Friday, April 29, 2016

To the Other Mom

I am not ignoring you.

I know you think I am, as we both chase our two-year-olds around during our older sons' baseball games. You think I am being aloof, or unfriendly, or are giving you the cold shoulder because of the somewhat minor skirmishes our sons have had, mostly on the bus, over the last two years. You probably won't believe me, but I'll say it anyway: I'm not. That's not to justify my actions. I feel as if I should probably just speak up and clear the air, but I haven't.

It's because I'm afraid of being misunderstood.

Here's the thing: Your kid is not a terrible kid. Neither is mine. They are kids. They do stuff. They act bratty. Some are more difficult than others. Some get along better or worse with their peers. I understand all of that.

I try to remember all of that, and I try to remember not to immediately blame the parent for a child's behavior, and to not always blame the other person before my own kid. I try to do all of that while still stepping into "Mama Bear" role because who better to look out for my son and to make sure he's not feeling intimidated, scared, or stressed about something that happened at school?

Your son is not the worst kid in the world, but he did tell my son he didn't like him, and that Ethan had to do what he wanted if Ethan wanted him to ever play with him. He did grab his arm hard enough to hurt him on the bus. He did egg Ethan on about a girl, constantly hounding him to say things about "kissing" and then running off and reporting Ethan to the principal once he did so. He did tell Ethan to pick up other girls (forbidden) and carry them around the playground or he wouldn't be his friend. And he did grab Ethan's hand one day on the bus and make him punch his "private parts," as Ethan reported.

You know all this, because I've chatted with the principal via phone and email on several occasions, and the principal spoke with you, too. I'm sure you weren't thrilled, getting a call from her. I know I wasn't. I know it's kind of mortifying, when the principal is calling about your kid. I appreciate you having him write a letter of apology to Ethan and delivering it to him the next day. Thank you for that. After spending most of the year separated on the bus by design, recently the boys have been sitting together and seem to be getting along okay. I'm having trouble imagining that happening on our end, however.

I could be wrong, and I hope I am. But I feel I'm being judged. I feel as if maybe you made an assumption. Please, I have to say this. I am not one of those parents who thinks my child can do no wrong. And I am not throwing around the "autism card" as a sort-of "Get Out of Jail Free" card for Ethan.

My son has some social issues. This comes with the diagnosis. I realize he may put himself in a position inadvertently that opens him up for ridicule. He may be an easy target sometimes. He may even be annoying and not realizing how much he's pushing someone to their limits. I thought we had talked this over, last summer. You know, when I ran into your husband at the playground and we went over the skirmishes our kids had been in? I explained about Ethan...I tried to balance being an advocate for my son without placing all blame squarely on the other side.

So here we are, nearly a year later, after a rough start to the school year, with the two boys and the bus. Now they're on the same baseball team, and now you stand at the sidelines nearby and don't say a word. Maybe I really annoy you. Maybe you think I'm furious. No. I'm just trying to understand how to communicate without sounding as if everything I say is an excuse.

Your husband helps coach the team. I gave the coaches a heads-up about Ethan. Sometimes he's great. But you just never know what might set him off. Usually, it's losing, striking out, allowing the other team to score. Suddenly my typical kid comes across as much more immature and struggling with how to deal with emotions. There may be tears or a tantrum. I don't know yet. And today I sit here wondering if you are wondering what I have been carrying on about with the principal, because Ethan seems like a regular kid, darnit, who's blending with everyone else just fine, thank you.

But they've won both of their games, I want to tell you but don't, except here. He hasn't made any huge gaffes yet, and they've stayed ahead almost the entire time. It's weird to almost want your kid to meltdown just to make a point. This is what happens when your child has a more "silent" disability.

I am not complaining. On the contrary I am immensely grateful that Ethan is able to play regular sports and is enjoying himself. His coaches and teammates have been great. We have given him strategies to help him keep his head and emotions in the game. These are things you don't see. Before the games, before the bus. There are "prep" sessions in the car and the social skills groups and plans for keeping him motivated and talks about what he might say if someone does this or breaks that rule or asks him to.

This isn't such a burden. It's just a little bit different approach. It's what we have to do to help make him successful. Not perfect, mind you. He will lose. He will break rules and get in trouble. He will sometimes have to answer to the principal himself.

