I have been reading all the posts on Facebook this week by parents dropping their young adults to universities around the country. My older boys are 19 but were in a class a year down at primary school so their contemporaries have all hit 18 this year.
It’s bittersweet reading about other people’s mainstream children. We chose for the boys to go to mainstream state primary with their one to one ABA (applied behaviour analysis) tutors. It was definitely the right decision for their younger years. They learned alongside mainstream children. They were the only ones with autism in their classes. They learned how to interact and how to cope with everyday life, not cocooned in a special needs bubble. For us, this was even more necessary with all four boys having autism. We are always in danger of the boys being isolated from the world, living in an autistic school not of our own making, but by default.
They became ‘friends’ with some of those children. Sadly, not life long friends though. Most of those primary children are still mates with each other despite heading to different secondary schools. That’s hard to watch too, over the years, those wonderful sustained friendships which my boys don’t have. And now, I am reading and watching those children, now adults, stepping out into the real world, fully independent.
It’s hard not to compare. It doesn’t help us. It doesn’t change anything. I do not want to be bitter or resentful. But the irony of posting an ad recently, recruiting for buddies and people to hang out with the boys is not lost on me as I read those posts.
I am proud. I am so proud of my boys as you all know who read my blogs. I don’t want to compare them with their contemporaries.
I want to compare them with their younger selves. Those lost little boys who could not talk, who could not communicate with me or each other. Those little boys who had meltdowns and tantrums and would run without looking into people or traffic if we had not been there gripping their hands. Those boys who only ate pureed food for years, who screamed and screamed if they needed hair cuts. Their world was a hard one, hard for them and for us.
We worried that they would never talk. They learned to talk. We worried that they would only eat a few restricted foods and how that might damage their health. They now eat almost anything and everything. We worried that we could never take them out in public without people staring at us and tutting at us. We take them nearly everywhere now. They can sit and eat, they can watch a film, they can even watch live theatre. We worried that they would never be able to go out alone safely. They have started to be able to do this.
The academics have never been the important bit for us. Learning about life and being able to access it and most of all, enjoy life has been our one abiding mission. We have certainly achieved this.
Our boys have achieved so much more than we ever dared dream of. Yes, those other children are now heading to university but they were always going to do that. You could already see that at age seven. They have achieved what was predicted for them.
Our boys have achieved way, way more than was predicted for them. How incredible is that? And how proud I am of them all.