Graduation Day. It’s here. After more than 15 years of school. A day filled with pride, excitement, anticipation…and relief. A day we were never sure we would have the opportunity to celebrate. There were no guarantees he would graduate. And, as with most things concerning Connor, he kept us guessing until the very last assignment in his very last class. But, he did it! Barely, but it still counts.
Connor was kicked out of multiple pre-schools. Started kindergarten in Texas and finished kindergarten from a PICU hospital bed in Alaska. He wrote a very polite, grammatically correct death threat to his 2nd grade teacher. Remarkably, he was only suspended once. His 4th grade parent – teacher conference began with, “some people think inside the box, some people think outside the box; Connor doesn’t know there is a box.” In the 7th grade, when asked to submit a poem he felt represented him, he turned in the lyrics to “Freak on a Leash” by Korn. Connor has taken apart and rebuilt anything and everything that could be plugged in and turned on. His fascination with tools, electronics, computers, building and creating started at birth, I believe. He loves to “modify” everything he touches. His favorite t-shirt says in big, bold letters, “I VOID WARRANTIES.” And he does. At 12 years old, Connor joined a class action lawsuit – without telling us! – due to a faulty part he found in his laptop computer. He was awarded a brand new computer. He skillfully cooks and bakes with confidence and considers the kitchen to be his. A shopping trip once required police intervention to calm him after a meltdown in Wal-Mart. One summer, there was a very creative attempt to motorize a bike with a washing machine motor.
There is so much to reflect on as we prepare for his high school graduation. Some days, we simply survived. Others, we thrived. Through it all, we have been deeply grateful for understanding and supportive teachers, neighbors, co-workers, bosses and friends. Connor’s Mamaw was always his biggest advocate. She was his cheerleader no matter what, even on those days when his dad and I found it hard to not be buried by the weight of parenting a child with autism.
On this day, we are grateful and we celebrate – the good days (there were many), the rough days (there were more than I want to remember), the mundane days (there were a few, but Connor has kept life interesting) – and we genuinely look forward to all that is yet to come.
This post was written by Stone Soup Group’s Executive Director, Mary Elam.