It’s 2:15am and I’m awake.
I’m awake because I can’t shut my brain off.
IEP season is upon us and I can’t help but think about the what ifs and the “we can’t’s.” Now before you write me off as a pessimist, I have to tell you… I’m not! In every other facet of my life I always see the positive. I never expect bad things to happen to me. I always assume the best in people (for the most part). But when it comes to Finn’s education, I’m always worried about that proverbial other shoe dropping!
He’s been doing really well. Amazingly well! It’s the kind of success that happened so fast, but has been a long time coming! He has an awesome teacher and she has gotten him to go into his general ed classroom three times a day! (He wouldn’t even walk up to the door last semester!) His “problem behaviors” are under control. He is using a “break card” to identify when he is feeling overwhelmed. She gives him “sensory breaks” and visits to the Sensory room whenever he requests it. He “self monitors” his behavior by using a little picture checklist of “appropriate behavior” after every work session. If he checks off all the pictures, he earns his reward (which is usually Marble Blast… the kid is obsessed!) He has “friends.” (I’m not sure if the other kids think he’s their friend, but he has kids he likes and pals around with and that is amazing!) And, most importantly, he is happy. He is happy to go to school. He’s not agitated and defensive. He is smiley and jovial and I can’t tell you how it makes my heart sing to see him that way.
Finn’s teacher is, as I have told her, like Mary Poppins. She has made everything right for him. But now I’m worried the “wind is going to change” and she’s going to blow away under her umbrella.
Thanks to her (and his adorable, “Mrs Claus-like” general ed teacher) we’ve had the pleasure to notice how well he is also doing academically (imagine that?)
I always knew Finn loved numbers. Numbers are like the music to Finn’s life. He sees them everywhere (not in a Sixth Sense “I see dead people” kind of way), but in a way that makes me want to see the world through his eyes. When he was two, he used to hold up numbers on his fingers and ask “how many is this?” We thought it was cute and quirky.
Recently, while trying to drill Charlie with math addition flash cards (unlike Finn, Charlie has a creative / language arts gift), we really noticed Finn’s capabilities. I would be asking Charlie, “What’s 8 + 3?” And Finn would yell from the other room, “11.” He is always adding numbers in his head. This morning, while putting on Finn’s shoes, he asked me “What’s 99 + 19?” I was still carrying the one when he said, “”118.” He has a real gift. His math skills for computation are probably somewhere in the 2nd grade level, if not higher. The problem, however, and this is the “problem” with a lot of kids with autism, is that he probably still has trouble recognizing an octagon shape. His area of excellence doesn’t follow a linear pattern, which makes it very hard to assess and teach. And I know that you are probably saying, “after all you’ve been through, you should be happy that he’s doing well.” And I am.
But here’s why it matters to me…
We have always told Finn that he has autism. We want it to be as ingrained in who he is as being brown eyed. We don’t want “autism” to be something that’s whispered around him or something that should make him feel ashamed. We’ve never explained all that much to Finn about his autism except to say that his brain is wired a little differently, but it makes him extra smart. I don’t like to get into the details of what autism means to him because only he can tell me that. I don’t want to bias his perception of autism based on what I read in books. I am hoping that one day he can explain it to me.
And if part of his autism makes him an ubergenius at math, (ok, that is probably a gross exaggeration) then I want to foster that! I want him to be proud of who he is. There is a lot of struggle that comes with having autism, (not that he realizes it yet… well, aside from the constant sensory bombardment that he physically feels.) He has in-school therapies four times a week and at-home therapies three times a week. He just finished a five week “serial casting” to get him to stop walking on his toes. That kid works harder than so many other five year olds! While other five year olds are playing their DS and running on the playground, mine is learning “ways to calm himself when he feels his engine running too high.” I’m not complaining. I just want there to be a silver lining for all his hard work. He deserves it.
I know that Finn is only in Kindergarten and I can’t expect a rocket scientist just yet. I just hope that one day he feels happy and successful (in whatever form that is for him) and it will have made all of my sleepless nights worth it.
In Finn’s words, “I love you googolplex.”