Is it Autism? Yes.

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Is it Autism?  Yes.

Is it Autism?  Yes.  I have three kids.  I don’t talk too much on my blog about them because I feel like I should be sharing teaching tips and things.  Of course there is nothing wrong with bloggers sharing their personal life!  I enjoy reading about other people’s lives, I’ve just always felt like mine isn’t all that interesting.
Well, except for Jack.  He’s interesting.
My oldest and youngest kids are girls.  They are sweet and love to go to school.  They are great students.  They are a teacher’s dream.  They’re quiet and know all the answers.  They are polite and hard workers.  I’ve never had a teacher, or anyone, ever say anything negative about them.   They are “smiley” kids.  They get smiley faces on EVERYTHING.  They always get good grades and don’t mind doing their homework, they even like to do it.
But my son is different.  He always has been.  He’s not a smiley kid.  I think he went his entire preschool experience without a smiley on hardly anything.  Very few smileys.  Just about every paper he brought home was a sad face.   Lots of sad faces.  Here are just a few I found in his memory box.
It was preschool, people.
I remember him taking his papers out of his folder once and saying, “I’m not good at school”
So, we would re-do the work and cross out the sad faces and make them happy.  It still makes me sad to see them.

 Things don’t come easy for him.  He is and always has been a difficult kid, I admit it.  He made life tough.  When he was a baby, you had to bounce him…ALL THE TIME.  You couldn’t surprise him.  He sobbed and banged his head on the floor during his 2nd birthday party.  He only calmed down when we let him be by himself.  You couldn’t sing Happy Birthday or he would lose his mind.   He has always had obsessions, a specific toy, game, or show.   Potty training just didn’t happen as a normal process.   He cried.  A LOT.   ALL THE TIME.

Looking back, it should have been clear.  I teach school.  I know things.   I read books.  I went to college.  I took him to doctors.  I took him to see all sorts of professionals. Is he Oppositional Defiant?  Is he bipolar?  Is it ADHD?  Is it autism?   What is wrong??
I finally took him out of kindergarten after Christmas last school year.  The meltdowns, the shirt chewing, the refusals, the bathroom accidents….I documented every incident trying to get a handle on what was going on.  We tried ADHD meds but he had a severe neurological reaction.  His teacher was so hopeful.  Nope, not the fix.

We began again this year in Kindergarten and it has been better.  One of the biggest improvements is that I found a great therapist who listened to me and recognized my son’s issues as being Autism.
What?

 

But Jack isn’t like any of the autistic kids I’ve taught.  He can’t be on the spectrum.  I again focused my never-ending reading and research toward the spectrum and it all fell into place.  How could I have not made the connection earlier?
If you’ve read anything about autism, then you’ve heard this expression: “If you’ve met one kid with autism, then you’ve met one kid with autism.”
He is high-functioning, if Asperger’s hadn’t been removed from the DSM-V, then he probably would have had that label.  I don’t like labels.  I don’t like the implication that my son can be judged before someone even meets him, or that they assume they already know what he is like.
BUT…
at the same time, I embrace the label because what my son deals with every day is REAL.  It isn’t something he chooses. It isn’t part of some master plan to drive everyone around him nuts.  He needs understanding.  He needs patience from the people around him (including me).  He needs accommodations.I wince when I think back to how I treated him when I thought differently.  I cringe when I think back to the embarrassment I felt as I dragged him out of the lunchroom because he was under the table screaming because he couldn’t stand to watch someone chew their food.  I tried everything.  I begged everyone to listen to me…there is something wrong.  Please tell me what to do.  Do I punish him?  Do I ignore behaviors?  I remember one of the psychologists saying, “just praise him and provide negative consequences for poor behavior”…I’m like, Duh.  I’m a teacher…that’s what I do all day everyday. I know how to handle behavior in an Applied Behavior Analysis manner.   But people wouldn’t understand.  Nothing worked.The reason is that it wasn’t behavior he could control. He was overloaded with sensory issues.  Yes, they are real.  He doesn’t always get the understood social cues and “common knowledge” that most kids have.  He cannot pay attention to anything that isn’t relevant to him.  And guess what?  School isn’t relevant.  Naming letters and calling out sounds isn’t relevant.  You know what is?  Dr Who.  That’s relevant.   Minecraft.  That’s relevant.    Skylanders, umm, yes, that’s relevant.

It’s been a long journey to get to where we are now.  It has been Dr visits, meetings, reading, researching, more Dr visits,  and me trying to create a bridge between learning and making it relevant to him.   This is one of the ways I make learning meaningful to him.  He chooses and places the stickers after he reads the sentence.  We re-read them each night and he tolerates it because they are Skylanders.  Notice that it is always the girl stickers that he doesn’t like =)

My heart breaks when I think about the way the world sees him.  I am devastated that they don’t see him the way I see him.  I am torn to pieces when I see people not cut him any slack whatsoever and get angry with him and punish him for things and rules that he doesn’t understand.  I shake my head in disbelief when he’s allowed to sit in the corner and cry for 30 minutes instead of play.  No one seems to understand.  He has a reason for everything he does.  He just can’t always tell you at that moment what it is.  Sometimes he just needs a break.  Just a moment to calm down.  Sometimes he just needs someone to let him have closure on an activity before he moves on to the next one.
There are ways I can make him talk and cooperate (no, not torture) but “ain’t nobody got time for that” at school.  Except me.

I’ve worked really hard to try and come up with ideas and suggestions that will work in the classroom for him.  I’ve made token boards and bought things like visual timers to help…sent them free of charge.  I have documented what works.
I would love to say it has been great.  I would love to say teachers have used the suggestions.  I’d love to say we have it all figured out.
But I can’t.
What I can say is that things are better than last year.  I can say Jack is making progress.  There are less sad and straight faces (on his daily conduct chart) this year.  I keep saying things are getting better, and they are.  I can also say that I’ve learned more by being his mom than in 17 years of teaching.
With Jack at school, I feel it’s as if someone who has asthma is having an attack and everyone around them is telling them, “Just breathe!”
If they could, they would.  But they CAN’T!  That’s the whole point.
He can’t.  He literally cannot handle the stress of transitions.  You can’t change the schedule or he will meltdown.  You can’t expect him to understand when you say, ‘just a minute’ but it takes 3.  And then he screams, “But you said just a MINUTE!!!”My husband says it is difficult for adults to let go of control and accept that they might have to change their own behavior.  They think that if they make accommodations, then the kid wins.  The kid is being catered to while other kids have to live up to certain standards, this kid gets a free pass.  What I say to that is that my kid isn’t like other kids.   Do you have any idea how much simpler my life would be if he was??  But he’s not.  He isn’t a “brat.” He isn’t being “bad” when he refuses to go to PE.   He is terribly misunderstood and needs people to take the time to help him work through his issues.

