This year’s annual meeting at the school terrified me. More than most years.
I guess I should back up a little bit. Boy2 has Asperger’s Syndrome, a Pervasive Develpmoental Disorder (PDD) closely related to autism. He started off public school in the average classroom. He had an IEP in place, spent a lot of time in special services, but by thre time he hit third grade it was obvious that not only was he not learning, he was hindering the teacher’s ability to teach the other kids in the class. I went to the administrators and requested he be moved to a special-needs classroom. After two months of evaluations and paperwork, everything was in place and he was bussed to a school on the other side of town.
It was one of the best things that ever happened to him.
At the time he switched schools, he was that weird kid. The one who hid under tables, screamed when people got too close and, althought he could talk, he mostly communicated with grunts and pointing.
This year, he’s entering eighth grade and he’s not in one self-contained, special needs class. All of his classes are either average classrooms with ‘normal peers’ (We’ll discuss my loathing of that term sometime in the future) or inclusion classes, which have allowances for special needs and an aide to assist the students. After more than four years in a protected school environment, my boy is swimming with the big fish, and it’s happening just when the pond gets vicious.
But when I got to the meeting, what I heard had me near tears… and not bad tears. The happy kind.
Boy2 had not only ‘mainstreamed’ into these classes without incident, he was adapting to the crowded classrooms, the busy halls and the workload. It’s the first year he’s had to do homework, but every assignment has been turned in… not always completed, but they are turned in. He’d rejected “extra” assistance from teachers in favor of doing the work himself.
One of his teachers summed up his performance so far as this: He wants to do what the other kids are doing.
Boy2 is watching and trying to be like the other kids. I suppose this shouldn’t be so surprising. He is, after all a fourteen-year-old. Assimulation into the collective is the purpose of life at that age. But for a kid who has always sought his own space, wanted to be left alone, watching him try to be part of a group is nothing short of a miracle for me.
I don’t think I’ll ever stop angsting over his IEP meetings. He is, after all my baby… all six feet plus of him. I know life is never going to be simple and the world will never seem like a friendly place to him.
But this time of year, when I sit through piles of paperwork, listen to teams of therapists, teachers, and administrative overseers discuss where he is and where he’s going, I can’t help but look back and see that little boy under the table, hiding from life.
Then I look forward and see the young man he is, taking a brave step into the future.