pick up Norrin from the bus.

As a working mom, a call from the school nurse stresses me out. It requires more juggling than usual. And my husband who is in law enforcement, isn’t always available to help. My job offers a little more flexibility. When Norrin was at preschool and kindergarten and he got sick, it wasn’t that big a deal. I left work, jumped on the train to his school and took him home.

But I pulled him out of the public school system and his current school is thirty miles away from my job in Manhattan. By public transportation – it’s more than a two hour ride and then I would have to take a cab from the station to the school. A cab is probably close to a $100 fare. And then I’d still have to get my sick kid back home. The best way to get to Norrin’s school is to drive. Except I don’t know how. And my husband – who does drive – could not be reached. Neither could my cousin who was on the authorized pick up list and closer to Norrin.

I remembered that my best friend’s husband, Frank, had the day off, so I called in a favor. If I could take the train a few stops to their apartment, he’d drive to Norrin’s school and then take us home. I shut down my computer, ignored the pile of work that needed to get done and ran out.

As we drove upstate, all Frank could talk about was the length of the drive. He inquired about the bus pick up and drop off times. I cursed myself for not knowing how to drive, for living so far from an appropriate school.

We were at Norrin’s school in less than an hour. I could tell Frank was impressed with the expansive grounds – the grass, the pool, the picnic tables and playground. I spotted Norrin on the swing set, surrounded by his teacher and two of his favorite assistants.

I walked with Norrin and his teacher to his class to retrieve his school bag. I met four of Norrin’s classmates – they greeted me hello and hugged me goodbye.

On the way home, I sat in the back seat with Norrin, a plastic bag in my hand just in case he got sick. I thanked Frank again.

“This looks like a really nice school,” he said. “Too bad it isn’t closer.”

It was more than a nice school. It was a great school. It was a school that was able to meet all of Norrin’s needs and more. It was a school that gave me peace of mind when I put Norrin on that bus every single day. It was a school that I knew truly cared about Norrin. I did wish his school were closer but it’s our only option. And it was well worth a few extra moments of scrambling on days when the school nurse calls because those days are few and far between.

“Yup…that’s the trade-off.” I pulled Norrin closer to me, brushing his hair with my hand.

What trade-offs do you make for your child?

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