Middle school is a time that most people would love to forget. I know I did not like my two years spent in one. Thanks to this, I worried for many years about my oldest son going to middle school for grades 6-8. I had general concerns and some as the parent of a child on the autism spectrum. Let’s be honest, kids can be cruel and this is a rough time where you are trying to figure things out. When NHL finished elementary school, it was also the last time my boys were in a school together. It was a hard time for me to get beyond that. Was I sad about him leaving his school? The honest truth is that I was not. I was simply scared of the unknown.
Fast forward three years to the last day of middle school for NHL. What I never could have predicted at the time was crying over the end.
Middle school has been the best three years of my son’s life. He has grown socially, emotionally, and academically. He is becoming a self advocate, more independent, and sets his own challenging goals which he meets. Once again, NHL adores learning and genuinely likes being in school. This is pretty big for a teen.
So what made the difference?
We didn’t know a single teacher or professional at the middle school the day we walked in. They quickly took not only my son under their wing, but our entire family. For the first time in years, I was a special needs mother that could exhale, sit back, and stop being in defense mode. This was hard to adjust to and took time. NHL’s 6th grade teachers helped me to realize that we are all a team. Team meetings over the last three years taught me a lot about my son, his teachers, and the school he is leaving.
This week, I wrote one of the hardest thank you notes I have ever written. It was to the TA that has been with NHL for three years. This amazing man got my son. He was our eyes and ears when we could not be there. He was also a strong advocate for NHL. J took time to not only learn about autism, but about my son and his quirks. His patience went above and beyond. He has helped NHL to be more independent, aware of his anxiety and how to cope, and been a fantastic role model.
Something that had been missing before J came into NHL’s world was the ability to trust an adult. NHL had been hurt so badly over the years in school. Not only did his peers bully him, but he was bullied by adults that refused to understand my son. They simply did not get that autism is different for each child and could not see beyond behaviors. The reality is my son was bored, anxious most of the time, and had lost his love of learning. J helped him to get past this. Thanks to J, NHL learned he could trust most, if not all, of his teachers. They were there to help him.
Once again, the unknown has me nervous. We don’t really know anyone at the high school. We have met a few people and they seem nice, but it won’t be the same. Middle school has set my expectations to a very high point. I blame a lot of this on the principal. He not only hired NHL’s TA to work with him, he crafted the wonderful teams of teachers in the building.
The difference this time around is I know my son’s true potential. NHL is an amazing young man who is so smart. He gets things to such a levels that it blows my mind. I know that no matter what happens at the high school he is going to do great things because he can and will.