And Then Suddenly Life Changes

Life has, quite suddenly, taken a dramatic turn.  Over the weekend I finally came to the decision that I cannot keep my business AND finish this book I’m writing AND work with Emma AND have the time to study this method of helping her, so that I can help others help her.  This feels like a good decision, the right decision, one I’ve been struggling with since last fall, but finally feel ready to take the actions to make this happen. So this morning as I looked around my studio, wondering how I was going to sort through everything and begin the process of dismantling a business and a working studio, I received a call from Emma’s school.  They are putting on a show next week and there have been some issues that required my presence.  As I’ve been going to her school every Tuesday afternoon in an attempt to teach some of the staff how to support her so she can write with them too, I left a little earlier than usual.

After school we met with the principal who asked Emma what she did for mother’s day, Emma wrote, “Mom helped me talk to my brother.”

“Oh!  What did you talk about,” the principal asked.

“We talked about whether Truman should have dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Emma wrote.  Then she stood up and ran across the room, whipping her arms around like windmills before settling back in her chair.

It was decided that Emma needs to be in a classroom where she is being taught the same curriculum as her same age non autistic peers.  Except that she is not yet able to write with anyone at her school the way she can with me, so I volunteered to come in until someone can be trained.  It makes perfect sense.  But as Emma and I left her school yesterday, I thought to myself – what did I just agree to? It was one of those moments when the full weight of what you’ve committed to hits you and you think – am I going to be able to do this?  Really?  Can I do this?

Well, I guess we’ll see.  And for the next ten days I will get an interesting view into how her school does things.  And here’s the other thing…   There is nothing I could do that comes even close to being as important as finding a way for my daughter to communicate in a way that gives her greater access to this “awkward world” as she wrote the other day.  No book I might write, no piece of jewelry I might design, nothing comes close.

My life is suddenly no longer what it was.  I am nervous about going to her school with her and essentially being her one on one aide, but I am also really curious to see how it goes and I’m excited to see her in a class where, I’m hoping, she will be challenged.

Before we left school yesterday, the principal asked Emma whether she preferred being referred to as a young lady with autism or an Autistic young lady, Emma wrote, “I am an Autistic girl and proud of it.”

The principal smiled and asked, “Why do you prefer being called Autistic?”

“Because autism is part of me and can’t be removed,” Emma wrote.

“That makes sense,” her principal said.

I told the principal and assistant principal how fortunate we are that I have a number of friends who are Autistic, one of whom is like a sister to me.  And then Emma wrote, “They are my Autistic family.”

How lucky are we?

The journey continues…

Emma and Me

Emma and Me

59 responses to “And Then Suddenly Life Changes

  1. This is a super-amazing-fantastic step for everyone! Brilliant! I am on the edge of my seat waiting to see how it goes. I was actually going to offer that you and Emma could visit my own classroom this June when things calm down for the year so that she could get a sense of the tone/rigor/community of an actual gifted but still inclusive (we have gifted kids who are physically disabled, learning disabled, and emotionally disabled) grade-level curriculum classroom.

  2. You are indeed a lucky woman and family! What a brave choice to make. I love that life allows us to constantly alter our destination via the choices that we make!

  3. This sounds like a wonderful opportunity that I am sure will benefit Emma greatly. I have no doubt that you will prove more than able to meet this challenge and succeed: the two of you have achieved so much together already. xx

  4. W00t! May peace and relaxation and fun and excitement and satisfaction and contentment in the perfect measure keep coming to you and following you around like a happy puppy. Love, Ib

  5. Am happy-clapping inside. Such a good development.

  6. So happy for everyone! This is such a great choice, it wasn’t even a choice at all — it was simply doing the obvious. I love you, Ariane and Emma.

  7. It’s so hard to make these kinds of decisions, at least for me. And once made, the rest just rolls downhill. I am very close with my son for whom I made these kinds of time-altering choices, for whom I quit work for many years, to maintain his mental and physical health. It’s a freeing feeling to decide, and to commit, but that may not be as evident as it will be on your first day of hardcore “volunteering” or whatever it is we call it when we go all in for our children. My son is now 22. We have a strong bond and he seems on his way to a rewarding life. You are good to go! LIfe will unfold the right way for you.

  8. You are devoted and brave. I am an artist too, and it’s exceedingly difficult to divide my time between my daughter and my business. How wonderful you’re able to do this. Investing in Emma will also help to fuel the fire of creativity, and will help you both in the future. Sometimes you just have to let go and see where the current takes you…

  9. Bravo, Ariane. What an extraordinary road you and Emma are on….

  10. You made a decision you will never regret. How fortunate that Emma is willing to let you go to school with her, and that the school is open to learning RPM and open to letting you come in to help Emma use it at school. But for gosh sakes, next time could you just lead with your decision? As I was reading I was thinking, “oh no, she is going to stop blogging!”. Now THAT would have been sad, since I look forward to your posts every day and have learned so much from them. 🙂

  11. lilytigerheart

    So happy for you all! I am sure Emma is quite excited about this! Wishing you the best on this new road you are traveling! 🙂

  12. Wonderful. Thanks for sharing your ongoing journey. All best wishes to you and your family.

  13. I am so excited for Emma! and you! Having just discussed this briefly with you yesterday, that was quick! 🙂 but it’s an amazing opportunity for you both and I’m thrilled that you are able to do it.

  14. Awesome! Like the Rumi poem about the one thing you must do in your life. I’m excited for you and I might get censored for this, but Emma is really kicking some butt.

