It’s an unbearable thing to watch your child be left out. It’s something I went through many times in my life, but the pain in this is different. I have always wanted to protect my children from so many of the hurts I knew. Parenthood has taught me that though that is not always possible, those hurts don’t have to be the end. At the beginning of exclusion, I have to become their advocate.
Both the kids went to the same gymnastics place last year. They both did really well. By summer, Lauren wanted to try ballet, and Ethan was out of a place. He had stayed in the parent-tot class to have support, and he had done really well with that. He was getting to be great at the skills involved so the staff wanted to move him along.
That sounds great, but moving him along to the next level of classes also meant he would receive no additional support in class. Even though he’s getting better at the skills we knew that would be setting him up to fail. Having high functioning autism means that, skills aside, a fast-paced unsupported environment would not be to his benefit. We were told they would think about what could be done.
We called at the beginning of the semester. Still no solution found. We waited. I called a few other places, but they didn’t really sound very welcoming to the idea of having a child with autism in class. I emailed in November with the highest hopes that they’d actually been trying to find him a place and received this response:
“Thank you for reaching out to us. We will look at our current classes and number of helpers and see what might work and have him be successful. I hope your kids have had a great start to their year.”
This response said all the upfront promises were a lie. This response confirmed to me that they were not going to try to find a place for my son. I haven’t heard from them again.
We were going to find a place for him elsewhere. We were going to find a place for him where he was welcome and loved and wanted. We did just that!
I called and talked to the staff at TEGA. They were immediately reassuring that he was welcome and that we could come try out as many classes as it took to find him a place. The first day the class he was in was not going to work out, and I was immediately scared that this would be another let down for him.
Ethan loves gymnastics! He’s great at it, and he has so much fun doing it. Watching him and seeing the joy on his face is something so special. I was afraid we’d opened the door to trying and that this would just be taken from him. That didn’t happen.
They assigned a person to him and let him free play while we looked at scheduling and figured out next steps. The whole time they assured us they would do whatever it took to find him a place. He was having a ball, and I was crying tears of gratitude at the desk with one of the staff who couldn’t believe that anyone could just turn him away. She was so upset and cried with me as I told them that though it seemed like no big deal to them, it was the biggest deal to us. It was what we had waited and hoped for.
I won’t forget that day or all the great days he’s had at TEGA since. It’s a beautiful thing to see your child in their element doing what they love. It’s a beautiful thing to see so much kindness extended to them because there are places filled with people who will make sure they belong.
That’s what every parent needs: to have partners in advocating for their children. We have found that. We have found the place Ethan belongs. It’s a more solid place filled with smiles that welcome him.
It’s an answer to so many prayers, and it’s exactly where he will be loved and where he will thrive.