June 9, 2014
It seemed like an ordinary morning, Justin running excitedly to his bus, turning to give me his signature smile as he eagerly climbed aboard. I walk around to the other side to blow him a kiss goodbye and I see his usual hint of a grin, and step back to let his personal chariot wend its way to school. Usually I’m happy to send him on his way. Today however my heart is heavy, as it’s the last day he will ever have his beloved teacher of four consecutive years.
My son will be deeply sad by this monumental change. I am certain I will require therapy.
My eldest son Justin, who has severe autism, has had a private school placement since he was seven years old. It was a difficult decision for me and his father to make as we knew this would preclude him from having interaction with neurotypical peers. In the end however the small teacher/student ratio, the consummately trained professionals and intensely devoted staff helped tip the balance for us to pursue a private placement.
Jusitn has grown and thrived in this environment. He has begun to master simple math problems, reads beautifully, and he spells like a bee champion. Most importantly however many of the behaviors he began with years ago have abated, predominantly the pinching, pushing and crying that signified his deep frustration with the world around him, or his dismay at not getting his way. Justin is now a willing and eager student, and works hard to please all the staff who tend to him. He is beloved at the school, always quick with a hug or kiss of gratitude. He is happy, safe and successful, all the things I wished for him when he was in my womb and I had no idea how his life would unfurl.
And I owe so much of Justin’s joyful ebullient soul to one woman and the bevy of paras who have worked so diligently with him since he was seven years old.
I am confident that in two weeks when the new school term commences in July he’ll have an equally fabulous educator, one whose passion is helping autistic individuals reach their full potential. I am certain I’ll be writing positive posts about his future accomplishments, his successes and great strides.
But right now I’d just like to give thanks for my son’s teacher and staff.
Thank you for seeing Justin’s potential, and for always pushing him to do a little bit more.
Thank you for always treating him with profound dignity and respect.
Thank you for appreciating how hard he works at everything.
Thank you for making his school a place he loves.
Thank you for recognizing his sense of humor and reveling in it.
Thank you for “getting” him.
Thank you for sharing his strengths, not just his weaknesses.
Thank you for your constant willingness to work with me.
Thank you for loving him.
To Justin’s teacher and all the paras who’ve worked with him:
There are not adequate words to express my gratitude for your caring and compassion over the past four years. Collectively you have Justin’s heart and mine.