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To My Autistic Son's Paraprofessional

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I’m sorry.

Three and a half years ago when you walked into our lives I was in a semi-desperate place. I needed my son to attend the only available inclusive preschool, but he wouldn’t be allowed to do so without a paraprofessional. I was scared he would miss out on friends, accommodations, education, therapies and a love of play and learning if I didn’t find someone who was willing to work with him after a brand new diagnosis of autism. I didn’t know what to do, and I could barely answer questions about the way his brain processed information as I was still only learning myself.

You arrived to interview in a dress, looking beautiful and perfectly poised even when Kai didn’t want to see you. The interview went fine, and when you left that day I scoffed to my husband that I guess you “will do for the time being until you quit.”

I questioned to myself if you would survive my sons rough and tumble play.

I wondered out loud if you would get down in the dirt with him while he is playing with his trucks, maybe wiping boogers on you.

I questioned if you would be patient enough when his needs exceeded other children’s and all eyes would be on you and how you react.

I worried that his big personality and emotions would be too much for such a clean and poised woman, and that his sometimes dirty messy boy-hair and filthy jeans with holes in the knees would not be what you signed up for.

I seriously wondered if you realized what you were getting yourself into.

But I needed somebody, so for the time I decided you would have to do…

Fast forward to now; our family is moving away. In the last three and a half years, not only have you met any expectations I could have imagined, but you’ve exceeded them beyond a tangible measurement. Next to myself as his mom, no one in this entire world knows my son better than you. You know the way he thinks, his emotions, his likes and dislikes, and can anticipate every situation the way I do as his mom. You respect him in every bit of difference he has, and you never try to change his personality. You love him with every bit of your heart and pour every ounce of effort into your interactions with him, and his love and respect for you is noticeable to all those around. You know when to be involved and when to step back and let him try on his own.

Over these last years, you’re the one who has worked beside me the most to help him succeed as the best version of himself he can be. You’ve been to his birthdays, our family holidays and celebrations. Sometimes you’ve been the only guest. We’ve been part of your wedding and met your family, and we are so honored that you chose to include us. You’ve been there for me as a friend too; to listen to me cry and worry during hospitalizations, to celebrate his service dog’s (Tornado) arrival. You’ve celebrated in his triumphs with him, and encouraged and believed in him along side of me this whole time without ever hesitating or asking for anything in return. You join him in play, you care for his personal needs, you hug him, you listen to his big emotions and you actively care every day. You’ve been all I ever could have asked for and more, and I am so very sorry I ever doubted you for a second those years ago.

Now that we are moving away, the hardest part of this entire move for me is knowing you won’t be in our lives anymore the way you have been.

Ryoan, you are the very best thing I have ever been wrong about.

I didn’t know how much Kai would need you — or I would need you — and I didn’t know yet how priceless you would be to my son and my family. Of all the things I’ve been wrong about in my life, my favorite one is you.

Originally published: June 29, 2018
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