A Letter to My Son on His Eighth Grade Graduation

100_1805Dearest Nigel,

There are not enough words to express how proud I am of you today. A year ago, you anticipated your future eighth grade graduation, and I didn’t know how to tell you that because you needed to homeschooled, you would not graduate from the local middle school. On your own, you figured that out, and you initiated a plan to be able to go back there, so that you could graduate with your peers. Five months ago, you told me that you wanted to try some medication that would help regulate your behavior so that you could go back to the middle school. We did, and two months later, you were back at the middle school part-time. Three months have gone by, and I am so proud to say that not once during that entire time did the school have to call me about any behavioral issues. Not once. And today, you graduated with your class of fellow eighth graders.

Congratulations! You did it, Nigel. You did it. You set your sights on a goal and you worked to achieve it. But that should not surprise me, because that is what you have done your whole life. You were diagnosed with autism nearly twelve years ago, and you have continually shown me that although autism is an integral part of you, it alone does not define you. When diagnosed, and for some time after, you were completely nonverbal. Your sensory issues paralyzed you. I did not know back then that it was possible for any person with autism to progress as much as you have. The information was not available at the time, and I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if you would learn to talk. I didn’t know if you could be mainstreamed in school. I tried to be realistic, and I didn’t dare to dream. But somewhere, deep down, I hoped.

All children learn, all children grow, but you have fought so hard to achieve that growth. You painstakingly learned to talk, to filter the agonizing sensory issues, to learn to function socially, to organize your thoughts. Many of these things you still work on, and will continue to. You will stop at nothing to work with your “difference,” as you call it, to understand it (autism) and how it affects you, and to help others learn the same. You are learning to advocate for yourself, and I am proud of that, too.

And so, my son, you inspire me. You have challenged me to be the best possible parent I can be because you needed the best from me.  “Difficult” would be an understatement for the road we have traveled together. But Nigel, if you can do it, so can I. I will continue to be right beside you, letting you lead the way. We have a big transition coming up, but when I look at what you have achieved today, and what you have gone through to get here, I’m daring to dream. I know you are too.

All my love,


40 thoughts on “A Letter to My Son on His Eighth Grade Graduation

  1. Kat

    I’m so proud of you both. What a wonderful accomplishment, and what a wonderful tribute to that accomplishment. Bravo.

  2. jess wilson

    You have challenged me to be the best possible parent I can be because you needed the best from me

    as he inspires you, you inspire us.

    this is a monumental acheivement and a wonderful milestone

    congratulations to both of you today

  3. Cheryl

    Beautiful letter, Tanya! Congratulations, Nigel! You’ve worked so hard, Buddy, and you’ve got a lot to be proud of! You both do! Great job!!!

  4. Sheri

    Congratulations to Nigel and to his mom for making it possible…it’s an achievement you should both be proud of because it’s only through the hard work of both of you that you can make it happen.

  5. Cathy

    this is so beautiful! I felt many of the things you did when Ethan was diagnosed, and I can’t believe how well he’s done and how autism doesn’t define him either–very well said!

  6. Kate

    That is so stunningly beautiful! wow! what a beautiful testament to the road you have traveled, and what a great picture of the both of you too. Nice to see a pic of you for once, too 🙂

  7. Anonymom


    I am so touched by your letter. The journey that you and Nigel have undertaken; the deep hole from which he has climbed. These are the most significant achievements because they are triumphs of the spirit.

  8. Nicki

    Nigel is a very inspiring kid! Thanks so much for “sharing” him with the rest of us… We should all be proud to know him!

  9. Tera

    Congratulations Nigel! And mama, you have every right to be proud. Thanks for the reminder that “it alone does not define you”. I need to hear that in order to remember it.

  10. M

    not only did he do it, but he did it in one of the most challenging settings imaginable. that age group, that transitional time period in life: amazingly difficult. and he just focusesd his mind, went to work and thrived. it’s really amazing.

    strength of character. nigel is rich in it. he’s just going to keep looking for new challenges and leaping right over them.

    Congratulations to him. And congratulations to you, Tanya.