I now know what it’s like to have “that kid”…you know, the one that everyone behind your back thinks is spoiled.  The kid that people think just needs a good spanking.  The kid who everyone stares at when he’s having a meltdown.  I now know what it’s like to have the kid who struggles to get a passing grade.  The kid who doesn’t love school and can’t sit still.  He struggles with transitions, lunchroom, PE, and anything that isn’t part of his routine.  He is hyper-focused on Dr Who, Minecraft, and Skylanders.  He can talk your ear off about those things, but won’t sit with other kids during lunch or carpet time.  Homework takes FOREVER and isn’t fun for either of us.  Every day is a ritual of scripts and preparing him for every possible thing that might be different.   He is contrary and not in any way agreeable or easy going.  The world stresses him out.
I have “that kid” and I’m sorry, I wouldn’t trade him for anything.
I do get tired though…
of everyone seeming to focus on what he can’t do and what he won’t do.
I wish they could focus instead on what he CAN do.  He’s not some boring, cookie-cutter kid like everyone else.  He’s passionate about the things that interest him.   You can ask him anything about his special interests and he can tell you whatever you want to know.
He isn’t like other kids, but in a good way.  He sees things differently…he’s interesting.  He’s gifted at computers.  He’s sweet and funny.  He’s quirky.  He’s one of the most important people in my life.
He’s my baby.

He’s smart and makes connections that I would never make on my own.  He’s just a little different, like I said, in a good way.  He’s good at monkey bars and loves to hang upside down.

But then the rest of the world comes back into focus.
I was told just last week that “when he’s in a ‘good mood’ he’s fine”.
It’s not a mood.
“Autism is the result of a neurological disorder that has an effect on normal brain function, affecting development of the person’s communication and social interaction skills.” You have no idea.
He struggles every day to make it through the day, every day.  It is a constant battle for him to keep it together.  We have exhausted every avenue open to us to try and get him help.
I don’t think anyone appreciates him enough, but then, I am partial because I’m his mom.

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146 Comments

  1. We love you Jennifer. What a great reminder that each student we teach is someone's baby… someone's who world. We NEED to find something each child does well daily!

    Mary

  2. He is a wonderful kid. What I see in those pictures is someone who is passionate. I have learned so much from my students who are not like everyone else. They challenge me to see the world differently, to see the beauty they see.

  3. Oh. My heart is breaking. I have a student like Jack in my class. I have stopped giving sad faces and I try to be much more patient but it's taken me too long to realize that he's not like the other kids… Good luck…

  4. I know several people who have children with autism and I see how they struggle, at times. I also see some of the wonderful things their children can do and the joy they bring each day. The more people are aware of it, and the more they live amongst people with autism, the more understanding there will be. Blessings to you and your wonderful family! I pray for many, many moments of love and joy and peace. Tell us about your son and your other children any time! It sounds like you have an amazing family!

    Dianne Schuring
    Snips and Snails & Primary Tales
    dianneschuring.blogspot.com

  5. OMG…I had a hard time reading your whole post…because i kept thinking what kind of teacher would put sad faces on a students work…especially in Pre-K. What a powerful post. Thanks for sharing!!! Amber ~ Kindergarten Rocks Blog

    1. I SO agree with this post. Your son sounds like an amazing child and he is amazing because he has a mom like you who understands him fully and completely. I have a special needs child as well and I really connected when you said "he can tell you anything about something he is passionate about." Because it's true. His ability to comprehend something so deeply is so wonderful. My son is 14 and he is like that too. Thank you for sharing your story.

  6. I LOVE this post! I am so glad you shared your story. As a mom with a son just like Jack, I see him for the amazing boy he is and one day the world will figure it out. It makes me sad that he was given sad faces. No smiley, I get it..but not a sad face. No one will ever give him the time you will but because of you, he has a voice…don't ever let that die. It's hard to understand kids like ours without walking in our shoes. Just keep swimming friend. We are paving the road for future kids like ours. Most importantly, that boy loves you and will one day thank you for never giving up on him!!
    <3 Crystal

  7. Excellent post! It is a great reminder for all of us to be more patient and find the gifts each child brings to school. It is easy to just slap a frown on a paper and tell the student to keep practicing. It takes time and patience to sit down, engage in conversation with the child, and connect with the child on a more personal level. I have a student this year who has been difficult, has multiple diagnoses, and each day is a struggle. Today, for the first time, he hugged me. It took us until the end of April for him to express his appreciation and love, but he did it. 🙂 Thank you for the reminder that children are not cut from the same cloth!

  8. Thank you so much for sharing your story. As a kindergarten teacher, I am so sad to hear of all those sad faces on Jack's papers. I was blessed to work in Special Ed for 7 years before I became a regular ed teacher. Those children with autism are hard to understand, but oh my goodness I love them! I know you are tired and some days feel as though you are alone. But what a lucky little man you have to have you for a mom! When I get to school tomorrow and my student who is very much like your Jack gets to class, I will hug him a little tighter. And, make sure he gets some smileys on his work!

  9. What a beautiful post. I'm sad that he's struggling, but I am so happy he's making progress, and so happy he has you to give him the support he needs. I have taught a couple of kids on the spectrum, and I have to agree that every one has been a complete individual. I think it's so hard to feel out of control, and I have to say it's so hard sometimes to manage someone who's so unique when you're also managing the rest of the class… but with time, I'm sure you and his teachers will get better and better at finding things that work for your son. Your love for him is so, so clear in this post- and it makes my heart happy to read! He is lucky to have you in his corner!

    Jenny

  10. What an amazing post Jennifer! I agree with the commenter above….what teachers would put all those frowny faces.. 🙁 Obviously someone who doesn't "get it". How lucky he is to have a wonderful mom and how lucky you are to have a son that can teach you so much! 🙂

  11. What a struggle you're both going through. Poor Jack- those sad faces are horrible!!! I'm so sorry that you're not getting the support Jack needs. I wish his teacher(s) could read this post.
    I can't pretend to understand what you're going through but when I got an ADHD diagnosis for my oldest it helped explain a lot. It's given me a focus and a place to start. You're doing an amazing job and Jack is so lucky to have you.

    1. AMEN!! really sad faces in preschool. I saw that once on at an observation I did (when I was a special ed teacher) and this student had a sad face on red on every paper he did and they were hung on the wall. I left the school and cried for the child.

  12. This was such a real post and beautifully written. I'm in tears for your little guy- you had me at all those sad faces. Ugh! Jack is super luck to have such a wonderful mom and advocate like you. I hope there is a special educator in his school who can help him and his teachers so he can be successful and make school a positive experience.

  13. I have a friend with a son that is autistic and my own son has Asperger's. Unless you have a child with these concerns, it is very hard to understand all the dynamics. You have a good handle on this and your words are very inspiring. It is so frustrating as a mommy when you can't "fix" your child or help them "be happy". I think the name of your blog says a lot about your outlook on life. Jack is very lucky to have you and you are blessed to have him. My son will soon turn 21 and he just got his driver's license, a car, and his first job. Keep advocating for him!! Hugs and prayers for you, Jack and your family!

  14. Such an amazing, ridiculously poignant and significant post, Jennifer. I LOVE how well you wrote and described your Jack.

    I am totally using "I feel it's as if someone who has asthma is having an attack and everyone around them is telling them, "Just breathe!" If they could, they would. But they CAN'T! That's the whole point. He can't."

