Busy Kinder May
The past year has not been the smoothest Kinder year, but we are ending on a good note. May was challenging but N was a trooper and did GREAT. He was nominated to represent his class at a local regional spelling bee. We did our best to prep him from all different angles (principal, teacher, and music teacher chipped in as well). I wanted the focus to be on the experience of it (rather than the end goal of winning/losing). We practiced and rehearsed what to do when/if eliminated. The principal helped me draw a floor plan of the location so N could visualize it and know where to sit and where to go without much anxiety. The staff had him practice speaking into a mic to get him used to the sound of it, so he wouldn’t be freaked out. We went over the rules multiple times. And he did TERRIFIC. I was so proud of him, had tears of pride in my eyes when he was finally eliminated and he happily came to find me in the audience to sit next to me. He was a crowd favorite (he got the loudest cheers when it was his turn, and the biggest applause when he was done). I think they could tell he was the underdog, because it was clear he was quirky. But quirky 5 year old is a pretty cute one at that, and many kids came up to him to tell him he did a great job. He was in the final five, they were already at 3rd/4th grade level words, and +10 rounds by then. I emailed the teacher and sent a picture via email. She nearly cried from being so proud, and printed out the picture super big, with the words “WE ARE SO PROUD OF YOU NATHANIEL” all over it, and posted it at the front door.
He also had a piano recital a week later. It was a bit of an afterthought (we were all exhausted from prepping him for the spelling bee) but we were excited about this too. He did a great job too, I could tell that he is getting better about being aware of his surroundings and tries really hard. This is probably his perfectionistic nature coming through, but he is so sincere in his efforts, it’s quite adorable. We are trying to emphasize effort and process over the end goal. Earlier this year, he had gotten a character award for taking “responsible risks” with his piano playing (every couple months, a child is selected for a character award for various character traits). His school offered piano lessons and I jumped at it, because I thought he would like music and also the mathmatical and creative component to it. Turns out, he took to it incredibly well, it was absolute favorite thing about school (besides art and math, of course). The piano teacher took notice of his interest and his persistence, and appointed him for this award. When presented with this award, he was asked to prepare a couple words to share with the audience (essentially the entire school at a school assembly). He simply said, “I do what I need to do.” I was amused at this, because I know he speaks so very plainly, and we have been using piano as a means to teach him about making an effort, work ethic, and the benefits of practicing at anything to get better. So I know he was speaking exactly about this, needing to do what he is supposed to do.
Little did I know that his Kinder teacher took this to heart; this year has not been the smoothest for her either, as I can understand how much of a mystery my child can be for those unfamiliar with ASD. She is the quiet introverted type, she is a planner and also does not like much change (I am still confused on how she manages to be a kinder teacher, lol). But she created a terrific structure for N to thrive in, she was very good at preparing him for things (or giving me plenty of heads up/notice about various things). She witnessed how surprises and even the smallest changes can cause a lot of anxiety for N, she saw how he is hesitant to try new things, and all his anxiety over anything that is too loud/wet/hot/cold/etc. But she also witnessed how determined he is to do the right thing, always following through with nearly everything he does, and even with activities he dislikes with a passion, he will try his best to swallow his fear andn anxiety, and jump in. He really does try so hard, in a world that he views as confusing and sometimes downright scary.
The teacher had also asked me for a letter of reccomendation. I was told from my teacher friends that this is common practice; many teachers will ask for a letter from a parent each year to keep in their file. I struggled with this letter, because I had mixed emotions about how this year was going, and almost being kicked out and nall. But I decided to honor her request and I wrote a letter that highlighted the things she was able to do for N that helped him to make progress and succeed.
God’s Still Here
And as the school year is coming to an end, other things are happening simultaneously too. We are in the midst of a move. At the moment, we are living in our new house, with 70% of our stuff here, minus the furniture (coming soon). I have been driving back and forth, packing boxes and driving them to the new house, unpacking them, rushing back to pick up kids from school, and doing it all over again. I’m also doing a lot of purging — 13 years of stuff to purge was quite intimidating, but freeing at the same time. But it has been confusing for the kids, especially N, who expressed sorrow at saying goodbye to our old house. He is starting to have an increase in his verbal stims — both in frequency and volume (at one point he was practically shouting every 20 seconds, it drove me nuts but I tried really hard to be patient through it). I was worried that it would be disruptive and that it would ostracize him from his peers even further. I worried about this a lot, talked to therapists and looked up info online about what could be done about these types of stims, etc. The verbal stims started showing up in the classroom too. The teacher approached me about it, and asked if I could have a talk with N about not doing it anymore. I almost laughed and cried right there on the spot. I was also angry too. Just tell him to stop it? Well gee if it was that easy, why can’t I also just tell him to “stop being autistic” as well?! I fumed over this for days, while simultaneously worrying constantly about it.
I don’t know why I went into a tunnel about it, he is ending the school year on such a high note, and this one little thing of verbal stimming has no bearing on the progress and huge strides he has made this year. But I did go in a downward spiral, really upset, lost all perspective, and drowning in worry. I asked God to remind me that He is still with us, that He still goes before us in this journey. I asked Him to forgive me for my lack of faith, and if He could send something to encourge me and remind me that He was still there with us.
The very next day, I received the following correspondence from various people:
My mom – telling me I am a terrific mom, specifically with N, and that my kids were blessed to have me (I rarely ever get verbal encouragement from her)
N’s therapist – confidently reassuring me that N’s stimming is due to the move and also end of the school year changes, and gave me tips on how to ease his anxiety until the summer settles in and the stimming resolves itself (her words made me feel so much better, even though I am aware that she has no crystal ball into the future, but she has been pretty accurate about N thus far)
N’s teacher – she wrote me an email saying she could not say this in person otherwise she would tear up – but she wanted to let me know that because of my letter of recommendation for her, she has received 2 job offers and is leaving for a new school this fall. And that N was a source of inspiration for her to “do what I need to do”, and this quote from him about his piano award would stay at her desk, because his example reminded her to take risks, despite hating change.
I am absolutely flabbergasted at God’s very quick response to my prayer. And even more dumbfounded that someone found my child be an inspiration, and about TAKING RISKS too!!!! This autism journey has blessed me more than I had expected. Our lows may be really low, but our highs are really high (every milestone is huge), and to witness my child being a blessing to others around him is just…. a reminder that God really is with us, every step of the way.