This is part five of this story. If you are new and want to catch up click here.
That light never did turn on. I cried at the Kindergarten graduation. I wasn’t sure that any teacher could teach my little Dog Walker as much as "Miss Miotten." He was moved into a cluster class for 1st grade. That meant that resource students in grades 1 through 3 were all in the same class. Many of them had communicative disorders like our son, but that was just a "catch all" for the ones who had yet to be labeled.
First grade was hard! His teacher was in her last year before retirement and she was relentless. It was good for our little guy to learn to work hard. I wouldn’t necessarily throw us in the really bad parents’ category but we had not asked much of him other than learning to speak. We often gave in to his tantrums just to keep peace. We didn’t assign him chores like we did the other kids, and we rewarded him often for small achievements. His brother and sisters were not happy with this favoritism and it caused many conflicts and complaints at home. I can’t say I was sad to see that teacher go.
His 2nd grade teacher was younger and seemed more dedicated to the students. She insisted that it was time to test our sweet boy. The stacks of paperwork came home again. I spent hours poring over them, hoping that we would finally understand his diagnosis. As I read the tests this time, the light turned on…not for him…for me. I could clearly see where the tests were leading. His teacher must have known too, because she gave me several different tests I hadn’t seen before and they all pointed to one answer: Autism.
My sweetie and I met with the teacher on a cold winter morning for Parent/Teacher Conferences. Our son was happy to play with the toys on the floor as we chatted. He had grown so much since he first started preschool! Now, at eight years old, he was finally starting to learn how to hold a real conversation. He still could not read facial expressions or understand simple instructions. He did not make eye contact; he looked at my mouth when I talked to him.
As we sat in our meeting, my sweetie heard the Autism word for the first time. His first reaction was denial and I could see the anger building inside him. He did not want our son to wear a label for the rest of his life. I understood how he felt, but I could also see that just taking away the label didn’t make it not be true. We rode home in silence, each of us lost in our own thoughts. I’m not exactly sure what he was thinking, but I was trying to figure out our next move. We really couldn’t afford a private school for Autism although there is a very good one right here in our valley.
As it turned out, the answer was to leave him right where he was, in the cluster class. But the questions of what to do beyond that kept me awake at nights. All my hopes and dreams for my precious son were shattered…would he ever go to college? Or even graduate from high school? What about marriage, a family, a career? Were these things even possible for him? What next?
Jump to part 6.