I had a post of an entirely different nature all worked out in my head during my walk this morning, but, as so frequently happens, something came up…..I came across a Today segment on Facebook, a post by an autism mom who had taken her autistic son out of traditional school. My emotional wheels fell off, and it put more emphasis on a conversation I had at Back to School night at the high school last night.
I ran into a mom at Back to School night I haven’t seen in a long while. Her daughter played soccer with the Princess years and years ago. Her daughter is in the same grade as Big Man. We were talking about the kids, what grades they’re in, how they’re doing. She recalled we have a younger son, and asked if he were at the middle school nearby. I told her no, we’d put him in the new STEAM school that opened last year. I explained he’s “our special”, which is what I say when I don’t want to go into the full autism discussion, that his school is small, geared more towards his particular strengths, as well as the things he needs support in. She asked, “Will he go here for high school?” I emphatically nodded my head, while my mind screamed, “Really? You really see him here?”
The mom in the Today segment had decided to pull her autistic son out of traditional public school just before middle school. I broke down as I read her story, her angst-filled words. We are planning on Little Man going to the high school down the street, with his siblings. We are planning on him graduation with a full diploma alongside his peers. We are planning on him heading off to college after high school. This segment though, it hit me. What if his path just isn’t going to look the way we plan? And why does that break me up so much?
He wants to be like his siblings. He wants to go where they are. But when I try to picture him walking that huge campus, with 2400 other kids, my heart just races. I can’t imagine him navigating from class to class by himself, without losing it. I can’t imagine him getting through a day without crying, or throwing a tantrum, or walking out of a class, which means I can’t imagine him getting through a day without some jerk of a kid noticing how different he is, and bullying him. His siblings will only be there his freshman and sophomore years, then he’s on his own.
Why is it heartbreaking for me to think of him not going to a regular school, getting a full diploma, going off to college? Why do I feel the need to grieve it like it’s a loss? It’s just different, right? I still go back and forth between the wish he were “normal” and his path easier, and not wanting him to change, believing there’s nothing “wrong” with him. Letting go of the idea of him going through high school the same as his siblings and current peers is just a hard pill to swallow, granted it may not be one we have to face.
I cried right along with that mom, because I understand what it means to her, what it means to her son, her child who wanted so much to be just like his peers. Some days, this particular journey is just hard to take. What I want, what I’ve always thought would be, and what will be have a strong possibility to be very different things. I guess that’s what stings….letting go of what we have always pictured for him. Will he go there, to that high school? We have about 18 months before we face that decision.