Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all… ~ Emily Dickinson
There are so many things I hope for when it comes to Jake; too many to list. My first hope is that Jake will continue to grow, learn and become a competent member of society.
Jake has been in school for 7 weeks now and it has been quite the roller coaster for me. Jake transitioned like a pro; much better than any of us expected. This is a boy who likes sameness, he hates when things suddenly change and loves routines.
If you have read my other blogs about Jake being in kindergarten then you know he has done extremely well. He loves going to school, loves being a “big” kid and loves his new teachers as well as his new routine.
A little over a week ago his special education teacher, Mrs. P., called me to tell me she thought that Jake would do better in a different kindergarten classroom. Mrs. P. felt that there wasn’t a strong enough connection between Jake and his teacher. I knew Jake was doing well but didn’t know that Jake and his original teacher just didn’t click. Because Jake does have autism and this is a big year for him, the administration wanted to make sure Jake got off to a good start. They felt Jake might have more success with another teacher. I talked to Jake about his new teacher and told him he would be in a different class. As I expected, Jake didn’t like that idea at all. He didn’t want to go to school and fussed when he got out of the car. I asked Mrs. P. to call me mid-day to let me know how he was doing; it was all I could think about that morning. When Mrs. P. called me I was relieved to hear that Jake loved his new class and loved his new teacher! When I picked Jake up that afternoon he was all smiles and said he had a great day! Jake had no behaviors to speak of and participated as if he had been in that classroom from the beginning. I couldn’t have been happier!
That night Jake was in a great mood. At dinner John, Allie and I had the best conversation with him to date. Allie asked him several questions about who he played with, who he sat by at lunch and if he loved his new teacher and friends. And he answered every question! Typically, Jake won’t answer who, what, when, why or how questions. He will respond with “I’m fine” which means ‘I don’t understand or I don’t want to talk’. But that night he said “Sissy, tell me more”. As far as I can remember this was the first real back and forth conversation we have had with Jake. He was engaged, he was eager to tell us he played tag, ran outside, ate his lunch, sang songs and read. He told us who he played with, who he sat next to and what books he read. We were all smiles that night. I had to contain my enthusiasm because I knew if I got too excited it would end much too soon.
Jake is thriving. He is learning and wants to do well. He loves to be praised and that is all of the incentive he needs. He loves that look on our faces when we catch him doing something nice. He notices our expressions and looks for our smile or words of praise when he is following directions or saying nice words.
This past Wednesday I had a conference with Jake’s new teacher, Mrs. J., Mrs. P. (special education teacher) as well as our occupational therapist. Jake’s new kindergarten teacher, Mrs. J, said she has been really impressed with Jake and his ability to follow directions and remain seated when asked. She told me that one day they were in their reading groups; Jake’s aide was helping another group, Mrs. J was with another and Jake was at a table with only his peers. She said Jake completed his work independently and when finished he went to her and asked her what to do next. Folks, this is huge for my boy! In the past Jake would have needed constant prompting, he would have started running around the room when his work was complete and he would NEVER have gone and asked what to do next!!!
Jake’s OT has been with Jake since he was 3 and commented on how well he was doing during her sessions and how his maturity has grown. I have to tell you, it was SO nice that the entire meeting was positive. They didn’t just spin it that way to make me feel good as they all know I need to know what “issues” he is having so we can work on these at home or with a therapist. It was ALL GOOD stuff!!
I left that meeting feeling so elated. That evening Jake and I had this conversation…Me: “Jake you are working so hard at school and I am really proud of you”; Jake: “You are proud of me (insert huge smile)”; Me: “I sure am buddy”; Jake grinning from ear to ear; Me: “I love that you are being a good listener and using nice words at school”; Jake: “I listen and use nice words? I do.” Me; “I am really proud of you”; Jake runs into my arms and I squeeze him as tight as I can and tell him I love him. He steps back to look at my face and sees me smiling, he smiles back at me and lets me hug and kiss him some more.
I am more than proud of this kid; I am pleased, glad, happy, delighted, joyful, overjoyed, thrilled and grateful!
It is incredibly hard for Jake to sit still, to listen, follow directions and understand directions. He needs a lot of breaks and is given the breaks he needs. Jake tries his best and his best will always be more than good enough. Jake’s teachers are listening to him, taking cues from him as well as setting him up for success. Jake’s team is working hard to make sure kindergarten is a positive experience so that he will have the confidence that he needs as he progresses in school.
Jake works hard each and every day. It is not easy but one of the things that I love about him and love about the school is that Jake is allowed to be Jake. They aren’t trying to change him. They reach him where he needs to be reached and work with him right where he is at that moment and time. Jake is pushed, expectations are high but not to the point of being broken.
Jake is exhausted by the end of the day which means we don’t see the same boy that goes to school. Some nights we see a defiant and unruly kid that has had enough of being “good”. Evenings are hard and sometimes downright impossible. Finding a solution that works for all of us can be tricky. Jake has meltdowns, he throws things, he is uncooperative and can be downright naughty. But I would rather him show these behaviors at home than at school!
My hope will continue to be that Jake will flourish, mature, grow stronger and will defy all of the odds. Someone said to me the other day ‘Jake is very social and loves other kids; I didn’t think autistic kids were social.’ Jake is defying the myths, redefining what autism means. I’ve requoted the following and you may have heard it before but I need to say it again, “when you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”
Each autistic individual is different. My child might be social whereas another might not be; my child hates to be touched unexpectedly whereas it might not bother another child. Autism does not define Jake and we won’t let it define him. Jake will define himself as he continues to grow and mature. This child is capable of things that we cannot predict and I am certain he will continue to amaze those of us that know him!