But he is my boy and I have to look out for him first. That's not throwing down the autism gauntlet, it's just being his parent. And so, I hope you will understand. I don't run off and look for ways to tattle on your son to the higher ups. There will be things we will let go. There will be things, sadly as time goes by, that I will never know about that I would have had to let go. There are times I will ask for understanding while acknowledging that this is the hand Ethan has been dealt, and sometimes, getting along with others may be just a bit more challenging.

I don't hate you. I wish we could get along. I just am not quite sure how to get the conversation going.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Wall (a.k.a. "Spring Fever")

The first time it happened was way back when Ethan was two and receiving therapy at home. While he was always a little difficult to cajole into sitting nicely attending and playing (what active boy isn't?!), about the time when the clocks changed, we hit warmer weather, and everyone started to spend more time outside, a switch seem to flip and the "sillies" hit. He wasn't really interested in therapy appointments. He thought it'd be funnier to run away laughing or get into other mischief. This went on for about a month, and then he seemed to settle into the longer days and sunshine and tone it down a little, or at least as much as a toddler can do that.

The next year at just the same time he was in school, and I'll never forget the day about eight weeks before school ended when I walked in and saw two different special ed. teachers coping with kids having epic tantrums in the middle of the hallway. Their faces looked wild, tired, but determined. "It's been like this all week," one of them said. "It's that time of year." That was the same time the physical therapist said she was shocked to see Ethan turn into a little stinker during his PT session, suddenly for the first time refusing to do anything and thinking that was absolutely hysterical.

I started to put two and two together. Spring had come. Ethan had hit "The Wall."

I totally get this. Who doesn't? I don't know about you, but when the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, I get a sudden burst of energy. Suddenly I want to take on the world, tackle projects, get up early and stay up late, eat lunch outside. It makes perfect sense that most kids during this seasonal change decide they'd rather be on the playground than at a desk. Then you take this typical "spring fever" and imagine being a person on the autism spectrum who is very effected by change and the rhythm of life. Suddenly there is light blasting through their windows before 6am and they are being asked to go to bed when there's still light in the sky. Suddenly they don't need a jacket when they've been wearing one all winter and the world is exploding into spring all around them. Talk about over-stimulation.

By the third spring I'd started to realize maybe we should give Ethan's teachers a heads-up about The Wall -- not because the behavior itself was much different than what they'd seen in lots of kids, but because usually it came on so suddenly and was so unlike the way Ethan was the rest of the year. Sure enough, by his next year in pre-K he decided to goof off in OT, PT, and speech, and this time everyone took it more in stride and saw it for the phase that it was rather than regression.

The spring Ethan was in kindergarten I decided to give him a "mental health" day off of sorts during an early release day in spring. We went to a bounce place and he bounced for hours. The experience did him a world of good and seem to springboard him through the rest of the school year. I hated the way he announced to everyone, "My mom let me skip school!" but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do.

Last year we took a family vacation at the beginning of May and the kids missed two days of school. That worked well, except we inadvertently planned our days off during school assessments that Ethan had to retake, so I don't think we'll be scheduling things quite like that again.

At the start of second grade I once again this year warned Ethan's teacher that he sometimes began to ran out of steam in the spring. She's a good one (they all have been!) and remembered. The other day I got a report that he'd gotten frustrated at getting some problems wrong on an assignment, had run out into the hall and hid in his locker. When she followed him, he announced, "I have something to tell you that you don't know about me. I don't really like school, and I wish it was summer!"

She assured him that everyone feels that way sometimes -- even teachers. She got him out of his locker and back into class. We emailed back and forth about strategies for getting through the next seven weeks. Ethan of course, wants another special "day off." But with him already missing 12 days of school this year due to sickness, I'd prefer to not do that if we don't have to.

The more I think about this, the more I want to liken The Wall to pregnancy. Anyone who's had a child will understand. Things go great for a while, and then you start getting to this point when you are really, really uncomfortable (or at least, most of us do). But not only that, you still have a long way to go. So the issue is not just being uncomfortable but still knowing you are not yet near the finish line. Somehow, when you are actually at the end, I think you somehow get so used to being uncomfortable you don't care anymore. And at least you know you really are almost done. But two months out, it's sometimes, somehow harder. Like April. Almost in the home stretch. Not quite.

