*From the Archives* June 25th 2013
Johnny graduated from kindergarten today.
There was a special ceremony for the children with all the parents invited in the school’s library. Johnny was so happy and had such a big smile on his face when he was prompted to enter the room and do his procession to the front and join his peers. I was so proud watching him enjoy this moment. As I was watching him my mind just back to when he was 3 1/2 and we were at the hospital listening to the developmental paediatrician give her diagnosis . After she told us that Johnny was classically Autistic and explained that his diagnosis was Autism Spectrum Disorder, we asked her will he be able to ever go to school and learn and what kind of life will be have. She listed all the stereotypes of having communication and behavioural challenges and not from this point been able to socialize properly. She finished by saying that with lots of early intervention….maybe. She could not make us any promises to us but I assure you that at that moment, things did not sound promising. As I watched Johnny play, I could not reconcile that THIS was going to be HIS life. That he may not be able to attend to go to school and be with the other children. I could not believe that Johnny would not be in kindergarten.
I think when I read online parents or artistic young adults talking about parents being sad about their children’s diagnosis they don’t realize how hard it is to have the same hopes and dreams for your child that everyone has for their child and then to sit in front of a doctor telling you that this is the reality and you have lots of work to do to help your child adapt to the world to be able to go to school and have a life. I would do anything to help Johnny but at that moment I needed to figure out how to help give myself strength so I could be the Mother he needed and not the mother I thought I was. I think it’s perfectly natural to feel overwhelmed when your child is identified as being Autistic because suddenly you have mountains of information to digest and an enormous learning curve to navigate. You need to figure out how to get past all of your own feelings and figure out what are the best approaches to take to help your child adapt to the world he or she lives in as well as learn how he or she learns best so that you can help your child understand why we act and do the things we do.
So as I sat there watching Johnny stands with all his is neuro-typcial peers and take in every little detail of this moment with everybody watching him. I could see how happy he was and how he was not missing a thing. I saw how happy he was when the friends that he really liked were called up and presented with their graduation presents that he clapped and was practically jumping with glee. He looked so cute trying to eat the apple that his teacher gave him as a graduation present. He was suppose to hold it in his hand as a symbol of the knowledge he had aquired and carry it across a pretend bridge to the other side where his grade 1 teacher would be waiting. But of course my literal boy did what you are suppose to do when you are offered a snack…eat it. The problem was one of his front baby teeth was loose and he was dividing his time between trying to bit the apple carefully and wiggling the loose tooth. We were just waiting for him to suddenly pull the tooth out in front of the audience and show it off with a big smile.
Johnny has accomplished so much since his diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and on this day he had more to celebrate then all of his peers standing there with him. The point is he IS standing there with them after we were told there was a good chance that he wouldn’t be and we would have to re-define our expectations. One of these days I am going to tell one the professionals that work with Johnny to “redefine” their expectations of Johnny and take the less dangerous approach…..presumed competency. Until then, here are the parting words from the Senior Kindergarten teacher given to each and every child in Johnny’s class.