    That's such a perfect way to explain things to yourself when you are feeling at a loss as a teacher and to parents who are having a hard time coping. You, friend, are an amazing mom! Thank you for this powerful post. You have offered so much insight to the mind and heart of Jack and other sweet kiddos living in a similar space.

    Those sad faces…. crushing.

  15. Oh Jennifer! What a beautiful, heartfelt post. Thank you for sharing your story. You are an amazing mom! Jack is luck to have you as his mom!
    Love, and hugs!
    Tanya ☺

  16. Hugs to you! Thank you for sharing your story! As a teacher of students with Autism I think it is so important to stress how every child is different and voice it exactly as you did in your post. He is lucky to have you as his mom and advocate 🙂

  17. Your son sounds amazing! Thank you for sharing your story. As a teacher, I wish we received more (any) training on how to work with kids with Autism. If for no other reason than just to be reminded to be patient and kind. Sad faces on his work? Breaks my heart.

  18. Jennifer, thank you for sharing your Jack with us. My own son is very different from other kids as well, not diagnosed, but he thinks of things in way I'd never believe a 6 year old could. And you know what, I am so thankful he is who he is! He is not a cookie cutter kid! He doesn't color inside the lines, he prefers to create his own lines. This is what I love the most about him, and I suspect it's one of the things you love about Jack. Never ever give up on him! You are a fabulous mom!

  19. What a wonderful mom you are! I was in you're shoes 10 years ago. The first time I heard them say he is autistic, my heart sunk. I didn't know much about autism and here it was my son. I'm an educator and I should have known. Right? I thought he was going to change, grow out of it, like speech therapy. But no that is not the case. As one teacher said: "It is Sean, and we will love him the way he is." He is now 16, doing well. He's able to do many things that I wasn't sure he would be able to do. It took a long time for him to initiate conversation, now it's hard to keep him quiet. Sure he does some strange things, but so do other kids. Sorry for blabbering on. You seem to be ahead of the game. Just keep doing what you are doing. Love him all you can.:)

  20. It is so important and helpful that you have taken the time and energy to pour your heart and soul into this amazingly poignant description of your 'reality.' It should be required reading for all early childhood educators. Thank all that is right that your advocacy for your son is continued to the point of finding some answers and insight. You are not alone. Sharing the heart ache of your experience is truly an education for many, while those walking similar roads are nodding their heads in agreement.

    Continue your search for support and insight. I am so appreciative of your willingness to be 'brave' and share from the heart. Taking down the veil and speaking up is a HUGE HUGE HUGE service for teachers and the public at large.

    Strength and courage. Strength and courage. Strength and courage.

    Debbie Clement

  21. Such a beautifully written and meaningful post. So many people can benefit from reading your story, not just teachers. Thank you for sharing your Jack with the rest of us! He's lucky to have a mom like you in his corner!! <3

  22. I so enjoyed reading this. You are a rave soul and have learned so much while growing with your son. He is so lucky to be in your family. What a great reminder for all of us to remember that every child in our class is someone's "baby!" Or someone's love of their life. We should teach each child as if they were our own child. I'm going to share this post with my staff. I know they will appreciate hearing this.
    Prayers for strength and patience,
    Patty
    2nd in line

  23. Love this post! For the past 17 years I have been teaching a program devoted to students on the spectrum and I seriously love it! Yes, my students need things presented a bit differently & they have more "quirks" but when you are able to tap in to what motivates them there is nothing better than watching them grow.
    You sound like a fantastic mom. It breaks my heart to hear about the sad faces in Pre-K. I'm not crazy about labels either, but being labeled as autistic can open up doors and get you and him services that wouldn't be available without the label. You sound like an amazing advocate, but don't hesitate to access the many services that are out there.
    Pam
    Mrspspecialties.blogspot.com

  24. What a great post! Thanks for sharing. We need to hear this as teachers so we can remember each kid in our class is unique. Breaks my heart about the frowns faces!

  25. Amazing post! I love what your husband said about people not wanting to make the accommodations! When someone doesn't want to provide the necessary accommodations, I like to ask "Would you not let a kid with glasses wear them to read?" All kids deserve what they need to be successful. Your boy is lucky to have a mom like you! Thank you for sharing your story!!

  26. Thanks for sharing your story and Jack's story. What a powerful statement to all of us to appreciate the special gifts that everyone brings to this world. Thanks for reminding us that parents give us the best they have to give for us to teach. Each one is a special gift and we need to make all of them feel loved and appreciated for the person they are not who we want them to be. I'm so glad you were his advocate and kept working until you found what works for him. You are an inspiration to us all!

  27. Oh Jennifer,
    What a wonder post!! Your little guy is so lucky to have such wonderful parents! Not only are you educating yourselves about little Jack, but trying to educate the world around you! These little guys and gals are so special, but many of the people they encounter in their daily lives have no idea! Thank you so much for your post!! Reminds all of us how much impact we have on little lives!
    Kyp

  28. First of all, I am absolutely appalled that a teacher of young children would EVER give a child a sad face…I am a long-time kindergarten teacher and I am saddened by this. I have a challenging student this year – no different than anyone else in my position – and it isn't easy but I try to greet every day with a new idea or a new plan to help him through his rough times in hopes of finding something that works. I also tell myself every morning that he is someone's baby and his mommy and daddy love him so much – I want them to know he is loved at school every day! It's not always easy but every. single. child deserves this! Praying for your continued strength, guidance, and patience – your son has amazing parents!

  29. Jennifer …. this was a wonderful post that really hits home! My sweet nephew is autistic and I've always had a soft spot for children with think outside of the box. How boring would our classrooms be with cookie cutter students??? I look forward to making a difference in ALL children. I'm going to print your post as a reminder to always teach to the individual child. Each year I'll think of Jack and Christian as I remember to focus on what they CAN do!!!!

  30. What a beautiful post, Jennifer! Thank you for sharing something that is so personal yet important. I don't have kids yet, but hope I can be half the mom you are when I do have kids. Your sweet little Jack has a ROCK STAR mom! 🙂

    Dana

  31. This was beautiful. I have a student right now with autism and your words really connected with me. Thank you! Also, those sad faces break my heart. I hope he continues to have more and more successes at school and beyond.

  32. As a teacher and a mom of a son (now 20) who was always the "different" kid…thank you for this beautiful post. I read it with tears in my eyes. In the last few years, I have seriously reevaluated what I do and how I teach the Kindergarten children in my class. Every day I learn something new and your post has made me think of some very particular children past and present….and how I could..and how I can be a better teacher. Thanks so much for your powerful words.
    God bless you and your sweet family!

  33. He is a sweetie!! Love that smile. I had a student my 1st year teaching that sounds very much like your little one and it was very difficult to figure out the best way to help him and to know what we needed to do to accomodate for him… but we figured it out and he is, to this day, one of my very favorite students ever. Much hope and many wishes for continued successes in Jack's upcoming years.

  34. I loved reading this post Jennifer! Your Jack sounds so amazing and so special! I would love to be his teacher. It breaks my heart to hear when teachers aren't being accommodating to students. You just keep being an amazing momma and advocating for your boy! Hopefully his future teachers will work with the strategies you give them to help him out!!

