Ninth Grade: A Review

I had this great idea many years ago. At the end of every school year, I would write a review of how that year was for my two sons, a separate entry for each, describing not only their progress but also their personality, their likes and dislikes, and things they said or did. As a writer, I figured that was the least I could do.

So, that idea lasted about two years. Life sort of got in the way, along with other writing endeavors. I had always meant to pick it back up again but never did. Then I started blogging, mostly about my children’s development, and I feel better about all those years that I didn’t write about the kids (although most of those years were documented in IEP paperwork). Their development is described in detail in over four hundred blog posts. I no longer feel like I should write about them individually once a year, because I write about them all year long.

But this year was a milestone year with Nigel starting high school and making some incredible social gains, and now that we’ve reached the end of the first year, I thought I’d recap the highlights:

September: Nigel advocated for himself for the first time at an IEP meeting and learned to safely and responsibly ride his bike to and from school independently.

October: Nigel turned 15 and wrote a guest post. Also, he and I had a difficult discussion about not learning to drive yet, he successfully used his cell phone for the first time when he had a problem with his bike, and he revealed that, after many years of self-loathing, he is learning to accept his autism.

November: Nigel, for the first time ever, joined a sports team, and my heart soared at his achievement. In other news, he prepared and drank a pizza smoothie.

December: Nigel’s language skills took a step back (or sideways) with some lengthy delayed echolalia, and then dramatically forward with the most amazing conversation I’ve ever had with him.

January: Nigel (with Aidan) took his first solo flight! A mere week later, I overheard his first unprompted thank you! However, the month ended on a sad note due to his needing to quit the wrestling team for unfair reasons, but he handled it with the utmost maturity.

February: Nigel attended his first high school dance, but he still exhibited some heartbreaking social vulnerability.

March: Nigel and I watched the movie Adam together and had a great discussion about it, and Nigel found his niche in his theater class, where he made some truly wonderful new friends. I got to meet some of them when Nigel attended his first play and I accompanied him, where I witnessed a beautiful spontaneous hug.

April: Nigel started shaving! And I experienced the wonderful novelty of enjoying myself in a restaurant with my sons and having a stranger compliment me on their behavior for the first time ever.

May: Nigel went off of his medication and has been doing an amazing job overall of self-regulating difficult emotions and managing his behavior. He also achieved the rank of Star Scout after six years of Scouting.

June: Nigel had a major seizure, his first. Then he had to say goodbye to extended family members and his long-time Scout friends before moving to Los Angeles to be with his dad.

As you can probably gather, Nigel’s growth this year has been tremendous. When I look back to his earlier years, still not functionally verbal at age five with extreme sensory and behavioral issues, I can’t believe all that he has accomplished. This year alone blows me away. It’s been a lot of work, with a great deal of assistance in various forms, but he has continued to learn and to succeed on his own terms, as I knew he would. I know there will be future struggles; he still requires constant assistance academically and will continue to need help with social issues. But we’ll take it on. My son gives me so much hope that I can’t wait to see what the next school year will bring. I know it won’t be easy (none of it has been), but ultimately, it will be good.

Nigel, age 11, being a tiki at Pu’uhonua National Historical Park, Hawaii, 2006

13 thoughts on “Ninth Grade: A Review

  1. Elizabeth

    Wow. Nigel does sound so amazing, and I hope to one day meet him! I think it’s extraordinary that you’ve documented his progress and setbacks — your attentions to him are profound!

  2. Jess

    Despite the fact that I followed him all year and read nearly, if not every one of those posts in real time, I’m still amazed to see it all in one place. It’s been a hell of a year, hasn’t it? I can’t wait to see what the next one brings!

  3. Em

    I am so excited to hear about Nigel’s year. Wow..what a year it was!! You (and he) must be so excited. Our son made some of those same steps over the past few years…and trust me, that one about being able to advocate for himself…that will be a huge skill that will serve him well throughout high school.

    I will admit, I’m not sure I want a taste of the pizza smoothie!

  4. Jazzygal

    Isn’t blogging a great way of recording their milestones?! What an incredible year Nigel has had…well done. No doubt the seizure was worrying and I too ain’t so sure about pizza smoothie! Well done to Nigel on “trying something new” though!

    Hawaii was always a place I wanted to visit when I was younger!

    xx jazzy

  5. Cathy

    What a great year!! Thanks for putting it all in one place. We had a rough end to the year & your post reminded me to look at the whole year. Thanks! My son’s quote for 5th grade continuation sums up his view of the year; “Advocate for yourself, even when it’s hard!” Thanks again for all of your posts!!

  6. rhemashope

    so proud of nigel! what a year – i’m so glad i got to follow along… i feel like i know him. thank you for sharing him with us, tanya. (still not over the pizza smoothie, though).

  7. Michelle

    He is amazing. Truly. The definition of “hope.” You are an incredible mom, guiding him and providing him with what he needs at every step.

    Nigel blows me away, and so do you!

  8. Lex Savko

    Wow! It really puts a great perspective on his progress looking back over a period of a year. I’m looking forward to the next school year too!

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