I saw the panic flicker in her eyes as she frantically searched the paperwork in front of her, searching for something she’d clearly missed.
My son’s second grade teacher is the type of teacher you want your kids to have. She’s awesome at what she does, she’s great with the kids, and she genuinely gets excited over the progress the kids make.
She’s stopped me in the hall or pulled me aside when I’m in her room to volunteer to share great news about my son. If I don’t have a scheduled conference, I don’t expect that. But, it’s how she is. And I love it.
And yet, even as amazing as she is, there was something important she missed about my son. Not her fault, but she didn’t know. I hadn’t brought it up at the very start of the year, assuming his paperwork would speak for him and since he’s improved so much since first starting school years ago, I no longer felt it necessary to have a conference before the school year began.
When we did have our first conference, two months into the school year, she shared how great he was doing academically and how pleased she was with his progress, her only concern being that even though his time with the special needs teacher had been cut down to just 30 minutes a day, it might still be too much and he might be better off with even less. Which was the good kind of concern to have. I’d already talked informally with her several times by this point, so I was already pretty well aware of what she was going to tell me.
As we were wrapping up the conference, I asked if he was making any friends in class and who he plays with on the playground. Questions I ask him, but he’s never been great with names and unless there’s someone to constantly reinforce a name to him, it won’t stick with him. So, without many names, it’s hard to get a clear picture of how he’s doing socially. And he does struggle with reading social cues and understanding appropriate social interaction. He could think everything is fine when it’s not, though he had told me that he felt like he fit in.
His teacher told me that he tends to play more with the girls than the boys, but that yeah, he’s liked. And that some kids are just more introverted than others.
Oh, believe me, I know all about introverted.
But I could tell from her breezy tone that she wasn’t really understanding my concern. So I prompted “You know, with his PDD-NOS….being on the autism spectrum… he can have a harder time socially….”
And that was when I saw that flicker of panic in her eyes, as she searched his paperwork for what she’d missed.
Though, it’s not front and center in his file. Any services he’s received have fallen under the category of OHI (Other Health Impaired, which included his ADHD), so while there’s evaluation results in there that my son is on the autism spectrum, it wouldn’t have been something that jumped out at her.
And this tiny part of me that I don’t like very much made my heart leap in excitement and think she didn’t know, she wouldn’t have guessed, she didn’t have a concern, she just thought he was doing awesome, she didn’t see him as different.
I left the conference a few minutes later and walked slowly down the hall, trying to figure out exactly what I was feeling.
It’s not that I try to hide that my son is on the autism spectrum. It’s part of him.
Then again, I don’t tell every single person who encounters him about it, only if they have a reason they need to know(usually I DO have a discussion with his teacher- that was an oversight on my part). I don’t include his diagnosis in every post I write or story I tell about him or even in most of them. Only if I’m talking specifically about something that relates to autism and while you could argue that everything does because he is autistic… sometimes it’s more about a little boy or parenting in general, than about special needs.
I’m not a good autism advocate, I admit this. An advocate for my boys, absolutely, but not a spokesperson for the cause. Sometimes that’s caused me a little guilt because I know so many other moms who do a fantastic job with this. But then I get busy with something else and I don’t feel guilty simply because I’m not taking the time to think about it, I’m just thinking about my family. Call it selfish, I’ll call it parenting.
And it’s Autism Awareness Month, which some call Autism Acceptance Month… and what does my reaction to his teacher not knowing say? That I wish he wouldn’t be seen as different? That I wish people could just see the good in my son?
I can say that I honestly feel like I’m not just autism aware but I’m in the autism acceptance camp… but that doesn’t mean that I can’t have fleeting thoughts of wishing my son had an easier route.
Wouldn’t it be nice if I could tie up this story with a pretty bow and tell you how I learned some big, huge lesson from all this? I have no ribbon for that bow because sometimes feelings just are what they are.
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