Monday, July 2, 2012

Letting Go of Mainstream Dreams

I've been up since 4 am.  Not by choice.  That's the time The Boy woke up. 

By 5 am, I was up and out of bed.  Threw a load of laundry in the washing machine.  Laced up my running sneakers and headed out the door.  (On Day 4 of excercising)

By 6 am, I was half dressed and packing up The Boy's bookbag for his first day at a new school.

And by 7 am, The Boy's school bus pulled up in front of our building.  I introduced myself to the new driver and matron.  The Boy jumped on the school without looking back or a goodbye kiss.  But The Husband and I called his name and we got the goodbye kisses we needed.  

Walking back up to our building, I started to cry.  I know, I know - I'm a cry baby.

Norrin has been taking the school bus since he was a baby - barely 3 years old.  He's been taking the bus since before he could even talk and while he was still in diapers.  

This is the 3rd school he's been bussed to in the last four 4 years.

You would think I'd be used to it by now.  But it doesn't get easier.  Handing your child over to a stranger for the first time.  And this new school is the farthest The Boy's ever been.  

Don't get me wrong - I LOVE the new school. I'm so happy he's there.  It's the right place for him to be.  

It was just never the place I expected him to be.

When The Boy was diagnosed with autism 4 years ago and we started the therapies - I remember The Husband telling me, "This is just to get him up to speed.  By the time kindergarten starts - he'll be able to go to a regular school."

Because for many parents that's the goal.  Mainstream education.  It's the dream.  

I think there was this tiny part of me that wanted to believe that.        

That's the thing about life down the autism rabbit hole.  You can make peace with it,  embrace it but accept it?  Acceptance is not a one shot deal, it's an on going process.  There will always be something new to accept.

The Boy's kindergarten year came and went.  And the fact is, he couldn't cope in a typical public school.  Even in a classroom of 6 kids.  Even with all the accommodations.  Even with the after school ABA therapists coming to the house 4 days a week.  Even with sensory gym on Saturdays.  The Boy still couldn't truly be successful in a 'regular' public school. Granted The  Boy was set up for failure but this last year was a huge eye opener for me.

So this morning as I waited next to a mother with her 13 year old son - who was also waiting for his yellow mini bus to appear - I realized that The Boy may never go to a school within walking distance. 

The Boy may be 13, 14, 15 years old and will still need me to wait with him for the mini bus to pick him up.  The Boys new school goes to 21 - he will probably be there until that age.  The Boy will probably never have a mainstream education. I have to just let that dream go.  I'm okay with it.  At the end of the day, all I want is for The Boy to be in a place where he can be happy and accepted for what he can do.  I know The Boy's education is about goals not grades. 

And I also know there are plenty of new dreams to be had.               


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AutismWonderland - written by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez - is a personal blog chronicling a NYC family's journey with autism, while also sharing local resources for children/families with special needs.