The 1st time an educator suggested my son was autistic, I vehemently disagreed. My response was defensive and ignorant. I assured the well-meaning 1st-grade teacher that my son was, in fact, affectionate, sensitive to others and most certainly loved to snuggle.
I was correct.And, so was she.
This year, Dane began a new year at his fourth school, in 6 years. Unlike any of our schools in the past, the administration conducted thoughtful evaluations of Dane's learning methods, and where he was in his educational needs. His teacher requested a little letter outlining Dane's "key gifts and characteristics", I have shared that letter here:
Thank you again for your interest in Dane. Per your request, I have attempted to summarize some of his key gifts and characteristics below. 😊
Dane is truly among the kindest, most soft-hearted humans you will meet. He is very sensitive to others’ feelings and has a deep compassion for animals and humans alike. Dane is inquisitive and thrives in structured, routine environments where there is predictability and he can anticipate what to expect ahead. He enjoys golf, basketball and video games (ugh!) and is a solid reader when the books are of interest. He is a gifted piano player and has been playing piano since he was 3 years old, although I can’t say he enjoys practicing! He has a hilarious sense of humor and is full of context-appropriate one-liners that keep our family in stitches! He is a ‘rule-follower’, prayerful and darn insightful for a kid. He truly strives to please others and wants to be liked. He is most comfortable at home, with Mom, Dad, and his teenage brother with whom he is very close.
Dane was born 5 weeks prematurely and has high functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder. He is not great at eye contact and can be a little shy at first, but he is affectionate and aware of others’ feelings. He has struggled a bit with the more abstract academic concepts as his brain is very literal in its thought processes. Sometimes it takes him a little longer to process ideas so he can be hesitant in his speaking when he has something to share.
After moving to Orlando from Maryland in 2014 when Dane was in 2nd grade, Dane was “counseled out” of his previous private school and transitioned to Dr. Phillips Elementary. This was the 3rd school change in 4 years. We know that this has also hindered his academic progress. Dane is aware that he is repeating 5th grade because of some of his scholastic struggles and is very dedicated to reaching his goal of straight A’s this year.
Dane struggles socially and does not have a lot of friends outside of his younger cousin and the three of us. We have come to understand that is where he is most happy and relinquished the idea that play dates and sleepovers are necessary, and that these relationships will grow at their own pace.
His quirky personality and good-natured heart are what makes Dane so loved by everyone he meets. I know you all will have a wonderful year together and God has put Dane right where he belongs!
Oh, he would not be happy with me if I left out his very best friend, our sweet dog Holly. 😊
We are only just beginning our journey and learning more about the way Dane's amazing brain works every day! I thank every mom and educational professional for all the love and support along the way and am so excited to connect with more spectrum moms to bring awareness.
I would LOVE to hear from you and any tips you have for Autsim Spectrum Disorder and your journey.