Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My son's grade card came and all things considered, we were pleased -- nothing lower than a B-. As I've indicated earlier, in terms of raw intellectual power he ought to be a straight A student. But he has learning issues that center around organization, and last year we saw more than our share of Cs and even lower. I hope that over time he is able to master compensating techniques for organizing and earn even higher grades, but for his first grading period of high school, that wasn't too shabby.

I had a conversation yesterday that made me stop and appreciate how good things really are with Sam. I called a friend I hadn't talked to in about four months. It is one of those friendships that grew out of the fact that our boys were classmates and involved in many activities together, but eventually took on a life of its own. I was way overdue to have checked in with her.

Her son has Asperger's Syndrome. I think most people are familiar with that term now, but in case you have never heard it, Asperger's is a special type of autism. Those with it are often very intelligent, as her son is, but they have a lot of trouble with normal human interaction. They don't usually make eye contact and they are unable to read non-verbal cues and facial expressions. When her son was in early elementary school, I didn't think he would be able to make it in society in any "normal" capacity -- he was that disabled. But he has had a lot of good therapy and by middle school, he was really blossoming. He had friends, he interacted with other kids in seemingly normal ways, he made jokes...It was really uplifting to see how far he had come.

For high school, he went to a private all-male college preparatory school and I had heard from another mother that it hadn't worked out well for him. He had transferred to a co-ed Catholic high school with a good reputation. I hadn't felt unduly alarmed by that -- the all-male school in question is pretty rigorous and pretty rigid, and lots of boys who start there find it's not the right place and transfer somewhere else successfully.

I'm sorry to say that was not the case for my friend's son. He found the new high school emotionally overwhelming. There were so many new teachers to try to connect with and understand, so many new kids to try to get acquainted with, the constant changing of classes and input of too many stimuli. She said he completely withdrew into himself to the point that he would sometimes go a whole day at school without speaking a word, or no more than monosyllables.

So yesterday he was off being evaluated at a special high school designed for kids with learning disabilities. She said that if they do not accept him, she feels her only option is some kind of home schooling. And she didn't sound any more excited about that option than I would be. This is a very, very intelligent boy, and the goal is to get him to college. It would be very, very difficult to provide him all that he needs in a homeschool setting. Yet I share her certainty that if he can get a college education, he can find a niche -- probably in the computer industry -- where he can apply the things he is good at and build a satisfying life for himself. Besides, he DID learn to relate to his classmates at the old school, eventually. Moving into an isolated setting where he gets no practice at that can't be good for him.

So today my heart and prayers are with her as she awaits the decision from the potential new school. And inside, I rage at the injustice of a world that can't accomodate a kid like this.

Oh -- and I hope this doesn't sound insensitive -- and I also breathe a little prayer of thanks that my son's transition to high school has been as overall positive as it has. This sad story is a huge reminder to me that while my son's road has a few bumps, his journey is progressing pretty well.

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