Today we reached a milestone….Dak’s graduation from Elementary school. It has been a bittersweet moment for me. As I got Him dressed for school this morning in His black dress pants, dress shirt and tie, My mind wandered back. After He got on the bus this morning, I cried. I had held the tears back before He left…He HATES it when mommy cries, even when it is happy tears like today. How Grown up He looked this morning all dressed up!
This was my facebook status this morning; Had to fight back tears this morning as I put Dak on the bus!!! He looks so grown up in his dress pants, shirt and Tie. 9 years ago He started school at 3 years old,when we heard the words “Your son has Autism”, today he graduates from 5th grade and says goodbye to elementary school, moving on to Middle school. It has been ( and continues to be ) a long, bumpy road, but wow is it worth EVERY step!
I thought back to when He was 18 months old, and his speech screeched to a halt. I remembered the almost daily fight with our pediatrician at the time. I smiled as I remembered how the hearing test referral landed on the early Intervention desk instead of the hearing clinic ( some called this a Mistake…I don’t believe it was).
I remembered His first day of school, at 3 years old…shortly followed by an educational diagnosis and the words “Your son has Autism”, and the mixed emotions that followed. The relief in the knowledge that I was not a bad mother, it was not all in my head, there really was something going on. The grief over shattered dreams for my only son, the realization that he may never do certain things. The acceptance that while he is different, He is NOT less. He is not broke, He is just wired differently did not come over night. I cried, I got angry, I screamed, I researched, I fought, then I let go and gave it to God. When I did that, I found a deeper peace than ever before.
I cried as I remembered the First time he said “Mommy” at 4 years old. I remembered how hard it was on him when we moved, and changed school districts, and he went from pre-school Monday through Fridays half a day, to an hour, three days a week. I winced at the memory of kindergarten, at how hard the transition to all day Monday through Friday was on him after getting adjusted to an hour three days a week. I remembered standing toe to toe with the principal at the school where he attended kindergarten, telling her to call my lawyer after she told me to keep him home because he didn’t “belong” in her school, and her apologizing the end of that week.
I thought about all the meltdowns, all the rough days. I smiled as I thought about each of the teachers and aides along the way, who have made such a HUGE Impact. Who have helped him begin to open up socially and verbally. I smiled as I remembered the phone call from his kindergarten teacher “did you know he can read?!?!” He had taught himself on the computer, but NONE of us realized it!!!
I thought about how much I have learned along the way. IEP’s, PECS, , Social Stories, weighted blankets, what works, what doesn’t work. How to tell he is reaching that boiling point, and when possible, avoid a meltdown. Words like meltdown, Elopement, Pica, echolalia. He teaches me more every day. He reminds me to slow down, to enjoy the simple things. Walking this journey has brought me closer to God, strengthened my faith, taught me how to turn the other cheek, lessons in forgiveness and unconditional love. It continues to show me the power of prayer, the best, and the worst in the people around me.
I know Middle school, and his teen years will bring new challenges, new experiences, and I will face each one as I have in the past, Head on. But for now, today, I am relishing in the moment, celebrating the fact that we did it! We got through elementary school!!