Settling In To The Land of What If….

autism sparkles-147

IEP meetings are not my happy place so it almost goes without saying that transition IEP meetings are that same kind of not-happy-place for me but to the exponential power of something like at least 68,000 (if you want to know the truth).

Transition meetings mostly make me crazy because you are trying to extract the hard earned knowledge out of the brains of Team A and somehow magically transfer it to the brains of the new Team B in a manner that leaves the child supported so that, hopefully, the transfer is seamless…(which almost never happens because that transition process is fraught with loop holes because magic is kind of lacey like that).  Transition meetings also tend to not be a happy place for me because the last time we had a transition meeting, elementary to middle school, the IEP meeting turned all kinds of  upside down and sideways when the director of special services turned into the big ugly kind of monster-administrator that spews hatred rather than help.  That meeting and debacle has been most unaffectionately written about in a previous post

Needless to say, I don’t like transitions and it wasn’t surprising at all that when I walked into my son’s transition meeting this last week there was some crazy stuff swirling inside of my head.  At first it was all breathlessness, anxieties, and fear and that didn’t surprise me at all.  But, all of a sudden, in the middle of all that rising stress and a near panic attack to end all panic attacks, this feeling of wonder hits me.

Yeah, wonder.

I can assure you it surprised me too.  It was seriously an unexpected-gobsmacking-breath-stealing moment of wonder that I did not see coming.  Why, you ask?  I will tell you, in the most honest voice I can use and coming from that place where we speak transparently to other parents (when we do not hide or cover or pretend)…  that my son should not be here in this place where we are standing right now.  Truly, we shouldn’t.

We should not be in regular ed.

We should not be on the honor roll.

We should not be independent.

We should not be socially accepted on any level.

I assure you that who we were in our first evaluation, when he was right around two and then three and four for the second and third evals, does not support this outcome one bit.  Even the UCLA eval at eight, that found him classically autistic and recommended classroom assistance, does not support where we are standing.  THIS outcome, where we are on the cusp of entering our freshman year in all indepdendent classes without assitance, is not who we were supposed to be.

It is absolutely NOT the life prediction we were given once upon a time…and yet… here we are.

And it occurs to me as I am sitting around a table, with ten administrators and me, that had we followed the recommended (and popular) Yellow Brick Road, and did as we were told by the powers-that-be, we would not be here.  Had we followed those standard conventions, we would have taken another path, perhaps the more socially acceptable path, and stayed in special ed classes, wrangling behaviors that gradually escalated and becoming entrenched in a life that embraced the disabling reality that autism can become.  That more mainstream belief some school districts hold that is filled with all the things autism cannot be.  Sitting in our current meeting, the memory of our rocky, battling, grizzlied, isolating, and bulldog laced road,that we have navigated long and hard, hit me square in the face and it became clear that who we have become is a bit of a marvel if you consider where we began and we are absolutely one of the things the experts said autism could not be.

And, honestly, had we followed conventions we would not be here.

Had we listened to the experts, we would not be here.

Had we ignored his behaviors, we would not be here.

Had we followed the dot to dot that educational administrations recommended, we would not be standing where we are today.

The truly breath taking moment, as I sit in this meeting where we prep for our future, is when I realized that the one thing we did do correctly during out last decade on this spectrum journey is that we defied the who “they” said he’d be and said yes to what we determined our son needed.

Instead of following that very comfortable and sweet Yellow Brick Road, we asked unpopular, and often unwanted, questions like “What if?” and “Could we try?” rather than accepting the more often used statements like “he can’t” or “it won’t work” before we ever even tried.  Instead of allowing doors to be closed, we kindly (and sometimes unkindly) pried them back open because in the land of “what ifs?” so much can still happen if we assume competence rather than walking that Yellow Brick Road and simply scoring charts, following graphs and reading off the percentiles that determine educational futures.

Nope, in the big picture, my boy does not make sense, not one bit, and perhaps that’s exactly why it has worked for us.  Mostly because we never took time to look at the big picture or the grander scheme on that Yellow Brick Road.  Instead we grounded ourselves inside the now and the unending potential that still thrives inside of the world of “what if?”  The scary part of it all and the more socially challenging aspect of our journey is that we often did the uncomfortable thing and walked alone while listening to our own intuition on a road less traveled.

And that is when I once again ask the educators, administrators and even the world at large:

What if we all did this?  What if we all said yes to the world of “What ifs”?  What if the whole world came to believe that autism is NOT less.  That autism is NOT a mistake, not something to be avoided or dismissed or grieved?  What if the world came to see that  autism and its kiddos are one of life’s greatest gifts?  What if the world came to see that autism is simply a mystery waiting to be unraveled?

What if we chose to see it as a mystery and not a burden?

What if every single teacher assumed competence…even when it all looks different?

What if we gave developing brains more time to unravel the mystery rather than trying to fit them into square holes that don’t fit round pegs?

What if we looked at the whole child and the potential rather than the pieces and the percentile scores?

What if we gave teachers the skills and class sizes to support developing spectrum kiddos?

What if we all opened our eyes to see that different is not less?

Autism is simply different, like a lot of things in this world, and different can be brilliant if you let it be… if you’re open to it and if you let yourself see the brilliance sparkling right in front of you.  In the bigger picture, the powers that be are right.  We should indeed not be here on this very big and amazing cusp but…we ARE.  We are standing here on one of the many roads less traveled waiting for another door to open and all because a few great teachers saw more in my boy than any report could ever prove and we listened to our intuition rather than following the crowds or even the easier paths.

You’ll also want to know that road less traveled is a long road, a battling road and one that is not for everyone.  Being the rebel rather than the sweetheart to school districts and classrooms is not always easy but, in the end, it has led us to a remarkable place.  Don’t ever give up or stop listening to your own intuition.  Saying no to the Yellow Brick Road was the hardest thing I ever did but, I promise you,  saying yes to the “What if?” ideas and the “Could we try?” requests is what brought us to this place.  We may have traveled a less popular and more grizzlied road but, truthfully, from where we stand today, it has been worth every struggle when I see my boy readying himself for this independent walk through high school.    And as we walked out of that IEP meeting, it was such a big breathless moment that I thought, it might just make me start liking transition IEP meetings and that exponential power of dislike might start falling.  A grizzly momma can hope, right?

Wonder Souls, don’t ever give up, don’t ever give in and always, always, always have faith in yourself and who you believe your kiddos can become.  No one knows your kiddos like you do.

Sparkle On, my friends.