  35. Beautiful! I totally wish I could hug you both!

    I'm student teaching right now and after two placements with a myriad of autistic children, I have learned that no amount of reading will prepare you for what it is like. In my first placement in a 3rd grade classroom, I had a nonverbal autistic student – and it was definitely an adjustment to get used to his tantrums and screams and cries and shoe throwing and ways of communicating. But I asked a lot of questions to his aides and the special education teachers and luckily, his parents were kind enough to let me sit in on one of his team meetings so I could see the work done behind the scenes from different perspectives (speech, occupational, psychological, special education, general education, case manager for at home care, parents, etc). On the last day, I gave him a book because he L-O-V-E-S books and I hit a home run with it. It became his motivator to get through his work.

    And now I am in my second placement in a K/1 combo and there is definitely a kid that has something going on that hasn't been diagnosed. He just *can't* sit still. He just can't help but sing at random times or yell out. He is loud, even with his friends, and isn't really aware of his flailing movements sometimes. So we work on it – he gets extra slack, I give *lots* of reminders throughout the day and we experiment to see what works. Like sitting on the rug is hard for him to do – so he gets to pull up a chair when he feels like he can't sit still. Or I will purposefully leave supplies on the other end of the room and have him be my helper to grab stuff and that little tiny break of movement and recognition seems to make all the difference.

    Thank you SO much for sharing this – it's beautiful and I plan on sharing it with all my teaching friends!

  36. I love this and hope everyone makes an effort to appreciate these wonderful children! I learn something new everyday from my special students who are full of love!

  37. Jennifer, your post is not only a reminder of the patience needed with different learners but the struggles that their families may have trying to cope at home! Personally, writing on students work for the good or bad makes me sad. I can't imagine how Jack felt each time work was expected of him. Thank you for opening the doors and allowing us to grow and reflect on your personal experience!

  38. Thank you for sharing! Reading this tonight has given me new focus and inspiration to work hard tomorrow with my students. You are doing an amazing job…….and I hope your Jack continues to progress!

  39. Thank you for sharing! Reading this tonight has given me new focus and inspiration to work hard tomorrow with my students. You are doing an amazing job…….and I hope your Jack continues to progress!

  40. First of all, I need to say that sad faces have no place in the classroom!! It broke my heart to see your sons papers from preschool. I would have words for my daughter's teachers if she came home with a sad face. I am a career changer getting ready to step into my first classroom, and I don't understand that! All kids are sensitive in their own way, so a sad face does no good for anyone. Sad faces to the teachers still using them!

    Secondly, YOU ARE AN AMAZING MOTHER, TEACHER, and OVERALL PERSON!! People may empathize with you, but no one will ever be able to walk a day in your shoes. And that's okay. Life is full of beautiful challenges. Without those challenges, we wouldn't appreciate life for all that it is. Keep being the wonderful mommy that you are. Keep supporting your beautiful boy, and helping him to see for himself how absolutely amazing he is. Give him a kiss goodnight, and then pat yourself on the back tonight 😉

    Xo,
    Nadya

  41. Absolutely so well written. I love this. I think every single person (ever in the world) should read it so that when a person is in the grocery store and sees a kid melting down, they will realize it is not about a candy bar and to mind their own business.
    Praying for Jack and your entire family!
    LOVE YOU, Jennifer!!!

  42. This post touched my heart!!!!! I'm sorry but I would like to have a conversation with the teacher that put those sad faces on his paper. Debbie downer big time!!!!!! This was an AWESOME post Jennifer! That sweet boy is blessed to have you as a mommy. These children need someone to speak for them and protect them. This brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing a "real" post that's so personal. I would've never thought. You're even more awesome. I look at how super you are as a teacher and all the awesome things you create! Wow!!! God Bless you and you're family!

    ((Hugs))
    Tiffany
    One Fab Teacher

  43. Who the heck gives a bunch of sad faces to a PreK kid? I have taught for a few years now too, and I am having trouble understanding that. I am also having trouble understanding why the school your son attends seems to have no idea what Autism is. This isn't a new concept… I hope that you are able to find a way to get him the accommodations that he deserves, or a new school. Either way, keep fighting the good fight, Mama! Hang in there!

  44. This is such a beautiful and amazing post Jennifer! I agree with Cheryl that this is definitely a reminder of the patience that is needed daily with different learners. Thank you sharing your powerful story. I'm so glad I was able to read this. Your amazing story will help me be a better educator and person. Hugs and much love to you and Jack!! 🙂

  45. I love you Jennifer! You are an advocate and cheerleader for the most important little boy in your life. Congratulations on having such a beautiful, sweet, intelligent boy. You must be very proud. I know one thing, he is lucky to have an amazing mom.
    Can't wait to see you in July and give you the hug of your life friend.
    Marsha
    A Differentiated Kindergarten

  46. A Dr. Who quote for your amazing young man-
    "In 900 years of time and space, I've never met anyone who wasn't important" Thank you for the reminder of how important Jack is. Thank you for allowing us to see him through your eyes.

  47. Thank you so so much for sharing your experiences. This reinforces my beliefs in how and what I was doing to teach my Autistic and special needs and gifted kiddos. I teach kinder and got run out this year because the SPED teacher and principal believed that my two autistic kids should have "accommodations" but nothing that changes how they learn. It became a mess and really made me unsure of my abilities as a teacher. Your views and what you've done with your son helps me know that I was doing what was right for those kids and their learning. Thank you so much.

  48. A very eye opening and heartfelt post. Thank you! Have you thought of getting a therapy dog for Jack? We had a couple come and speak at my school a couple of months ago. The man is Autistic and so is his son. They both have therapy dogs. His son's therapy dog made WORLDS of difference in his son's life, from how he was perceived by his peers to how he coped with life. I wish you and Jack and your family all the best!
    Barbara

  49. I can relate to so much of your post and the mixed feelings about labels. I think most people have a preconceived idea of what autism is and how children on the spectrum function (or don't function, as people tend to focus on). My son will be 13 this year. He was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder when he was 8, although my suspicions started when he was 5 and in kinder. Preschool for us was also a nightmare–my son was removed from class almost daily and I felt like he spent his day with people who disliked him. I considered delaying his start of kinder to give him more time to mature, but he was already reading at a 3rd grade level and knew everything he would learn in kinder, but the social skills. I talked to kinder teachers and they were worried his behaviors might be worse if was bored, so I entered him. It was rough. Everything was rough. He disliked carpet time and anything with singing or choral response led to him crawling under a chair or table. He had no concept of personal space. He has a strong sense of ownership over everything he wants… blocks, a book, the purple scrap bucket. My son loved Thomas the Train and to say he was obsessed is an understatement. Now that he's 13, some things about him are exactly the same. If you take something he views as his (the the only blue chair in his social studies class) he will have a tantrum. He has strong reactions to smells, noise, and touch. His greatest challenge though is getting along with others… the social aspect. My son eats alone, because no one will eat with him. He has never been invited to a birthday party or over for a play date. Breaks my heart. Thankfully he has three younger siblings who play with him, but I know he knows he's different and it bothers him. But he's got a heart of gold. He enjoys helping others and being a comedian. If he wasn't grossed out by blood, he'd make the best pediatrician! Teachers who have loved on him and really met him where he was at are few and far between. My son is a special education student. He has an IEP, a Behavior Support Plan, and he's identified as GATE. His teachers don't think he should be in honors classes though, because he doesn't do his homework. It's tough, because he sees no need to do his homework and he passes all of his tests with A's, so what do you do? Sigh…. There is such a strong need for autism awareness and for teachers to become trained in working with students on the spectrum. Being a mom to a special needs child has helped make me a better teacher and person.