    How did you guys celebrate? I see a cake. Gifts. I personally think he should get a end-of-the-school-year tattoo.

  11. rhemashope

    The fact that at the time Nigel was diagnosed you had no way of knowing how much progress was possible really resonated me. You both are to be congratulated. Nigel, you inspire, you amaze, and you give me hope.

  12. Sophia

    From a mother with a 4 year old w/Autism ..I Thank you! This letter helped me feel positive for a brighter future!

  13. dynamite girl

    Nigel, congratulations. Very few can understand the fight that a child with Autism must go through to accomplish simple things others take for granted. Every step deserves to be celebrated and this is a big one.

  14. Mary Pembleton

    What a beautifully prepared and presented letter. It is clear you are both blessed to have each other. I loved reading this and got chills.

    You will inspire other families and mothers especially that progress will be made and dreams can come true. Celebrate in style all of your accomplishments.

    All the best in High School and beyond!! Mary, SLP
    PS: GREAT photo!

  15. Pweshes Mama

    Inspirational as always.. Thanks for giving all us mommies in the same boat that much hope and to give us that confidence to aspire to anything as long as we work hard for it – something you and Nigel obviously have done to get this far! Congratulations! Take Care!

  16. heather

    way to go nigel!!! my little guy was diagnosed at 2…he is now almost 6. he has been my greatest teacher!!! nothing but your heart will define you. keep staying cool!

  17. Macrina

    That’s quite an accomplishment, Nigel! This was a big goal that took a lot of hard work, and now it’s on to high school! I’ve known you your whole life, and you’re constantly teaching me new things about life just by being you. Congratulations!

  18. Lex Savko

    Nigel, I hope that when you read this and think about all that you have accomplished, you feel happy. And feel proud! And feel confident that no matter what challenges you face in life, you will overcome and succeed. I’m so proud to be your uncle.

    Now have a fun summer!

  19. Anastasia

    Nigel! Wow! I can remember holding you in the hospital just hours after you were born! You have so much to be proud of! I had pneumonia for my 8th grade graduation so by the looks of it you were able to enjoy your graduation much more than I did! I’m so proud to be your AunTasia, and I’m really excited for you to go on to your high school years, because I know high school is where you’ll really be able to take your many interests and talents and just SOAR……I love you!

  20. Susan

    Congratulations Nigel and all those who helped shape you! Your mom did an amazing job and you are on a good path. I’m heading to my son’s 5th grade graduation in 1 1/2 hours and I know it will be emotional. He’s been in elementary school for 10 years and heading into middle school next year. This letter is just what I needed to get me through today. Thank you.

  21. Niika

    Dear Nigel,

    I am so happy to be your Aunt Niika. You are a wonderful person with unique talents and I am looking forward to seeing what you will accomplish in the future also. I hope that you have a great time in high school. Be Happy!

  22. Grandpa

    As your proud grandpa, I’m so very pleased that you were able to attend your graduation! I only wish I could have been there for you, Nigel. I pray that you really get to enjoy your well deserved summer vacation down here with your Dad. Hope there’s a chance I can see you while you’re down here. Enjoy that atomic clock!! I love you, Nigel, and am so happy I can still be around to congratulate you on your great achievement.

  23. Anna Brown

    congragulations to both of you. With much hard work you did it together! I would love to talk with you about your story. My story is similar to your my son also has autism his name is camero. with much one on one training cameron is now a jr in high school and a 4.0 student. lets talk! email me at brownbellean@gmail.com

  24. Grandma Madeline

    Dear Nigel, do you know that you are my hero? I’ve always been proud of you, and happy just that you were born, and that we share love for each other. On top of that you work hard to succeed in your young life. I’m using your perseverance example this month as I attend a hard training program to become a ranger at Crater Lake Park, and I think that if you can do what you’ve done, then I can do this! Thank you, dear grandson, and may you be happy!

  25. Mary (MPJ)

    I fell behind in my reading and am just catching up. I wanted to belatedly stop by and say, “Yay, Nigel! Congratulations!” 🙂

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