Last Thursday Tate had an end of the year program. Each of the Early Childhood classes performed a song or two for the parents. The teachers had been preparing the children for this event for months.
Tate eagerly participated in the activities and the songs at school. We heard tidbits of the songs at home, too. He was ready.
As we prepared to leave for the program, Tate got anxious. It was NOT a part of his routine to go to school in the afternoon. Even though we had talked about it, when reality hit, he was thrown for a loop.
When we got to school, I had to carry him to the classroom. He sat on the floor and no amount of coaxing or cajoling would get him inside. The aides suggested that we come in, as well. His classmates were playing heads-up-7-up. That piqued his interest. Thankfully, he was soon in the midst of the game, and we were able to sneak out to the gym, where the program would take place.
As we sat down, we saw Em, a mom I have befriended. She has a daughter a year behind Tate and a son a year ahead of Cole. I am not certain about her daughter’s diagnosis, but her son has Autism. In fact, last year she called to talk to me about Tate, because she felt like her son was quite similar. He was.
Anyway, Em asked if we could take any photos of her kids, as she forgot the camera. No problem.
The classes started to filter into the gym. Tate’s was first. They were all shouting out to their parents, trying to get their parents’ attention. They were smiling and waving to their parents. Notice I said “all”?? Even Tate was searching us out and waving. The smile when he connected with us was priceless. I admit to sniffling and wiping away a few tears.
As the kindergarteners took their seats, the pre-K class came in. Em’s daughter had a huge smile on her face. She didn’t call out to Em, or wave at her. It wasn’t until Em’s daughter sat down and Em called out her name that she turned and smiled in Em’s direction. No “hi, Mom!”, no wave. Just a smile.
The three year old classes were the last to filter into the gym. I was dumbfounded…between the 2 classes of three-year-olds, there were 14 boys and 1 girl. *jaw drop*
Em’s son came in with his class. He was at the end of the line. The social worker was guiding him in. Unlike Em’s smiling daughter, her son had very flat affect. I felt my throat tighten. I flashed back to Tate’s 3-year-old days. He wasn’t flat, but he was always last. Always with someone to guide him and sit directly behind him.
The EC (Early Childhood) PT was the emcee. She kicked off the program and asked Tate’s class to come up to sing. Our son was the ultimate ham. He may not have sung all of the words, but he was a dancing fool! He got out there and showed his “moves like Jagger”. He was loving it…and he was in step with his peers. He didn’t need one-on-one direction. He just kept going. We were bursting with pride–as was he.
When they were done singing, he sat down. By himself. No one had to sit behind him to remind him to stay in his chair or keep his hands to himself. He has made huge strides! He and his classmates sang along with the younger students…but appropriately. They have all grown so much.
The pre-K class followed Tate’s class. Em’s daughter ran back and forth. Smiling, giggling, and occasionally doing the motions with her class. She didn’t sing any words, but she was enjoying herself. She listened when the aides directed her to her chair and told her that she was done.
When the three-year-old class performed their song, all of the other classes buzzed with excitement. It was a song about some silly fish who want to brush their teeth, take a shower, get dressed, etc…and then remember that they are fish. It is one of Tate’s favorites. So, all of the other classes helped the three-year-olds out with their song. Many of the kids in that class were having fun. I watched, with a heavy heart, as Em’s son laid on the ground, playing with a chewy fidget toy. He was completely ensconsed in his own world. He was alone. No one made an effort to engage him, they just let him be–laying up there, fiddling with his chewy. Em, obviously frustrated and hurt, walked up to the group, picked up her son, and sat with the rest of the parents. It was heart-wrenching.
At the end of the program, all of the parents applauded. The teachers of each class gave out certificates. That portion of the program was the only one where Tate’s Autism was quite evident. He needed 2 verbal prompts to shake hands with the assistant superintendent, and he needed prompts for a picture. Additionally, he started to stim with his rolled up certificate…it looked like a stick, after all. But, that was it. He held it together better than his NT brother, so that’s a win.
We said our goodbyes. Hubz and I marveled at the disproportionate number of boys to girls. Our little program completely supports the statistics. While we are so grateful for our program, and all it has done, it is sobering to see so many children, boys in particular, who need the extra supports.
I continue to ache for my friend, Em, whose children were present…but not totally. I hope that one of these days they can break through the “shtuff” and connect with their children like we connect with Tate. I hope that in a couple of years she will watch her son have as much success as we have seen with Tate.