After we received the diagnosis that our son fell somewhere on the Autism Spectrum, we enrolled him in our local school districts developmental preschool.
He was three and a half years old. Between preschool, kindergarten, elementary school, middle school and now high school, our son has had a long period of learning.
Most of his teachers have been wonderful. The heart of the student always shines warmest when surrounded by the dedicated staff in the special education department. When someone connects, and I mean really connects with a person with autism, magic happens. And, the one to one aids? Those special individuals deserve their own blog. A mere mention here is insufficient to their calling.
Key player two in the school? The nurse. Quite a few students with disabilities are medically fragile. Our son proved to be the same – allergic to our world for many of his first years.
Epi-pens in every room, locked in a box. Later, he packed his own (not like he’d stab himself) but just in case of an emergency on the bus or outside the classroom. We received quite a few emergency calls, and in the beginning, you’d find my response akin to a full blown panic attack.
So now, many years into the game, well – let’s just say it’s not my first rodeo. Paramedic crews at my youngest sons middle school commented to the nurse that I really was “under-responsive” telling him over the phone that “I’ll finish up what I was doing at work and then come by the school to collect my son.” Heartless? No, just the rodeo queen wondering why my son decided to try a kiwi, during school lunch, when he’s had the same things for lunch AND dinner for the last three years eating at home. Still don’t get that one.
Imagine me, with my “under-responsive” pulse when my oldest son’s special education teacher calls. Oh, “Hi Brenda!, whats up?” “Everything is fine.” (translation – no one is going to the hospital today) But, she really needed to tell me the good news. Our son, as a sophomore, HAD PASSED HIS STANDARDIZED TESTING TO GRADUATE HIGH SCHOOL!!!!! While it takes many typical students a couple of shots to pass, our son hit the ball out of the park the first time. (Okay, not to exaggerate, he passed under his own development level, but he passed it the first time, dammit!)
I sucked in my breath and while it was really beginning to sink in, the sheer magnitude of this accomplishment, I started rewinding in my mind, back to his first day of pre-school – his dire diagnosis, the long processes of recovering his health to exhale my sincerest “Thank YOU” to her. She, as well as all his past educators, get as much credit moving him up and along the road as he does.
“But…” his teacher says….he passed all three recommended categories, and missed the fourth by a sliver. Even though it didn’t matter if he passes Science, he still passed the testing to graduate. Oh, whatever, I started to think.
Well, my son took the news a little differently about the Science portion of the testing. He was PISSED! He had worked so very hard, over many years, and unbeknownst to all of us – really cared about his level of work and ultimate graduation from high school.
According to his teacher, there was absolutely no reasoning with the young man. He has his father’s temper, Sicilian to the core. Unable to express himself he started running around the common area of the high school. Six foot four and 250 pounds of pissed off student circling the building. She told me that they couldn’t get him to calm down and PLEASE, can I come and get him?
When I arrived at the high school, my alma mater no less, his teacher met me at the door. She and I were giddy with the excitement that he had passed testing. She told me that a couple of other teachers were helping keep him calm. Oh really, it looked like the entire football coaching staff was in the office to be disciplined by the principal. And sitting in the middle chair, was my son.
Classic moment for teasing. “Really (son’s name)? You are PISSED that you didn’t pass science?” “Last time I checked you thought your little brother was a nerd liking that stuff.”
He grinned – the grin of a young man ready to move forward and teach the world a thing or two about what it’s like to be him. I can see him in my minds eye, running around the hallway with the adrenaline he’d held all these years – and the coaching staff groaning that he wouldn’t rush the defensive line. Irony? Perhaps – I asked him about playing in a football game for me – he thought I was out of my mind. “I’m an artist! I cannot risk injuring my hand – are you insane?”
No, not insane son, just gaping in awe of someone as amazing as you…….
“I feel we are all islands – in a common sea.”
Anne Morrow Lindbough