He graduated from Purefoy Elementary School this morning and I couldn't be prouder. This kid even snagged a couple of awards - he made the A/B Honor Roll and received a Certificate of Excellence in Science. After the program this morning, we could tell Will was struggling with what to do - he didn't know if he wanted to stay at school with his friends or leave for the day and join some friends at Jumpstreet (the 5th graders/new graduates were allowed to leave). He was so torn. Autism tried to creep in (we had to calm him down and asked him to make good choices) - you could feel his anguish. He finally decided on McDonald's and just coming home.
I remembered to bring tissue in case I started crying, I managed to keep it together for the most part - I teared up was during the slide show when they showed Will's kindergarten and 5th grade school pics and ALL his friends cheered for him. But goodness... I lost it when we got to Will's classroom. His special education teachers and paras responsible for him the last two years were all standing there when Will started crying and said, "I'm going to miss my friends." We were all done. This moment reminded me that autism doesn't define this kid. Because of autism, he's not supposed to have feelings, let alone be able to communicate them. But there he was, sad because he was going to miss all of his friends next year.
Which brings me to an update about where he will go to school in the fall. A lot, and I mean A LOT, of people saw my blog post about my sadness and frustration regarding Will's middle school placement. I've waited to post an update out of fear that Will would find out from someone else and not us that he is, in fact, going to Pioneer Heritage next year. I know he's probably heard us talking about it but we haven't actually had the discussion yet. We were hoping for a little separation from his elementary school friends before breaking the news. After receiving a lot of feedback and input from people who have worked with Will, we are comfortable with his placement (although we still REALLY think he belongs at Griffin next year).
So here's the deal... we arranged a meeting so I could go check out Pioneer Heritage and meet the teacher. We had a chance to sit and talk about some of our frustrations and concerns. I felt like we were being heard and that the school district is aware that their system for placing students with special needs and constantly moving them around needs some attention. I think the teacher at Pioneer Heritage is phenomenal and that Will is going to do great in her class. At our ARD meeting this week, we also discussed and addressed concerns with the hopes that we will make Will's transition as smooth as possible.
We've maintained from the outset that our concern about Will's placement stemmed from a lack of consideration about his particular needs, strengths and weaknesses. We're still concerned about Will leaving his peers and having to move yet again in a year or two, but we strongly believe that these conversations should be happening before the placement is ever made and hopefully voicing our concerns will help in the future. I'm still very, very sad about Will not continuing on with his peers at Griffin. So many of his friends came up to him today and said how much they'd miss him. And it broke my heart every. single. time. Not just for him, but for them - I know how much they've learned from Will these last two years. But I keep reminding myself that hopefully, Will will be in school again with his peers. If all goes as it should, he may meet them again in high school.
So thank you all for your thoughts, prayers and messages. We're feeling the love. Your support has made it clear that this is a fight worth fighting, not just for Will, but for all of the kids here in our district. I'm not done yet.