To say I had pictured my son graduating from high school would probably be a bald-faced lie. I truly didn’t think we would make it through his entire school career. But here he is, ready to graduate!
There are many reasons I thought we might not make it through Jac’s graduation ceremony. Jac has autism and he usually can’t sit still for longer than 20 minutes. The idea of sitting through a graduation ceremony even seems difficult to me.
Due to COVID, this year's graduation was planned outdoors in a stadium in West Texas, where the temperature regularly gets up to 100 degrees. The ceremony was scheduled for 8 p.m., which is usually Jac’s pajama and TV time.
My husband and I went to the graduation practice in the morning. There were 600 graduates. It was going to be a very long event. Thankfully, it was decided that Jac and one of his classmates would stay with their teachers. The remaining seven students with disabilities were included with the 600. I prayed all day that somehow Jac could pull this off.
The ceremony started and the graduates marched in. Jac and the other student were at the very end behind their classmates. The entire graduating class was still standing, waiting for these last two graduates.
As they came closer to the front, everyone realized the situation. These two young men were coming in with their teachers. Everyone in the stadium began to clap and clap, except for this mom. This mom had tears rolling down her cheeks because with every clap, I thought of every person that has helped us along our journey with Jac. Every teacher, paraprofessional, school nurse, bus driver, principal and therapist. Each of these people played such a vital role in getting him to this moment.
Jac amazingly sat through all the speeches until it was time for the diplomas to be handed out. Jac’s teacher helped him to the stage. Then Jac did the unthinkable. He handed his name card in, walked across that stage, shook the principal’s hand and got his diploma.
My baby, the one who wasn’t supposed to make it, the one who has struggled for 16 years to write his name, walked across that stage and graduated! I have never been prouder of Jackson ever. This ceremony was so much more than a ceremony for our family. It was a win. Congratulations, Jackson, you did it!
Now that Jackson has graduated, we’re excited to move on to the next step. For resources on life after school, visit pages on Transition Planning.
When our kids start school, they might need to be assessed for special education services. Sometimes this isn't needed until they've been in school a few years. The school district must identify and evaluate all children with disabilities. Once identified, they must be provided a Free Appropriate Public Education or FAPE.
Categories: Education & Schools