I’ll never forget one of the first times I started to feel like something was really different with Moe. I had enrolled us in a mommy & me class at the local community center. It was held in one of the preschool rooms, and I was so excited. I remember the class had a pretty wide age range, something like 9-36 months, and Moe was somewhere in the middle. I think he was around 17 months and had probably just started walking, but he may still have been crawling.
The class was really cute, structured like early preschool. The room had a dress up area, and a reading corner. It had art tables and a fish tank and a guinea pig. Unfortunately, Moe had very little interest in doing anything but wander around the room. Most of the kids were older by quite a bit and many of the parents already knew the teacher. It seemed like it could have been a fun class, but Moe was not ready. He was so too young and far behind, and the teacher was so busy catching up with other parents that I didn’t get to talk with her at all. I was really disappointed. I didn’t go back.
Now that Moe is in school, I decided to enroll Jelly in a similar class at the community center. It isn’t the exact same one – this class is for a smaller age range and is in a different room - but the teacher is the same. But this time is totally different. First, Jelly is one of the older kids in the class. And second, she is right where she needs to be. She is talking and signing and running around like she owns the place. I know that parenting isn’t a competition. But it does feel really nice to see your child doing well.
In addition, another parent noticed Jelly signing. We started talking because she signs with her daughter, who is a few months younger than Jelly. Somehow it came up that she is an occupational therapist. Turns out, before she left to have her baby, she was the OT at Moe’s school! She knows the magnificent Mrs M and remarked how lucky we are to be in her class.
The teacher then asked a question of the OT. She has a daughter who had a stroke at age 6. She is now 13, and still struggling with some physical challenges. We started talking about going through the system, and the challenges of getting support in mainstream education. I’m always surprised when I meet someone in a non-autism related activity who is dealing with special needs. I’m not sure why I’m surprised since I’m there too. I’m reminded time and time again that life is challenging for so many people.
Looking back on that first class with Moe, I realize I should have just spoken to the teacher about how I was feeling. Of course, at that time, I was only just suspecting a problem and I think I was too afraid or unsure to bring it up to anyone. It’s too bad. I know now that I might have found a kindred spirit, or at least someone who could have been helpful and understanding at a time when I was going to really need it.