Ah, September. I love this time of year. I love books and school supplies, and knowing that soon the heat will finally subside and fall will be here. I love making plans for Halloween and Thanksgiving and knowing they’re not too far away. I love reading all the back-to-school posts on the blogs I follow. I love knowing my own kids will be back in school and surrounded by familiar faces, with some teachers and classmates they’ve known for two years now. I love feeling like this is old hat, and I love knowing my kids have a third year of preschool left before kindergarten starts next year.
And yet it’s hard to describe just how nervous I’ve been about the coming school year. My boys will be in a special-education class at the same school they’ve attended since the beginning, the school that has been such a positive, welcoming place that just thinking about the people there gives me warm fuzzies. But also, for the first time, they will also be attending a regular preschool/daycare in the morning and the afternoon.
Their special-ed teachers thought it was time, Secondo’s psychiatrist thought it was time, heck, my husband and I thought it was time and we needed reliable childcare. And so we enrolled them, and then I lay awake nights over the summer and worried. Worried that it might be too overwhelming for them. Worried that it might be too overwhelming for their teachers, who might not know too much about autism and special needs. Worried that their teachers wouldn’t “get” them, and that they might act out. Worried about potty accidents at school, and about missing the bus, and about how they would do in a roomful of typical kids. Worried about the fact that this is their last year of preschool, period, and how next year they will have to leave that welcoming environment where everyone “gets” it, and that I actually have no idea what’s going to happen next year.
So. It all weighed so heavily on my mind that I completely forgot to worry about one thing, the day I had vaguely worried would be coming sooner or later. This is the year that my children will be getting all English, all day. Their entire lives, either I or a Spanish-speaking babysitter had stayed with them at home whenever they weren’t in preschool. This occurred to me a couple of days before school started, and I used to think it was going to be a huge issue—but seeing as how I was a nervous wreck by then, I couldn’t bring myself to care about this one last thing.
Then school started and I was immediately reassured when I met their teachers. They are kind, and caring, and always take time to talk with me—and one of them speaks Spanish. It’s not an immersion program, but Spanish is part of the curriculum. In addition to that, the teacher speaks to my boys in Spanish informally in the classroom, on the playground, in the hall. I often arrive at school to find the class singing “Buenos días” or “Las mañanitas.”
My sons’ special-education teacher goes to the other preschool a couple of times a month, to see how they are doing in class and provide support for them and for their teachers. After her first visit, she called me to let me know how it had gone. “Ms. S was speaking to Secondo in Spanish,” she told me. “And it was interesting, he was so responsive to it.”
I immediately called my husband to tell him about the call. He laughed, amused. “I’ll bet you were doing your happy dance,” he said.
And I was. In fact, I was downright giddy. His teacher had me at “responsive,” because you like hearing the word “responsive” when you have a child with autism. Secondo has made so much progress—he is often very engaging, and gone are the days of no eye contact. He’s definitely responsive when I speak Spanish to him at home. But hearing that Spanish, specifically, helped him engage with the outside world, well, that made my day.
Worries, tempered by happy dances. It’s been a good start to the school year.