Before Tyson entered Kindergarten I had so many worries.
I was afraid that he would be lonely and forgotten, that the other kids in his class would make fun of him or at the very least, ignore him.
I was afraid that no one would hear his ‘silent voice’ or that he would be too stressed in the school environment to use his communication iPad.
I was afraid that Tyson wouldn’t be able to tell his teachers if he needed to go to the washroom or if he needed help opening his recess.
I was afraid that they would not understand Tyson’s subtle cues when he needed a break or when he was upset.
I was afraid the teachers would be ill-equipped to teach a nonverbal child.
But my biggest fear played like a movie in my mind during the day and filled my dreams at night.
I was afraid, terrified actually, that he would escape.
For the weeks leading up to school, my mind would drift and I would think about imaginary phone calls from school telling me they had misplaced my child.
For those caregivers that do not parent a special needs child, you may think that my worrying was a bit excessive, borderline anxiety disorder even, however, these fears are all real possibilities in our world.
Leaving Tyson in the care of anyone but family was a very hard concept to accept.
Many families like ours have never left their autistic child in the care of anyone outside the home for more than a few hours, and now we are expected to leave them with strangers for 7 hours a day.
I had some much uncertainty about school that I decided to delay Tyson’s entry to school by a full year and when he did go to kindergarten, I insisted on partial days.
Dear Moms and Dads
I am here to tell you that although worrying is very normal, it can overshadow this very beautiful and natural part of growing up.
When Lincoln started kindergarten I was emotional but also very excited for him.
When Tyson started kindergarten it was a total different experience.
I was scared to death.
I would have preferred that he stayed home with me and Mark where he was safe.
But Tyson has learned so many things at school above and beyond academics, from turn-taking to active listening to simply tolerating sitting next to a classmate.
School has been one of the best experiences for Tyson for his personal growth and development.
Will it be all sunshine and rainbows? Of course not.
There will be issues to work through but children with extra challenges can have success in school when they are provided with the right tools and supports.
We have been blessed with a wonderful school family and so our experience may not be the norm.
I know many families like ours struggle with school and I would never want to dismiss that struggle.
When I think about the start of the school year, I think just as much about my friends’ kiddos and how hard school can be for so many of them.
And I also understand that the school environment is not for every child.
But if you have decided to send your little one on Wednesday, try to keep this in mind.
It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.
A very long 13-year marathon!
Why not start the school year with a dose of positivity and a little hope for the best?
Take a moment and enjoy this very special day.
Your kiddo will never be starting Grade (fill in the blank) for the first time ever again.
Take that picture (if you can get them to stand still long enough).
Give them a kiss and a hug and wish them the best day and truly believe it is possible.
It’s a new year and with that comes all sorts of possibilities.
Life is too short to worry twice!
There is nothing gained from worrying today about how the year will go because there will be plenty of time to worry when the s$$t does hit the fan.
And to the moms and dads who are sending their babies to school for the first time ….
I see you.
I feel your fear.
I understand your worry.
I wish your babies schools that are provided with the resources they need, beautiful teachers who care about your child as much as you do, and classmates who care for them as their siblings do.
And one last thing, kinderstart is not a reflection of what kindergarten will be like. I promise 💜