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,