All of our boys love trains. And I think it all stems back to Race's obsession with Thomas when he was younger. So, whenever we go to Flagstaff, we visit the train depot. It's turned into a tradition.
And I honestly have no idea how Race tolerates it. Because one of the major things that puts Race into sensory overload is noise. And as he's getting older, he's starting to recognize this and we're getting to talk about it. And we've developed strategies for him to ground himself when he starts to feel "out of his body," as we call it.
For me, this picture means more than just "Race sitting by the train tracks watching the trains." I took it last February when things were kind of spiraling and not going well for us at school. And in so many ways, this is what life was like for Race, day after day. Life was loud.
There were times last spring when I'd sneak into his room to make sure he was under all his blankets and he'd be awake at 11:00 still. One of these times, we had this conversation:
"Race, why aren't you asleep? You have school tomorrow and you're going to be tired."
"I know, Mom. I'm just waiting for the noise to go away."
"What noise, Race? Everybody's asleep."
"Just the noise. It makes my brain hurt."
After snapping this picture and filing it on my computer, I've returned to it again and again as I sent him off to school. I'd find myself thinking, "How would I feel if I had to listen to a train rushing by me ten feet away, constantly?"
We needed a way to turn down the noise in his life.
We are homeschooling now. Which by the way is a very controversial topic. You should see some of the looks I get when I tell people, "I'm homeschooling my autistic son." Not that I care about the looks. I actually find them amusing. And five years ago, I probably would have been the one handing out the looks. It's funny how life is always teaching you lessons isn't it?
Because I will stand here and tell you today, I believe in a free public education. I do. I watched my parents as teachers impact the lives of hundreds of kids for better. And I too have felt the impact of good teachers in my life, and strived to be that teacher myself when I was teaching. I am grateful for American Public Education, no matter how messed up it seems to be getting.
And I also believe in fighting the fight for my kid. To make sure he's getting the services he needs to succeed. I have no problem fighting the fight, no matter how exhausting it gets.
But what I've learned this last year, that sometimes, no matter how hard you fight, no matter how hard he and I both try, sometimes its not enough. Because my idea of Race's success and someone else's idea of his success are two very different things.
Homeschooling has been the best thing in the world for Race. He is such a bright and in many ways, gifted boy. He loves learning, he thrives on information. So now he submerges himself in information without the social stresses that were getting to be too much.
And he is soaring. I won't lie, it hasn't been easy. And sometimes, by the end of the day, we've had it with each other. But...
The noise in his brain isn't constant anymore.
He is happy. He is more confident and is learning to understand himself for who he is.
Because more than ANYTHING else, I want him to love himself.
And in order for him to do this, I finally realized, we had to turn down the noise.
Race wants to be a cartographer when he grows up. Can you see why?
The boys found this awesome rhino-beetle outside and has been such a fun little pet.
Race loves science. Here, he's wrapping one plant's leaves in tin-foil and leaving the other alone, watering each the same and keeping all other variables the same. It is amazing how much plants rely on the sunlight to thrive. Just like people I guess... we all need sunshine in our lives to thrive don't we?
We studied shadows for one of our art and science lessons. So, here's Race capturing the shadows in a painting.
One of my favorite pictures: