Sunday, June 28, 2009
Nicholas is Graduating, Middle School Part 1
I went to Nicky's 5th grade graduation celebration party. I walked in to see that his teacher had transformed a class room into a disco for the kids. It was very cool, very fun, and very typical. The classroom’s overhead florescent lights were off, and in their place rotated a flashing disco ball. Below the ball were lines of happy, laughing kids learning the electric slide. Immediately I thought, "Where's Nicky?” I knew the room must have put his sensitive sensory system on overload. I was right; he had experienced a meltdown, and his BI had taken him outside to run around the track. There is a lot of change, excitement and energy in the air. Today it’s a party, tomorrow the graduation, and the next day no more elementary school.
We are leaving this safe haven, and I have that "mommy knot" in my stomach. Maybe I should run around the track! :)
I worry that middle school will be an insensitive place filled with greater expectations and Nicky won't be able to hide among the second language learners and kids who are at different stages development. Middle school is busy, fast-paced, boys snap girls’ bra straps, they form "clicks kids have up to 6 teachers per day, they begin dating, the pressure of college begins, and social activities become everything.
Nicky still looks like a little kid. His clothes look hip because I dress him, not because he cares. If he is interested in girls, I can't tell. If he wanted to talk to one, he couldn't do it. He would just jump up and down and make noises, stare at his hands and try to poke her in the tummy. Hot...NOT. He's not interested in any sports, and his passions are puzzles, letters, signing, animals, writing lists and videos - hardly middle school "In" stuff. At this moment, I just can't imagine how he will fit in. I can't imagine how he will feel because he doesn't have the ability to verbalize many of his feelings. I'm worried for him. His classmates in elementary school have loved him and taken care of him, and I wonder if they will still look out for him with the social pressures of middle school. If not, how will that affect him? Will he feel the pain of his friends moving on? Is now the time that he is going to become aware of how he is different? Is the time coming when I have to explain autism to him? Will he be sad and not able to tell me? Will I be able to help? Will he plateau now that he’s out of elementary school? Is a cure out of sight for him?
He's not scared. He doesn't really know what middle school is, because he hasn't been there yet. Clearly, I’m the one who is not emotionally ready for Nicky to cross this bridge. I’m the one who is worried about the future I cannot see, not Nicky. He doesn't have any of my dread, and I envy him that. He's just anxious wondering if the new school will have a library and eyewitness videos. Nicky is fearless. He will go to middle school and he will have good days and bad days just like elementary school.
As I think about it, we are as prepared as we can be. I've worked for months to shift his support team to be all male, so he can learn the man stuff that the girls can't teach him (you might want to read my post about urinals - very funny). We have the best male therapists on the planet who will be with him everyday. We even have one big guy, who is so cool the kids love to hang out with him. And he loves Nicky. I know Nicky will be safe, and his team will continue to protect him, teach him and create opportunities for him to make friends and fit in.
Some moms have told me that their teenage kids made some of their greatest strides around age 11. So that is the picture I will hold up - not the image of my kid in a corner alone, sad. Truth be told, no one around Nicky would let him sit in a corner alone, and Nicky can't sit still for more than 10 minutes anyway! I don't have to worry about that. Nicky will be okay. We will all be okay. Here's to the future and possibilities that are yet unknown to us.