  50. I love teaching the Jack's of the world, and I feel like I "get" them more than most teachers, but this is such a good post for me to read. I will be sharing with others and re-reading myself often.

    Also, my son's name is Jack, too.

    Thank you for this post. It is so important since you can speak as the mom and the teacher.

    Amy

  51. I SOOO get it! My daughter was diagnosed with Bi-Polar Disorder. She too is the middle child.She sees the world differently, she is passionate, she is a tough kids, she has changed my life, and I wouldn't trade one minute…..but boy do I work HARD. I try to help the people around her understand. It's a TOUGH road that people don't understand until they go through it. One thing she has done for me ….I'm a better teacher, a better mom and a better person. I'm more compassionate and understanding. I wish you luck in your journey!! I SOOO appreciate you sharing! God Bless

  52. This is such a powerful message. You wrote an amazing post that will help many teachers evaluate their own teaching styles and make any necessary changes. Jack is so lucky to have such a loving mommy!

  53. Jennifer, I am simply exhausted just from reading your blog! I don't have kids – never found a good daddy. I'm not a teacher. But I have a lot of empathy and understanding, although I could never be sure I wouldn't respond in frustration if I were in your situation. I am very touched by your writing and by your situation. I don't know where you live but I live outside of Boston. Accordingly, I'd say that you are definitely MOMMY STRONG, and Jack is JACK STRONG. God's blessings be with you every day.

  54. Jennifer, I've been a fan for a long time now, but you've officially won my heart. It's posts like this that show the reason the Lego movie made me cry like a baby. No kid fits in any mold. It's our job as educators to find their strengths (even if it is Minecraft… My little guy is so obsessed) and embrace their differences. As mothers, it's our job to be our child's advocate. You've shown both hats in this post, and I love you for it!

  55. Jennifer, thank you so much for sharing your story. I am going to share it with all of my friends who are teachers and all of my friends who have kids on the spectrum. Your husbands right adults don't want to change their behavior, but we must. It is students like your son who have changed the way I teach. I am a better teacher because of them. I am always the teacher who wants the kids who are different, they help me learn and to grow as a person and as a teacher. Thank you for sharing your story.
    ✿Tiffani Time 4 Kindergarten

  56. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I too have 'one of those kids' and it's a mixed blessing to have him at the school I teach in. Your son is lucky to have such a loving, caring, persistent Mommy. Hang in there and enjoy your special darlin'.

  57. Thank you for sharing. I'm lucky enough to get to teach a classroom of Jacks. My district had a class specifically designed for kiddos with autism. We focus on social skills and supports to mainstream them. I love each one. People who refuse to open their hearts are missing out on knowing some pretty amazing people. Are you familiar with Michelle Garcia Winner? Check out her social thinking web site at socialthinking.com. Meanwhile, keep up the good work mom!

  58. thank you for sharing your story. I'm standing here with tears as I read this and it all sound like my 14 year old HFAD kido… He has had a difficult time his whole life, your story and a few of the others sounds exactly like mine… My son was lucky to have WONDERFUL early elementary teachers, unfortunately it stopped there. And now we are figuring out what to do for High School next year. Thank you for the reminder what it's like to be one of our special kids… It may be hard at times, but my life is the most interesting it has ever been since he has been in it… Keep up the fighting mom it will get better. I promise..
    Annette Mom to Nick

  59. I am a teacher and would love to have your child in my class. I treat and teach each child in my class as individuals. Each having some sort of documented or not accommodation. Because every child is different and unique in their own ways. My heart goes out for your son and I hope he gets the right teachers as he progresses along in school

  60. I am a teacher and would love to have your child in my class. I treat and teach each child in my class as individuals. Each having some sort of documented or not accommodation. Because every child is different and unique in their own ways. My heart goes out for your son and I hope he gets the right teachers as he progresses along in school

  61. Thank you for sharing Jack with us and pouring your heart into this post! You are blessed with 3 amazing children and your 3 children are blessed with an amazing mom! Keep being amazing! Sending hugs!

  62. Loved your story, I have Aspergers as does my 7 yr old daughter. She also loves minecraft and skylanders 🙂 … thankfully though she generally find school and everyday life a bit easier than your son … BUT I have many friends with kids who have experienced very similar struggles to your son… encourage his passions, he may well grow up to do great things 🙂

  63. Loved your story, I have Aspergers as does my 7 yr old daughter. She also loves minecraft and skylanders 🙂 … thankfully though she generally find school and everyday life a bit easier than your son … BUT I have many friends with kids who have experienced very similar struggles to your son… encourage his passions, he may well grow up to do great things 🙂

  64. Loved your story, I have Aspergers as does my 7 yr old daughter. She also loves minecraft and skylanders 🙂 … thankfully though she generally find school and everyday life a bit easier than your son … BUT I have many friends with kids who have experienced very similar struggles to your son… encourage his passions, he may well grow up to do great things 🙂

  65. Continue to be an advocate for your son AND yourself! Celebrate his gifts and support him in his struggles. This post and the example you set for other parents and educators daily are SO needed. Teaching appreciation and admiration for all of the nuances of Jack's special talents, interests, and learning styles is something you should never get tired of doing. Thanks for sharing this post. Your message is such an important one!
    ~Jennifer
    http://www.storiesandsongsinsecond.blogspot.com

  66. Reading your post made my heart hurt for all of the Jacks out there. I've been teaching for 11 years, 7 in Kindergarten. I can only imagine what a day of school is like for him. ALL little ones need their teachers to be patient, kind, fair, and consistent but definitely not negative and destroy spirits with the sad faces on papers. Love of learning people! Say it with me. I hope he is able to find an educator he can make a special connection with, one that "gets" him and really help him to shine at school. 🙂

  67. Reading your post made my heart hurt for all of the Jacks out there. I've been teaching for 11 years, 7 in Kindergarten. I can only imagine what a day of school is like for him. ALL little ones need their teachers to be patient, kind, fair, and consistent but definitely not negative and destroy spirits with the sad faces on papers. Love of learning people! Say it with me. I hope he is able to find an educator he can make a special connection with, one that "gets" him and really help him to shine at school. 🙂

  68. Thank you for sharing your sweet Jack with us! He is so blessed to have such an amazing mom as his advocate. As a mom of two kids with some learning difficulties (dyslexia, auditory processing, and anxiety) it always makes me sad when other teachers expect my kids to have it "all together" or at least for me to know how to "fix" them. I was an inclusion teacher for many years and have been blessed to know several children who are on the spectrum. I pray that Jack will get a teacher next year that truly sees his gifts! Thanks again for sharing your story. I look forward to hearing more about Jack.

