It wasn’t often that my Autistic son was able to be a leader, but when it happened, I rejoiced!
This article was originally featured in the College Park Patch, Thu, Aug 25, 2011, by Gretchen Schock and has been updated for this blog post.
The school had started, and we returned to early bedtimes and homework nightly. Spelling lists and classroom paperwork adorned our refrigerator.
My oldest has always thrived in this type of structured environment; my youngest would rather have a bit more room to wiggle.
This particular year, for the first time, both kids were going to the same school. Thankfully I was able to walk the kids to school each day, and we had a routine in place with morning drop-off.
On the second day of school, we walked into the building together, and I took the kids to the top of the hallway — our drop-off point — so they could get right in the habit of walking themselves to class. The staff didn’t like parents walking kids to their classrooms; most kids lined up outside and then went into the school by grade level.
It tended to be a bit of a madhouse.
My oldest kid is on the Autism Spectrum and would fight the urge to have a breakdown because the environment was over-stimulating. The noise and the number of people in a small space inadvertently bumping him and touching him was too much for the beginning of a school day. Because of his Individualized Education Plan, I had gotten approval to avoid the line, and I took the kids by the hands, and we headed into the school, bee-lining for our top of the hallway goodbye spot.
I would hug them, look them in the eye, and tell them, “You are going to be great!”
This was our little tradition. Every family needs those, I think — special sayings that only your family says to one another. I told my oldest, “You are going to be great,” when he began speech therapy at three years old. It’s one of the first words he could recite perfectly, and even now, if you ask him, “how are you today?” his reply, nine times out of ten, will be “great!”
As they were about to turn and head down the hallway, my youngest kid reached out for their brother’s hand and said to him, “I need to hold your hand for a few days … til I’m not nervous.”
My oldest simply replied, “Okay.”
And off they went, holding hands down the hall. I watched as they hugged and went their separate ways right at their classroom doors, which were across from each other.
These are the moments I have cherished and held close to my heart because my kids have now grown into young adults. We still have the same tradition of saying, “you are going to be great,” as they embark on a new experience. I know these will be my final words as I leave my younger child in her dorm room this coming fall. And though she doesn’t need her brother to hold her hand any longer when feeling nervous, it is reassuring that they will always be a text message away from each other.