Sometimes I forget. I forget Graham is autistic, I forget that he’s different. It’s so easy sometimes. He just exudes kid-ness so strongly and so normally that there’s no reason I should think about it.
And then there’s the possibility that he may no longer qualify for a diagnosis. It’s been brought up by his doctor. And while it’s left me feeling unsure of how we fit into the world, it’s certainly been happy news.
There are other times where I can’t forget. It’s been like that this past week.
First, there was the evaluation in the mail that Graham took a few months ago as part of a research study. It’s actually Tessa who’s enrolled, but Graham went in for one session. They did cognitive analysis (average! Yay for average!) and they did an autism diagnostic. It shouldn’t have surprised me that he qualified for a diagnosis. And yet it did.
Second, there was the email I sent to Graham’s teacher. This is his second year of pre-K in an integrated classroom, but next year he enters the big bad school system of official Kindergarten enrollment. So we will either get a placement through the regular system or we will get one through an IEP. And I wasn’t sure which it would be. He’s done so well, he’s made such progress, I’ve been so pleased. I honestly felt we had a good shot of doing a regular placement and then setting up IEP supports to make sure he adjusts. But his teacher is the authority so I asked her so we could plan while the schools are open for us to take a look. She said he’s best off staying in an integrated classroom, which means no regular placement, which means he’ll move to a different school next year. (His doesn’t offer integrated Kindergarten classes.) Again, it shouldn’t have surprised me. But it did.
And finally, there was the trip I took Graham on to the Christmas Train in the Cape, which we’ll be reviewing later this week. It was just the two of us, I could focus completely on him. And what I saw was a whole lot of autism. Most of the time he is in the same routine, the same places, the same people. I changed it a little and saw what I hadn’t seen in a long time. Fear, shyness, blocking out the world. I went back to all the lessons I’d spent years learning. I didn’t push him, didn’t encourage him to break out and have fun. I just let him be, let him take his time, let him enjoy in his own way. It’s been a while since I’ve been there. Another surprise that shouldn’t have been a surprise.
I don’t have my heart set on him losing his diagnosis. It’s not my goal for him. But it was on the table and it changed the way I was thinking about the future. And now I’m changing again, pulling back a little. I’m returning to the roll-with-the-punches approach to parenting where I stay cautiously optimistic, challenge him carefully and with plenty of support, and make sure he always has his safe space at home.
On the bright side, another thing happened this week. We’ve been having dance parties at home (the kids and I are partial to the Ke$ha station on Pandora. Shut up.) and Graham has been asking for them more and more. So I thought, maybe this would be something he’d enjoy. We did some quick research, sent a few emails, and were invited to go to a Peewee Hip Hop class on Saturday morning.
He wanted to go, he was excited, but he also expressed some fear. He didn’t want to go into the classroom without me. I tried to prepare him, but I didn’t know much about how the setup would work. I think we were both a little anxious and a little excited. Sure enough, there was a parent waiting area. No windows into the studio. But there was a video camera inside that showed his class on a tv to the waiting parents.
I didn’t play the A-card when I brought him in. He’s 4, the class is for 4 to 6 year olds, I was going to play it by ear, as usual. See how they acted, see how they treated him, let him be a part of his age group. I’m sure he wasn’t the first 4-year-old to have a little anxiety about his first class. The staff showed him the camera and the TV, the teacher brought him inside, and it was a done deal. He was involved, he didn’t ask for me, he just enjoyed himself.
And during those 30 minutes I didn’t forget. But I sure did feel proud.