As mothers, we are automatically the decision makers. I’ll admit, the realization that I was going to be responsible for making some of the most important decisions for another person was a little overwhelming.
Everyone kept telling me you are their mother, you will know what’s best. I still wasn’t confident about that at the time. When my son received his official autism diagnosis, those fears intensified. I didn’t have anyone in my life with autism or anyone who knew much about it. Mothering a son with autism, there are all these decisions that need to be made that could really affect his growth and development. I mean, if the tiniest thing like a stitch in his sock can cause serious morning meltdowns before school, how would being in the wrong school setting altogether affect him?
Our son is considered high functioning, so it was hard to figure out exactly where he needed to be. This played a huge factor during one of our most challenging times throughout his school journey. From the beginning, we were lucky enough to have a great support system. His teachers were always aware and on top of things. He was allowed gum to comfort him during school hours. They didn’t make a big deal out of the fact that he may not look at them while they were teaching because they knew he was taking in all the information. While he did have a few issues with bullying, his classmates accepted him for the most part. They continued to speak to him even though he probably wasn’t going to speak back. Academically, he could keep up with his peers, and he made great grades.
When third grade rolled around, things quickly began to spiral. The work pace began to quicken, he had two teachers instead of one, and his classroom size was bigger. He began to struggle. Mornings began to get harder, there were more meltdowns about shirt tags and shoes than there normally was. He went from an A student to getting Fs on his progress reports. I would pick him up with dried tears on his face. “I HATE SCHOOL!” outbursts happened often. It was heartbreaking to watch.
People questioned why I didn’t pull him out of school right away. I genuinely didn’t know if pulling him out was the right answer. The fact that his younger sister was attending the same school played a big factor. Was it fair to pull her out of an environment where she was thriving just because it wasn’t working for him and vice versa? Should I split them up? With them going to school together, my son would always have a person. He didn’t have friends, and other than a few staff members, he was all alone. They were in different grades, but they ate together in the mornings, they sometimes got to play together on the playground, and during after-school activities, they had each other. This being the only school my son knew was another big factor. All the students knew him, I was familiar with the staff, and I trusted them. Would changing schools do more harm than good? He would pretty much have to start from scratch with getting to know students, staff, and environment; would that be too much for him?
After voicing my concerns, a family member sent me information about a school she thought would be great for him. After that first visit, I just knew — crazy how everyone kept telling me I would. My daughter wouldn’t benefit from the school so the decision was made, they were going to have to split up. I won’t lie, I was sad about separating them, but all that changed after just the first week of school. There is usually a few weeks of readjusting from the summer break that involves a lot of crying and pep talks, but not this time. He adapted pretty quickly to the changes. He didn’t even need me to walk him in — even though I did… don’t judge, I just had to check things out a little more! He was thriving again, and his confidence was slowly being built back up. In class, he was still being challenged but wasn’t overwhelmed.
Yes, there are still things we need to work on, but he gets in the car after a school day with a smile on his face. No more dried-up tear streaks! I am so happy we found his place, and lucky for this mama, he will be attending there until he graduates high school! This process taught me a lot about my son as well — he is more capable than even I give him credit for.
About the Author
Originally from Richmond, Virginia, Sharnique Green is a stay-at-home mom of three and proud resident of Jacksonville. Mothering a son with autism, a gifted daughter, and a strong-willed toddler who is lovingly called the boss baby, things can get crazy. Through this beautiful chaos called motherhood, Sharnique’s personal mom blog, That Dope Mom Blog, was created. She enjoys photography, writing, good food, and exploring the beautiful city of Jacksonville. You can catch captures of all her family’s fun adventures over on Instagram @thatdopemom.