Leveling the Playing Field

grad blog

Today, when my son walks up to receive his diploma at his high school graduation, his peers and teachers and friends in the audience will see a mature, man-child strutting across the stage—and if I guess correctly, he’ll punch the air a few times, too, in complete exhilaration—but only those who knew him when he was young will truly see the transformation. The miracle.

The entire day represents the culmination of 15 years of hard work, tears, preparation, frustration, desperation, exasperation, triumph and more.

Technically, it means he fulfilled all the course credit requirements put forth by our school district. Fulfilled them. He completed 230 credits—and 25 more for good measure. And by the way, he earned a 3.8-something GPA. He made the honor roll and he’s graduating with Honors. He passed the CAHSEE the first time he took it, too! He even took some Honors classes. Sorry, but this mom has got to boast.

He lettered in marching band for four years, my drummer boy.

This child who couldn’t speak at four years old has been the voice of the movie critic—Foothill Film Fanatic—for his campus newspaper—KnightLife.

This child who didn’t walk until he was 16 months old and couldn’t hold a pair of scissors in his hand plays piano, types a movie blog and bangs his snare drum in the marching band—never out of step.

This child who didn’t know how to be around others or how to appropriately interact with others became the president of the Sci-Fi Club at school—and organized his own Monday Movie Madness film club with friends over the summer.

He’s endured so much to get to this point. Quite frankly, I’m in awe of his willingness to keep trying and not give up. No matter how anxious he gets. For too much of his young life he’s been reminded that he’s ‘different from everyone else.’ We never quite understood why that was such an issue.

He’s learned coping skills for socialization issues. He’s tested for and passed his California driver’s license. He’s attended high school dances, football games, student clubs and activities. And he’s part of the digital video production team.

He volunteers in his community, has made two short films and co-authored a book.

My late-speaking child says it so eloquently: ‘If people could just look beyond my autism, they’d see me for who I really am.’

Well, I’m glad my son is different from the others. But obviously today he isn’t all that different. Today he is graduating high school just like all his peers. Right alongside them. Today the playing field is level. Finally.

Look out world, the best of Drew is yet to come!

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7 responses to “Leveling the Playing Field

  1. As I wipe my tears away,all I can say is…Congrats to you,Mike and especially Drew. You put into words what so many parents must be feeling on a day like today.

  2. What a fantastic day for Drew, and for you and Mike! Congratulations!

  3. Couldn’t be prouder — of course for Drew — but especially of you and Mike. High Five!

  4. Denise Spalding

    I wish you could have read this article last night at his graduation, what a powerful message and so true and heartfelt. I think the entire graduating class and their families would have benefitted from hearing your words. Of course it brought tears to my eyes, because I know his struggle but also because it showed how amazing Drew is and how anyone who has had the opportunity to have Drew be a part of their life has already been blessed more than they realize. I am honored to have shared in his elementary and middle school days as his aide (and friend), as Drew said to me at his Grad party, “Those were the Golden Years.” Congratulations to all three of you!

    • Oh Denise, you are such an important part of Drew’s life. Thank you for all you’ve done. You were there in the early, formative years, and you’re one of the few people outside of family who know of his early struggles. But you stuck with him because you always looked beyond his autism. And that’s why you got one of the coveted graduation tickets. Thanks for sharing the big day with us.

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