Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Prince Among Men

Austin is our first born. We had him when we were very young and silly, but happy. He he grew and developed like any healthy boy should. His brothers followed very soon after that.

When he was not quite two years old, I noticed he wasn't doing things he used to be able to do and there were some words he used to be able to say and didn't anymore. I could tell there was something different about him. Many people around me would say things like, "He's just fine" or "There's nothing wrong with him" or "Maybe you just need to...". He was my first and I was young and naive. I didn't know what to do so I just kept doing my best.

He started preschool at Kiddie Kollege. After a few months Ms. Beverly talked to me about how he didn't sit still or listen. She handed me an article about ADHD and suggested I go see my pediatrician. I made an appointment, took Austin and explained what the teacher said. He suggested we put him on Ritalin... my 3 year old! That was the last time we went to that doctor.

I moved him to a different preschool the next year. He did OK. I continued to wonder what was wrong. I shared my concerns with his teacher. She handled him well. I read everything I could about ADD and ADHD but it just didn't feel right. I treated him just like any other preschooler. He was expected to do his chores, be kind to his brothers and listen to his parents. We had communication issues. He had a hard time expressing what he wanted to say and I had a hard time getting him to listen to what I was saying. We did a lot of "Austin, look at my eyes when I talk to you" and "Austin, show me what you need."

Then Austin started Kindergarten. His teacher was an angel straight from heaven! She loved him no mater what he was like. She worked with his strengths and ignored his weaknesses. We started building a new house so at Christmas break we moved and Austin landed in a kindergarten class with a teacher that was old and mean. She didn't like dealing with him and disciplined him harshly. Austin, who potty trained fairly easily and hadn't had an accident since, started wetting the bed and having nightmares. And he didn't want to go to school. I pulled him out of school and taught him his ABC's on my own. Shortly after that, I decided to attend a meeting for parents with children with ADD and ADHD. I wanted to know what these parents were doing and what I could learn from them. They all talked about one particular specialist in Salt Lake City and how wonderful he was. I decided to take Austin to see him. We made the appointment and they told us to expect to be there for most of the day for different types of tests. The doctor was with Austin for about an hour when he came out and told me, "Your son does NOT have ADHD. I am pretty sure he has Autism. Let's finish the tests today. I will send you home with some questionnaires for his teachers. We will compile it all and send you our report." When people started learning the diagnosis, they asked me how I was feeling about it. I was just so relieved to have a diagnosis I felt great. It was such a weight off my shoulders.

I went back to his old school so I could have the angel teacher fill out the questionnaire. She was so happy to see us! I explained what was going on and she told me that she suspected as much. She also told us that Austin's desk was just the same as it was the last time he was there and she would love to have him back in her class. She talked to the principal and TOLD him Austin would be coming back. To this day I get teary eyed when I think of what she did for us and especially Austin. I will never forget her. Needless to say, he thrived in her class. No more nightmares, no more accidents.

We moved him back to our local elementary school for first grade. He adjusted well. His teachers loved him, the kids knew he was different and took advantage of that. Especially the ones that were in his special classes with him. I think they were just doing what they could to feel better about themselves. Junior High was no better, at least in his resource classes, and I worried if he would ever have any friends that would love him the way we loved him. I wondered if others would notice the sweet and lovable Austin that his teachers knew. Deep down he has such a good spirit. He just wants to help people and do what is right. He wants others to feel that way too. He really hates it when he knows others are breaking rules and he especially hates it when he hears swear words at school. But despite all of that and how he was treated by those few bad apples, he knew he wanted to do something to help others.

So in junior high, he started holding the front door open for the kids coning to school. He sometimes got upset if we were a little late and arrived after the bus because he missed out on holding the door open for those kids. A few of the kids noticed and got to know him from that.

Then he started high school.

Something magical happens when kids around here go to high school. They finally start to figure out whatever they were trying to figure out in junior high. Maybe it is because they find more people that have their same interests and they feel more accepted. Maybe it is because they have finished going through that awkward stage and feel more comfortable in their own skin. Maybe the raging hormones aren't raging so much. Whatever it is, they seem to clam down a bit and notice others more. At least I have noticed that with my teenagers. 13, 14 and 15 have been hard but by the time they are 16 I don't really want to strangle them as much!

Austin is now a senior at Syracuse High School. He continues to hold the door for the others at school and has since he started there. When I am around him at the school and around town, I can tell that the kids know who he is and seem to like him. I had no idea how much until this week.

I got a phone call from him while I was in Las Vegas visiting my sister's family. His communication skills are still being worked on but mostly understood what he was trying to tell me. He had been nominated for Homecoming Royalty! He was given a letter with all the things he would be doing the next week for Homecoming week. They were learning a song to sing at the Friday assembly, he would be in the parade, he found a date to take to the dance and the King would be announced at the football game the Friday of that week. I couldn't believe it and I was so excited for him.

The highlight of this week was riding on the float in the parade on Thursday. We made some signs to hold while he passed by and we yelled really loud. He was able to keep one of the big white balloons from the float decorations. It is still floating around our house!

Friday was a big day. First there was an assembly at school. That was the first time I realized how well liked Austin is at his school. When the royalty was announced and they came out onto the stage, Austin got the biggest cheer from the crowd. I was stunned! Later that night at the game, I was able to escort him onto the field at halftime for the announcement of the king, queen, first and second attendants. I was so nervous/excited for him all day. Here we are standing at mid-field when they introduced all the kids that were nominated. The roar of the crowd was deafening! I am glad Jim snapped this picture before the tears started falling. I was a wreck! To hear the kids cheer like that was music to a mother's heart.

Then the big moment was upon us. They had announced the second attendants and were about to announce the first. I could barely breathe. When they said his name for first attnedant I was so proud! He gave me a quick hug and went to stand up front with the beautiful girl that was also named first attendant. The boy that was king is a boy that is from our neighborhood. He is a great kid and I really like him. The only thing Austin heard was "first" so according to him, he was the winner.

So the next night was the dance. Kyle and his friends again rallied around Austin to make sure he had a date. This sweet girl was his date. I so appreciate her and her willingness to be such a good sport.

Here is part of the group that went together. Kyle on the left with his girlfriend and Austin on the right. They met three other couples for dinner and went to the dance together. They all ended up in our basement theater to watch a movie. From what I can tell, it was a wonderful evening for everyone!

There have been a lot of great memories in the last 17 and a half years with Austin but this week is going to be up there toward the top. It has been fun and busy but totally worth all the struggles. We don't know what the future holds for Austin. What we know is that we love him and we are tremendously proud of the things he has accomplished. We know that it will be our responsibility to live good enough in this life so that we can be with him in the next. We know he has already secured his place in heaven.

Plus, there's always Prom King.........


Franklin Times said...

What a great week for you and Austin! I was fighting back the tears myself in the stands. You are wonderful parents, you should feel proud :)

Denise (De) Tolley said...

Beautiful post. I love you guys.

Joann said...

What a sweet post, Aimee. Thanks for sharing. we sure love Austin, too. He is a great kid and a wonderful example to my little ones. Love you guys!!!

Camille said...

Way to go Austin!!! That is so awesome. Austin is an amazing kid and we love him too. Thanks for sharing.

Clammy said...

Your post brought tears to my eyes! Thank you for sharing it!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for link. It was nice. I am grateful for to hear stories that give others love and hope. Maybe that's why I wrote a little about Kaiden. I can't wait to talk.
Love you,