Thursday, April 17, 2014

All the Joy, All the Sorrow

A month or so ago, Sky brought home a letter from his school art teacher saying his picture had been selected for the "young artists" exhibit at the city art museum. She told us to look for a picture of him in the local paper. That was back in February, or maybe early March, so I wasn't even sure which paper to look in or when.

For a couple of weeks, I tried buying all of the local papers but eventually gave up, assuming I'd missed it.

Then last week, Sky brought home an extra copy of the paper along with a glossy photo of himself holding this picture.

The actual picture is squarely framed. This is a picture of a picture of the picture, though. So, less square.

This, you guys. This is the picture that got selected. He's one of five kids out of 350 in his school to have a piece selected. So, it turns out it was kind of a big deal, which is why his art teacher reminded us of the exhibit opening (more than once). We wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Of course, it was a mad house with kids in grades K through 12 from all the district schools and their families in attendance. As soon as we got there, Sky spotted his art teacher. He wanted to introduce her to us, but he kept trying to get her attention by standing just behind her in a very crowded and loud room. Every time she walked off, he got discouraged and came to me for help. Unfortunately, since it was nap time, Stow decided this would be the perfect time to show off his "death drop" skills--you know when toddler goes from vertical to horizontal in a single motion-- so I found myself weaving through the crowd, dragging a 36-pound toddler in the prone position while encouraging my socially awkward son to step in front of his teacher. After five minutes of dragging and weaving over the entire area of the exhibit, I may or may not have resorted to giving Sky a little shove to get him into her path.

When she saw him, her eyes lit up and she grabbed his hand and took him right to his picture. He got that sheepish proud grin he gets that I love so much. As we were weaving back through the crowd, me still dragging Stow, she said to me, "He's brilliant, you know. The way his brain works is fascinating. I'm amazed by how he sees things."

When we got to his painting, we took a picture of the two of them in front of it. She called over her husband and introduced him to Sky as "the one who did the incredible Native American storytelling project." He congratulated Sky on his work, and she turned back to me and said, "It's a pleasure to teach such an out-of-the-box thinker. He really is quite talented. Wait until you see the one he's working on now. The layers are amazing. You'll want to frame it." And then she was off into the crowd, pulled away by another student wanting to introduce her to his parents.

That, you guys. That is what it's like to meet a teacher who really sees Sky, a teacher who refuses to be put off by his sound effects or his inappropriate comments or his need to move at inopportune times, and empowers him to express all the brilliant ideas bottled up inside of him.


Twenty minutes later, on the car ride home, I got an entirely unexpected e-mail from the woman who runs the after school art program Sky had been attending for the past six months. In it she outlined his allegedly escalating behavioral issues. She ended her message with this:

"[His teacher] doesn't feel she can adequately support his needs, the needs of the rest of the class and maintain a positive learning environment. After much consideration, we will not be accepting Sky's enrollment for this last session. A credit has been processed. I'm sorry for waiting this long, it was a difficult decision."

This. This is what it's like to live with autism. Because, when you are living with autism, you experience all the joy and all the sorrow, and sometimes you do it all at the same time.

See, it's not just about me and my kid. I get my kid. I love my kid. I love it when people get my kid, because when they do, he feels happy and proud and confident in a way that fills me with unimaginable joy. But a lot of people don't get my kid. They judge him and are mean to him and discriminate against him because what they see is not the awesomeness that hides just beyond the verbal stims and the poor social skills and the seeming inattentivenss. They only see those things that are very much a part of his autism. And they discount him for it.

I love every single thing that makes Sky who he is, but I don't love the way people treat him because of it, and I don't think I will ever stop being heartbroken every time something like this happens to him.

(To be continued...PART 2, PART 3, POSTSCRIPT)


Sophia said...

Beautifully written. And heartbreaking. It is so disheartening to take the blow of news like that, especially on the heels of such an uplifting evening. Honestly though, if they can't "handle" him- you probably don't want him there. You are a great mama and will help him find his place in this world. His art is beautiful, as I'm sure his mind and heart are. There is a place that will make him feel respected, loved and appreciated and will help draw that brilliance and confidence out of him- and you'll look back at this as another sign that led you in the right direction. Hugs the middle of it, it's hard to see. I'm sure your heart hurts for him, I'm a stranger and mine does.

P.S.- So glad you gave a name to that toddler phenomenon. In our house we call it the "fainting goat" maneuver. It's especially exciting when our little guy does it simultaneously as our asd son bolts into the crowd.

Keep on doing what you're doing!

Mom on the Edge said...

Fainting goat is great, too! Thanks for the kind words.