Friday, June 7, 2013

A Promise Kept

You might recall that last year we made the gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, oh-so-difficult decision to keep Caden in kindergarten another year.  (Complicated Memories).  We ended the last school year with tears and honestly we shed a number of tears as the new school year began.  I was particularly anxious because I had promised him that if he just trusted our decision, he would end the year being able to read.  I had no idea if I could keep this promise (A Promise I Want To Keep). 

The start of the school year was rough because Caden had watched his best friends bridge (graduate) into EI (the 1st-2nd-3rd grade classroom), and worse yet Children’s House was very heavily weighted with more young preschoolers than kindergarteners.  I’m not going to lie---we rethought our decision many days when Caden would come home from school crying.  Then one day he didn’t; he had a made a new best friend and found the start of his groove.

The year was a rollercoaster from start to finish.  He learned to put his own clothes on and won the battle of shoe tying (sadly he is his mother’s child and his shoes don’t stay tied for long).  One of his autism strengths lies in his ability with numbers and he was quickly doing math each day with the EI classroom which thrilled him to no end.  He fought the long fight with the alphabet and I’m so proud to say that last night he wrote the entire lowercase abc’s for us although b and d were reversed and n failed to make an appearance.  

He learned to ask his friends to play, and he learned that no matter how nicely you ask sometimes they don’t want to play with you that day.  He made his first phone call to a friend, rocked the conversation when his friend’s mom answered the phone, and much to his dismay he had his first kiss. He learned that sometimes people who are very close to you have to leave, and they don’t always get the chance to say goodbye.  

He started working with in-home therapists a LOT of hours a week, and even though it was a bitter battle, he learned to identify his emotions as one of five colors and even knows now to ask for a break or to go to his room if he needs a few minutes to regroup.  He worked hard not to be so literal, and while he tries hard, we do still hear “are you a potato on the couch?” if we dare sit down on the couch.  

He learned empathy to the point that although he didn’t want that first kiss, he didn’t tell on her either because he didn’t want her to get in trouble.  He learned how much it hurts to be bullied, and he learned that even though he is “just” a pain to her at home, his big sister is the first person to defend him when anyone else is involved. 

He tried to learn to use the restroom on his own, but it was just too much of a sensory overload. He did, however, learn to use the restroom in the EI classroom as well as Children’s House.  He learned to say “can’t handle this,” and he learned to be the classroom monitor in case anyone was sad or just not following the rules.  He learned the hard way that you really can’t run in the lunch room, and he also learned that unfortunately words like “poison” ivy or getting in trouble during the day lend themselves to anxieties and manifest as horrible nightmares most nights.  

He learned to hit the baseball without a T, and he learned to jump into the deep end of the pool during swimming even though he’d rather not.  He learned how to adapt in karate to the parts like the staring game that he “can’t handle,” and he worked so hard to say commands that Elf could and would follow.  He forged a relationship strong as steel with Elf to the point that even Elf knows their night time routine.  

He learned that no matter how much your heart is broken one day at school, you just have to go back the next day and try again.  And maybe most important to him, he learned to read. I love the sound of his voice sounding out words in books, on signs, or on the television screen.  I love the look on his face when he knows that he has correctly figured out the word.  I’m so proud that he was student of the semester even if he still doesn’t what that means.  

On June 5, 2013 my baby boy and Elf bridged into 1st grade.  This year the tale truly was about a boy and his best friend and loyal service dog, Elf.  As we say goodbye to kindergarten and look ahead to first grade, I am truly thankful that Elf will be taking that next step with his boy. 

La Crescent Montessori Bridge