Congratulations to Jon!!
Okay, so last Thursday something huge happened. My nephew Jon graduated from high school...with honors.
All of you out there in the possession of teenagers might laugh to yourselves and think, "Well, yeah. It's a struggle to get teenagers to pass their classes what with all the hormones raging and age-appropriate drama, but really what's the big deal."
What makes last Thursday a big deal, a really BIG deal is Jon has Autism. He graduated from a regular, public school...with honors.
It makes me tear up a little.
Autism is a weird affliction. There are so many levels from complete nonverbal incapacitation to a minor tick of repetitive behavior. Jon falls somewhere in the lower third.
When he was born he wouldn't allow anyone to hold him except his mother, my sister Vicki. We thought it was just a phase he'd grow out of.
When he got a little older, Vicki and Tony had to go out of town on business leaving Jon in the care of our Mother, Big Mar. He was inconsolable. Finally after three days, Jon formed an attachment to my Mum--a bond which is strong to this day--but wanted nothing to do with the rest of us.
Still we thought it was just something he would grow out of.
He wasn't talking at all by age two. But we attributed it to being a boy, because, you know, boys are slow to speak sometimes especially if others (his sister) are willing to interpret for him.
Again, we thought he'd grow out of it.
What really raised the red flag was his complete disinterest in opening Christmas presents at almost three years of age. That is just not normal at all. No child at that age can contain his excitement over Santa's pay load. That's when we all started to believe there was something off about Jon.
But how do you tell your sister there's something wrong with her child without breaking her heart?
Understandably Vicki was annoyed and made excuses for his behavior. Nobody wants to believe her child isn't perfectly healthy like other children, like her other child. But within six months she had Jon tested and found out the truth. And when she finally accepted the diagnosis, she worked her ASS off to find the best help available to teach Jon to speak, communicate and function like any other kid. She continues to be his advocate and push him. Frankly, she's amazing.
All those years of tutoring have paid off. Jon expresses himself very well, has opinions now and has a great sense of humor. He can be really funny. Some of the stuff he says is absolutely hilarious! He has a few Autistic traits involving repetition and behavioral borders that take a little understanding, but hey, don't we all have parameters? Most of the time he acts like a typical teenager only with a little less hostility. Ha ha!
And now he's graduated from high school and headed to Community College.
He has come so far.
Jon is where he is today because his family loved him enough not to baby him, but treat him like any other kid. They all had a hand in shaping his success. That includes his sister tormenting him. He's an amazing kid.
Who knows what the future will hold for Jon over the next couple of years. As Regi so gracefully stated in her own blog about her brother, "There was enough hope for him to graduate from high school, there should be enough for him to graduate from college, wouldn't you agree?"