  69. No more sad faces for me! I cringe to think I may have "thought I was so smart" when I may have hurt a little one A LOT! I will definitely think of Jack when I am frustrated with a student. Thanks for sharing! Wendy 1stgradefireworks

  70. Your message is one that keeps coming up over and over! I wish teachers and adults would see children and the potential that is sometimes locked inside them. Every child is different and their brains all work differently. Time to stop a one size fits all approach to learning and helping children to learn!! Hang in there. Have you read this book:The Spark: A Mother's Story of Nurturing Genius-she had the same issues that you have faced. Thanks for taking time to share!! Jenny Sue-Just Simple Science

  71. My daughter has ADHD and a lot of her struggles share the same road as autism, at one point we thought that she was autistic. I see many of our family, friends and especially teachers give me that look, the one that says i'm spoiling her, i'm letting her away with something that I wouldn't let other children away with, that look that says if I would just discipline her more she would conform to their idea of how she should be. I once overheard a teacher say that our 4th IEP meeting of the year was a waste of time, i returned to the room and said "my daughter is worth more than your time,and if you would just listen to my suggests and follow her IEP we wouldn't have to keep calling a meeting every 2 months." I must have gotten through to her because the next couple of months were great. So stay with it, advocate for him with all your heart, it is so worth it!!! Some days homework dives me to tears, some days the emotional outburst over the wrong fruit cup on her plate makes me want to scream and other days the energy bubbling out of her as she talks about something she loves, such as Dr Who….is enough to make me smile from head to toe and it make my heart melt! It is not easy being the parent of the child that is different, but I wouldn't trade it for anything!

  72. My daughter is 11 and, while we've never had issues with a school system and her being on the spectrum (we homeschool), we've been through much of what you are going through. When she was little (2 and 3 and 4) and she would be disciplined, she would sing this song she made up about nobody loving her. It was heart-breaking, just like those frowny faces on your son's worksheets. It makes me sad that *in preschool* kids can learn that school is not a happy place for them.

    I'm glad you know what is going on with your son and are learning to focus more on the good things to praise him. When my daughter was 6, emotionally and socially she was more like a 3-year old. That's when she was diagnosed and I asked the therapist about her developmental maturity. I remember saying, "If she's really more like a 3-year old, I just need to know so I know what to expect and how to treat her. If she is capable of being 6, I'm going to have expectations of a 6-year old." We decided it was best to treat her like a 3-year old, at that time, so that I could praise her for *every little thing* and not be upset with her for not following directions that I expected from a 6-year old. It made such a HUGE difference.

    Now that she is 11 and has been through some extensive therapy (a couple years of OT for the sensory issues and a few years of behavior therapy for her to learn the social skills and impulse control that didn't come naturally), on a good day people don't even notice anything is different about her (unless they ask her about sharks or Dr. Who). On a bad day, it's a different story, as her anxiety and aggression show. She loves to read and will bury herself in a book for hours and hours. Her handwriting is atrocious, but there are people who have terrible handwriting, know what I mean? I'm picking my battles and that's not one I need to fight.

    There IS hope. Your boy is still young and will come a long way. I know that because you know what is going on with him and you care to encourage him and let him be who he was born to be. We don't try to take the autism out of the children, but we do help them to function the best they can in the world around them. They are the most creative and interesting people in our society.

  73. Aww, He is so perfect and you're perfect for him. Great blog post. You're doing a phenomenal job and as far as before you knew what was really going on…let it go, you were doing the best you knew how to do at that point and that is all any of us can really do. You didn't give up though and now look at all the wonderful things you and Jack are creating together! What an beautiful story and inspiration.

    Thank you for sharing,

    That Comfort Girl

  74. Jack sounds wonderful! I wish he could come to our school! I'm so sorry that it has been such a struggle and that educators who should understand are having difficulty doing so. You are doing a wonderful job with him, and your love and persistence are an inspiration to parents and educators alike. I'm sharing your wise and honest post!

    Rebecca
    School Counseling by Heart

  75. I just read you post on the bus on my way to school today. Let me tell you that I loved it! I have THAT kid in my classroom. I have to admit it is not easy and many days I have to breath.
    But I do love him! He is a smart guy and so creative and special. He really makes me laugh like no other kid can do.
    If you need something about skylanders/star wars let me know I am becoming a specialist. 😉

  76. I LOVE this post Jennifer. Hugs to you 🙂 Raising a child with special needs is a journey. It's been my job for almost 22 years. Yes, I've made things for the classroom to help my daughter with Down Sydrome. Sometimes it was accepted happily and sometimes it wasn't. That doesn't matter. What it did was make me a much better mother and teacher of ALL children.

  77. What an amazing post Jennifer. I'm so glad you decide to let us know you and your family a little better. I love to hear about other teachers' personal loves. It is also good for me to hear about children like your son. It definitely helps me know what to expect about these children and helps me know how better to interact with them. I'm sure you "rock" as a mom and I know it can be stressful but it sounds like you're doing a dang good job of it! Keep it up girl and thanks again for such a personal post!
    Karen Rowland
    Adventures With Firsties

    karenrowland112677@yahoo.com

  78. Wonderfully written and right on point! I wish more parents would understand there's nothing wrong being on spectrum, just like there's nothing wrong wearing glasses or using a wheelchair. All are challenges that kids face, to one degree or another!

  79. I don't often comment on posts, but I just had to this time. I teach a Special Education Kindergarten class in a self-contained classroom. Your son reminds me of many of my students. I believe that it will help many people stop and think about the children in their lives, and I hope that it causes them to reconsider the way that they view those children who are a little "different". You seem to be a wonderful mother who is doing everything she can for her beautiful child. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I wish you and your family all the best.

  80. Thanks for telling us Jack's story. I hope this opens the eyes of teachers around the world. I know I will have more patience and get advice directly from the parents. This disability is often misunderstood. Thank you for opening my eyes even more. Hugs!

  81. Wow. This was truly moving and eye-opening. You are so right with every word you say…thanks for sharing your story. I wish nothing but the best for Jack and your family. 🙂

  82. While you are sharing some personal things about your life, you have shared quite a bit more. Your words rang through me and your husband's thoughts are right on as well. Have you ever thought about writing a book for teachers – you know the type that can be used in a college during a teacher training program? Your perspective as a Mom and educator would be useful to many.

    By the way, I am never going to draw a sad face smiley again because seeing them all together in your photo broke my heart.

  83. I have been teaching for 20 years. I have a 14 year old NT son and a 10 year old son with Autism (among other things). I am so thankful that you wrote this – I felt like you read my mind. Best wishes for you and your family!

  84. Jennifer,
    You have always been one of my favorite bloggers and now: I love you even more! As a teacher with a background in Special Ed. I've always had a special place in my heart for kiddos with autism. I am also one to take those kiddos that aren't so "cookie cutter" under my wing. I like a little spunk and personality! This is s a great reminder to us all as teachers to hold our kiddos near and dear to our hearts. Your post was so beautifully written and it took great courage to share your true feelings and struggles with us! Bravo and prayers to you both as you continue your journey!!!
    Melissa
    Keep Calm and Love First Grade

  85. My son, who was-but-now-is-not officially on the spectrum, is 29. I could have written something very similar about his school years. I read Ross Greene's book "The Explosive Child" when it was first published and it helped us enormously as we struggled to understand how our son saw the world. It helped us (and our other children) develop strategies to cope with and explain his sometimes-inexplicable behaviors. Even so, there were times when people outside the situation said things about my son and our parenting that still sting. I'm proud of my child. His path has not been easy, but he is a strong and confident young man who is thriving in his own unique way. Thank you for sharing your son's story.

