A Bittersweet Graduation

Friday was Graham’s last day of Early Intervention. Tomorrow is Graham’s last day of ABA therapy. We’ve already had our last session with 3 of our workers, and we have 2 more goodbyes to go. He graduates when he turns 3, and since we’re leaving soon we’re saying goodbye to therapy a little bit early.

There is no ceremony. There is no tiny cap and gown. It is just business as usual, except now when a therapist says goodbye, it’s not a see you soon.

Sometimes I am asked if I tell Graham that they’re not coming back. I can, but I don’t know that he comprehends it. They have always come back. These people have come to our house 5 days a week for most of his life. Every time he wakes up he says who he thinks is coming today. It’s part of life, as much as our house and his toys and his family.

In the last 6 months there’s been so much reflecting and pondering when it comes to his progress. As we passed the anniversaries of when he started EI and ABA, as we went through new rounds of evals for his IEP, as we visited his developmental pediatrician, as we prepared for preschool. The fact that I’ve done this so many times doesn’t make it any less miraculous.

It also doesn’t make me any less mushy.

I still feel amazed when I look at where he was, when I never paid attention to milestones because I didn’t want to think about how many of them he hadn’t met.

And I have this newer feeling of guilt that I haven’t quite been able to figure out how to cope with yet. Because I hear from so many of you whose kids haven’t had as much progress, who haven’t been able to access the resources we have. I see him and his therapists and all the hours he gets and how well he’s doing and I just want to give it to all of you and it hurts me that I can’t.

It feels like it’s all over. I know this isn’t really true. Graham still has an Autism IEP. He may have difficulties in school that I can’t anticipate. All the emotional drama that is sure to come is something I haven’t had much time to think about yet. Or that I won’t be there watching his work every day like I have been. At the tender age of 3, he’ll be stepping on a bus and going into the care of a teacher while I stay at home with Tesser and wonder how he’s doing.

With all these last sessions, I have so far been able to save my tears until after the therapists walk out the door. Their sessions are normal, there is no real fanfare. I plan to write them all letters and try to tell them just how much they’ve meant to us. I know they are just doing their jobs, but the fact that they do them so well has meant the world to us. And it’s meant a lot more.

Like this:

Those are the tests I’ve filled out so many times. Now the vocabulary test is full of marks. And the Vineland has long columns of circled 2’s. The Vineland, which covers children up to teenage years, used to be so disheartening when I could only circle a couple of 1’s or 2’s in the entire test. Now I am able to keep going past his age level, which is probably not what I’m supposed to do but I do it anyway.

And this:

He can sing the whole song perfectly, but as soon as you ask him to do it he takes pleasure in getting it wrong. He is a contrary little Bug. (I suspect he inherited this from me.)

It is hard for me to say goodbye to these people, since I have to do it for both of us. Graham doesn’t really understand goodbyes. When you say “bye” to him, he usually responds “come back.”

So pardon me while I weep into my morning coffee today and tomorrow.


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