Olive’s last I.E.P meeting went really well. I went fully prepared for the daunting task of reviewing all her areas of struggle. I normally dread these meetings just for the fact I generally leave feeling upset, facing just how far behind she truly is. This one was different. I was told she was doing wonderful. In areas like math she was at the average percentile. Since school started there has been no issues with transitioning classes, or changing activities. She’s been playing well with others and appropriately. She is making friends! There has been no meltdowns, and she seems genuinely happy to be there. To my surprise they decided to remove behavioral therapy from her I.E.P, they see no reason to continue when she has been doing so well. Olive now also spends about 90% of her time in the classroom being amongst her peers. It was so hard not cry tears of joy upon hearing the great news. She will now be primarily focusing on speech, language skills, reading, and occupational therapy. Olive was non-verbal for most of her life, and has delays in certain areas of speech. This past year, more than ever we’ve noticed her speech being ‘normal’ one week, then kind of become jumbled by the next. She has a hard time with ‘Th’ and “S” sounds. She also will sometimes pronounce part of a word- leaving off the ending sound. But so far she’s moving along at a steady pace, continuing to engage, and make the most out of her therapies.
Yesterday I was at the grocery store, and struck up a conversation with the cashier. We were discussing the outrageous costs of therapy, and medications. She had explained to me how her daughter has a condition with her thyroid, that also effects her brain. She has to take medication daily to keep her well and functioning. The medication unfortunately is very expensive. As we wrapped up our conversation, I turned to leave and another cashier approached me. She told me her sister has Autism. And then proceeded to tell me how smart and talented she is. She told to me about her sister’s Etsy shop and the beautiful things she knits. She shared how excited she was for sister to finish knitting her Christmas gift. I couldn’t help but to feel compelled to cry as I watched her face light up, as she told me her sister was only one semester from receiving her masters degree. I see her eyes begin to water as she tells me how proud her and her family are. I at this point have become completely moved by the out pour of love and admiration she has for her sister. It took everything in me to not cry. As I walked out the store and then to my car, I finally let myself feel. You’d think after 4 years I could carry a conversation about Autism without it hijacking my emotions mid sentence. I came home and cried some more. I wasn’t sad or even reflecting on my own situation. I was just genuinely happy to hear someone with Autism happy, thriving, and appreciated.
That’s something I’ve noticed in this journey as time goes on, it’s become less about how to ‘fix’ my child and more about promoting acceptance and awareness. It’s celebrating the little things, and finding joy in another person’s accomplishments, regardless of what your personal situation is. In the beginning I would feel jealous and even sad when I’d see other children doing so well. I stopped comparing my child to other children and stopped being bitter. Everyday I would feel hopeless when I thought about the unseen future that lies ahead. Instead I started taking one day at a time, and choosing to be happy. Yesterday was so much more than just being moved by someone else’s story. It showed me how far I’ve come in my own personal journey of acceptance. I’m not happy my child has Autism, but I’m not angry anymore either.