Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mommy Will Come Back

Last year during the first week of school, I had to practically push Ryan out of the van.  He'd slink down into the floorboard and hold onto the dash.

"Don't you want to go to school, Ryan?" 

"No school!"

And we were grateful for this improvement.  He actually TOLD me "no school".  Major improvement in communication!  We were so excited.  He also declared, after the first day last year, "You love school!"  Which, in Ryan-ese, means that he totally loves school.  And he did, most of the year.  It was pretty smooth, and I only had to pick him up because he was inconsolable once.  The whole year.  Through the whole year and into this year, the car rider helper opened the door of the van and coaxed him out, although things became easier as the days wore on.

You can state it in whatever words you choose, but no matter the verbage he is a severely autistic seven year old, mainstreamed in a typical first grade classroom.  There is a classroom aid, but there is not an aid glued to his side.  We don't want that.  We want him to learn to accept change, to do his own thing, and only get help when he really needs it.  We truly feel this is best.  While we want someone on him like white on rice if they take him anywhere out of the school for safety reasons, once he has his routine down at school, there's not as much need on a regular school day.  

One of those times he needs help is pick-up.  He isn't capable yet of understanding the danger of cars and crowds, and doesn't understand the need to stay out of the way of oncoming traffic.  So the classroom aid brings him out to the van in the front of the school where things are less chaotic.

I knew, picking him up, that he'd had less-than-stellar days earlier in the week.  When I picked him up for ABA at Baylor on Monday, he was on the floor in a meltdown.  Immediately, you feel bad for him, his teacher, the aid, and the big-eyed kids in the classroom who are looking quite shocked and concerned for their peer.  I know his teacher, and I know we can trust her with him.  But I know this behavior isn't fun for any of the parties involved.

When the aid brought him out the front of the school yesterday, I opened my arms and he ran, grinning and humming, falling into a hug with mommy.  His aid, always happy and proud of him, said "Give her your note, Ryan" and with a little help, this is what met my hands.

NO meltdowns.  He did his work.  Apparently mostly stayed in his seat.  

While I know that there's no guarantee that every day will be like this, it is an encouragement.  I know he was proud of himself.  I know that there were several people praying for not only Ryan, but for his teacher and the aid, and the other students in the class.  But there's one other thing we can't forget.  It's the underlying, yet stage-setting thing that makes all this possible. 

He has a chance. 

He has the opportunity to walk in a regular classroom full of typically-abled kids every day.  He has a teacher who believes Jeremiah 29:11 for him and all the other kids.  He has a chance.  

There was a time, and there are still places, where kids like Ryan don't get a chance.  How many, you ask?  I won't post statistics, but there are too many.  One is too many.  And it doesn't take long to surf through some mommy blogs and autism parenting chat sites to find the horror stories. 

It won't be easy.  So many of his days aren't. So many things that I have no idea of challenge him every day, every minute, in ways I cannot understand.  But he has a chance. 

On the way to school this morning, we had our morning peppy music on, and were car-dancing along, getting tickles and giggles squeezed in at the stoplight.  While we waited in the drop-off line, my heart overflowed with gratitude.  Watching all these kids go into school, from a variety of vehicles and a wide range of backgrounds and abilities... and then Ryan surprised me again. 

As we pulled up and came to a stop, Ryan took off his seat belt, opened the door to the van, and after saying "Mommy will come back" he hopped out of the van.  The helper who makes sure the kids get in the building met him as quick as she could, and made sure I heard what he said.  

He still stimmed on the wheels of the van as I drove away, but his helper was there making sure he was safe.  

As I drove through the rest of the traffic tree and made my way to the road home, gratitude overflowed and ran down my cheeks.  He is growing.  He is learning more every day about navigating this world while still being who he is.  

Given the chance, you never know what might happen.  

And, I must add, Ryan has the same chance at church.  The gospel applies.  It doesn't matter that there aren't inclusion laws for churches and Sunday schools.  If we truly believe in the gospel, we must realize that it must be carried to everyone, even those who act and behave differently than we think they should. 

These kids are growing up.  They are not going away.  All of the special needs children who are living among us today will be teenagers, then they will be adults.  They are precious souls just like you and I, and they must be given a chance.  No, it won't be easy.  But you know what?  You could make the difference just by keeping a smile on your face and patting the back of a mother dealing with a melting down child.  Or you might even go to the church office and find out who to talk to about being an on-call aid for a child in Sunday school or even a youth meeting.  Don't wait for the deacons, elders, or pastor to make an announcement, pleading for help.  You might be the person who starts a major change in thinking.  You might be the person who uncovers this sleeping giant.  You might be the catalyst for major improvements in the social, emotional, and spiritual lives of so many of us.

Those of us who realize must rise.  

See what can happen when these kids get a chance?

Thanks be to God for those who have risen, for they have changed my life! 

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