Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Hayden turns 11 today!

11 years.

For 11 years Hayden has been fighting to get what he needs.

He has struggled to communicate, first with any words at all, and currently with the most socially appropriate ones.

He has struggled to make and keep friends, though currently he says "I got Thomas, Austin... I got tons, I can't really tell you all of them."

He has struggled to get a fair education, in nearly every aspect. For example, he has been left alone on the school bus in the cold. He has been put in seclusion and unsafe restraint at school in the past, without us knowing. He has been suspended (I would argue unfairly) from school multiple times. He has been bullied (punched and taunted) repeatedly.

He broke his arm at daycare and no one noticed for the entire day.

He is often offered food that he can't eat and has to decline. Sometimes that means that others eat treats while he has none.

He continues to struggle with things his peers are able to do. He also sometimes has trouble controlling his anger.

And yet despite all he has to overcome, his outlook on life is (usually) one of positivity. He is kind and curious. He is kind and loving and thoughtful. He wants to be independent. He wants to be the same as everyone else.

Last week his teachers and therapist had this to say about him:

"Hayden is a very fun and loving young boy whose smile and laugh just lights up the room! Everyone who works with him enjoys his company and he sure knows how to make people smile! Hayden is able to learn very quickly and picks up information easily. He enjoys his teachers and peers and is able to tease and have fun with each other. He has improved tremendously since the beginning of the year. He has truly been a JOY to work with this year!"

"Hayden is currently completing all 4th grade level work in the general education classroom with behavioral support. Hayden does not need any academic support aside from being redirected when he gets distracted or when he might become frustrated over an assignment or peer interaction. He gets all As and Bs on his report card and has average to above-average test scores."

"Working with Hayden has been, hands down, one of the best experiences of my ABA career. He is a hilarious, intelligent kid who works hard to do the right thing!"

Each year on his birthday I am moved by how far he has come. How many people he has touched. How many lives he has changed for the better. Because of him, I get paid to help other parents navigate the world of autism in person. Because of him, through YouTube and Blogger, my online advocacy for people with autism has reached tens of thousands.

Without him, none of that would have ever happened. Without him, I would not know such a deep understanding for people with disabilities. Each day he has to work harder than most just to get through simple tasks that many of us find easy. And yet he very rarely complains.

Thank you Hayden for your strength and courage. For teaching me each day how to be a better mom, advocate, and human being. Your struggle makes you stronger and has made you who you are today. I'm so proud of who you are and can't wait to see what the future holds for you.

Happy 11th Birthday Hayden, and FUA. I love you!

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