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To My Son With Autism as You Return to Preschool

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My son, two years ago you were about to make your official preschool debut. You were almost 22 months old. I was so happy to have finally gotten you into your sister’s school. I had been begging for a spot since you were 15 months. I felt you badly needed to be in that environment with other children. I guess I already had a hunch.

This was going to be so great! You would be with your sister all day. She could walk you to your room, watch over you on the playground and help you on your school journey. It was a happy time, but also a challenging one. You had just started speech and occupational therapy a few months before. I was struggling. It was becoming clearer and clearer that we were dealing with more than just delays.

The school year started and things were going well for you. You were quiet and calm back then. Yes, you were learning at a different pace than the other children and you required more support and redirection, but you were sweet and easy. You still are! Things were not so well with me then. I worried so much asking daily about your progress. Were you playing with toys? With the other kids? Were you participating in all the activities? Sitting at circle time? Were you saying any words? Pointing?

And then a few months in, we had the diagnosis — two weeks after your second birthday. A diagnosis I knew was coming six months before. And then our plans to have you in school with your sister began to change. We took you out for two months to do an intensive therapy program. After you came back, you were taken in and out for therapy in the mornings and afternoons were set aside for more therapy. We did everything we could to keep you in that setting, but you weren’t ready for it then.

After that year, it became more difficult to find the right educational setting for you. Although it wasn’t our first choice, we stuck to just therapies. But we had a goal to get you back into school, and after many ups and downs, we were able to get placement in a great inclusion program and a wonderful school. Now here we are, a couple of weeks from going back to pre-K. If this works for you, you will have some stability in your schedule for the next two years. Stability. Something we haven’t really had since your diagnosis.

We have learned since your diagnosis that a lot of this is trial and error, and we won’t know what is going to work for you until we try. But I am so scared, my love. I worry if this is the right place for you to thrive. I wonder if you are ready for this. I worry whether they will be able to give you the right support. I wonder if you will like it. I worry that if you have a bad day, or someone is mean to you, you will not be able to tell us. I wonder if you will be safe and happy. I worry about so much.

But we are also so very excited for you. We are excited about the possibilities. We are excited to see what you are able to do when you are allowed to flourish without so much structure. We are excited for progress, new friendships, school activities and so much more. We are hopeful. This is a new beginning for us after a winding road.

If we find that you are not quite ready to be there yet, we’ll go back to the drawing board and make another plan. But regardless of how this turns out, please know how much we love you and how incredibly proud we are of you and all the hard work you have done just to get back here.

Originally published: September 30, 2019
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