Middle School Orientation for Justin … drum roll please!
Well, the morning started out a little dicey as we pulled up to the middle school parking lot and dozens of geese were grazing across the lawn. Justin really REALLY dislikes geese – thinks they are creepy and might chase you. He hooked his arm in mine (for geese protection) and we walked across the parking lot toward the middle school entrance. He was in good spirits and excited about Lancer Launch – the rising 6th grader orientation day at our new middle school, Landstown Middle. And once we cleared Geese Central he was all grins, even posing for a pic on the Lancer Bench out front.
From the moment we walked in the school you could feel a great, positive vibe – SO thrilled by that.
First positive sign was seen the smiling face of a family friend from Justin’s running club at the PTA table – wide smile and warm welcomes all around!
As we head toward registration one of Justin’s best buddies sees us and rushes forward to give me a bear hug – happiness! Volunteers all around were helpful, energetic, smiling. They shepherded the kids off to their homeroom classes and had a great day of touring the school, visiting classes and generally having a great time. Could not have asked for a better start to the year – and SO grateful for the incredible effort that you could tell had gone into the day. Bryce and I left feeling like he was going to be in good hands. Justin said it was ‘awesome’ and he’s excited for the first day of school. He knows where his classes are, can find the library, is amazed at the size of the school (very big) and is excited about all of the clubs.
Pretty incredible and so encouraging to realize just how far Justin has come. Since he was diagnosed on the autism spectrum at about 5 years old, he (and we) have grown so much.
On every single front – academic, social, emotional, physical – he has made such progress. And as he has grown, some symptoms of his autism receded and really are not present anymore, while others are revealed in different ways as he gets older.
So we keep learning and listening, adapting to meet him where he’s at and help him grow. And there are so very many people who have helped him reach this point where he is ready for middle school – it feels right to share our thanks and our love with a few of them as he gets ready for this next stage.
- from Montessori teachers like the lovely Miss Subha (wish I could find a pic), to
- his speech and occupational therapists over the years,
- from the amazing Newcastle family of teachers and administrators, to
- the incredible Kellie Maier of KelsKids who has helped him become so confident in the water with his surfing and stand up paddling
- the wonderful tae kwon do crew at World Champion TKD who have challenged him and supported him, readying him to test for Junior Black Belt this coming week!
- his running coaches from POWER – especially Coach Todd and Coach Dennis – who have pushed and encouraged Justin in his running
- to all of the family members who have cheered him on, listened intently to his many stories, played along with the hundreds of version of Top 10 lists and ‘what if’ discussions. Thanks Natalie and Josh for your patience and kindness with him
- and the friends (both ours and his) who have loved him for exactly the person he is, and by being there and sharing life have helped him to grow into the sweet, silly, happy kid that he is. The sleepovers, birthday parties, swim races, Lego adventures and all around silly times are some of his favorite moments and memories!
Yet for all the progress, it’s equally unnerving to see his quirks and perseverance on some topics and wonder how kids that are new to him will react. Will he build on the social progress he has made in recent years, or withdraw in this new setting?
Will his complete love and mastery of all things superhero/supervillain help him find friends with common interests, or will he find it hard to connect with others?
And academically, will this much larger school setting be able to adapt to help him learn at his pace? He is incredibly smart, but learns differently and takes more time to process. Big worry there … I hope so.
It feels like such a milestone to not only be old enough to be in middle school, but to seem developmentally ready. He has work ahead to get to grade level in all of his studies … but the gap closes every year!
In every one of his major transitions over the years, there are always similar questions. But having supportive and caring teachers and support teams around him have always been the best sign that it will work out. And that’s why this morning’s Lancer Launch was especially encouraging – I left feeling like they would look out for him. I’m sure there will be bumps along the way, but a positive partnership goes a long way in weathering the storms when they come.
So excited for Justin and the year ahead! Go Lancers!!