Today is Alex's first day in an integrated school program. He's starting senior kindergarten today. If all goes according to plan, he'll be in SK one morning a week and then in his behaviour therapy program four days a week.
When I first had children, I expected that the first day of school would be emotional. A sense of loss that my little boy was growing up. A sense of pride that he was doing well. And perhaps a little guilty sense of relief at having some time to myself.
I didn't expect to have to feel anxiety. To be wondering if he's going to be able to make it in kindergarten. I find myself wondering if his teacher and peers will like him or if he'll be so disruptive that he'll be politely asked to leave. There are dozens of horror stories about children with autism having trouble in an integrated program. The mildest versions are the ones where they're ignored and left to do their own thing. The worst are the ones of children who are locked up in "autism rooms" all day and kept isolated.
However, I should be clear. The school so far has been very eager on the subject of integration and his teacher has a great deal of experience. But in our experience, that hasn't always translated into a positive experience for Alex.
I think that's the hardest part. Knowing that I have done everything I can at this point and it is now out of my hands. He's got to succeed or fail on his own and it would be counterproductive for me to try and stand between him and any obstacles. The point of this whole exercise is to see if he can integrate into a regular classroom. If I'm right there, that's not going to help us find that out.
But I still think that this is going to be a very long three hours until he's home and I know how it went.