Tuesday, August 7, 2012

6th Grade, Autism and Life Wishes

Tomorrow my oldest son starts 6th grade. 6th grade!!! It is his last year of elementary school, in a self-contained twice exceptional program I fought hard for him to be a part of. It has also been six years since his autism diagnosis shook our world and changed everything we thought we knew. (The photo is from right after we found out, though there's nothing in that smile that indicates anything was amiss!) A lot of times I still see the immature aspects of him versus his peers. I have to repeat things a lot. Every night I can tell him to do "xyz" in the morning, and nine times out of ten, it doesn't happen. He has meltdowns comparable to a toddler, and yet more violent in nature. He obsesses about his interests and will talk endlessly about them to anyone who will (even remotely) listen. He struggles with eye contact. He needs an enormous amount of help organizing and being motivated to do any homework. He still attends weekly OT and speech appointments. It's all part of the gig... the autism gig... the one I did not sign up for but took on as a labor of love, the way all parents of kids on the spectrum do. Despite the fact that some things are stagnant and we have rough days often, we have still come so far! No accomplishment is small, in my eyes. Every step forward has been hard won! It is interesting at the start of a school year to see what parents of typical children worry about for their kids compared to special needs parents. (One of my kids IS typical, so I feel I am in a reliable position to make this observation!) There is a lot of chatter about which teacher is best, what test scores a child might have, how the grades will be, how the child might do in sports, etc. I want those things to work well for my autistic child, also. However, it isn't my focus. Those things would be icing on the cake. All I really want is for him to be happy. I don't just mean in school, but even afterwards, in life. I want him to find a job he is comfortable with and that doesn't stress him out too much. I want him to be able to care for himself by shopping, cooking or doing laundry. I want him to have a friend (more than one would be nice, but even just one really good friend would be fabulous). I want him to be a respectful son and brother. I hope he will learn to find joys in little things... the relaxation of a rainy afternoon, the discovery of a new hiking trail, the satisfaction in finishing a good book, the fun of getting lost in a great movie. I want him to realize he is an amazing human being. I am sure there will be some ups and downs in 6th grade, as there will be later in life, too. Experience tells me that we can weather any storms together. Sometimes solutions in autism resemble a complex maze rather than a straight and easy path, but we find our destinations eventually.

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