I am asked this question often for both Harrison and Sydney. I admit I am always hesitant when they say “Are you Sydney’s mom? ” I am not sure if I being questioned by a teacher, staff member or a parent.
Last week at Harrison’s graduation ceremony from the youth academy, Sydney didn’t attend. I wanted to give my undivided attention to Harrison. Of course he asked for his sister, but I could tell that he enjoyed the attention from family and friends. After the ceremony a lady walked up to me and asked if I was in fact Sydney’s mother. I proudly said yes. She went on to say that she knew all about Sydney. Immediately I thought she was going to say that she heard about Sydney from parents, or teachers regarding her meltdowns or behaviors. I truly didn’t know what to think. She told me that her son was in class with Sydney two years ago. She said he would come home and talk about his friend Sydney. He told her that sometimes she didn’t like the classwork but she had her own personal teacher to help her. He said that Sydney always gave him a high-five when he said hello. He told his mom that Sydney is pretty and smart.
I fought hard to hold back the tears. Special needs parents always feel like we need to fight for inclusion, acceptance and understanding from other parents. We don’t want special treatment. We just want our children to be included without the negativity. I thanked this woman for sharing this with me and I also met her son and thanked him personally. When children are accepting of their peers with differences it also becomes a lesson for the families as well.
I would love to let children and parents know that Sydney is an amazing kid. That she has a big brother that proudly takes her under his wings. I want them to know that it is okay to speak to Sydney and ask her questions. Just allow her some process time to answer. Especially if it the questions aren’t about food, shopping or Disney.
I want her peers to know that Sydney wants to be included, really she wants to be the center of attention. It is okay to enter into her world. Please know that things may be overwhelming for her like the cafe and assemblies. Sydney is able to learn age appropriate behavior by being around her peers and I have seen her mature. It is very hard for me to stand back and watch her attempt to interact with peers. Some laugh at her and some accept her. It is in moments like this my heart breaks for my baby girl.
I want parents to know that although Sydney loves to sing and knew all of the songs for the school concerts. I didn’t let her participate because I didn’t want to ruin the experience for the class. Evening activities are tough for us. I admit my fear of having to explain our situation prevented me from letting her participate. But never again. What is the difference in Sydney needed to leave the stage and a child that gets stage fright and forgets their lines? I learned my lesson and she will participate and not be labeled by others that don’t understand Autism.
I want to let her peers and others know that Sydney is not deaf. She understands what is being said around her. She also can pick up on vibes from people. She knows who truly loves and cares for her and she knows who doesn’t. Sydney loves school. But she isn’t a fan of social studies. The movies and topics make her sad. I remember her teacher telling me how upset she was when they discussed September 11th in class. That’s when her emotions take over.
I would love to have Sydney involved in more after school activities to see if she likes them. But I have to be there to supervise her and I am still working when she gets out of school. Sydney tried baseball and liked it. But again anything happening after 5:00 pm after a long day of school is up for grabs. Sydney went to two dances in elementary school. Her teacher aka Momma Ross chaperoned the experiences for Sydney. Harrison even escorted her to the Daddy Daughter Dance. Now that Syd is in middle school, she hasn’t attended any dances yet. I want her to go to the school dances because she loves dancing and singing. That means I have to chaperone her which I don’t mind. But if it is a dance with 7th and 8th grade, I feel bad for Harrison. I don’t want him thinking I am there to spy on him. Or to embarrass him when I start dancing.
As the new school year approaches, please be aware that your child might come home and tell you about their friend in their class. The friend who needs some extra help during the day, the friend that screams or yells, wears headphones, or sees different therapists and only stays in class for a small amount of time. That friend could be my Sydney. My child that is trying to learn independence and curriculum that is modified for her and learn how to function in our world.
I believe in my heart that I was supposed to share my story with the world. If people want to talk with me, please share my contact information. I may not have all of the answers, but neither do the doctors and therapists. But I serve a God that has never failed me yet.
If you only knew how far we have come!