Depending on where you are along the autism parenting journey, you may have come across a few items that seem to be worth their weight in gold to your child. Whether it’s the action figure they carry everywhere with them, or that endless cycle of YouTube videos, when you find something that seems to satisfy their unique preferences, you buy big!
I’ve done a little leg work for you and have identified a few absolute no-lose investments for special needs parents to invest in. These may not be totally universal (as the saying goes, “If you’ve met one child with autism, you’ve met ONE child with autism”), but they just might work for you.
Set aside some savings for …
1. Some stock in McDonald's
During one vacation, my daughter refused to eat anything we packed or purchased. Whether it was the new setting or the wrong brands, I'll never know, but one thing she never says no to is a chicken McNugget. Within a week, she ate under the golden arches a total of seven times. Why not profit from the addictive stranglehold this chain has over children's taste buds?
2. Seamless socks and tag-less clothing
I'm freaking out just thinking of the seams being crossed on my feet.
3. A wheel of cheese
You're going to be making a lot of grilled cheese, cheese sticks, and quesadillas. Go for the bulk discount by just buying a 50-pound cheese wheel for $100.
4. Disinfectant wipes
I don't want to talk about it. Just have them on hand. Trust me.
5. Every episode of ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ (or equivalent)
Whatever your child's fixation is, you need all — and I mean all — of it. And it's not just for your child (you can only watch the exact same episode of "Ready Steady Wiggle!" so many times before losing your mind). Each "new" episode becomes a strange and pleasurable* breath of fresh air. (*See: Stockholm syndrome)
They fill up fast. IEP agreements, your rights, your records. Consider adding "Special Education Law," "From Emotion to Advocacy," and "Special Education Legal Developments and Cases 2015" to them, too. This binder will be your child's legal backbone in school.
7. An advocate
Sometimes we think we're the experts. We may have full binders and a ton of legal resource materials, but it still pays to actually have an expert on your side. One hundred dollars an hour might be a small price to pay when you consider the alternative.
8. Backup toys
Toys break and go missing. This is a fact. And when it happens, it can create a lot of turbulence in the special needs lifestyle. Spending a couple extra dollars for a backup can quickly pay off.
9. Backups for the backups
Yeah. Maybe stash a few around the house. And one in the car. A couple at school, too, plus one in the diaper bag. A couple in your retailer's online checkout bag couldn't hurt either. Just order them when it's time.
10. Dinosaur pajamas for every day of the week
Or hats, or shirts, or coats, or socks. In every size. Because they outgrow their clothing way faster than they outgrow their love of Thomas and Barney.
11. iPad with 4G and Wi-Fi connectivity
This is important, because if there's no Wi-Fi, there will be no loss of data stream. You must never be without internet access.
12. The ad-free pay version of every app you use
See above. Interruptions are not welcome. Spending $1.99 for the ad-free (and therefore interruption-free) version of a favorite game or app? The best $2 you'll ever spend.
13. A big bag
The diaper bag may make way for the messenger bag, or perhaps a gunny sack. Whatever it takes to carry wipes, iPad, schedule, binders, special toys, chargers, headphones, change of clothes, and fruit snacks.
For a slightly less unstable sleep.
15. Several cases of wine
Self-explanatory. Please drink responsibly.
16. White noise generator
To drown out any distracting/disturbing/upsetting sound that might rouse them from that rare deep sleep.
17. Blackout blinds
See above, because sometimes the sun makes its arrival WAY earlier than man (or child) was meant to rise.
18. Noise-canceling headphones
If your child will tolerate them, they just might make other sensory intrusions more tolerable.
19. All the batteries
Every type of battery. Power: It must never go out.
20. Slip-on shoes
Just to save yourself the extra time and hassle, and maybe start working on that self-dressing goal.
21. Sam's Club or Costco membership
Once you find that one thing, and you'll know what the thing is when you find it … buy it in bulk.
You're probably thinking: What's the rate of return for these investments?
When you invest in your child, the return is always happiness. And you can't put a price on happiness. But even when you do fall slightly short of that happiness mark, at least you still have all that wine!