For the first few years on our journey with Autism, I had a deep seeded BELIEF that I could cure Julianna’s Autism.
That with the right interventions, the right therapies, the right teachers, the right education for me, I could make it go away.
I remember sitting in the cafeteria of YMCA that had a Sunday Social Skills Class for kids with Autism and another mom feeling the same way about her son with Autism.
She would say… “the goal is integrated kindergarten and we’re out of here”
“What is that?” I asked.
She proceeded to tell me that Integrated Kindergarten in New York is a co-taught class by both a general education and special education teacher.
Each class had a handful of kids with IEPs and the rest were neuro-typical children. In this class all the kids had to finish the school age curriculum by the end of the year.
This sounded fucking amazing.
Julianna would still get whatever special supports she needed to thrive, but would be moving along academically like all other children. She’d integrate with them during lunch and recess. It felt like a dream place… Nirvana.
Having this goal of integrated kindergarten really helped me to double down on my beliefs that I could cure Julianna of Autism.
We worked even harder than ever because this class was always in my peripheral vision at all times.
I used to joke to my husband that the Autism Diagnosis was the equivalent of us doing prison time.
“We’ll get our GED, we’ll stay out of trouble, we’ll “do all the things” and we’ll get out of the Autism Club.”
During those first few years the thought I could cure my daughter of Autism served me well.
When I wanted to take it easy or quit, I thought about her in that classroom and doubled down on our efforts.
When it came time for that last IEP meeting before her Kindergarten placement I was delighted to hear the professionals agree she was a great candidate for an integrated classroom.
Walking out of that meeting felt like I was walking out of the Autism Prison Gates.
I felt like I was on a float at a Giant Parade, waving the Autism Club Goodbye.
It was a dream come true.
We were done with Autism and as crazy as it sounds I truly felt she was neuro-typical now.
When Kindergarten started it all felt so amazing.
I signed her up for Girl Scouts and volunteered to be a troop leader with another mom. We’ll call her little girl “Katie”.
Our daughters “seemed” to become fast close friends. I couldn’t believe we were here and it all felt so surreal.
That first year at school I was determined to stay focused on continuing to support Julianna with whatever she needed academically.
But I was so focused on Math and Penmanship that I totally ignored the social and emotional component of being in school.
When Julianna would talk about school, she would mention how she was best friends with “Katie”.
But when we were at girl scout troop meetings, it seemed that “Katie” wouldn’t want to sit anywhere near Julianna.
Chalking it up to them being so little. I didn’t think much of it.
Then at another troop meeting at my home it seemed like Katie was interested in other kids and wasn’t talking to Julianna as much. I spoke with Katie’s Mom and I asked…
“Julianna calls Katie her best friend, do you know if Katie feels the same?“
The mother reassured me, saying, “Of course!”
However, reality hit home when we attended Katie’s Birthday party one hot July day, which turned out to be a pool party.
As I dropped my legs into the cool pool, I watched my daughter “playing in the yard with Katie”.
Everything appeared fine until I heard my daughter scream and run to me in tears.
Thinking she might have been stung by a bee, I hurriedly checked her over and asked, “What happened?”
Through her tears, my daughter sobbed, “Katie doesn’t want to play with me!”
Turns out for months Katie found my daughter annoying and, because she couldn’t avoid her, resorted to making fun of her, teasing her, and excluding her from playgroups altogether.
These cues a neurotypical child would have picked up on, Julianna was oblivious to, and it all came to head at the birthday party.
I asked Julianna, “Do you want to go home?” and she cried “No, I just want Katie to play with me.”
My heart sank. I knew something was wrong with this relationship for months.
I willfully wanted to believe this was a real friendship when I knew in my heart it wasn’t.
I did this because believing anything else would mean that Autism is still here.
And in that moment at the party looking at Julianna feeling the looks of all the parents and children staring at us, I realized….
Autism is here to stay.
Julianna will get older, learn new things… and this will potentially come with a ‘side of Autism’.
When we drove home that day, I held back tears the entire way.
For a whole year I thought I left Autism behind. Now what?
Being in the identity of the Master Fucking Problem Solving Mom I am, this realization was a blow but I don’t ever stay here.
I found a new thought to believe and I’ve believe it till this very day.
Julianna can have Autism, and she can also live an AMAZING INDEPENDENT LIFE!
Julianna’s still got work to do.
We’ve taken a few lumps and bumps in the social skills department.
But she has also created many new healthy friendships as she’s gotten older.
I don’t regret believing I could cure her of Autism. For many years that thought served me well.
I tried so many things..I did not quit because I believed it to be true.
Now believing an independent life is possible WITH Autism is an EVEN BETTER THOUGHT!
It’s a thought that never needs correcting… and I feel it’s true to my bones.
This new thought required new actions including teaching my daughter valuable social skills.
She is in 5th grade now and 2 years ago we were traveling to an amusement park with a new friend and this chatty little blonde we’ll call “Kimmy” was rattling off all her friends and she said something I’ll never forget…
“And my best friend of all is Julianna Rogers.”
And this time while driving… I was holding back happy tears.
And they have been TRUE best friends ever since.
P.S. If you desperately want next level skills like Social Skills, Any and ALL Life Skills, for your child with Autism, that is what my private coaching program The Accelerator is all about.
If you’re interested in learning more, you have 1 more day to book a call to work with me. I only have 2 spots left. If you’re interested, comment to this blog post or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with 3 days and times that work for a chat.