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  • Sarah Swindell

Senior Year, Sort of

I know my blog has been a little quiet lately as publishing a book is a little more time consuming that I ever dreamed! But wanted to write this one for all the parents of graduating seniors, especially the"sort of seniors."

The photos and comments are all over social media. Parents are saying, and yes I have said it too, how you blink and your baby is all grown up.

I have felt all those waves of emotion as we watched our three typical children graduate high school and grow into beautiful, young adults. How proud we were to be setting them free to live the lives they have dreamed of living.


But this year is entirely different, and the emotions are raw and at times, confusing.


One minute I feel this need to let out the biggest exhale one could ever imagine. The next, I want to cry for what could have been. What should have been.


For Dawson, our last high school senior in our family, really is not a senior at all. He will stay in his Life Skills Special Education class until his twenty-first birthday. After that, we are on our own as far as finding something or someplace to fill his day - forever.


There is no applying to colleges, going to college football games, or trying to figure out what profession he wants to have. There will be no frat parties to attend or girls to fall in love with. His life will be exactly as it has always been for years. He will wake up at the same time and eat the same breakfast. He will have the same snacks, the same lunch and dinner, and the same bath and bedtime. It’s all he knows, and for the most part, he is happy with this routine. The routine of autism and all the sameness it brings to our lives every single day.


Sometimes the sameness makes life easy for us. Like when you have a baby, and you put them on a schedule to make life more predictable to get things done around the house. It can be comforting having a routine. Routine is his life, and he likes it that way.


There have been years in the past when I have felt this same sting of sadness — watching little boys play little league, or riding their bikes in the neighborhood.


I feel like our family has been to battle for the last 18 years in a million different ways and sometimes I feel like we have won, that we survived. When in reality, it's only just beginning and fear of the unknown creeps back in.


Then I force my brain to think differently, something I have gotten good at doing when my head wants to go dark. Dawson doesn’t have to worry about making good grades, finding the perfect job after college, or getting his heart broken by a girl. I don't have to worry about him drinking and driving or attempting to do a back flip off a cliff on Spring Break. How great is that?!


I quickly realize once again this pain in my heart will fade like it always has before and we will embrace our life of sameness with Dawson just as he has embraced it. You can see it by the look of contentment that is usually on his face. His main concern is when is it time to get french fries.


While he may never get to experience all the joys that a typical adult will experience once they leave high school, in my heart, I know he is happy. So many incredible people have shaped our beautiful boy who is now a man, and I suddenly feel tremendous gratitude.


So yes, Greg and I will be happily posting pictures of Dawson walking across that stage next weekend just as we did with our daughters. Graduating high school should be a wonderful moment for all parents no matter what the next step is for your child, and celebrated without judgement for what ever that may be.


While we might not be celebrating all the places Dawson will go, we will no doubt be celebrating how much he has overcome, even if it is just keeping his graduation hat on long enough for a photo.


Congratulations class of 2019!

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