We haven't met yet, but since I'm a teacher, too, I am imagining we have some things in common. As the school year is about to start, I bet you are gathering materials, organizing supplies, and thinking, thinking, thinking. I wouldn't be surprised if you fall asleep at night making lists of things you need to do, then wake up in the morning wondering about too many administrative details to count. I bet you feel pressures in every shape and size due to budget cuts, bureaucratic red tape, reform efforts that make the local, state and national news daily, and a pile of memos clogging up your email. I can guess you feel at least a little sad to see the summer end, and a little wary of the heavy lifting that lies ahead, even if, like me, you adore your job.
For me, when I am feeling so many things at a chaotic time, it can be hard to remember that other people coming at the chaos from a different direction have their own swirling emotions that might collide with my own.
My little boy is about to be your student. He doesn't much want to gather any materials, and as hard as you have worked to gather your supplies, he isn't going to be as thrilled to use them as we would all like. He's six, has no concept of a budget or the impact of its reduction, and in fact he's more than a year behind his peers in math skills; actually, we'd be happy to see him grasp one-to-one correspondence. This summer he got his fourth pair of glasses fixed for what seems like the thousandth time, because we're desperately trying to help retrain his eye muscles in the hopes of avoiding a second surgery, and while you might have concerns about his reading and writing being below grade level, we are simply blown away by how tremendously far he has come through constant effort that only increased since school let out in June. While he enjoyed his summer time, he didn't exactly go on vacation -- he did tutoring twice a week, ABA behavior therapy five days a week, social skills classes, and day camp. He learned from every single thing. This summer our boy worked diligently to learn lots of important things, like how to ride a horse, take turns, identify coins, hold his temper, draw pictures, play board games, and even play some sports, and he is starting, very gradually, to learn to swim.
We aren't helicopter parents, we are just a working mom and dad trying our very best to raise both our children and help our son on his journey with autism. And as fall approaches, we think about the coming year throughout our days, too. We are watching the calendar with anticipation just as you probably are. We wonder if we are ready. We wonder if we've done enough to support our son, knowing he will start off behind. We wonder if we prioritized the right things, and if we've let him have enough room to be himself. We wonder about you, too. We wonder if you will see our boy, beyond his diagnosis, and how you will feel about including him in your classroom. We wonder if you will see how much we have in common as we head into fall, all a little nervous, all wanting the best for the year ahead, but all with our own backpacks full of needs, concerns, wishes, and fears.