Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My ISP - Individualized Socialization Plan

" We should not let grass grow on the path of friendship."
   - Madam Marie Therese Rodet Geoffrin

I spend a lot of time focusing on The Boy's social development (facilitating play dates, initiating social interaction, responding to social cues), however my own social life and sense of self is suffering.  And if you're the mom of a special needs kid - I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.

I say no to pretty much every invitation I receive from friends.  No, I have class.  No, I have to take The Boy to sensory gym.  No, it's my late day at work.  No, it's been a rough week.  No, I don't have money.  And even when I have money - still No.  Because I feel guilty spending money.  Especially this year, with all this Turning 5 stuff.  See my post Autism Ain't Cheap.  And I've said No so many times, that the invitations come less and less.

Forget about a romantic night out with The Husband.  Since my mother takes care of The Boy during the week, I hate to ask her to watch him on the weekends too.  On the rare occasion, I do ask my mother to watch The Boy on a Saturday night, I feel like I'm fifteen years old begging for permission to go to a party.  My parents never went out and left us behind.  Ever.  So she makes me feel guilty for wanting to go out. So The Husband and I stay home.  Another reason why I say to no to friends - I don't go out with my husband, how can I go out with my friends?

But this Sunday, on the first day of Spring - I said yes.  And it was nice.  It felt good to sit among old friends, to catch up and just giggle and gossip the way girls often do.  It was nice to eat a meal and not have to stop to feed someone else or wipe a nose.  It was nice to eat and not feel rushed.  It was nice to sit and sip my drink leisurely.

I decided that I would make more of an effort to say yes.  I work hard at school, at work, with Norrin - but cultivating my relationships not so much.  How can I expect The Boy to work on one to one relationships with peers, when he doesn't see me doing it?  So like everything else in our life, I will have to plan it out.  I'm calling it an "ISP" - Individualized Socialization Plan

Short-Term Objectives:
  1. Lisa will coordinate time with friends.  For example: Yesterday I emailed my best friends inviting them out for a pre-mother's day evening out.  Planning in advance gives us time to secure child care and plan financially.  When my friend stated that she may not be able to do that due to finances, I said: Don't worry - I'll come over with 2 big bottles of wine.  :)
  2. Lisa will secure alternate child care services.  The Husband and I need to go out.  We need to be able to allow friends and/or other family members take The Boy for a few hours. There are plenty of people who have offered to watch The Boy. We need to start collecting on those offers.
  3. Lisa will engage in at least one personal activity per month.  No going to class will not count. I never ever take time out for myself.  I am always doing something for someone else.  Going somewhere for someone else.  Going forward I will work on taking time out for myself, by myself.  Even if it's just walking to the corner Starbucks and having a cup of coffee.        
Annual Goal:
Lisa will improve on all relationships: self, romantic, friendships and familial.

As I'm writing these down, I'm a little hesitant.  Can I committ to do this?  Better yet, will I?  I know The Husband is absolutely supportive of me taking time out for myself.  The responsibility to do so falls on me.  Obviously, I won't be able to accept every invitation and some months may be harder than others to carve time out.  But just like I expect The Boy to try and make attempts in socialization and personal development, I need to put forth that same effort.  

"When all is said and done, it is the people in your life, the friendships you form and the committments you maintain, that give shape to your life."
 - Hillary Rodham Clinton     


AutismWonderland - written by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez - is a personal blog chronicling a NYC family's journey with autism, while also sharing local resources for children/families with special needs.