This isn't the first time I've lifted something my son Wayne has posted on Facebook about his autistic child and namesake, Wayne Jr. I'm proud of both of them, dad and son, so I thought I'd share.
Here's what Wayne Sr. said:
I had the opportunity this year to have two of my children graduate. The first graduation was pretty much what you would expect. My oldest daughter, Elizabeth, graduated from high school. Liz is a fantastic student, is loved by all her teachers, and is respected by her peers. She graduated as a member of National Honor Society, and I was very proud to see her walk across the stage and get her diploma.
The second graduation was not what you might expect. My son Wayne Jr. graduated from preschool. This was my first child to go through this rituaal, and I didn't know what to expect, especially since Wayne was one of two children with autism in a class of 15 students.
The class was a wonderful setting for Wayne. I had worried that he would be ridiculed by the children in the class because of his disability, but in fact, the opposite was true. The kids loved him. They were able to see him for the sweet boy that he is, and they figured out ways to deal with the tics that come with autism.
The parents of the class made a big deal out of the day. They made caps for the children to wear, there were diplomas made up, and the children had been practicing a song that they would perform for the parents.
All parents are apprehensive about their children being on stage. As we sit there watching, I think we are convinced that if we put enough body English on our thoughts, we can WILL them to success. As the class walked up on stage, I spotted Wayne in his blue shirt and gold tie, and I saw that he had a Lego toy in his hand. I felt myself wilt. Mine was the only child that was carrying a toy. I wanted to leap up and explain: HE HAS AUTISM!!! Instead, I thought to myself, "Please let him do well," and I hoped people wouldn't notice the thing Wayne was carrying. I knew why he was carrying it. His routine was very out of sorts; school that day was different from what it normally was, and it was frightening to him. A familiar toy soothed him.
The music started, and I got to see my sweet autistic son march with all the other normal children and sing, "We Are the Dinosaurs." He did all the motions, and he roared, and when they were done, he clapped his hands and cheered with his classmates. All my fears about him failing were totally unjustified.
This is my first time as the father of a special needs child, and I suppose the temptation is there to overprotect him and try to shield him from the possibility of embarrassment. I'm so glad I didn't, because he made me proud.
That happened last spring. The thing that got me thinking about it again was a conversation Shea and I had this past week. We don't talk much about Wayne's future, because we really don't know what to expect. We don't know if he will become a functioning member of society, or if he will be able to live in a group home, or if he will live with Shea and me 'til we are too old to take care of him. We just don't know. And the not knowing is frightening, to some extent.
Wayne gave us a treat this week that kind of helped show Shea and me that he is really a sharp little boy, and he has the ability to learn to care for himself. The act itself seemed simple, but it showed us a level of self-sufficiency. One morning, Wayne got up and was hungry. So, he went over to the fridge, opened the freezer door, and got out an Eggo Waffle. Then he opened the cabinet, took out the toaster, plugged it in, put the waffle in, and pressed the lever down. When the waffle was done, he unplugged the toaster and took the waffle and wandered out of the room.
That act showed that Wayne has the ability to comprehend a task that has multiple steps, and it gave Shea and me a great deal of comfort and hope.
I think that my little autistic boy is going to provide me many opportunities to be a very proud father.
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