April is autism awareness month: Day 14 – Disabled Parking
Getting out of doors can be difficult at times.
The overwhelming sensory input from noises and smells can cause a variety of difficult behaviours which can be predicted but not avoided, causing a range of hazards.
Dylan was 3 years old when he was awarded a blue disabled parking badge. This badge was used in the car to allow us as a permit to park closer to shops and buildings. The primary use of this was that if Dylan was frustrated because of an element of the journey or rattled by the activity outside then we could carry him to the destination from the closer parking space.
It was always also a risk that once out of the car Dylan would run, especially if he was startled or anxiety was running high he would bolt off into a busy carpark and was at high risk of being knocked over. The more we would try to hold onto his hand the more he would panic and wriggle. Josh and Grace would always have the door seats as if little guards to prevent Dylan getting out of the car unsupervised. We would do whatever we could to keep Dylan safe.
Sometimes the situation felt really dangerous and being able to park closer to the pavement or an area of safety was a real reassurance.
Disabled badges are given to those in need; there are strict criteria from the Councils as to who is eligible for them with ongoing checks to ensure that they are being used correctly. In fact there’s a pretty hefty fine for anyone found to be misusing them.
When parking with one – even with it clearly on display – there would often be disapproving looks, you can see people wondering why you are parked there,
‘What’s your need? You look okay.’
I see the point – we are a young family, Dylan is physically able in that he has two working legs.
The difference being that if a car horn beeps or there is another unexpected overload he cannot focus on the dangers that surround him when outdoors.
He has the fight or flight response; he could bolt off or drop to the floor, engulfed in the overwhelming affect that the noise and the resulting anxiety of the noise has on him. He loses any focus he would have on where we are going, who he is with, what dangers may be around him. He just feels the pain of the noise and the absolute panic from the unpredictably of it all.
All this from a car horn.
Thankfully this has improved as Dylan has become older. This is a blessing as there is no way I could carry him into the shops now!
We manage the best we can now by pre-empting a lot of the noise and the bustle where possible but due to the unpredictable nature of public places, this is hard work and Dylan requires 1-2-1 attention and reassurance for this.
So this post is about having an understanding of the difficulties of sensory overload in public places and the dangers that surround that from a carpark perspective.
Be it the noise, the bustle and the stresses of parking all of which are real dangers to Dylan.
So please have a bit of understanding if you see someone who may look physically able but is using a disabled parking badge; things may look well but could change disastrously in an instant.