Three years and four months ago, I didn’t want to take Mrs. M’s advice. I’d spent days cleaning and moving my son’s crappy plastic brainless toys into the background, so that his appropriate educational ones were more visible than usual. I needed my house to reflect what an engaged parent I was.
I wanted it to be obvious that we played, puzzled, and read, and I wanted to somehow show that certainly the fact that my son was Officially Delayed wasn’t my fault, although part of me will always wonder. Certainly, I can always do, or could have done more. Read one more book. Stayed outside for another 30 minutes. Something.
Except on the days when I couldn’t, blinking at the bright sun, stunned that it was only 1:00pm after a trip to the playground, lunch, a nap and a walk, wondering how to possibly fill the next seven hours.
But mostly, we played, even when it was with the crappy plastic brainless toys.
I sat on the floor with my son while we waited for them to come. Two special education teachers, scheduled to evaluate my little boy and talk with me about Preschool Autism Classroom (PAC) and noncategorical preschool (non-cat).
I remember feeling strangely calm while waiting for the knock on the door. There was no more cleaning to be done. Or, there was, but I felt okay about the state of the rooms they’d see.
I checked my phone for new email, and felt guilty about that because surely better mothers don’t check email while their son is three feet away from them (they do, by the way…they check it frequently, and there’s nothing wrong with that).
Finally, they came. And they were everything I needed. They were knowledge, acceptance, light, and hope. And they were in my living room.
They talked with me about Applied Behavior Analysis therapy (ABA), and about non-cat preschool. They interacted with my son, and Mrs. M made him laugh. She dragged him around the kitchen table on a blanket while I wondered how her 90-pound body managed to be so strong, and at her, who saw him for the little boy he was then, usually so shy and reserved. She had him laughing within minutes, while I cried at the kitchen table, wondering whether or not to take their advice.
Back then, I’d not yet let go of my dream. I imagined taking my son to a preschool co-op program – or a Montessori like the one I attended as a child – three mornings each week. The visiting teachers recommended that I instead enroll him in PAC for 27.5 hours each week. I could choose whether to drive him there and back, or sign up for the short bus, although they didn’t call it that.
“But he doesn’t have autism,” I said to our visiting teachers, while wondering whether he did and being almost sure that he didn’t while wondering whether he did, because most three-year-olds spoke in sentences and said the word “water,” while my son asked for water by saying “ah.”
I didn’t want to take their advice. I didn’t want them to be right. I didn’t want to have my son in school for so many hours each week. “He still naps in the afternoons,” I pleaded. “How will that work?” “If he falls asleep, we’ll let him sleep, but we don’t have a scheduled nap time,” they replied. “Fuck,” I thought. “How will this possibly work?”
I agreed to try PAC for two weeks. Mrs. M knew more about it than I did, and I wanted to do what was best for my son even when the best for him wasn’t aligned with my dreams. To PAC he went, although not on the short bus, at least for that first year.
On the first day of school, I was a wreck. Convinced that he’d resist and cry. I did’t believe in “crying it out” when he was a baby, and I didn’t believe that I could walk away from him then, were there tears.
Mrs. M greeted us at the school entrance. She knew what she was doing. She had a wagon, a limp balloon that she blew up and then let fart in his face, and he never looked back at me. Although that first morning, I sat in the car, bawling for a long while, I took Mrs. M’s advice, and gave it two weeks.
I ended up giving it almost two years, at which point, I listened to her again when she told me that it was time for my little boy to move into non-cat.
Thank you, Mrs. M. I’m glad that I listened to your advice. To those of you struggling? When A Special Education Teacher Has Advice, at least consider it. I’m so glad that I did.
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post of “I didn’t listen to anybody’s advice when…”
Host: Me, Kristi from Finding Ninee, and this week’s co-hosts are Michelle of Crumpets and Bollocks and Ruchira from Abracadabra.