I have a meeting today. It’s the start of a new school year: new teacher, new classmates. We are lucky to have our son enrolled in a private school for ‘gifted, socially quirky’ kids. This is his second year there. Last year was okay. Not great. Not good. Just okay. There are two reasons for it just being okay. First, my son was not in a ‘good place’ mentally and behaviorally to be a productive student. Second, the teachers had low expectations for him.
The latter being the reason for today’s meeting: expectations. They need to be set. Higher. But what do I really believe my son is capable of?
This is a hard discussion for me to have with myself, philosophically. Honestly I simply avoid it. Not because I don’t know the possibilities, but because exploring the possibilities exposes a raw nerve in me. We are really, really close to catching a glimpse of real recovery. But he still has those days that make it hard to believe we’ll ever get there. You know those days. So instead of dreaming about future hopes and possibilities, I stay focused on today and what I’m doing now to achieve recovery. This is the perspective that works for me and my personality.
But here I am this morning getting ready to communicate to his teachers my expectations for my son. My dreams for my son. My hopes for my son.
The expectations I set for him need to be credible so the teachers will take me seriously. My big-sky dreams need to be grounded in some sort of reality. I have to lay the groundwork. I’ll need to show them the progress he’s made over the summer. And it has been an awesome summer.
I start out by showing them the handwriting samples. The ‘before’ sample from the end of June. Legible but messy. Not the work of an NT eight-year-old.
Now it’s time to talk Legos. At the end of last school year — three months ago — he could not sit down and attend to a Lego building exercise without 1:1 assistance. Not even the smallest Lego set. Last week he sat down –- all by himself — and, in a matter of hours, he built a 689-piece Lego Batman set. All. by. himself!
Now it’s time. Time to talk about expectations.
So there I am looking across the table at his teachers.
Why is this so hard for me? Why is it so difficult for me to have a simple conversation about my dreams for my son?
I take a deep breath and start talking:
“My husband and I expect that our son will recover from autism – including his attention issues. I expect that when he is 18 my son will go away to college. I need you to help keep him on track to complete third grade on time while he is detoxing. We will have our rough patches . . . but I know we can do it!”
I don’t look at them to see how they react because, honestly, I don’t care. I don’t care if they *believe* that recovery is possible or not. I just need them to do their part to pull the best out of my son.
What a relief! It is over. Now I can back to my mental comfort zone where I just focus on the here and now.
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