Hillsborough County public schools began Tuesday August 21st. After a month long summer battle with the CHOICE office pleading with them to let Avah remain at Pizzo Elementary, I was drained by the first day and honestly dreading it. Due to the ESE/ASD rezoning for elementary schools Avah was now going to attend Lewis’ new ESE unit. I was worried and scared for Avah as change can be troublesome for a child, especially a child with autism. Coming from a school that she attended for 4 years and feeling like a family, to now being faced with a whole new school, unit, and teachers I was beside myself. Again, worrying about how Avah would fare through this change. I was reeling from the injustice of being basically dismissed by the CHOICE office all summer which in my opinion, should not be called CHOICE, because we as parents still really have NO CHOICE! Working so hard to donate so much money to Pizzo’s program and living basically on the line of both Pizzo and Lewis’ zones, I was literally fuming with frustration and was seeing red. Blinded by my frustration I didn’t want to embrace change. I didn’t really give everyone a chance right off the bat. Though I kept telling myself, “this unit is new Adrian just give it time”, my heart and strong-willed mama bear persona went on overdrive and prohibited me from giving the school a chance.
The first day of school, after dropping her off I emailed everyone within the ESE department of the Hillsborough County Public schools. I got a response from some within the ESE program and even received a phone call from the newly elected Hillsborough County Board member, Cindy Stuart. She was gracious in listening to my dilemma and pointing me in the right direction. The principal of Lewis’ and the ESE director at Lewis’ called me to hear my concerns and issues and were both equally as gracious. It wasn’t until the teacher’s at Pizzo called me to talk about the week and my frustrations. They listened to my arguments as I cried and made me realize something about myself.
After talking to them I realized that I wasn’t giving Avah enough credit. It is hard on parents to ‘let go’ and to just ‘wait and see’ how things will transpire with our kids. It is even more daunting when our kids with autism can’t say, ’Hey mom, I’m okay.’ Most ASD parents don’t receive that verbal stamp of approval to put our worries at ease. So naturally, we go on auto-protection mode and fight for what we feel is best for our kids because frankly, we don’t know how else to do it. However, with that ‘warrior mother’ attitude, I didn’t give myself the opportunity to step back and see how Avah was adjusting. I was too focused and adamant on getting her back to Pizzo. However, when I got off the phone with Avah’s previous teachers, I felt released of the burden of continued fighting and the urge to stop and reflect on how Avah was doing after this week.
Looking back on the first week, she was eager to go every morning. She was happy when she came home. She even grabbed her backpack and was ready to go Saturday morning. Watching her in the classroom, sitting at her ‘big girl desk’, I realized she was fine! I was so proud of her and quite frankly disappointed in myself. It was me who was affected most by this change, not her. I truly didn’t give her enough credit. So with that ‘ah ha’ moment I was able to finally let go and let Avah continue to teach me. She showed me in her own special way that though she has autism, she still is a strong, independent girl just like her mom. I can live and breathe a bit easier knowing that very fact.
Below is Avah on her first day of 2nd grade.