For the past couple of weeks, people have been asking me how Jack has been doing in school. And I’ve been answering, “He’s doing great! I mean, it’s still hard for him, but he’s doing so much better than last year.”
And that is all true, and I am so proud of him.
But then there’s the other truth—the truth that includes almost daily reports of Jack hitting other kids, his aide, or his teacher; and the phone calls that are increasing in frequency from school staffers about Jack’s behavior.
His whole team knows and acknowledges that these behaviors stem from his autism, from the fact that he has a disability, but it still is no fun to deal with. He’s frustrated, so he’ll hit because he doesn’t have words. He doesn’t know what to say, so he’ll imitate something he saw on TV or saw someone else do, and he’ll hit. He doesn’t know how to get someone’s attention, so he’ll hit.
These behaviors are really slowing him down in a year in which, academically, he seems to be killing it. And, unlike the beginning of last year when so many of his problems stemmed from lack of adequate support, I don’t think this is something an attorney and an IEP meeting can fix.
But, that aside, school has been going really well. (And there haven’t been hitting reports in the communication notebook for two days in a row. My fingers are, and will remain, crossed that this continues.)
The first couple of days that he had homework were tough. Like, it took an hour and a half of cajoling to get him to do four minutes worth of math problems. But since then, he has improved. My guys get home at about 3:30 and I let them play until 4. Then we all sit down at the dining room table and do homework.
Today Jack finished his homework before Sam finished his, which is unheard of in my house. It is so encouraging. (And, yes, my fingers are crossed and I’m knocking on wood for this too.)
He reads the books he brings home, complete with different voices for different characters. He does his math perfectly. He excitedly pulled some art work out of his bag the other day to show me. He’s getting his reading comprehension questions right. He’s even using his finger to carefully make spaces between words, which I find absolutely adorable.
I’m coming to the slow realization—or not realization, but more acceptance—that Jack’s autism is not a “developmental delay.” It truly is a disability, and he is not going to suddenly catch up and be all better and just like his peers. He is going to have challenges, and they are going to change year to year, month to month, and day to day.
But that’s okay. Because he’s getting older and more aware and even more lovable, if that is possible.
And it’s okay because I’m not the only one who gets this. Jack’s team gets it. The other day the principal called and left a message to tell me about a problem that Jack had had that day. I didn’t get the message until that evening, so the next day I emailed him to tell him what we were doing at about the problem.
He wasn’t at the school that day, but he emailed me from his home at 9 p.m. that night. And it wasn’t to tell me how Jack had misbehaved, but rather to tell me that he’s doing all right, hopes it gets better, and that he’s going to have Jack make some trips to the principal’s treasure box for incentives and rewards.
Me. Speechless. And grateful.
So how is school going? There have been some ups and downs, and I have spent some very sad afternoons worrying about Jack. But mostly I am just so proud of him I could burst.