Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Graduation Day Has Arrived!

Well it officially happened!

My oldest son graduated from middle school—with honors!

We couldn’t be more proud of this guy, he continues to amaze us everyday with his continual progress.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while you may recall that starting middle school in 6th grade was pretty rough. There were days when we thought he would never make it. He was overwhelmed in so many ways, battling depression, facing bullying behaviors from older kids, bad teachers—6th grade pretty much sucked.

But 7th grade was much more comfortable. He was no longer the youngest kid in school, he was now familiar with his surroundings and made a new group of friends that were a lot like him. He also started to learn how to communicate better with his teachers, as did I.

Then 8th grade scooted along smoothly. He had a few hiccups and started Wellbutrin to battle the winter depression, and out of it we saw a more confident, happier kid with a lot of friends, and even a sweet girlfriend who he talks to daily. More than once I had a teacher say wonderful things about my son. As one teacher noted at the end of a correspondence with me:

PS: I absolutely love your son. He has a great sense of humor and is so incredibly sweet! He is one student who ALWAYS wishes me a nice day and a great weekend. You’ve done a great job!

I can’t tell you how much this meant to me, that a teacher noticed my son standing out among his peers for wishing her a nice day and great weekend. That he was recognized for being “incredibly sweet” melted my heart. She got to see my true son! To hear that he can connect with others in such a positive way made me so proud, more than any good grade would have.

My son finished the year with his IEP testing. In the end he was denied an IEP, but we did learn that he has a slow visual processing speed. This happened to be something he is born with and can’t be improved, so they will continue to allow the use of a calculator and extra time on tests to accommodate for this. I was glad that the testing was able to identify where his struggles were, this explained why doing long math problems and testing was so difficult for his brain to process, as he went through each step, his slower processing led to fatigue and ultimately him performing poorly.

Even though he was denied an IEP, the school met with us to help with his transition into high school. We have already started putting a plan into place. Hopefully we can make his transition into high school better than it was for middle school.

Can you believe he is starting high school already!!!

My little guy has grown into an impressive young man. Standing much taller than me, he has found his passion for computer programming. That is pretty much all he wants to do, other than talking to his girlfriend. He has taught himself many programming languages and continues to grow his skills. This week he’ll be building his own computer with his grandpa where they’ll be soldering the actual computer together!

After years of seeing him struggle doing math, or writing a paper, I have watched him come alive with computer programming. At the library he leaves with a pile of text books on computer languages, books that I swore would never be read were later filled end-to-end with post-it notes from his consumption of information. Where I once fought him to watch YouTube videos on how to complete a math problem, I now watch him complete multiple online courses on programing. It’s amazing to see him thirsty for knowledge and see him excel in something he knew nothing about just a few months ago. I’ve learned that my son has no problem learning if it’s on his terms and if it’s something he cares about. If only I can get that hunger to transfer to high school academics!

But more than that, I have seen my son become more stable than I have ever seen. I can not tell you the last time he raged or even became threatening. In fact, I watched him tonight teach his younger brother on how to cope with emotions in a social setting. The student has now become the teacher!

My son is happy, growing and thriving. I couldn’t have imagined a better place for him.

You may wonder... does my son still have challenges?

Yes, he does, but with the help of medication, maturity and learning how to manage his limitations, he is able to navigate through challenges really well.

As excited as I was to see him graduate middle school in a cap and gown, he adamantly refused to participate. Believe me, I tried to encourage him! As he said, “It’s not my kind of thing (crowds, stages etc.).” He also refused to go to the 8th grade trip to the water park.

I admit that I was a little sad to see all the kids in cap and gown, knowing that I would not be able to see my own son do the same, but I also realized that it has taken years for my son to recognize his own limitations and to avoid situations that might trigger him. And the fact that he can successfully do that now is a huge victory, one that I need to honor and respect. So I had to push aside my own selfish feelings and recognize that this ceremony is not about me and what makes me happy, instead, it’s about my son and what makes him happy.

So we humbly celebrated at his favorite place over burgers, fries and ice cream cones with just mom and dad.

Seeing him happy that day was a memory I will cherish forever. And I didn’t have to wait through a long graduation procession to see it!

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I hope that this recent update encourages all of you who are in the deep pit of this struggle. I was there—everyday. We never thought it was possible to arrive where we are today. But I hope to encourage you that IT IS possible. Hang in there, be kind to one another, protect your marriage, hang on for dear life, do whatever you have to in order to survive and with the right tools and in our case medication, along with a dose of maturity and the grace of God, things will get so much better for you and your family. Never give up!