Last Wednesday was Cordy’s first day of school, and while she had a lot of anxiety over it – like she does about anything new – I was feeling just as much anxiety as I stood next to her waiting for her bus. She tried her best to be calm about the whole thing as she tried to hold still while I took a million photos.
My thoughts, though, went something like this: Would she throw a fit about riding the bus? Would she melt down when she got to school and couldn’t go to the room she was in last year? Would kindergarten be too hard for her? Would her new teacher treat her well? Would I be able to stop asking myself questions long enough to notice she’s getting on the bus?
Oh. Well, uh, that was easy.
I went to sleep for the day, expecting to hear the phone ring at some point with some question or complaint about Cordy’s behavior. But there was no call.
When the bus brought her home, she was clearly tired but full of smiles. She said her first day had been great, and when asked if she wanted to go back again the next day, she replied with her usual, “Well, uh, yeah, that would be OK.”
The note from her teacher gave me a lot of hope. The teacher said she had a good day, and she mentioned Cordy seemed to have good reading skills when they were assessing her abilities.
The next day was much the same. The note home was even more promising, stating that Cordy was asked to read a 1st grade level book and had no trouble with it.
Friday was even better. The teacher was both surprised and delighted to report that Cordy read another 1st grade level book and answered the comprehension questions perfectly. She mentioned that Cordy is still whining whenever she’s asked to do something, but other than that she’s adjusting to the new routine with no trouble.
Of course, I have no idea if the teacher is glossing over any actual behavior problems or not. But I don’t doubt that Cordy is impressing her with her reading skills. We’ve suspected she could read for some time now, but when pressed to show off her skills she generally pretended like she couldn’t read. (How modest.) I’m honestly more surprised that the teacher is surprised. Surely she’s read Cordy’s evaluation report and knows that her autism has little influence over her cognitive abilities.
I’m outlandishly happy that Cordy is adjusting so well to kindergarten. Crazy, over-the-moon happy.
More than once I’ve encountered people who assume that just because Cordy has autism, she will somehow never be able to learn anything, will never graduate, and will spend her life dependent on her family. Autism seems to be a death sentence to them, or at least the death of any kind of promising future. When we first got the diagnosis, I remember mourning her potential, too, worried that she would never be able to live a “normal” life. But it’s soooo not true.
Cordy’s autism may affect the way her brain functions, but it doesn’t affect her ability to function. She can still learn, she can understand logic at an age-appropriate level, and while she has some unusual sensitivities and requires some different methods to learn, she can keep up with her peers in classwork.
Even I don’t always understand the way Cordy thinks, but she still manages to figure everything out. She resisted learning to read when we attempted to work with her, instead choosing to teach herself. She doesn’t appear to understand phonetics, and as best I can tell, she reads by memorizing entire words. But she still learns it all, even if it’s not how most people do it.
I like to think of it this way: just because most of us take the interstate to get to the park doesn’t mean that taking the back roads won’t also get you there. It might take a little longer, and your travel experience will certainly be different, but you’ll reach the same destination.
Cordy’s travels to the park probably involve singing “My Way” with Frank Sinatra as she cruises along the twisting, hilly roads. But once there, you know she’ll have stories of a great adventure along the way.