Every new school year brings optimism to parents and children as they both embark on a new adventure. Truth be told, most parents feel a degree of happiness that their child is back in school. While I feel happiness, I mostly feel stress and nervousness. You see my son Tyler has Asperger’s Syndrome. So every new school year, he seems to face more challenges than the typical kid.
In the Autism world, Tyler is considered high functioning. He attends a classroom with typical children and does well academically. Socially, Tyler continues to lag behind. Sometimes it seems as if he is in his own little world. He only cares about what he is interested in and doesn’t care much about what others think. As he gets older, both the academic and social demands become increasingly difficult. It is often scary not knowing what issues will arise with Tyler. We cannot predict his future with any certainty whatsoever. Despite the challenges, we try to keep the faith and remain optimistic. We take it one day at a time, and hope he will be independent someday.
This month, Tyler starts third grade with a new teacher and new classmates. That would be enough change for any child, but change is extremely difficult for Tyler. Tyler’s happiness often rides on the delicate predictability of his school day. He also has a new behavioral therapist, a new autistic support teacher, a new school nurse, a new occupational therapist and a new physical therapist. Yes, he is worried about the changes and so am I.
“Mom, I am nervous.” he tells me. “Will I be okay?” he asks. What do I say to my nervous 9-year-old when I will never know the answer to that question? Well, on my husband’s advice, I just tell him that it will be just fine and that he will love third grade. It is a lie, because I never really know what will happen. There are so many days when for Tyler, school is “not okay”. In fact, school can be one big disaster on some days. He knows it, and I know it. But I lie anyway, and I pray that he will be okay.
As the first few days pass, I wonder if my special child really will be okay like I promised him. On this particular night, I am trying to quickly send yet another e-mail to his special education teacher about another problem at school. As I try to concentrate, Tyler jubilantly runs down the stairs and exclaims, “Mom, I have a message for you!”
“Okay Ty.” I say tiredly. “I will be there in a few minutes.” He looks disappointed, but I am busy as usual. That is one thing that hasn’t changed.
Again I begin feverishly typing. My thoughts race as I type. I feel like I am the only one who sees the big picture. Maybe that is because Tyler will live with us forever if we don’t get it right. Whatever happens now is a building block for some unknown future. So even though I never know what Tyler’s future is, I want his foundation to be strong.
In a split second, my thoughts change back to what my son was telling me. What is he doing upstairs? What did he say about a message? More importantly, where is he writing the message? I hope it isn’t written on the new carpet like he did when his sister was first born. Then, I drift back to thoughts of the e-mail. Immediately, I start typing again. I know that I better finish the e-mail so I can find out what he is doing.
Within minutes, Tyler stomps down the stairs again. “MOMmmmm!!!!!” he yells.
“What?” I ask loudly.
“I have a message for you!!!!” he yells.
Doesn’t he know that he is interrupting me again? I will never finish this e-mail. I wonder if he will ever be able to appreciate all I do for him. Then I think that it doesn’t matter, because I love him so much. I will do whatever I need to do and he never has to thank me. That is just how it is. My thanks will be seeing him graduate someday. My thanks will be if he can take care of himself someday.
I finally finish the e-mail and drag myself upstairs to see what he is doing. I go in his room and see him smiling from ear to ear. He tells me he has a message for me on the TV using his Eye Toy. For those of you who don’t know what an Eye Toy is, it is a camera that attaches to the PlayStation2. What I didn’t know about this device was that it has the capability to record video messages.
Tyler starts his message, and I watch in amazement. On the video, Tyler is standing in his bedroom. I start to cry as I watch my socially challenged son speak on the video. My little boy is on the TV screen saying:
I love you.
p.s.: You are the best Mom in the whole world.
For no reason at all and completely out of the blue, my precious son created the most beautiful, heartfelt message to me. Just then, I couldn’t help thinking that my son was going to be “okay”… no matter what happens in third grade.
Our life with Autism may never afford our family many certainties in life. I will never be certain about Tyler’s future. But there is one thing that is “certain”. I love my son and he loves me too.
My Great Web pageHope For the New Year
*This article is a reprint of my 2007 article previously published as a Runner Up on SoulSupporter.com