Happy holidays from the Burts family! There were a lot of big changes for us this year. SB turned 5 in February and started kindergarten in September. He was placed in a mainstream classroom with an aide who helps him and one other child. As you probably remember, SB has been in school since he was 2. The routine of the school day was not new to him, but he had always been in a Special Ed classroom. Charlie and I were so nervous about mixing him in with all the other kindergarten kids, but his preschool teachers assured us he was ready. And he is doing FANTASTICALLY! At the beginning of the year, Charlie and I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, for something to go terribly wrong, but it never did. He’s not a perfect student, of course. He has been known to escape from Phys. Ed. class and roam the halls. (How many of us wanted to do that when we were kids?) He often has difficulty focusing on the assigned task, especially if the classroom gets loud. But he is reading and doing math as well as, if not better than, his peers. He is affectionate and sweet, and has charmed the entire school faculty. He likes to meet new people, and his icebreaker question is always, “When’s your birthday?” He continues to flaunt his huge capacity for memory by remembering the birthdays of every family member, classmate, teacher and everyone else he meets. He is quirky, but seems to be an accepted member of his class. When the class is walking throughout the school, he even has a few girlfriends who fight over who gets to hold his hand!
Just this morning I met the mother of a 3-year-old who only recently entered this world of autism, Special Ed and ABA therapy. And I realized how amazing and scary it is that I am now the experienced mom. I am the mentor giving advice. Four years have passed since SB’s autism diagnosis. Reflecting back, it feels good to list all of the things he’s accomplished, how much he has changed, and how much Charlie and I have learned. I am happy to share my experience with new parents, although sometimes I’m not sure I am qualified to be the advisor!
AB turned 3 in April, and in the fall we moved him from a home daycare to a preschool. I quickly realized I had been spending all of my Mommy-worrying energy on the wrong kid. While SB thrived in kindergarten, AB had a very difficult transition to preschool. For 2 months he was very unhappy to be dropped off in the mornings. His teachers assured me that he was only upset for a minute and then was happy most of the day. He is just shy, I guess, and it took him a long time to warm up to his new setting and make new friends. It’s so interesting to me that he is the shy one. SB is awkward, but is not shy at all! It’s amazing how different they are. Thankfully, they enjoy playing with each other. They fight, of course, and SB sometimes bosses his brother around, but I think they are genuinely good friends and like being together.
A few other 2010 highlights: I am still playing clarinet with the US Air Force Band, and I ran my second half marathon in September, taking about 20 minutes off of my time. Charlie has been the band director at Carl Sandburg Middle School for 10 years, and has commissioned several band pieces to be composed for his students. He is also getting lots of offers to guest conduct and judge band festivals throughout Virginia and North Carolina. In July the whole family took our second vacation to the “Please Touch” Children’s Museum and the “Sesame Place” amusement park in Philadelphia. Our family has also started attending services at Westwood Baptist Church, and we are enjoying the community and new friends very much.
We hope your Christmas season is filled with fun, family and joy. And best wishes for a happy and healthy 2011!