Today is a rough one for me. I hope you understand. I know it took awhile for me to let him go, to release his hand and turn him over to you. I would apologize for holding things up, for lingering a little too long, but I can’t.
You see, teacher, I’ve spent five years with this boy. It’s been me and him through it all. He’s always been in my line of sight, even if it was only peripherally. I’ve created a cave for my boy, this magical creature I was given, who was entrusted to me, a safe place away from the wolves who lurk, ready to pounce at the first sign of weakness. I’ve guarded this cave like a warrior, always on duty, always ready for battle. I’ve been the one teaching him and comforting him. I’ve been his buffer, the one who stood between him and this baffling world, trying to help him understand it. It’s been my voice he’s heard day in and day out, my instructions he’s followed. I’ve kissed his boo-boos and stood in the path of his meltdowns and became fluent in his language when he wasn’t able to become fluent in mine. I’ve learned his triggers and how to avoid them, the steps to take when he’s headed for a sensory overload. His quirks and differences have become my normal.
And now I’m giving him to you. He comes with instructions. They’re in his IEP. I’m giving you my heart, my reason for breathing. I’m handing you my weakness, one of the two things in life that has the ability to drive me to my knees. You’re being given my everything and this is not something I give lightly. I’m passing him over to you with faith and hope and pleas that are both silent and screaming. I’m begging you to have mercy, be tender to this faith and this hope, and treat these pleas with compassion.
He’s different. He can be difficult, but he doesn’t mean to be. There’s something else in control of him at times, but he’s also a little boy who’s bright and intelligent and desperate to learn and eager to please. He’ll trusts you, just as I’m trusting you, but his trust is more. It’s pure and innocent and unconditional. He’ll love you, fiercely, because that’s how he is. He loves everyone. Treat him well. Be gentle. Be patient. When you’re facing that thing that controls him, remember the little boy that he is. Remember that even though the autism is difficult, that little boy is not.
Be good to him when I’m not there. Protect him from the wolves while he’s in your care. He’ll depend on you for that, just as he’s always depended on me. I know this isn’t an easy feat, maybe you didn’t sign up for this, just as I didn’t sign up for it, but please don’t resent it. He didn’t ask for this either.
You’ll teach him and, I think, if you’re open to it, he’ll teach you as well. He’s taught me. More than I ever learned inside a classroom. He’s taught me patience and love and humor. He’s taught me not to take life too seriously, to live in the moment, to not just exist, but tackle each day with enthusiasm and passion and hyper obsession. To embrace, fully and wholly, the things that bring me joy. He’s taught me a language that’s spoken without words. He’s raised me just as much as I’ve raised him. Maybe he’ll raise you a little too.
So here he is, teacher, this boy I was given and am now giving to you. I’ll be back for him in a few short hours. Because I love him, desperately, and I’m anxious to have him return to our cave. Please return him unharmed, happy and healthy and full of pride at what he’s learned. And please remember what I’ve said. Please don’t betray this trust we are handing you. Please don’t make us fear life outside of this cave.
Please be gentle with us.