February 23, 2011

Conference Call

Posted in Life's Little Moments tagged , , , , , at 10:17 am by autismmommytherapist

“Recalculating. Recalculating. Recalculating.”  I have to laugh as my GPS scolds me for irresponsibly avoiding the most direct route and taking the “pretty way” instead, because I spend a good deal of my life kowtowing to that particular verb, and I can’t seem to evade that reality even when I’m driving. I’m on my way up to Justin’s school for his first parent-teacher conference, and I’ve left myself so much extra time “just in case” that I can indulge myself with river views rather than the parkway. I do a time check as I ease another Stevie Nicks CD into my player, once again ending the eighties as I disengage my Sirius radio. I’ll be early, but regretfully not early enough for a Wegman’s run, and I chastise myself for answering emails this morning when I knew I’d be in such close proximity to food mecca later.

Priorities, Kim, priorities.

I glide serenely into the empty guest parking lot, happy I’ll have enough time for chit-chat with the lovely secretary who endured my multitude of inane questions when Justin first began attending school. She kindly lets Justin’s teacher know I’m here, and makes certain the class won’t be parading by the waiting area any time soon. In ABA terms Justin and I are “well-paired”, and if he even caught a whiff of mommy in the house, no matter how much fun he’s having at the time, he’d demand a quick departure. This child is even excited to leave school for a doctor’s appointment.

He is truly a momma’s boy.

Fortunately, today I don’t have to execute a duck and run, and as my son’s lovely teacher soon makes her presence known, we retire quickly to one of the administrator’s empty offices. She is a passionate educator, and it was evident the first time we spoke this summer that for her this work is a vocation, not a job. Given my dozen years in the profession myself I was ecstatic with our conversation, and I clearly recall hanging up the phone and executing the “happy dance” for Jeff, the image of which I will leave to your imagination. Although legally I’m only entitled to “free and appropriate” for Justin, we’ve managed to score “fabulous and exceptional” for him, and I still haven’t recovered fully from the magnitude of our good fortune. I continue to try and temper my joy just so I won’t completely terrify her.

She’s come encumbered with lists and folders and work, although we put aside his academics for a moment to discuss his behavior first, which for the most part has been as appropriate as possible for a moderately autistic youth. I am told that Justin’s weekend lunch date has taken on the mantle of “big brother” to my oldest child, and although my son generally ignores the rest of his classmates, he permits this particular boy to instruct him in the “fine art of school” frequently. He even looks for his buddy at certain venues, the computer, the playground, or the dreaded PE class, which he seems to enjoy about as much as his mother did. I am also informed that my son is a surreptitious hugger, often sneaking up behind his adored teacher and turning his face to hers for one of his intense gazes, followed by lip-lock, for no apparent reason at all.

He began this behavior at two. I’m happy to see the tradition has continued.

Since we only have thirty minutes together we dive into his academic progress next, and I sit up a bit straighter in my chair. She tells me he is flying, which I already knew somewhat from our daily email exchanges, but I was not aware how far, and how fast. She says she is thrilled with his progress, and confident that he will one day type in a manner more meaningful than the hunt-and-peck methodology I tell her he shares with his father. She positively beams as she explains he is soaring through his reading comprehension exercises. Given how many years his mother spent with her nose buried in books, there are no surprises there.

Math is his weakness (no surprises there either), but he continues to make inroads into that domain as well, despite the flip side of his maternal genetic legacy. He’s not a genius, my boy. But he has exceeded her initial expectations, and she remarks how rewarding it is to see him so excited by learning, how eager he is to come to the table, so to speak. She is pleased to see how aware he is, how bright. I tell her those latter facts are at once so gratifying, and so difficult to endure.

She says she understands. And I know she does.

After I finish willing my saline-laden liquids back into the ducts from whence they came I gingerly broach the future with her, because I’ve come to accept that living in the moment is a goal not easily mastered for me, and I just have to roll with who I am. One of my greatest fears is that when my son is grown there will be no job options for him, nowhere for him to spend his days other than at home with his aging, and most likely exhausted, mother. Despite his intellectual aptitude my son is held captive to the strictures of perseveration, the ritualistic routines that often prevent him from completing a task. There are entire days, if he were allowed, that he’d spend more time in the closet arranging his toys than I would organizing my wardrobe.

I worry that this issue, coupled with his proclivity for egress from everywhere after half an hour, will preclude him from meaningful employment. Again, I’m not asking for Wall Street, or a career in education, which is much more up my alley. I’m simply asking his teacher if she thinks one day, with a bit more maturity under his belt, he’d have the aptitude to labor at some occupation he might even enjoy, and would there possibly be a place for him to do so.

This time she straightens up in her chair, looks me right in the eye, and says “absolutely.”

Those damn ducts betray me as a few tears gather conspicuously in the corners of my eyes, and I exhale both physically and mentally, and smile. She tells me nothing is certain, the fact of which I am reminded on a frequent and daily basis, but the prospects are favorable. I really wish foretelling the future was a cornerstone of her contract, but I resist telling her this.

Of my restraint, I am so very proud.

We end our meeting as snack is soon to conclude in Justin’s room, and I am loathe to take his teacher away from anything remotely academic. She shakes my hand firmly, looks me in the eyes, and tells me how much she adores my boy, how happy she and the faculty are that he is a student there, that he graces her classroom. I commend her profusely for taking such good care of my son, and tell her that her professionalism has a ripple effect that far exceeds Justin, and extends to our entire family as a whole. I tell her I appreciate all of her hard work. I thank her for “getting him”.

And as I leave, I allow myself, for the first time, to contemplate the stunning idea that one day, my boy might actually have a job.

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12 Comments »

  1. misifusa said,

    What great news! I am so happy for all of you!

  2. Nels said,

    Congrats Kim and great job.

  3. Cindy said,

    Thanks a lot for triggering my tear ducts as well…but so deeply happy for Justin. His teacher sounds truly wonderful.

  4. Kathy M said,

    Yay! Good news!

  5. Chad said,

    Berlee–
    It’s inevitable that he will rise above and succeed as you grace his world every single day.

    Au royaume des aveugles, les borgnes sont rois.

    • Thanks se Chad, that means a lot, truly. Had to google that quote to be sure I knew what it said. It’s sad when a mind goes…

  6. Lori said,

    What a wonerful story. Brought a tear to my eye too.


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