As we ramp up for the beginning of another school year, I am reminded that this is the last one. There are no more. My youngest son is a senior this year. Back when it all began, 2013 sounded so strange. It seemed like one of those distant points in the future where we’d all be driving spaceships instead of cars.
This has been a long road and a long time coming. Since Alex is Autistic, the early intervention program in our school district had him starting school at age 3. He started a district-run preschool program in 1998. Like most kids today, he attended three types of schools – an elementary school, a middle school and a high school. In reality, he’s attended far more – there were two different preschools, two different high schools and a training school where he learned auto mechanics. I think there have been (at least) seven different buildings.
When I put him on that first bus at age 3, his communication skills were lagging behind. It was very hard to explain to a crying 3-year old why I was handing him over to strangers in a strange van. I took the obligatory “Alex goes to school” photo, but it still bothers me to look at it. Of all the photos I took of Matt and Alex on their first day of school throughout the years, that one is my least favorite.
Alex has done well, and he’s come a long way since 1998. He completed a summer program recently where he held his first job. He will also spend half a day every day his senior year in a work-study program. Similar to the co-op job I had during my senior year of school, Alex will go to work each afternoon and get paid for it.
Autism is defined by Autismspeaks.org:
“Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.”
Autism is also classed as a spectrum disorder. It was described to me years ago as a broad scale with a wide range of disorders. No two people with Autism are the same. All have varying degrees of disability with the disorder. We have been very fortunate over the years to have had some excellent teachers, specialists, doctors, therapists and administrators working with us. We have also been extremely fortunate to have a milder case of Autism than some. It could have been far worse.
There are a lot of good websites out there. Here is one that one of Alex’s doctors recommended – http://www.tourettesyndrome.net/. It’s not just geared towards Tourette syndrome. It covers other disorders from ADHD to Autism to Executive Dysfunction to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder to Tourette syndrome.
There have been difficult times over the years when it felt like we’d never reach this point. Now that it’s here it feels like it’s gone by very quickly indeed.