He eagerly stands by the door as I assure him his bus has come, and my lanky seventeen-year-old with severe autism bounds across the threshold to his waiting ride. I think he’s been at school three days in the last three weeks, due to his school closing for Covid and some inclement weather. He doesn’t smile nearly as much now as he did before he developed tic disorder four years ago (or perhaps it’s because he’s a teenager and doesn’t smile that much anyway), but he’s vocally stimming and steps right up into the bus, so I have to believe he’s happy to go.
As much as I love him, he needs this and I do too.
It will be a year next month that Justin’s school schedule will have been radically altered, and I have to say we are in a better place now than we were eleven months ago. For five out of the six first months of Covid, Justin was home with me being his teacher, both instructing him and doing Zoom calls with his teachers. The home instruction went and is going pretty well, as I still do it with him once or twice a week. The Zoom calls, not so well, and we have chosen not to participate in them as he isn’t getting anything out of them. He is an in-person instruction type of guy.
And as a former teacher who can’t even imagine doing virtual instruction, I so get it.
Justin can’t talk, and really only uses his iPad in school for academics and to communicate his basic needs, so most of the time we have to guess what he’s feeling. He really has had limited behaviors since all this struck, for which I am eternally grateful, but it’s difficult not to know what he’s thinking. I tell him every morning whether or not he has “home school” or “in-person school,” but I never know whether or not he understands, or how he feels. I know ten years ago he would have been throwing his sneakers at me to take him somewhere every day- he’s matured, and seems to get that right now, there’s nowhere to go.
I am truly grateful that he seems to get it.
Only once has he really asked to go anywhere, and that was when he threw the Jenks boardwalk tickets in my lap and stood there expectantly, waiting for me to tell him we could go. I told him it was closed and he seemed okay with it, walking over to one of his toys and engaging in play.
Trust me, I would have loved to have taken him.
I’d like to think we’re in the home stretch now, and soon a more normal life will resume. I have a feeling both of my boys will emerge from this relatively unscathed, but at this point it’s difficult to know. I do know that there are other families with autistic children who are not faring nearly as well, and my heart goes out to them.
All I can say to all of us, is hang in there, we’ve got this.
And as I see my boy take his seat on the bus, I’m grateful he’s done so well so far.
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