Call this the summer of “first lasts.”
My son Justin, who is twenty, profoundly autistic and non-verbal, will graduate from his beloved private autism school on June 14th, 2024.
It will be a day of joy, and on my part, many tears.
Also, much wine and chocolate.
This summer I went to his last swim day observation, which entailed me watching him enjoying his school’s pool as I struggle every summer to get my son in mine. Today, I sent him off to his last day of summer school ever.
There will be many “first lasts” this year. Last Fall Fun Day. Last birthday party. Last IEP meeting.
I actually enjoy the latter.
Yes, I know this is weird.
I hope I will manage my emotions through all these milestones with grace, but I’m not making any promises.
Justin will do beautifully. Much better than his Mama.
My solace is I’ve already visited his adult day program options, made my connections, ranked my choices. The reality is I will be fortunate to get an offer, and it may not be until months after he graduates.
I’m mentally gearing up for that too, and grateful my other kid will be driving independently by then.
At the end of the day, things have always eventually worked out for this family. Perhaps not in the way I would have wanted with my insane amounts of planning, but they have worked out.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed our luck continues.
I know Justin is not aware of what is coming down the pike. He does not know this is his last day of summer school, that the days of what I consider to be his extended childhood are in countdown mode.
I am grateful for that.
I will start preparing him as best I can, with pictures and stories and an explanation that he will be going to a new program. I will not convey my profound sadness that after fourteen years, time is up.
I will just hope he welcomes the change, and understands it’s not just a brief sojourn somewhere else, and that he will not eventually return to school.
I will never know if he will understand this or not. His comprehension cannot be conveyed by a nod.
But I will continue to have faith in this kid’s remarkable ability to adapt, to transition, his desire to be happy.
I will always have faith in him.
And today, as I hug him when he gets off his bus from his first/last day of summer school, I’ll remind myself of exactly that.
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