Though the universal disabled symbol is an individual sitting in a wheelchair, it turns out that Nate qualifies to receive the benefits of the special parking spaces. If it had not been for a post on Big Daddy Autism, a great autism blog written by a father of a thirteen-year-old boy who is autistic, I would have never known that Nate’s developmental disability qualifies us for the placard. As Nate’s growing, the special status is of incredible help to our family. Nate’s now 35 pounds, which is a lot of weight for this mama to carry. Through physical and occupational therapy, plus the aid of his ankle braces (or SMO’s), Nate’s become much more steady on his feet and has begun walking from the car and into stores, school, or our house. Being able to utilize the designated space has helped in many ways. For example, Nate’s a runner; he’ll wiggle out of our hands and take off. As he doesn’t respond to his name, it’s especially dangerous when this happens in a parking lot. Having a spot very close to a store cuts down on the opportunity for Nate to get loose. Nate also gets frustrated and drops to the ground, refusing to stand up or move. The shorter walk helps with this, too.
Here in Connecticut, we filled out the application, which is linked to Chad’s license (as Nate’s obviously unable to drive). Our pediatrician filled out Part B, certifying that Nate qualifies. We sent it in and, a week later, we had our placard. In Connecticut, Nate qualifies under “severe limitation in the ability to walk due to an arthritic, neurological, or orthopedic condition” (emphasis is mine). Big Daddy Autism kindly outlines how individuals with autism may qualify in each of the fifty states, as the definition of disability seems to differ in each one. Click here to see his awesome blog post, which has links to each state’s DMV disability page.
We’ve had the placard for about a month now and it’s definitely made life easier. It means Nate can practice doing things like walking to the store’s line of grocery carts instead of me trying to park near one, then leave Nate alone in the car while I go and get it (during which he could have a complete meltdown and hurt himself). We don’t use the placard all the time – if there’s a “close enough” un-designated parking space, we’ll use it instead. However, if the lot is full and we need to walk years to get into the store, we’ll check to see if a handicapped spot is available first. Anything to make a moment with Nate a little easier is much appreciated — and this is one thing that certainly does it.