Monday, July 8, 2013

Update on Zack: Back to School, and Madi and Daddy's "Last Summer"

So today marks Zack's first day back to school at the Institute for Child Development at Binghamton University, and also marks the last summer he'll spend there, as he's integrating into public school this coming fall.  

Understandably, my feelings about this are mixed. Zack has been attending year-round school - including summer school - since he was diagnosed as severely autistic just after his second birthday. 

And he's made great strides at BU, moving from a one-word vocabulary to framing complex, interactive, intuitive sentences. He can read and add like nobody's business, and has been downgraded to moderately/mildly autistic. 

And even though I've always felt bad that my pre-K boy had to attend school year-round, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Anyone who has autistic children or has worked with them understands that schedule and routine are key to managing their day. Hash out a regular, active, appropriate daily routine, and someone with Zack's level of autism is manageable. 

So Zack attending school these past three summers has helped give him a routine, provided structure to his summer...which is not to say I couldn't have given him structure, but as Madi was still growing into herself those three summers, and Zack himself was growing past his developmental delays, those summers and all that free time would've been a struggle for us all.

Also, these past summers with Madi have been full of bonding and fun adventures. By now, she and I have a list of excursions that we've planned out for the summer ahead. And this will be the last summer we have together, because next summer - unless we find a summer program elsewhere,since his public school doesn't offer one - Zack will be home with us.

And, though I'm a little loathe to lose that special "Madi/Daddy" time, I think Zack has developed to the point where he can join us on MOST of our adventures. Though he still struggles for emotional control at times, (lately, he goes from zero to screaming to try and get his way), his socially acceptable behavior has been marvelous lately. He was nearly perfect this past week at the Adirondacks, so I'm fairly confident that adding him to our summer routine next year won't be so troublesome. 

Of course, I am a little nervous about him leaving ICD and integrating into the public school system. We've toured the facilities for school next year and are very impressed, and even his teachers at the ICD believe he no longer needs to be there. But the ICD has become a comfort zone for us. We know the teachers, know the routine, know what to expect. Like any unknown situation, Zack integrating into the public school system has us a little anxious.

He's ready, however, and he deserves it. He's going to be a smart kid, which was never in question. The thing that still hovers in the future is how well will he adapt and grow? He'll never become unautistic. Even if his diagnosis is downgraded even further, he will still always be autistic. The question is: how well will he adapt to the world around him, and learn to function in school and then society in spite of his autism?

And of course, in the next year, while Zack's integrating into the public school system, I'll be trying to land a book deal, Madi will be entering third grade and heading toward her first round of state tests, and Abby will be returning to school to receive her certification as a Registered Nurse.

But that's okay. A calm year would probably be boring....