  86. Thank you for sharing. I am an adult with autism and the story of your son rings so true. I also have a daughter in kindergarten that I suspect may have it as well. She's also fixated on Minecraft and Doctor Who. Too bad we aren't closer 🙂

  87. Maybe because my boy's name is Jack. Maybe because mine struggles with transitions sometimes, or becomes fixated on things that hold no interest for me. Maybe it's just that you're a really good writer. But this hit me. Thank you for writing it and helping spread some understanding!

  88. A friend of mine sent me a link to your blog because she said it sounded just like me! I couldn't agree more. I have shared your blog on my FB page because I wanted everyone to read EVERY SINGLE WORD you wrote. It's beautiful… and true. We share the same hopes, dreams, and fears with our special, smart, fascinating boys. Thank you for writing this. <3

  89. Thank you for writing about your son. I have two sons, both with High-Functioning Autism, and I so understand what you are going through. I'd like to tell you that it will get easier, but mine are 19 and 15 and it is a hard road ahead. The good news is that it was so much easier for the 15 year old because of the awareness and experience of the Special Education personnel with student on the spectrum. My 19 year old had an IEP with accommodations, but no special classes. My 15 year old was bullied terribly once he had to move to 6th grade and still has social phobia due to that. However, we got him in an excellent program through our public school system where he is in a self-contained classroom and has social skills built in. He is so much more prepared for life than my 19 year old. Keep advocating for your son and do what feels right for him, even if others are telling you no. It is exhaustin

  90. Thanks so much for your post! It's so eloquently put! Keep telling the story and hopefully more people will become aware. And seriously, sad faces in preschool?!

  91. Please read this new book: The Spark: A Mother's Story of Nurturing, Genius, and Autism
    Barnett, Kristine. Your son has his own genius and there are so many like him. He is a true blessing and more and more people are realizing this I am sorry for the pain you have suffered and wish your family and especially your son a life filled with happiness. He is a gift.

  92. Jennifer,
    I'm sending you virtual hugs! So well written! As I was reading this I felt like I was reading about myself and my youngest. I could feel the pressure building in my chest and then pounding start in my ears. It's especially hard as a teacher to have a child like "that" because you should be able to fix it, deal with it, know better, or whatever. It's also hard to deal with your child's teachers who should make accommodations, but don't. Looking back I wish we'd gotten labeled sooner. People were more (not totally) understanding and we could be better advocates for our child. God bless you, Jack, and your family!!

  93. LOVE this – I am an SLP that works with kiddos on the spectrum, and was married to an undiagnosed Aspie. (www.bridgingtheaspiegap.blogspot.com) They are infuriating at times, but always lovable!

  94. Wow! You brought me to tears! You are obviously an amazing, passionate, loving mother and because of this, God chose you to be Jack's mom! He chose you to give Jack, and other unique kids, a voice in this world of close minded people. What a gift you have been given! Thank you for reminding me that each child is unique in his or her own way and that I need to remember to celebrate the uniqueness in not only my students, but everyone I meet. Thank you for opening up your personal life to us and I can't wait to read more about your amazing son!
    Monique
    More Than Math by Mo

  95. I don't know how I am just seeing this. Thank you for opening up and sharing. What a wonderful read. He is so lucky to be able to call you mom . . . and you are so lucky to call him son <3

  96. Oh Jennifer how I wish Jack was at my school. Many teachers I work with do ALL those things for kids at my school. Yes, it is a struggle with some teachers, it is a mindset and sometimes they don't get it. Fortunately they eventually move on to a place where they can find those cookie cutter students and what is left are teachers who do understand. If you ever want to talk about some of the things that go on at my school feel free to drop me a line anytime. 🙂

    On a side note, I would sit there and talk to your son FOR-EV-ER about The Doctor! He makes the cutest 11th doctor. 🙂 You HAVE to share what he thinks of the new Doctor when we finally get going.

    Mels
    Ms. K/1 ELL

  97. Jennifer,

    I have never replied to a blog much less written one, and I hope I come across as good as you, I'm not a teacher nor am I educated, so you might have trouble sometimes understanding me, and I truly hope you read this, and is able to understand it ok.

    I'm a dad of 2 kids, 1 girl at the age of soon to be 21, she is going to university and doing very well, I also have a boy at the age of 19, as I read through your blog, it had brought back some many difficulties we went through.

    From the moment my son was born we knew that things weren't right, he pretty much screamed for the first 9 months of his life, when he was born the nurse even said, "wow, he is going to be a handful", boy she was not wrong, we have video of him at early AM right through until we put him down of him crying, after spend days and weeks, months trying to figure out why, the dr's had no clue.
    As my son was getting older, we noticed that he did not like CHANGE, everything I read in your blog was the same way for us, if there was a cup at the end of the dinner table and we asked him to move it or he would spill it, of course he wouldn't, so I would gently move to the centre of the table and he would immediately fall on the floor and freak out for about 2 hours. everything you have written I have lived, breathed it and missed a lot of sleep over it, I don't want you to think I'm trying to compare or make my situation harder, that's not why I'm writing.

    The biggest challenge for me as a dad, early on, was I had a son that he couldnt play any organized sports, and I think I refused to believe my son had Autism, or what ever the flavour of the month of labels they came up with, I think in total, he must have had 8 diagnoses, it was not until my son was much older before I finally excepted that fact that he had challenges. Now back to the sports part, it was hard for me to listen to all my other dad friends, talk of how there are putting there kids into hockey, and baseball, soccer, there was no way that my son Brandon would be able to do anything like that. So from early on in his life I knew he couldn't play those kind of sports, so I taught him the things I know, I felt if there is the kids out there that are able to go into the special Olympics my son can do different sports as well. So, I taught him how to downhill ski, and water ski, and it's really hard, because you know all the other parents are looking and he tried his hardest, after so many years he began getting really good at both of those sports, now, we didn't make it to the Olympic's, but we still enjoy it to this day. there are so many things in your blog that I kept nodding my head to, my son Brandon is a kind, gentle, compassionate, and, talk, HOLY can he talk, on and on and on and on, about movies and video games, but couldn't sit still for me to read him a book, like your son, he is gifted, his passion in life right now is World War history, he knows more about world War history than 9 out of 10 people, we would take him when his was at the age of 16 to the war museum, normal people would take a couple of hrs to go through and see it all, we had to break it up into 5 different times about 4 hrs for each.

