I've been trying to gather my thoughts lately, to give an update on Ellie, and all things Autism.
This month of April comes around every year, and with it all the awareness talk of this complex disorder she deals with. We deal with.
So how is Ellie?
Ellie is Ellie. She's an incredible girl, with many amazing traits, and many mind boggling problems.
Autism is hard. It's hard for her, hard for us, hard for her teachers. It's impossible to define. It's all encompassing for all of us. It makes her life awesome, and it makes her life awful. It gives her amazing abilities in some areas, and makes her life more stressful than anyone can imagine in other ways. I am continuously floored by this disorder.
Ellie is twelve now. On the brink of the teenage years, and junior high. She is in a regular education class, as she always has been, but she gets a lot of additional supports and therapies at school. We attempted private school at the beginning of this year, and only lasted a month. There were a lot of factors that went into our decision to try the private school, and a lot of factors that brought her back to her public school. Long story short, she cannot function without the extra support that her public school provides. It was an eye opener for me.
We see the best in our kids, even when we see the worst. I see her amazing brain at work daily. I also see her struggle with things that my first grader doesn't. Ellie still does not understand how to socialize with her peers. It's a foreign concept to her. She is single mindedly focused on some tasks, but cannot even begin to focus on things that don't interest her. She is getting better at expressing her needs and concerns in an acceptable way, but she has a long way to go. I see great progress from her, but also see how much she still can't do.
I see her make it through a long dinner at a restaurant...amazing. But I also see that to make it through that dinner, I had to do a lot of prep work before we arrived, find her a chair that was "comfortable", and talk her out of her tree when the unknowing waiter adjusted the umbrella near our table and the sun shown into her eyes.
I get word from her teacher that she got very upset and ran away from her classroom. Yikes. But I also see that she didn't scream or say mean things, and she when she ran away, she ran to her safe place, her SPED class.
So there's the bad and there's the good. It's a constantly moving roller coaster that we are somewhat familiar with, and somewhat shocked by, every day.
Truly, no one can understand what her life is like, or what our lives are like, except for possibly another Autism family. It's exhausting. It's heartbreaking. It's beyond stressful. It brings out the best and worst of us.
I put on my brave face most days, and do what I have to do for all of us. I pray for her future and plan for her present. I push the "why" thoughts away, try to help her through the worst times, and celebrate the good times.
As for awareness...I'm glad it's getting there. It needs to. Autism is on the rise, there's no doubt about that. My afternoon preschool class is full of sweet 5 year olds, all with Autism. I love them. I love their quirks, their eccentricities. I love working with people who understand more about this disorder than I do. It's been good for me.
One foot in front of the other. One hour, one minute at a time. We'll make it.
Til next April...