My youngest son, Matthew, promoted from fifth to sixth grade last week. Before we left for the promotion ceremony, he surprised me by crying.
As I dabbed away my autistic son's tears, I asked why he was crying. He replied that he felt "sad."
When he expressed his emotion, it hit me that he fully understands that he's leaving elementary school and may not see some classmates or school staff ever again. He was reacting like a typical kid.
I hugged him and told him that it was okay to cry. I said, though, that he should try to cry happy tears instead of sad ones because he's moving into a new phase of his education as a middle-schooler.
As we left for the promotion ceremony, I hoped that I wouldn't cry later. However, it was hard not to get misty eyed, especially when a Presidental Academic Award was given to one of Matthew's former classmates.
The classmate had overcome great obstacles to move from a special education class into a regular education class this past school year. She beamed in front of the cheering audience as she accepted the award. Her parents must have been crying.
The day after Matthew's promotion, I did tear up a bit when I heard a news report about Alexander Myers, an Arkansas teen with severe autism who had just graduated from high school.
Alexander had a determined mother who helped him learn how to function in society and earn a diploma. She even walked side-by-side with him to school almost every day since kindergarten.
"If there was one thing I wanted people to know about Alexander or the situation with autism, the war with autism, is not to underestimate. Set your expectations high and just be determined to be as consistent as possible and persistent in accomplishing that goal," Veronica Myers said.
Thanks to his mother's hard work, Alexander has become more independent than his diagnosis implied was ever possible. He's also on his way to college.
Like Alexander's mother, I plan on seeing my son graduate from high school one day, and then I'll let myself cry happy tears.