  15. Marie Brennan

    Happiness to both of you! This will be great for Emma, her teachers, her friends, and you.

  16. Cheering you on – sending lots of love ❤

  17. Best of luck on your new journey..i know that feeling of hope mixed with fear as I am possibly jumping into a big change myself eek. Just like everything else, we will make mistakes, we will falter, we will wonder just what the hell we were thinking at times…but I think imperfections and fear and all that the opportunity provided is worth it. 🙂

  18. RachellieBellie

    Holy moly! Her words make me CRY! I am such a huge fan of both her and you. Let us know how going back to school is! I recently did something similar and…..I have a whole new respect for our kids. Sitting in class for 8 hours is NOT EASY!

    I love how incredibly happy Emma is. Her joy is quite contagious.

  19. Best of luck…I am sure it will be great. Funny…I just called a summer camp and asked to by my child’s aid and they said yes. They said they had never done it, but they were willing to try it. Then I woke up this morning and read this. Really happy for you. Bravo to the principal for being open minded. Great news about the curriculum expansion.

  20. Oh Arianne and Richard…how fortunate for Emma to have the principal acknowledge that Emma must be with her “peers” in a “normal” class!!! Then to have you come in to teach the technique!!! Wow oh Wow!
    As far as going to school with her…you know our story!
    Sheree and I were the ones and changed each semester! It is exhausting but the rewards of seeing the success she brings forth because of you and Richard by her side with love and belief…will far surpass anything!
    You are a lovely/loving family and you have touched our hearts! Thank you for sharing!

  21. This is wonderful! Another step forward in helping Emma communicate with her peers. I am SO proud of both of you, and Richard and Nic. What a super family I am lucky enough to be a small part of. This is the best Mother’s Day gift I could possibly have, and the best is, it keeps on giving!

    xxoo Granma

  22. Congratulations and good luck!

  23. How wonderful, Emma!

  24. This just brought happy tears to my eyes – I am so so excited for you both. While I’m not trying to compare situations, I have also made career decisions to allow me to spend time in the classroom with my (ASD) son. Best choices I’ve ever made. Thank you, your husband, and Emma for sharing your journey. I LOVE reading all of your posts and you continue to shape the way I treat and think about my son.

  25. Such a wonderful change though! 🙂 blessings!!

  26. Love Emma’s insights! Congratulations, change is hard but change can be so rewarding. I am so excited for you and Emma that she’s going to be in the right classroom where she will have a change to flourish!

  27. sophiestrains

    Looking forward to reading about your new adventures!

  28. Thanks for sharing this with us, your extended family! I support you totally, A, and I will likely be in college classes with Nick doing the same thing by September. I have courage, as do you, and conviction because of Nick and Emma and thousands like them who have gracefully awaited our enlightenment and this very moment. Onward together! As Nick wrote to me recently, “there are so many (people) to reach and I see myself as a marching band leading them.”

  29. That’s a big step! Congratulations on making this decision, and I hope that it goes well.

  30. Ariane, I volunteered as Sydney’s one-to-one aide at school after she learned to type and it was absolutely the best of all possible worlds…for both of us! You will LOVE seeing Emma soak up the educational opportunity she’s been denied for too long!!! I’m SO very happy for you both!!!

  31. Who better to help Emma show what she can do, and say? I know some of the difficulties of not being able to speak in a classroom setting. Good that you two can work together for awhile at Emma’s school.

  32. Awwooooooooooo! Now that’s a beautiful start! Hang on to your hat… You’re going outside the chart!

  33. Woo! That’s the spirit! Imagine how much more Emma might know than some of her classmates in some areas, just from listening!

  34. Thanks so much everyone. Really appreciate all the kind words of support.

  35. That’s great 🙂 !

  36. THIS is so COOL!!!

  37. When I showed Emma your post, she just stopped, looked at me wide eyed and stood up. She walked out of the school building, turned around, came back and “said”. Did I read what I think I just read!
    We could not be happier for the two of you. What you both will learn….let the happy dance begin!
    ps…while I was introduced as Emma’s mom, what I was called did become an interesting topic over the past two plus years. Now that she is graduating and she begins community college, she has decided “assistant coach” will be my new title!
    Love to all 4 of you!

  38. What a super decision! You are so fortunate to be able to go into the classroom to be and work with your amazing girl. I know it will be a fantastic experience all around . . .

  39. I have tears in my eyes. This is SO awesome!
    Can’t wait to hear what happens in class either; it has been a thought on my mind for quite some time. Hope you still have time to write!
    And last but not least, maybe some day you can come to South Africa and teach us how to help Autistics speak through the keyboard!
    By the way, it turns out I could be on the spectrum myself… certainly would explain SO much! Annexx

  40. Stephanie James

    This is HUGE! Many times schools are reluctant to even let parents observe their child at school. You are setting precedent that I am hoping will carry over to helping schools presume competence for autistic children. Thank you for taking this very important step – for Emma and her/your family, and for other children and their families. A shining light!

  41. I am so thankful of having Emma being such an great inspiration for all of us out there. My daughter is in a similar situation. Our school is willing to try out the letter board with her. However, they are unsure about mainstreaming her thinking that it will be impossible to have a 1:1 instruction just like how Soma did with our kids. Do you have any suggestions about that? How do you plan to do it? Is Emma able to listen to the information given in a big chunk like regular classroom instruction?

  42. Awesome! A big (and well earned) step for you and Emma both!
    -Life Skills Teacher

  43. And yet, that same principal and assistant principal (neither of whom is still with the school) disciplined numerous staff for using the word “autistic.”

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