Last night was our parent-teacher conference for Kaeden. We headed off to the school expecting to get his report about all he's learning and what he's achieved and what he'll continue working on and what new things they'll throw into the mix next semester. The usual, but always interesting to actually know how he's doing academically, as his typical response is "I dunno...I don't remember...or I don't wanna talk about it." Luckily we have a daily written journal back and forth with the teachers, so I ahve a pretty good idea how things are going in general, but academically, little is said. I was looking forward to learning his test scores and feeling secure, because he always does well on the tests and on paper he stands out as a highly successful child. And that relieves me of some of my worry about him.
However, upon our arrival at the school, I was greeted with a new format of parent-teacher conference. There wasn't a single reference to how he is doing academically. There were no test scores presented. There was just this little circle of discomfort around my head as two teachers and another counselor from the regional learning center discussed our son with us. Discussed not his academic success, but his failure to thrive due to his extreme behavior problems stemming from his inability to control himself. He is just raging out-of-control, if not at home, then at school, and the myriad of problems this creates is great. Instead of getting assistance with his school placement for next year, they are advising us to have Kaeden put into care for a complete observation. They simply do not feel that they can justify any high school plans when his behavior is the cause of his lack of success. He can't sit still anymore, he can't focus on his work, he can't complete his work, and he can't move forth scholastically with these problems hanging over his head.
So, as I sat and heard their recomendation that my son be placed in a "unit", stripped of all his medication, given every test in the medical book, both mentally and physically, and find for once and for all the underlying cause for his aggression and anger and behavior problems, I found myself on the verge of panic. See, autism is no easy thing. It manifests itself differently in each individual, and on top of the problems with the autism, many other disorders can also arise. And Kaeden's medication is just not cutting it anymore. Coming into puberty, his 8 year old mental self cannot compete with or control his 13 year old physical self. He's simply losing it.
So, after we asked numerous questions about this placement, what it would mean for him, for our family, financial issues, and the symantics of the entire ordeal, I felt a bit of relief. I mean, no, I don't want my son to be sent away from home; no, I do not want to be subjected to too many questions about painful times in our lives; no, I do not want to hear all the reasons he is angry at me; no, I do not want to start the trials with medication all over again; no, I do not want to do all the paperwork such a stay will bring...but, and here's the big thing, I do want help for my son, to allow him to be the best he can be, to allow him freedom from pain and anger and hurt, to give him a concept of self-confidence, to find all the medical issues surrounding all these things and set him on the path for a successful life ahead. And this complete and thorough hospital stay sounds like it just may be the ticket we've been trying to find for a long time. It may give us some answers and some hope and some freedom from all the negativity that lies in our family. It may bring us, and most of all Kaeden, some peace.
I am scared. This is such a huge step to take. As a parent, when we first hold our little one as a newborn, we see their beauty, we're in awe over this person we have created, we can see nothing but the beauty his birth has brought into our life...and over the years that myth is diluted with each step forth on the path of independence. But with autism in the mix, that path is wound around far too many trees and stones and pathways through the forest, and you get a little lost trying to find your way back out into the sunlight. It kind of swallows you up as you sweat, wondering if you'll ever make it out alive, trying each path as it leads to yet another obstacle stuck in the darkness of the forest, thinking that you'll neevr make it out, never see the sunshine again, never be able to walk a steaight path from one point to another.
I want to walk out of the darkness of the forest. I want to feel the sunshine on my face. I want to follow my son from point A to point B without getting lost through all the obstacles. I want the relief of knowing it's going to be okay.
And so, there's this decision weighing heavily on my mind, and even though I feel in my heart of hearts that it is the right thing to do, to finally give Kaeden Kaeden himself back, I am in pain. In pain that our lives have gotten to this point, in pain that my child needs this type of intervention, in pain that my son will be removed from our home, in pain that I, his mom, wasn't able to make it all okay...but I feel a tiny tug of relief and some hope and finally I feel as if I can breathe fresh air, cuz maybe, just maybe, help is finally on the way. Maybe I can finally walk out of the darkness of those woods, next to my son, sunshine shining upon his beautiful, hopeful, paceful face.