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I Spy

A mom of two children with autism writes about "spying" on her youngest son in his mainstream class.

 

His grainy image scrolls in and out on the screen as his wonderful case manager attempts to secure such modern technology (this is a new device for me, as baby monitors with video were not the in thing when Justin was born), and finally, she triumphs. I see my smallest son come into focus, sitting compliantly at his table, listening to and executing instructions with ease.

Zach has no idea he’s being watched, is oblivious as the camera picks up his every move and sends it out to me. I smile to see him so engaged in his center’s activity, am curious to see how his transition will go to the next one. I am securely ensconced in the hallway, because if he knew I was watching him, it would be game over. I am excited, because this is the first time I’ve even seen one of my kids in “education action”.

Fingers are crossed it goes well.

I know that his case manager is often in his classroom checking up on him and her other charges, so I ask her if this behavioral shapshot is fairly representative of his overall behavior, and she says it is. I turn back to the monitor and watch as he nonchalantly finishes his work and moves to the next area with ease, ready to accomplish his next task.

He does this without drama or fanfare (a rarity in our household as often I feel we live on Broadway), even brings out some dance moves as he finishes early, obviously needing to burn off steam before the next round of activities.

In my thirty minutes of spying I watch him initiate conversation and follow through with two different children. I am pleased to see one of his teachers differentiate instruction in reading, as Zach is way past “identify this sight word”, and needs to be instructed in that area with “real” books. I notice how immersed he is in each task set before him, witness that small smile of pride as he basks in the verbal praise he receives.

It’s clear that Zach is happy here. He’s being challenged appropriately. I’ve been able to score several playdates with him, and he’s making friends, a skillset I’m noticing has carried over to the classroom.

My boy is happy.

I think back to the summer, when for a large part of his educational hiatus I wondered if we’d ever get to this point. Every time I turned around there seemed to be a tantrum, an argument, or just extreme crankiness (and these were exhibited in places where he was supposedly having a good time). As much as I love this child, I’d have to say I was embroiled in extreme parenting this summer with him, trying to walk the line between latitude for so many changes (new impending school, new camp), and not letting his manners run amok.

I wish I would have known this was possible (I have yet to relinquish my desire both to know and alter the future), and am grateful we’ve reached this mecca. He’s thriving. One might say, and it’s a phrase often bandied about in education, that he mostly appears “indistinguishable from his peers”.

And while I hope he continues to grow here, to soak up all the knowledge and social cues and praise so integral to his progress, I also hope he remains his unique and singular self. Zach’s a child equally at home with wielding a sword or spending an hour entrenched in poring through Ranger Rick magazines that remain way beyond his reading level.

He asks questions about exoskeletons, which are immediately followed by a query about my happiness as the sole female in the house. My youngest child is generally exuberant and inquisitive, as well as impulsive. I never want to drench his fire just so he can meld into the crowd.

I hope he’ll continue to wield those dance moves with impunity.

After half an hour I feel we’ve seen enough, and together my co-spy and I close up shop. I thank her for the experience, and wend my way through the long corridors back to where I think the main office is located, and contemplate the rest of my morning before my son returns home. As I head toward my car my thoughts turn toward Zach, to all that today’s “show” promises for him. Happy. Engaged. Still himself.

It’s all I can ask for.

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