Deep breaths, Ethe. You can do this. Like Steve Songs sang in the Bear Hunt song at the kids' concert last week, sometimes we can't go over it. We can't go under it. Oh no! We've got to go through it!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Is Autism Overdiagnosed?

This question has been percolating in my mind for a while. I realize it's a hot-button issue; I realize there are people all over the place with this; I realize what I'm writing is an opinion and that I'm speaking from my limited experience and knowledge.

That being said, I feel as if I can't stay silent anymore.

I've noticed a trend that I've encountered via people I've met from "autism world" online and in real life as well. Children are being diagnosed with autism early and often. They are being diagnosed by professionals who give them a provisional diagnosis to get them services, who sometimes acknowledge that the child may "fall off the spectrum." They are diagnosing children before age 2 and preschoolers who may have some great skills (i.e. pretend play, eye contact) but a few red flags that put them over the proverbial line. They are (thanks to the removal of PDD or Asperger's as official diagnoses) throwing all manner of behaviors into the ever-widening autism diagnosis pool and waiting to see what sticks.

I used to think this was a wonderful thing. My own son was diagnosed before age 2 and began getting services that I believe were certainly beneficial.

I used to think this was a godsend. Diagnose first and ask questions later. Why care about labels? Get your kid any and all help they need.

Now, I am wondering if, in our move to respond to decades of misunderstanding and dismissiveness about autism, the pendulum has swung too far the other way. And in the process, we are doing some families a great disservice.

I sincerely dread sounding like one of "those" people. The last thing I want to be is thrown in with the types who say autism is mostly a result of bad parenting, lack of discipline, and so on. I do wholeheartedly believe that a child will benefit from a diagnosis if they are having a significant amount of trouble functioning in everyday life. That may mean behavior or communication challenges as they relate to daily life activities, self-care, school, and getting along with family and friends.

But where oh where do we draw the line?

Ethan once did a playgroup with another little boy who was diagnosed as on the spectrum. He was the same age; a wonderful little boy who was incredibly imaginative. During play sessions we often spent a lot of time chasing Ethan away from the light switches and encouraging him to play. This was not an autism I'd seen. This boy seemed a little resistant to change (as many preschoolers are) and liked to take his socks off (a sensory issue?). Other than that, I had to squint to see his issues. When you are related to someone with severe autism, this kind of thing is always mind-boggling. I have to make a concerted effort not to be minimizing, because I know I'm not there every moment and don't see all of the challenges. I will say this: I know that this boy "lost" his diagnosis not long after, and was actually serving as a peer model in a preschool/special ed. classroom.

This isn't an isolated story. As I see and hear more stories about this, I grow concerned. Why? Some might ask. Isn't it better to throw treatment at them early and often?


But I'm also considering:

1) Is this trend of over-diagnosing leading to some seriously skewed numbers that are creating borderline hysteria from the likes of Autism Speaks and the anti-vax'ing community? We HAVE to look at this more closely. People are panicking about an autism "epidemic." Is sounds like I'm over-simplifying, but: How many of these autism cases would have been a diagnosis 30 years ago? Have we begun to look for autism with too big of a magnifying glass? When did "quirky" become something that automatically had to be addressed and treated?

2) There are a limited amount of resources out there. When we pool the majority of our services in one area, someone else is losing out. And it could be someone very much in need of help. In our state (and many others), adults with autism and their families face huge obstacles. When they "age out" of the system, there are few options (i.e. group homes, employment opportunities) available. Aging parents are doing their best with little support to care for people with sometimes very significant challenges. Even getting something like respite care often requires a waiting list and years-long wait. I've asked it before and I'll ask again: Where are the services for people with autism once they grow up? We can't focus all of our attention on the children. There are people in real need; desperate need.

3) Sometimes, with an early or provisional diagnosis, there is a real loss: letting our kid be kids. Oh, how I know this from experience! There is something that happens when your child gets an autism diagnosis. There is a tendency to see everything through that lens. Every behavior, every quirk, every meltdown, has to be autism. Someone online recently lamented the way her recently diagnosed (mild autism) two-year-old's hyperactivity at an aquarium visit -- the way he didn't want to sit still and ran from one thing to the next. That's a lot of two-year-olds. Sometimes I think kids with special needs lose a little bit of their childhoods. It's easy to see things that need to be "fixed." With autism you're told the (somewhat erroneous) view that you have to pour all the therapy you can into them before the "magic window" closes and the chance of them losing their diagnosis fades altogether. Maybe some of these kids diagnosed with borderline autism would benefit very well from days at the park rather than time in a speech therapist's office. Maybe your child needs to be taken places to learn to adapt to new situations (an aquarium, museum, zoo) rather than sitting at a table and being trained to look people in the eye (something typical preschoolers don't always do).

