My son Tate is a freshman in High School this year. We are two weeks in and I am breathing a bit easier now. He’s surviving. Transitions can be hard for people with autism. I worried about everything. How would Tate manage the huge transition to High School? How would he manage all the smaller transitions from one class to the next, in a hall crowded with so many other students? Those kinds of things are so much harder for Tate than they are for you and I. On Tate’s second day of school, his older brother ran into him in the hall. Literally.
Tate’s brother has since seen Tate in the school halls, and reports that Tate has mastered the skills necessary to dodge most of the other students now. Whew!
That first week was a bit rough on Tate. He was exposed to some ideas he could hardly believe. He came home distressed because his choir teacher mentioned the wearing of robes at the scheduled performances. Luckily, she was most understanding, compassionate and accommodating when I explained Tate’s sensory issues and his anxiety about things like this.
In addition to the anxiety felt by Tate, and all the new routines to learn, there is also a learning curve for Tate’s new educators. Each year as new teachers get to know Tate and his quirks, I worry that Tate will be misunderstood or even mistreated because of his lack of social awareness and socially acceptable responses. Will his teachers understand autism? Despite my fears, Tate is adjusting marvelously. The High School teachers are proving to be as proficient and as understanding as the teachers we left behind in Junior High.
Working with Tate requires patience and a sense of humor. Luckily, the Physical Education teacher is demonstrating that he has both when he teaches Tate. Despite Tate's awkward gait and limited coordination, P.E. has always been one of Tate's favorite classes at school. I wondered if High School P.E. would be very different. I have always heard that much of the bullying that goes on in a High School is done in gym class. After just these few days I can see that Tate likes his P.E. class very much. The fact that there is never homework, helps!
Tate does not believe homework is ever justifiable. Since he first entered public school he has been adamant that schoolwork should stay at school where it belongs.
Tate's attempt at his report was his personal best. I read it with mixed feelings. Things like this show me just how far behind Tate is. But they also show me how far he has come. It is true that Tate cannot perform academically at the level of his peers. However, I can honestly say that I am every bit as proud of his efforts as any other parent. Tate works hard and does the best he can in a world he has trouble making sense of. He shows me daily what it means to persevere. It sounds a bit cliché but it is a fact: Tate has taught me far more than I will ever teach him. He makes my heart smile.
Get to know a child with autism. You will be forever changed in ways you could not have imagined.
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