Parenting any child is a tightrope walk of encouraging independence yet judging risk; allowing your child to explore the world, yet keeping them safe from harm. This tightrope becomes ever tauter when you parent a child with additional needs.
Our son is 10 years old. Creative, funny, disorganised and autistic. Alongside his autism, he also contends with sensory processing disorder and anxiety, meaning he struggles with many things on a daily basis that other children in his class take for granted. This has become more noticeable as they have grown up together through primary school.
We have seen the parents of his classmates begin to allow their children more freedom, playing in the park unsupervised or walking to each other’s houses, something that we just cannot let our son do. Our son does understand cause and effect until he has experienced the effect, meaning he can engage in high risk, impulsive behaviour. He would not think of the possible consequences before wandering off to a friend’s house without letting us know first or accepting a lift from a stranger.
However, in less than a year, our son will be off to secondary school where he will need to be able to get the school bus on his own and work out how to get from class to class without help. As parents, we need to teach him how to assess risk and that can only come from allowing him more independence, however terrifying this may be for us.
At the start of his final year at primary school, our son asked if he could walk to school with his friend. Despite being a short 10 minute walk along a quiet village road, the idea absolutely horrified us. However, our son argued his case, stating quite fairly, that he would never know what he was capable of unless we gave him the opportunity to try.
We spoke to the school and they were fully supportive of allowing him this freedom, but we were still hesitant. We felt we needed more reassurance and researched wearable GPS trackers, so we could be confident that he had reached school safely. We decided upon the My Gator Watch as it offers both a discreet GPS tracker and the ability to make emergency phone calls to and from the watch. The bonus being that it looks like a cool smart watch that he would be happy to wear.
He has been walking to school with his friend now for over a month. We are still not entirely relaxed about it, but knowing that we can track his movements and call him at any time is reassuring. He feels more responsible and it has given his self-esteem a much needed boost.
Our son may take a little more time, but he will be independent one day and the walk to school has taken him on those first few steps.
For more information on My Gator Watch please click here.