I realize this may come off as dismissive, maybe even ungrateful. My son did benefit from early therapies. I go back to the earlier statement: is the child having a significant challenging functioning in everyday life? I couldn't bring Ethan to activities like playgroups when he was Chloe's age. He couldn't sit at all; his anxieties were too great; I had to wrestle him to get him to stay in the room. This kind of issue, yes, needs support.

Yes, we have to fight for our kids. But most of all we need to love them, to know what they need, to help them to get along in this world without trying to completely mold them into something else. Sometimes we need services. Sometimes we need to let go. Sometimes we need to say no, or not now.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Decision Day

Ethan's first day of preschool, 2010
Most of the advice out there was "don't do it."

But here we were, sitting around the table in the school's conference room, ready to sign off. Ethan, at age 8, was about to be officially discharged from special education and signed on to a 504 plan. What does that mean, exactly? Both are designed so that a student with a disability has access to a free and appropriate public education comparable to the education available to their non-disabled peers. A child with a 504 plan does not need specialized instruction but some accommodations due to his or her disability.

This sounds like a great goal, but many argue that letting go of special education, of having an Individual Education Plan (IEP), can be doing your child a disservice. An IEP is a legal document, whereas a 504 is harder to legally enforce. The process for making accommodations is a little murkier, without measurable goals, and if your child ends up really struggling and has a need to go back to special ed., it can be a struggle to prove he qualifies for services.

We knew all of this. I've read books, talked to friends in the know, poked around on the internet, and even spoken several times with people from a local Parent Advocacy Center. Nearly everyone said: Tread carefully. Argue to keep him in special ed. Require the school to perform evaluations, or even better, argue for them to pay for an outside evaluation. Don't jump into this.

It's a very strange thing, to argue that your child has a significant enough disability that they should be allowed in special education. It's a weird feeling, when the school is telling you your child is performing like a rock star, and of course you want to hear he is performing like a rock star, but you know most of all you have to look out for your child's needs, and if that means admitting he has a disability that requires specialized instruction, then forget my needs and hopes and dreams -- it's about him, first and foremost.

This is how it went over a year ago, when this issue first came up. The school staff started murmuring about switching Ethan to a 504 plan, and Mama Bear reared up. At the time he was early in first grade. I felt rushed. I felt as if the school wanted to jump the gun for numerous reasons. And while at that time they backed down and continued him in special ed., something the principal said in a meeting leaped out at me. I had been talking about how I knew Ethan was doing very well, but that I was more concerned about how things would go later on, as the work became more challenging and more was demanded of him. She answered that they couldn't keep him in special ed. based soley on what might happen down the road at some unforeseen date.

Some parents might have been really annoyed by this. Someone might say to me, "Your child has a diagnosis of classic autism. By the nature of that diagnosis it's natural to assume he might run into some significant challenges in particularly middle and high-school, when so much will be asked of him." And that would be true.

But what jumped into my mind, when the principal made that statement, is that with Ethan, I have always been planning for worst-case scenarios. Ever since we walked into his first IEP meeting, and I thought he would be starting preschool in a regular classroom with some supports, and instead was blind-sided to learn they wanted to start him in a self-contained classroom, that he wasn't ready to be with typical peers, I swung way the other way. I took every service they offered him (speech, OT, and PT, initially) and asked for more. Before Ethan started kindergarten I argued the he needed a para or at least to share a para. I asked for the social skills group.

And each time, as the years went by, that they suggested a service be discontinued, I pushed back, and I fretted. "The school will do that," everyone warned me. "They will try to offer as little as possible, or push these kids out of a service when they still need it." So I tried not to accept anything at face value, to snatch at the carrot the moment they offered it.

First, he graduated from physical therapy. Today I'd consider Ethan very athletic, despite low muscle tone. He's better at the monkey bars than many kids his age. He loves sports and no longer "trips over everything," as his teachers first observed when he entered preschool.

