Widgets Magazine

Mar 5, 2011

Autism: Kindergarten

My little Dog Walker spent the following summer laughing and playing and getting a nice dark tan (he is so not like me…I burn and peel, then burn and peel again all summer long). We signed him up for t-ball, but that was a disaster! He would lay down on the field and completely ignore the other kids. Sometimes he would chase after the ball and scream and cry if someone else got it first. We never made it through a whole game. 

We worried about his safety. He was totally oblivious to stranger danger or getting lost or hit by a car. We put chain locks high up on our outside doors to keep him inside where he was mostly safe. When fall came, he went back to the same preschool with the same teachers. His progress was amazing! We were hopeful that he would catch up soon. We were always led to believe that one day the light would just turn on and he would get it and all would be right with the world. The following school year he had the option to change schools. 

 We were told that his beloved preschool teacher would be moving to the new school and that’s where he wanted to be. So we changed schools and she had a falling-out with the administration and changed districts. Suddenly everything was unfamiliar to our little guy. He was in a new school with new kids and new teachers. And to make matters worse, his teacher was partially deaf and had a speech impediment, so the instructions he heard every day were not the kind of speech we were hoping he would learn. We tried to transfer him back to the other school, but if we did he would lose his busing privileges and we were not in a position to drive him. We took a giant step backwards. That school year was pretty much a total loss. 

The light never came on and he was still struggling to communicate. I quit my day job in April so I was only away from home a couple of evenings a week to teach classes. Unfortunately, the extra "mommy time" didn’t seem to help either. We had our seventh child that summer. Now I don’t want you to think that we were unhappy with our sweet little boy! He had an amazing habit of brightening a room. He had a cheerful disposition most of the time. For him, everything was either black or white. He would be angry and upset one minute and then smiling and playful the next. He didn’t hold grudges or pout. He simply saw the world as it was at that exact moment. 

The school district powers that be decided that Diagnostic Kindergarten was the next step. This school was much further away and through some twisted irony, its name was Bell View. We were nervous and hopeful at the same time. We didn’t want a year like we had just finished, but our first teacher had suggested mainstreaming at Kindergarten and we were still thinking that might happen. 

Kindergarten was a whole new experience for our little guy. He had to sit at a regular desk and learn to use a pencil. We spent hours just working on the proper grip (he still doesn’t hold it exactly the way he was taught, but it works). He got a bug bite on his nose that started out tiny, but worked itself into a giant scab because he just couldn’t leave it alone. **Editor's Note:  This is significant because his school pictures for the year have this giant scab.  It wouldn't go away because he kept playing with it.  

He did not know how to have a conversation. He could sing the "I Love You" song from Barney, but he had no idea what it meant. Oh how badly I wanted to hear those words from him with some real meaning in them! Certainly by the time they were six all of my older children had put their arms around my neck and told me they loved me, but not my Dog Walker. He was caught in his own little imaginative world and most of the time it did not include me. In January they gave him his first tests to determine diagnosis. We filled out stacks of paperwork about his birth, his siblings, his health. Almost anything you could imagine about his life to that point. Unfortunately, despite our efforts, these tests were inconclusive because he could not even understand the instructions well enough to take his part of them. We forged ahead, just waiting for that light to turn on…  Jump to part 5.

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