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What I Hope for as My Nonverbal Autistic Son Transitions to High School

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When I think about transitioning my nonverbal autistic son to high school as compared to middle school, there are things that seem easier and also things that seem harder. I feel like since middle school is only two years, the transition to a new setting will be much quicker for him than it was after seven years of elementary school. One of the hardest things for transitioning to middle school was the fact that school started later and ended later, so I am excited for him to go to school earlier and get out earlier again.

Still, I have all of the nerves that come with getting to know an entirely new support system. I hope we will end up with as caring and supportive of a teacher as he has this year, that we will have paras who are caring and supportive and that he both keeps some old peer relationships and develops some new ones.

It can feel like your child is so vulnerable when their expressive communication is a challenge. His receptive communication is at a higher level, so he understands so much more than he can express. I can’t help but wonder how frustrating that must feel for him. He has a communication device and is encouraged daily to use it, but he is mostly just communicating his basic needs and wants. I wish I could be there with him every second, almost taking on the role of a translator because I know all of his little cues and nonverbal gestures a stranger might not pick up on. This is not possible though — he will have to develop these new relationships on his own.

My hope is that his new high school team will take the time to get to know him and how he best works. I hope they will communicate with his old team and find out the best tools to help him thrive. I hope they will understand that even though his expressive communication is lacking, he understands and is capable of so many things! I hope they won’t be fooled when he acts like he can’t do something and set their expectations high. As with any student, his success depends not only on his own choices but also with those of the school support system. We have been so amazingly blessed with awesome team members in both elementary and middle school, and I can only hope for such a good experience in high school.

Along with the transition to high school comes the realization that you need to start thinking about a transition to life after school. After accepting the fact that it is even possible he is growing up so fast, I started to think. What is his life going to look like after high school, and how can I make sure he lives his best life? I don’t have all of the answers to this, and luckily I have a few years left to figure them out. What I do know is that as long as I am able, I will dedicate myself to making sure I support both of my children in living their best lives. I know that will look very different for each of them, but no one life is better than or more successful than another.

Originally published: April 15, 2020
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