He shared a paraprofessional when starting kindergarten, but rarely relied on her. Having a classroom para was indeed beneficial, but he didn't need someone sitting next to him, interpreting directions, as I thought he would.

When he was discharged from occupational therapy in first grade, I wondered. To this day, his handwriting is not the greatest. However, when I sit Ethan down and ask him to focus and write, he can write well. Much better than I ever thought he would. I've learned that usually, he's just rushing in school to get on to the "fun" thing. It's not that he doesn't know how to write neatly. And there's not much OT can do to change that. As for the other aspects of OT, such as help with sensory issues, he's never needed them in school. At home he requests "squeezes" a lot to help him focus. But he has not needed to have sensory breaks or anything of that nature.

After years of speech therapy, his speech is at the level of an average second grader. Even his pragmatic speech. While he may be a little less expressive, particularly with non-verbal communication, he can pick up on others' cues, and effectively communicate with his teachers and peers. He has friends. He no longer plays alone on the playground at recess.

Academically he is ahead in most areas. He does extra work in math and reading with a small group of students to be a little more "challenged." He doesn't just memorize facts, but actually understands what he's reading. He's even a good little writer who has come up with some creative stories.

His social skills? Yes, understandably, that's the one area where he still needs some extra help. I'd call it fine-tuning. He WANTS to communicate, hang out with, pay attention to others these days. It's just that sometimes he's a little louder...a little more pushy about the "rules"...a little less able to "infer" things and keep a conversation going. He does need a social skills group, everyone at school agrees.

But needing a social skills group does not mean needing to be in special education. That was the point they've been making for a year, that they were continuing to make as we sat around the table the day before April vacation.

I COULD have argued. I could have demanded another comprehensive evaluation. I could have put my foot down. I could have done more research. I wouldn't have been wrong to do any of those things.

But, after talking with Dan, and sitting there and listening and looking through the reports and updates, I knew.

This time, it was time to believe in Ethan the way everyone else has always believed in him. To not expect the worst but to let him surprise us. To not argue for services he doesn't really need right now, and to not having him using up limited resources when there are kids truly struggling who desperately need them. When you have a brother who has severe autism, you know what need is.

Our job will always be to be vigilant. If time goes by and Ethan ends up struggling, you better believe we will do everything in our power to argue him back into special ed.

But that is for another time. Not today. Today, Ethan has been discharged from special education. And as we tidied up our papers and concluded the meeting, I decided not to worry about tomorrow at that moment. This moment was for celebrating. And for thanking, at least in my head, all of the people who have helped him learn and grow and get to where we are right now.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Thank You, Minecraft and Pokemon

The other day as I was cooking dinner I noticed something amazing.

Anna and Ethan weren't fighting, bickering, nit-picking, hitting, or generally getting on each others' nerves. On the contrary, they were sitting on the couch together working cooperatively on Ethan's Minecraft world. Then Ethan started begging for Anna to play with Pokémon cards with him when they were done.

This is big, people. It's not just that they're not constantly fighting (I know, I know, most siblings do). It's that they've found something to play together for the first time in, oh, at least three years. Even better -- it's something so typical that not only Anna but also Ethan have the potential to bond with not only each other, but with other kids over it.

It's been a long journey in our house to a) find any game that anyone can agree on playing together and b) finding something to occupy Ethan (or Anna, at this point!) that isn't a screen. Okay, so Minecraft is still another video game. But at least they have to put a little thought into it rather than just mindlessly blasting things out of their way. You could even say it encourages creativity.

We have skipped some of the usual "boy" phases in this house. Legos to Ethan are, eh. Superheroes? He likes movies and shows but rarely sits down with little guys and play sets. He doesn't collect Star Wars characters and didn't really care for Matchbox cars or Thomas the Train, back in the day. But now, years after the fad started, Ethan has started to really, really the blocky, strange world that is Minecraft. And even better, he has just started wanting to collect Pokémon decks of cards and learn how the game works.

Dan and I act like old people when it comes to Minecraft. We just don't get it. In an era where certain video games look as real as life itself, we don't understand how the kids would want to build a world that looks like a first-generation game from the eighties.

