And so, high school begins.
Inspired by my good friend Mama Edge, I prepared an information sheet about Nigel to give to all of his teachers. Why, with all the proactive things I do to ensure my son’s success, had I not thought of this before?! It’s such a basic, fundamental thing to do! Imagine how much better things might have gone in middle school had I thought of this then! *slaps forehead*
Alas, the idea had not graced me with its presence. I muddled through somehow. But I am happy to report that I am now on track, and this afternoon I presented all of Nigel’s teachers with an information sheet listing his background, his strengths and weaknesses, descriptions of his mannerisms and behavior, and tips for helping him to learn and function at his best. The teachers seemed interested and appreciative. Not all were there, but I brought extras to be given later to those who were unable to attend the meeting. The regional autism consultant, who had shadowed Nigel on his first day today, said that he seemed to do pretty well.
But afterward, as I walked through the halls on my way out to my car, the nagging doubt returned. The anxiety. I saw a wall display in one hallway that Nigel and I had walked through last week. The school mascot is the pirate, and the display cabinet held student artwork in it. Across the top of the display, in large letters, was written “Pirate allery.” Nigel laughed and pointed at it, saying in a loud voice, “‘Pirate allery!‘ The G is missing! Ha!” Then he laughed some more. “Yes,” I said, smiling. I continued in a quiet voice, trying to get him to tone down his loudness, “That’s funny.”
And really, it was pretty funny. But in that moment he reminded me of the fact that he has the emotional age of a 9- or 10-year-old. It’s not new to me, but sometimes it just hits me. And I’m mainstreaming him in high school. It’s like sending a 9- or 10-year-old to high school. *sigh* I walked out to my car, drained (this is the third time in a week that I’ve had to leave work early to go to the high school for a meeting), wanting to be hopeful, but so, so worried. So resigned to the reality, the uphill nature of parenting a child with autism, the constant wondering if I am doing enough. I have been at both ends of the spectrum with my son, and both are difficult. Some things were harder then, and some things are harder now. But if it’s hard on me, how must it be for him?
At least the high school support systems are now in place. In addition to the information sheets I gave to the teachers, I submitted a stack of print-outs of my post “Getting to Know an Autistic Teen” for Nigel’s peer advisory group, twenty kids he will be with all year long, some in other grades. The advisory teacher will give them out to the group sometime in the next few days. I said a quick prayer as I crossed the threshold of the school, hoping that this disclosure will lead to acceptance.
I got in my car and started it. Tired, lost in thought, I reminded myself that I needed to stop at the post office. As I pulled away from the curb, the car stereo came on automatically. And there it was – already. A response to my brief subconscious prayer. “Don’t worry . . . about a thing . . . ‘cause every little thing . . . gonna be all right.” I sucked in my breath, overcome with emotion. I didn’t remember that I had Bob in there. But that song, those words – right at the moment that I needed them. Such a gift.
Thank you, I said, relief washing over me.