    1. Sorry part 2

      I have never written so much before in my life

      I now want to fast forward, I went through a divorce when he was about 15, that was the hardest thing for him, as you know CHANGE is not good, so he went to live with me and he had a different school, place to live, didn't have his loving mom around as much, I'm not trying to scare you, but my son after about 6 months had hade a big crash, from a high functioning kid to down to only 10 words, his tic's were more than ever, things were going down hill fast, like I said not trying to scare you and as you know every kid is different. He than began to even get worse, he ended up at a hospital for 9 months in high observation, the dr's we're changing his meds and doing the best they can, they had to bring in 5 security guards to hold him down to just to take blood work, we were devastated, I remember thinking this is not my son, what have we done, on one visit my son absolutely crushed my mother and I, when he turned to us and said, "I'm never going to Leave", my mom walked out of the hospital in tears for hours. After the trials of 4 different meds, we were down to the last one, and that's when my sons life was saved, he was slowly getting better, we started to notice a difference, after a couple of months, they wanted to realease him, I was so excited to have my son back, they came to me and suggested he live in a group home, at the beginning there was no way my son is going to stay there, he is going to live with me, I did make the dission that he went into a group home, another turning point in his life, for me best move I made, I'm not suggesting this by no means.
      Fast forward to today, he has completed his high school, and walked across the stage, in a special program, he was the student of the YEAR, can't be more proud, he went into the TVP program at Mount Royal University this past fall, in the program he was able to find a job, he takes the bus absolutely everywhere, to work, university, and to meet me at the movies, as I was writting this reply to you, I took his phone call and he he was telling me about his day at work, it makes me so proud to here him when he phones me, he has a beautiful relationship with my family, he calls my mom every week, she can now sleep at night, knowing how great he is doing, he is starting to mentor his little cousin of 8 years old, he also has some challenges as well, he phones him about once a week to help him through some hard time his cousin is have from alll the mean kids at the school, he has been there and worn that t-shirt out. And he uses his phone for his calendar to plan his Dr appointments, he now goes to the hair cutter place when he needs a hair cut. Tears are coming into my eyes as I'm writing this to you, I never thought in a million years when he was 5 years old, that he would be able to be where he is at in his life and I'm so excited for him, and to see what the future holds, I can't believe this is happening right before my eyes.
      The only thing I can say to you, and I know you have heard enough advise to fill a room, do the best you , and I KNOW you are, he is going to find his wings in what ever he chooses, all you have to do is guide him through these times to watch him soar like an eagle.

      Keep the dream

      Scott

  98. Don't give up.
    My daughter is 22 and sounds so like your son I could have written this. The difference is that I quit teaching and kept my children home to teach them myself. Though both my children are autistic, my daughter was the one with the most trouble coping with the world. The panic attacks when we simply left the house (or her room some days) were the first huddle. Even though we went to the same places, they didn't do EXACTLY the same things each time (church, grandma's house, the store, the weather, the clothes she was wearing, the road conditions…….).
    The transition issues continued into college, and she found more success at a school that taught a full semester of work in a short period for ONE subject at a time. This allowed her to focus on one subject then transition to another subject in a predictable manner without the trauma of multiple transitions in a day. She is now a well informed fitness trainer and especially enjoys working with children (heavy children are equally outsiders in this world).
    These children are a delight to be around! The world looks different to them and if you take the time to ask and listen to their perspective it is a wonderful adventure. They take time to articulate their way of seeing the world, but it is worth getting to hear what they have to say.
    To this day people are amazed when I tell them that the "odd" things she says are because she is autistic and just thinks differently. She is very honest, sometimes painfully so. But it is refreshing in this world at times to have her call it like it is when everyone else is lying to your face. She is also one of the most tenderhearted people I know and will fight for fairness/justice for others with everything she has.
    Keep up what you are doing and keep fighting for his right to be himself. The world need more genuine people, and the autistic person will always be themselves, they can't help it. (And I am more myself because of my daughter. I will never be able to thank her for that gift.)

  99. Hi Jennifer!!!

    I loved reading this post. You are stung and loving! Keep that up. I hope you will get this…I know you have a TON of comments on here. I teach elementary in California in the Bay Area. I also work for a Non-Profit organization called My Brighter Tomorrow (www.MyBrighterTomorrow.org). My mom started the non-profit to help children with special needs. My cousin was diagnosed with a very rare disorder and insurance wouldn't pay for it. We were holding fundraisers and things to help cover the cost. That's when my mom got the idea to start the non-profit so that we can help other children out there! We do an amazing thing. Any therapy that insurance won't cover, we will help pay for. Please email me: bwalterhouse@gmail.com. I would love to see if there are ways we can help you and your family!!!

    Brianne

    Hooo-Ray For Teaching

  100. Thank you for your bravery in addressing a very real concern that needs to be shared and discussed. Your post is very personal and very appreciated. We all have a story of the "student/child like Jack" who touches our lives. I'll take it upon myself to say thank you from his teachers for sharing your knowledge, recorded information, and teaching about autism. Even if they don't know it yet, they are thankful for your willingness to work for so hard for your son. My heart goes out to you on this journey~ enjoy and delight in the endless supply of courage and bravery Jack shows you daily.
    WigglingScholars

  101. You know that you've probably taught more people here who read your post than in all of your 17 years of teaching. Amazing post. Insightful. I pray that Jack lands in a classroom with a teacher like YOU! He deserves nothing less. Hugs.

    Firstgradebloomabilities

  102. Through joyous tears, this mirrors our story so closely. One of the most encouraging experiences along this journey has been the realization that we are not alone, that in fact, there are many who have near identical stories. Is it still hard, at times. But I have something now I didn't then… I have hope, tremendous hope. I have hope for my boy and hope for those like him because I know now that they are indeed changing our world. I'm so glad I found this article and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your story!

  103. My comment is two years late, but this post touched my heart and ignited my fury. I have taught kindergarten and first grade for 38 years and shudder when I see teachers of young children putting a sad face on anything! The insight that I share with all “new” teachers is to FIRST discover what the child CAN do, then teach from that advantage point. Children that may have special challenges are a gift and an asset to any classroom. Your precious little boy offers us the opportunity to be better teachers as we discover his passion and watch him “take-off” from there! Sending you a lifetime of HAPPY FACES to share together! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  104. OMG, you have just described my son to a ‘T and I am in tears as there is someone who understands and ‘gets it’! I found this blog when researching, trying to determine what I can do to help him. He’s in 1st grade and has a hearing loss with major sensory issues, but his ENT and specialists believe there is more going on than just the hearing loss as his symptoms are extreme. His classroom teacher literally kicks him out of the class every 20-30 minutes for disruptive behavior (walking around the room, making noises, touching peers, etc) and even though he is to have sensory diet breaks during the day, the aids are not adhering to the activities prescribed. They go for a walk then don’t understand why there hasn’t been any improvement when they return to the classroom. All of this being said, we have some great team members working and collaborating and advocating for him, we just need to get the rest of the team on-board. He is ahead academically, but significantly behind from a sensory/social standpoint. We meet with a developmental pediatrician tomorrow and am hoping for some answers. I too hate labels, but feel if he receives a diagnosis people are familiar with, they will be more apt to help and less apt to judge or write him off as a behavior case. He loves to learn, but hates school. It is so frustrating and I feel terrible for him! I hope things have continued to improve for your son and thank you so much for sharing!

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