As for Pokémon? I tried to play the game with Ethan, which basically involves two creatures going up against each other in a "battle" and a complicated system of scoring who is more powerful and who can take more points from who. I didn't get the allure, but Anna loves Pokémon. They spent an hour the other night playing together. Happily! Did I mention I'm excited about this? Since Ethan started refusing to be Anna's preschool student a while ago, and Anna started abhorring just about all board games, they haven't been on the same page with play. Finally, common ground.

The other day we went to Target, and Ethan bought Pokémon cards with his allowance money, and Anna bought a Minecraft book. They spent dinner discussing the different "health points" various characters had, and new secrets for mining iron and taming wolves.

Dan and I were completely left out of the conversation. And we didn't mind at all.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Autism Day

I was leaving Ethan's school in a hurry the other evening after parent/teacher conferences when the social worker stopped me.

"I have the video we're going to show the kids tomorrow for Autism Day, if you want to take a quick look at it," she said.

Oops. I'd completely forgotten about Autism Awareness Day. Or Acceptance. Or whatever you want to call it. We'd seen the flyer come home. Apparently all of the elementary schools in town, at the very least, were participating. We were supposed to wear blue.

There are some people who love the idea of an Autism Awareness Day, and others who argue that what we really need is understanding. Since the blue theme and puzzle piece logos stem from Autism Speaks, there's an array of emotions out there, in Autism World. Autism Speaks has not been in too many peoples' good graces, in recent years. I don't know the whole story, but I can say a big part of this stems from the fact that they haven't been too open to having people who actually have autism serve in positions in their organization. And they've spent an awful lot of money on trying to convince people how scary and tragic autism is.

As usual with these matters, I fall somewhere in the middle, and to me, any school event that's going to acknowledge and try to educate people about autism is pretty much a good thing. So sure, we'd send Ethan to school in blue.

But this year was different. This year was the first year Ethan would be going to school knowing and understanding he was one of those people with autism that everyone was talking about.

This made me wonder a little more closely just what was going to be said.

I took a look at the video the next morning before school. It was what you'd expect from a five-minute video trying to explain a very complex condition to children. So-so. I would've loved if they'd just showed kids or adults talking about their autism and what it means for them. Each person is so different. But there was a part about all of the sounds that a person with autism might pick up on that others don't notice, and how distracting that might be, that was good. I felt as if they'd just barely scratched the surface, though.

Still, I realized this really wasn't about how I felt about the whole day, but rather Ethan.

"We're going to be celebrating Autism Awareness Day!" he'd announced. He said he was excited about it. I asked him if he was going to say anything about himself. He thought for a moment. "Nah, I don't think so."

"That's fine," I told him. "You don't have to feel any pressure to talk about yourself." Then I thought about the video. "But Ethan? If you see anything on the video that doesn't sound like your kind of autism, you can speak up about that. You can let people know that not all autism is like that." He said he would.

Ironically on Autism Awareness Day we got thrown a little test -- exactly the type of thing that might throw a kiddo on the spectrum off. We got to school and Ethan realized he forgot his backpack. Even though I told him I'd drive straight home and get it and bring it back, he didn't want to get out of the car at first without it. As the principal stood there trying to help him out of the car, he wouldn't budge.

"We're just having a little issue here because he forgot his backpack," I told her. I'm glad Ethan was able to swallow hard and force himself to jump out of the car, but if he had really melted down, it would have been the perfect example of those small changes in routine that can just set autistic people off. Sometimes others don't understand. Sometimes they need to see autism in action, to see the story from start to finish and realize it's not just about a child being willful or undisciplined.

Twenty minutes later, I'd dropped off the backpack, happy to see all of the little second graders pecking away at their Chrome books, and went about my day.

At 4:15 Ethan bounded off the bus with the biggest smile on his face. "I told the class about my autism!" he announced as he burst through the door. "And you know what, two other kids said they have autism too!! And another one thinks she has it!"

I asked him about the video, if he thought it was okay. He picked right up on the part about hearing sensitivity.

"I can hear really, really well," he said. "Hearing is my superpower." I love how in the video, that was presented as a challenge for people with autism, but he turned it into a benefit.

And then he went off to play video games, and I went to send a thank you email to some of the school staff.

I know they don't get everything right. This autism thing, how to approach it, how to educate without making some people with autism feel terrible about themselves, is not simple.

But I can't thank the school enough for trying.

My son felt special, and he felt as if he was understood.

I can't ask for anything more.