So, my middle child graduated from high school 2 weeks ago. I want to say that it was a joyous occasion. I want to say I was relieved and bursting with pride. I was those things, but only to a degree.
Don’t you just hate when a good deed produces negative unintended consequences? You know. No good deed goes unpunished.
Middle Child (MC) is on the spectrum. He made it through high school because of the extraordinary work and support of a few very amazing teachers. That’s it. A FEW amazing teachers. He had a strong transition plan that he is still benefitting from, he is happy, he is working. That’s all great stuff, no?
As graduation approached, we got very excited, started planning a party. Graduation day came and MC was an anxious mess at home. We assumed he was handling things at school. He wasn’t. At this point the most wonderful teacher did what she needed to do. She took him under her wing, she brought him into her circle. We are grateful.
But what that meant was that MC would not be crossing that stage in alpha order as the program listed. And nobody alerted us to this.
So from where my husband and I sat during the ceremony, MC was way out of line, not in the right place. As our last name got closer and closer to being called, it was clear MC was in the wrong spot! Oh no! My husband and I sweated it out, our anxiety rose to an almost unmanageable level. We were left to guess and assume and worry without enough information to help us cope. We kept worrying that they would call his name and he would try to get up on the stage from across the gym. We kept worrying that his only chance to cross the stage would come and go and he would be left sitting.
MC was skipped over and the alpha order continued. Our kid was sitting on the other side of the gym. What was going on?
Half the grads were taken care of. MC was in the first row of the second half of grads. There is a break. We are sweating. Presenters move from the stage to the floor. Names start getting called again. The first two were kids in wheelchairs.
Wait, what? No ramp for them? Are you kidding? They didn’t get to cross the stage?
A few more kids get called then all the presenters move back to the stage and more out of order names are called. And yes, MC was one of them.
From where we sat, we saw a segregated presentation of grads. We saw a small group of kids out of alpha order, clumped together in the middle of the ceremony.
And we felt sick and sad, and defeated, and angry and outraged at the lack of inclusive practice.
We left the ceremony proud of our kid. Very proud. But our joy was greatly diminished by the assumptions we were left to make about the ceremony. Why wasn’t this small group of grads integrated with their peers in alpha order as the program was printed?
In the next day or so we found out that the caring teacher mentioned above had taken MC into the fold of her homeroom, special education homeroom, as the group had unified their four years together. They looked out for each other and felt safer and more celebratory sitting together in their little group for the graduation ceremony.
Well, wonderful! My kid was in a safe place surrounded by people who cared. The teacher did the right thing. This is where MC wanted to be.
But nobody told us. So from where we sat, the evening was a kick in the stomach.
From where the school and the teacher sat, it was a warm, embracing, safe, loving small group celebration.
But nobody told us.
They assumed we would know that their good will had protected MC. They assumed we would assume all was well.
Well not after four years of dealing with an insensitive building administration. Not after four years of bullying that went unacknowledged. Not after countless discussions about inclusive practice and where they were coming up short.
I love the teacher with all my heart. She did right by MC for four challenging years. She saw him through to the very last minute of his tenure in high school. I am forever grateful. I will never ever be able to express my gratitude for what she did for my kid. She is a miracle worker.
But because there was no communication about the ceremony lineup, we all ended the four year journey feeling sad and frustrated. She is frustrated that we wouldn’t just know she was taking care of MC. We were frustrated that we spent the evening in parent angst.
This is not the way I wanted things to end.
I don’t know how to make it right.