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Why 2020 Had a Silver Lining for My Autistic Son

This year has been challenging for people across the globe. Our family is no exception. In addition to multiple family members contracting COVID, including my 5-year-old autistic son, our family experienced loss, medical complications, disruptions in education, periods of unemployment and more. I am sure you can relate. But, thankfully, 2020 is over now. And as tough as it’s been, there have been silver linings, especially for my son on the autism spectrum.

Before COVID, my son was in an ESE PreK class in the public school system. When schools went digital in the Spring, we quickly discovered learning online would be difficult for him. In the Fall of 2020, he started kindergarten at an autism charter school. The school year began using distance learning. Again, this did not go well.

In our county, students aren’t required to begin school until age 6. So we decided to let him wait the extra year. He would remain at his behavior therapy center that he had been attending regularly since age 3. At least we could keep something consistent for him during these disruptive and uncertain times. Soon COVID swept through the center. My son contracted the virus, spreading it to our immediate family. Fortunately, our family didn’t have severe symptoms and everyone recovered quickly.

Once my son’s COVID symptoms subsided and the quarantine time passed, he returned to therapy. At the center, he has been with the same therapist since the beginning of the pandemic. And although having him attend kindergarten this year was our family’s goal, seeing the progress he’s made with another full year of behavior therapy has been amazing!

During my son’s bonus year of therapy, he acquired skills that I know will enable him to thrive once he goes to kindergarten. He learned skills such as playing with peers, waiting his turn, sharing items, working independently, working cooperatively, tolerating no, listening to a story, following simple directions, using a writing utensil, feeding himself, toileting independently and more.

Most children learn these skills organically. However, for children on the autism spectrum, like my son, these skills often take significant effort and time to learn. Had my son gone to kindergarten in 2020, he would not have been equipped with the necessary tools to be as successful as possible.

While our immediate family continues due diligence isolating ourselves from extended family and friends as vaccines are rolled out, I continue to cling to each silver lining. I remind myself this is a temporary new-normal, and eventually, we will reclaim our old-normal. Students will return face-to-face instruction in a classroom full of peers. “I do’s” will once again be celebrated with hundreds of cheerful guests. Dozens of laughing children will return to dominate birthday parties, and holidays will again safely include beloved grandparents. It may seem as if we are in a long, dark tunnel, but there is finally visible light at the end!

“In every dark cloud, there truly is a silver lining. To find the silver lining in your challenges, shift your perspective.” – Author Unknown

Getty image by Aaron Amat.