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Special Needs Kids and a Large Family: How We Manage Milestone Events

Hezekiah and dummy at WSP academy.

What could be more fun, you ask, then getting up at 3:30 am after arriving home a mere 8-hours earlier from a 30-hour journey across hemispheres and driving 150 miles to see your son commissioned as a Washington State Trooper? Why, bringing along the entire family, of course!

Family events with special needs kids can be a challenge.

Keep in mind, Chuck had only arrived home with the children from their Great Canadian Road Trip a day before. We awoke Apollo at 4am for the important job of pinning on Judah’s badge but the rest of the crew didn’t have to leave the house until 9 am.

WSP graduation 2019

We all attended an open house and took a tour of the Academy. Judah gave us all rides in his patrol vehicle. It was great to have all of the kids see where Judah had been living for the last six months and see the fruit of all of his hard work.

Tips on managing big events with special needs kids.

Managing Big Events with Special Needs Kids

This is not our first rodeo, as they say. Since our son was diagnosed with autism we have a better understanding of his needs. We can see that many of his behaviors are self-protective coping skills, not stubbornness or rebellion. This was his reaction to the noise and unfamiliarity of the capitol building. There was a time in our parenting when this would have really bothered us. Now? We said, “look, he’s found a way to cope with the overwhelming stimuli…that’s great”.

We also hired a family friend to be his buddy for the weekend. The friend drove our van (full of children) down and our son sat in the front row with him. Had our son needed to leave any of the ceremonies, the friend was there to take him out. It was a great investment for the entire family.

Family at the capitol building in Olympia.

We stood in this spot for three hours to save our place. This gave us the best view of the ceremony. It was worth every minute.

Washington State Patrol Academy graduation at capitol building.

Graduations Can Inspire Younger Siblings

Chuck and I aren’t always able to take the entire crew to every graduation. Judah’s graduation required us to drive across the state and stay in a hotel. Meals and hotel costs meant we were only to take a few kids along with us. We opted to take the older ones (Enoch, Kalina, and Jubilee) to watch their brother graduate. We have found it to be inspiring to the younger siblings.

Judah with Tucker, Jubilee, and Enoch after graduation.

In fact, after this trip, Jubilee said, “Wow…I’ve watched Judah graduate from Whatcom, Central, and now State Patrol Academy”. She is obviously proud of her brother and motivated to follow her own dreams.

Judah with grandparents at graduation.

Judah with Chuck’s parents.

WSP Playground

Thankfully, they even had a playground at the academy!

Enoch and Apollo play fighting.

Our children, of course, took full advantage. These two are only accidentally matching. We had Apollo up and dressed at 4 am…long before Enoch arrived.

Mordecai and Enoch wrestling in the dirt.
Enoch and Mordecai wrestling.

Just a couple of brothers doing what brothers do best…

Hezekiah and dummy at WSP academy.

Hezekiah managed to make a few new friends along the way…

Hezekiah and Martin Luther King Jr.
Apollo and George Washington Bust.
Judah talking to grandparents after WSP graduation.
Judah and grandparents.

Judah with my parents after graduation.

Picnic with large family in Olympia.

Keeping Costs Down When Attending Events with a Large Family

Overnight stays and traveling to events can get expensive fast with a large family. Chuck had purchased chips, fruit, and all the fixings for a picnic before I arrived home. We had a picnic lunch after Judah’s open house at the academy as well as the next day after graduation. We purchased pizza for dinner Tuesday night and all ate the free hotel breakfast Wednesday morning. This helped us keep the kids fed and happy and costs to a minimum.

Chuck smiling at picnic.

It’s crazy to realize that just a week ago I was on a plane home from New Zealand. Time flies when you’re having fun…raising a large family.

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