R had his first official week of school this week. I don’t want to say too much. I’m afraid to expound on how well things went, for fear that fate will give him a terrible week next week to make me eat my words. So I won’t be saying too much. I will share a few things.
I’m not sure if I’ve written much about R’s placement. He is full-day in a substantially separate classroom, meaning that he is in a separate special-education classroom, not an integrated (mix of sped and gened) room. His classroom houses children with severe disabilities ages pre-k through 1st grade. There are 7 other students. He has a 1:1 aide with him all day, and receives twice-weekly direct speech and OT. All of the staff that work with him are wonderful. We have really had the opportunity to get to know them all over the last 3 months while they worked with us daily on R’s transition- something I’ve written about here.
The Friday before R’s first week he stayed in his classroom for 2 hours and did not want to leave. We knew he was ready. When his first day arrived, the reality that he would be there for a whole 6 hours without me really started to sink in as I got him ready that morning. I dropped him off, me a bundle of nerves, and he went right into his wagon (his teacher and aide had begun taking him to the classroom in a wagon after we discovered how much he loved that). He was calm and happy and did not spare me a glance as he rode away. I was happy for him, so happy to see him perfectly comfortable at school with his staff. But I still left holding back tears. It’s hard to walk away from your baby for the first time, and R will always be my baby.
When I arrived to pick him up he came out all bubbly and smiley. They said he had a wonderful day and was happy all day. When I got home I had an email from his teacher with pictures from his first day. He looked so sweet and joyful!
The rest of the week continued to go well, with the exception of a cold he developed. Still, despite the cold he continued to have good days at school and came home to us incredibly happy. Both my husband and I could not stop remarking on what a great mood he was in from the time he got home until bedtime. As if his time away had made home all the more interesting and exciting, he has been incredibly joyful and content each afternoon and evening.
Perhaps the best thing has been the happy dance he does every time he spots me when his aide and teacher bring him out to me. He starts off walking the way he always does- unsteady and distracted- stopping to try and lick a wall or a puddle, or rub his fingers over bricks. They get closer and closer to me until I can’t wait and I close the gap and call to him. As soon as he sees me his entire face breaks out in the biggest grin. It stretches ear to ear, his eyes spark with pleasure, and he begins tap-dance-like involuntary body movements of excitement. Some autistic kids flap or jump when excited. My son does something in between. He bounces on his feet, not quite a jump but almost, tapping and dancing his feet around, lifting his arms in joyful little tremors. I scoop him up and we hold each other so tight. He squeezes and presses his cheek to mine, he giggles his delight outloud. He babbles happily. I can’t stop smiling. Leaving him every morning is worth it just for that reception every afternoon.