Today was a fantastic day.
When I first visited the school that Easton was assigned to for his special needs preschool program, I freaked out a little. And by that, I mean I had an emotional breakdown right there at the school. I didn’t do it in front of his potential teaching staff, but I did do it in front of his speech therapist, who I had grown to know and trust very well when it came to making the right decisions for Easton. My concerns: The class size seemed too big (20 kids???). The kids all seemed so much older than him (in my defense, they were all 4 and 5 and he had just turned 3). He seemed so little up next to all of them. The class was half special needs kids, half “normal” kids – was this really what was best for him? How much experience did the teacher have with autistic kids? (answer: 14 years) – but the truth was, that wasn’t the point. The point was, she didn’t have experience with MY child. “They just don’t KNOW him” actually came out of my mouth. His speech therapist at the time, bless her heart, listened, showed compassion, and told me that the school he gets placed in is ultimately MY decision and no one else’s. She also gave me the following advice: “Let’s just try it out. If it doesn’t seem like the right fit, for any reason, call us and we’ll place him somewhere else. We want you to be happy and comfortable with where he is.”
Well…thank GOD for that voice of reason.
Did I cry the first day I put him on that bus to go to his new school? YES. Did I think about him all morning, wondering if he was crying, upset, overwhelmed, stressed, and wondering WHY his mom, of all people, would send him to this strange place and take him out of his routine? YES.
Did I underestimate him, the school, and the teachers? YES.
We had our first parent/teacher conference for him today. They told us a few things that didn’t surprise us at all. He likes to play in the sink, and notices if it’s dripping, even if no one else in the room does. He notices his reflection and the reflections of the lights in anything and everything, and becomes fixated on that. In fact, they used this to their advantage and gave him a mirror so he would sit at circle time instead of wandering. He doesn’t like play-doh. He doesn’t like finger painting. He pretty much hates art projects of any kind. Oh…and he has been known to throw his fork across the room. For anyone who doesn’t know this fun fact about Easton, he does not, will not, has NEVER used an eating utensil. They try to at least get him to tolerate the fork being in the vicinity of his plate at breakfast. The teacher tried to put a foam gripper on the handle of the fork one day. He took one look at it and threw it across the room. Since then, he has done it a few more times, and now I guess he has decided that it’s not the end of the world if a fork is next to his plate. This would be considered a small win. I’m relieved that the other kids in the room are now safe from flying forks.
“We like to call him our Classroom Casanova.” The teacher said these words and I just looked at her. “Um…what?” She said he has formed quite a bond with two of the girls in the class. I asked what she meant by “bond.” She said, “Well, he goes over and sits in their laps periodically throughout the morning and smiles at them. In fact, one day we joked that it almost looked like he was giving one of the girls a lap dance.” My husband and I couldn’t stop laughing as she told the story. I asked her if he is getting on the girls’ nerves when he does this. “No. One of them has a sister with special needs, so she is very tolerant. And the other one likes the attention.” I told them that he has couple of new crushes at his preschool at Gallup too. She said, “Oh, and he has good taste. They are both VERY cute and smart.” Other than the fact that it’s humorous that my 3 year-old son has turned into a bit of a ladies’ man…the reason this is actually WONDERFUL news is that my 3 year-old son with autism is willingly socially interacting with other children. In the autism world, THAT is something worth celebrating. And I plan on it. Tomorrow night. With a few beers.
Along with all of this, we found out he will eat BANANAS for them. (It will take a whole separate blog post about his food issues for you to understand why this information made my jaw drop to the floor, and why it gave me hope that he will not eat the same five foods for the rest of his life.) He will now sit for the entire time at circle time (again…this is HUGE). AND…they go around and spell all the kids’ names every day – he now says “E-A-E-A-E-A” when it’s his turn.
I left the school with a smile on my face and I haven’t stopped smiling since. I did a happy jig when I got home. He has a long way to go, but he has made a tremendous amount of progress in the last three months. The absolute best thing for him was to put him in this school, with these teachers, with these kids.
Today, my friends, was a fantastic day.