Why I've Decided Not to Attend My Son's High School Graduation


It’s that time of year again — prom season. It’s the time of year when I avoid my Facebook newsfeed like the plague. The pictures of my friends’ teenagers eat away at me. I look at my friend’s son who was born around the same time as my son, Mike, and feel the giant gap between our boys. This year, the pain is compounded by the reality that Mike is a senior. He should be preparing for graduation, packing for college and attending the prom like the rest of his classmates. He is not.

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Mike on his first day of school.

If you follow my blog, you know how deeply I love, accept and celebrate Mike. I’ve rejoiced with every milestone, knowing how much effort it takes for him to master basic tasks. I do my best to approach each day with acceptance. I have mastered the art of burying my pain and remembering each day is a gift. This year, I’ve been having a difficult time pushing away the painful realities. I’ve received college brochures, been solicited for graduation announcements and even received a call from a military recruiter. There have been countless little “hits” I’ve had to push out of my mind and heart. At the beginning of the year, I was given a graduation packet which included a form to order Mike’s cap and gown. I glanced at it and stuck it in a pile of papers on my desk. I haven’t been able to open the packet since, and the deadlines have past.

While I’m proud of Mike’s accomplishments, I’m also feeling melancholy. He is graduating but returning to the same school for four more years. He will be there after his younger sister matriculates to college. He will be there until he is 22 years old.

After painful consideration, I’ve decided to skip Mike’s high school graduation ceremony. While I have no doubt that his school and teachers would provide whatever accommodations necessary to ensure his participation would be without incident, I’m just not sure there is anything that could accommodate me.

I know I won’t be able to sit in an audience and watch his typical peers transition to life without feeling immense sadness. I don’t want to listen to speeches about opportunities and the future. I don’t want to see Mike sitting in the crowd of students with headphones on and playing on his iPad. I don’t want to spend his graduation day mourning his reality.

I’ve decided to celebrate Mike’s accomplishments in a manner he will enjoy. I’ve decided to have a private party with his friends and family. I’ve decided to avoid the traditional and opt for the personal. In all honesty, a private party is probably the greatest graduation present I could give him. It’s an accommodation that will let him be ‘Mike.’

mikegrad

This post originally appeared on Autism Hippie.

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