Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Earning The Golden Ticket

The last two granola bars have been packed.

Today is Sean's final full day of school.  He still has two half days left but other than having to wake up early, I can hardly find fault in those...

Today is a huge day, five years in the making.  You see, Sean's day school was meant only to be a transition.  He would be there for a year or so, learn coping strategies while maturing a bit, and then gradually move back to his home school. 

I was hopeful at first.  Sean's a smart kid.  He'll get it....

Then, as the years passed, I can't say I lost hope in a hopelessness kind of sense.  I guess I simply resigned myself to the situation.

Ugh.. that sounds so depressing!

His day school assigns the kids to levels according to the goals that they on a daily basis.  After so many days on Level 1 attaining all the goals - or a good majority of them - the child would move up to Level 2.

Level 4 was Willy Wonka's Golden Ticket.... it meant transitioning back to your home school was in the near future.

But as fast as you could move up the levels, you could also move down them as well.  And quickly. 

One major meltdown, one really, really off day, and you could lose your Wonka Gobstopper and be right back to Level 1.

Sean would get so close.  He would be on Level 4 and dreams of transition would dance in our heads.  Last fall those dreams were being spoken about.  District officials were beginning to talk.

And then on the third day of school, Sean had a bad day.  And then he had another.  And then another.

It was a bad week and we were devastated.

And angry.

And frustrated.

You can't blame every unsuitable behaviour or poor choice on autism.  Sometimes, especially when they're an adolescent, it simply is what it is... them being naughty.

Sean's first week was a combination of anxiety over beginning a new school year, not listening to adults, and making some extremely ill choices.

He had to go down in level.  There was simply no alternative. 

Sean learned a tough lesson that week.  He couldn't blame his decent on anyone but himself.  The anxiety was one thing.  That could be dealt with and understood.  But his other behaviours that week, could not.

Therefore, down he went. 

Kiss running on the mainstream cross country team - for which he had trained all summer - good bye.

Kiss transitioning in the fall good bye.

And, if he kept it up, kiss any hope of getting out of there before graduation - a requirement to go to the local high school - good bye as well.

So much of his future was beginning to hinge on his behaviour, his choices. 

He had to learn.  He had to cope.  He had to find that control within himself.  He had to learn to take responsibility.

And, slowly, eventually, he did.

Sean finally got that magical Wonka ticket and walked through those gates in January.  It was scary, exciting.  A new world.

He has had his moments but he's been doing well.  The original two classes a day at the junior high has grown into four.

We went into May's meeting with school and district personnel hoping for a 5th or 6th period to be added sometime during  the fall term.  One of those would be lunch... Sean's equivalent of being left alone in the TV room in WonkaLand.

All he wants is the freedom that is offered in a room filled with his peers.

And now he'll get it.  Sean will be full-time at the junior high come August.  He will have a resource period to check in with his OT for his fine motor skills and for assistance in anything that needs assisting.

Will his behaviour be spot on?  No.  Will every choice be thoroughly played out to its consequence before being acted out?  No.

But I do hope that time helps.  I do hope that the understanding and compassion continue.

And, most of all, I do hope that Sean continues to learn.

His future is not dependent upon autism, nor is it determined by it.   His future is dependent upon him.

While he says good-bye to the safe world of his day program and ventures out, at some point he will misstep, turn on the bubble machine.

But, like Charlie, Sean is a good boy.  He will give back during his lifetime much more than a gobstopper. 

And, in turn, we should give him the world, the keys to Wonka's factory,  because he deserves it.


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