Rite of Passage

Two weeks ago, I sent my youngest child off for his first day of high school. I’d done this very same thing, just last year, but this time was different. Unlike my brainiac first-born, my younger child has an Autism diagnosis. Asperger’s to be exact. Lan successfully navigated and “graduated” middle school managing to even pass those aggravating standardized tests necessary to progress. But this year was different. This would be the first transition to a new school where he would have to go it alone.

Unlike the transition to middle school, Lan was entering a school out of our district. Consequently, the comfort of familiar friends was lacking. For the first time, his big brother would not be in close proximity to watch out for him and rely on. Lan was apprehensive. My husband and I were guarded. I often wondered years before just what would we do when it came time for him to enter high school?

God has proven time and time again that He has my solutions before I ever anticipate my problems. I could in no way expect that Lan’s former elementary school principal would be appointed principal to his future high school. There was no reason to ever suspect Lan would ever attend this school as it was well out of our district. I also couldn’t predict that his former IEP teacher (that’s special education for those of you out of the loop) who taught him for years in elementary school would become a counselor at that same high school.

It took making a request to the school board and having it granted that placed Lan in a position where people he knew would have his best interests at heart.  Upon notification of the county’s approval, I didn’t have to ask that his former teacher be appointed as his counselor. The principal took it upon herself to do so on my child’s behalf. The familiar connections made years ago proved vital even before the school year began. With their assistance, schedules were modified and class requests accommodated. I am confident that what was painless with them would have been a headache elsewhere. I am so grateful for their helping hands that guided us each step of the way.

The first day of school was overwhelming for Lan. My husband and I probably didn’t fare much better. Lan’s first comments when I asked him about his day was that the school was “too big and loud and the students were huge.” I must admit several upperclassmen looked to be about the size of professional athletes. He looked so small in comparison. I assured him the next day would be better and prayed that it would be so. Thankfully, it was.

The addition of band class, a familiar face at lunch, and learning to navigate the vast hallways settled the nervous stomach. It did wonders for my husband and me as well! Even without the comfort of our neighborhood kids to watch over him, Lan ventured out into the vast hallways greatly annoyed that his overprotective parents continued to worry and hover.  Yet, by the end of the week, he was eager to head off to school, vocal about his assignments and looking forward to the first football game.

God answered a prayer I’d uttered years ago out of frustration. I distinctively recall sitting in my car contemplating school choices for him with tears in my eyes, frustrated and at a loss for answers. All of the schools I’d considered previously were at least an hour’s ride away from home and well beyond the capabilities of my budget! Thankfully, I wasn’t required to come up with an answer.

I didn’t have to figure, maneuver or plot out the points to the most desirable outcome. I didn’t have to go before the school board and plead my case.  With one letter, I was spared from enduring the inconvenience of juggling two boys at two different schools and the conflicting schedules sure to ensue. My oldest was already attending the magnet school located on the same campus. Our county has a provision that if one child is already attending a campus, any sibling can follow. Cam decided to apply for the magnet school at the very last minute. It wasn’t anything we had planned for. I’d been trying to convince him for two years the magnet school was where he belonged. Wouldn’t you know it would take a girl, not his mother, to convince him that is was a good idea! God used the opportunity given to one son to open a door for the other.

God put the right people in the right place at the perfect time. Twelve years after a “pervasive developmental disorder” diagnosis and five years after the Asperger’s label, Lan moves along aware but never thwarted by his condition. His attitude has never faltered and aside  from the regular teenage moaning and groaning, he continues to take everything, challenges included, in stride. If only we, as parents, had the same confidence.

I thank God for answering my prayer, even years before I would ever realize what He had done. God has delivered on more than one occasion. I shouldn’t still be in awe but His grace always overwhelms me. Not every day on this journey has been a good one. We’ve had our fair share of trials and meltdowns, but still we press on.

If I’ve learned anything in this back to school process, it is to once again trust God. And worry less. Even as the control fanatic that I am, I could never have orchestrated things so perfectly if given the chance.

I grudgingly accept that autism dictates some of my decisions. I am grateful, though, that it does not determine our outcomes.

God’s grace covers! Autism has yet to define my child, at least, through his eyes. The first week of high school was met head-on and we survived. God watches over His children. God continues to watch over me.

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