Although it doesn’t look like it, Jackson was absolutely thrilled for his first day back-to-school. For me, it was a very emotional day, for several reasons.
At the end of last school year I made the decision during his ARD meeting (a meeting where special needs teachers meet with parents to discuss a students progress and make plans for the future) that he would not be attending ESY (Extended School Year) this summer.
I made this decision based on the fact that the previous summer when I had enrolled him in ESY, it totally threw him for a loop and made him so miserable that he cried every day….all summer long.
Jackson had only begun the special Early Childhood Autism Program in our district earlier that year and had just become accustomed to his bus, classroom, and teachers when summer arrived. But I thought it best to send him to ESY because I didn’t want him to lose any of the incredible progress he had just started to make.
Fast forward to this June, when Jackson was at home with me for the summer rather than at ESY. He seemed cheerful and happy at first, but as the days went on I could see he was confused why he was not going to school and even bored. By mid June, I felt like a total failure as a parent.
Jackson was agitated and irritable most days and I just knew it was my fault.
Now in panic mode I re-planned the summer, working in new learning toys, activities, and therapies that would help Jackson stay on target…but as the days went by my guilt grew more and more.
I felt like the worst parent ever.
What was I thinking? How could I have made such a terrible decision?
Maybe I’m not as good at this parenting gig as I thought.
As I attended work functions over the summer, friends and colleagues would inquire about Jackson’s progress.
I would nervously explain the self-doubt and disappointment I was feeling, my cheeks flushed red with shame.
In the end, I just KNOW he will have regressed so much and his teachers will be disappointed in me when he returns to school and it’s evident.
Last week we attended “Meet the Teacher” night at Jackson’s school. For us, it’s a bit different because Jackson has had the same teachers the last 2 years because of this special program he’s in. But we still go because it’s a nice way to start the year off.
I braced myself for worst.
We were the first people to visit the classroom and when his teachers saw him they were delighted! “Look how tall he is!”, they exclaimed (Jackson grew like 8 feet over the summer, I swear).
As he started to walk around the classroom, I knew that this would be when they noticed that he had regressed. I held my breath as he walked around and looked at things, just waiting for the scale to tip.
But it never did.
Jackson went over to his picture schedule (his alternative form of communication since he cannot talk) on the wall, selected the “activities” picture, handed it to his teacher and headed to the activities station.
Just. Like. That. No prompts or anything.
He hadn’t forgotten a thing.
Jackson has been back at school since Monday and nothing but glowing reports have come home so far. Honestly, I’m relieved…but I’m also a little sad I didn’t give him (and myself) more credit.
I think next summer I will go ahead and put him in ESY so that he will get to maintain his school routine a bit more.
But in the end, I don’t think that keeping him out this time around was the epic mistake that I initially perceived it to be.
If anything, this entire situation has taught me that Jackson is far more amazing than I ever knew…and that I’m not such a horrible parent after all. (PHEW!)