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Autism, the First Day of Kindergarten, and Crying for the Wrong Reasons

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When your child is on the autism spectrum, the journey is full of twists and turns and bumps and many forks in the road demanding a decision you often times second guess. There are no easy answers and a myriad of questions — and no two roads are the same of course. One of the things we faced when my son was 5 was if we should keep him in the current therapy center he was at or begin him in kindergarten (with assistance) at our mainstream school. Of course our hopes were to have him begin school with his peers and neighborhood friends. But he was doing really well at his therapy center and making progress. And the truth was we didn’t feel he wasn’t quite ready for mainstream school yet. We decided it was best for him to stay put, continue his therapy, skip his kindergarten year and start with his class his first grade year. It was a good decision.

But I’ll tell you something that’s not in any of the manuals and resource books about autism — you as the parent may have moments of sadness that sneak up on you. There are sneaky little moments like seeing the kindergarten bus tooling around your neighborhood picking up freckle-faced grins for their first day of school with their teary-eye parents holding cameras and waving. That was my moment. I didn’t get that first-day-of-kindergarten moment with him. As that happy bus drove by my house, I realized I would never have that moment with him. And a well of emotion overtook me. I am not a big crier and yet here I was looking out the window watching the bus pull away and tears were rolling down my cheeks. Why?

I knew it was best for him to be where he was at. The social skills needed and the loose structure of kindergarten may have made him very unhappy. It could set him up to fail, and I didn’t want that. So in no way did I second guess the decision to keep him where he was at. But I was sad.

So why was I crying? Wasn’t my son where he should be? Why was I upset about him not going to a place that wouldn’t suit him well at all.

I suddenly realized this had nothing — Not. One. Thing – to do with my son and everything to do with me.

Me! I wanted that kindergarten moment. I was having a pity party for myself. Being sad about that “picture perfect kindergarten moment” was me grieving the loss of what I thought was supposed to be. But in that moment of realizing this was all about me and my ego-driven ideals, I found a sense of peace.

Yes, my life was different and so much more enriched because of the road I was on with him. I learned to find joy and delight in the smallest of moments. I celebrated little victories. I slowed down. I was intentional. I figured out what was really important. My son wasn’t sad to be missing out on that first day of kindergarten — he was thriving and happy where he was at! And that’s what was important. It wasn’t about me.

Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: September 17, 2016
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