Mafe Maria: Personal stories by autism parent mentor, Maria Stultz

Officially in School

This week we had our family meeting with school staff to exchange information about how this month has gone for Joaquin. I’m so thankful to Nick, the person that met with us for being so incredibly generous with his time. We talked for 2.5 hours (!) and as I listen to my recording (hoping I can somehow edit it to share with our coach, Tali) I am so happy to hear Joaquin’s little voice spontaneously participating so much during the conversation.

The month trial has passed and we’re official. We’ll be at this school full-time for the whole year, and I’m so happy for Kiki!. He adores this place and all the new stimulus it provides for him. The staff members are such special people; I’m constantly struck by their presence and consciousness every time I speak to them or see them talking with Joaquin.

As we asked all our questions trying to assess whether Joaquin has had any challenges in the places where we suspected challenges may come, the information we gathered confirmed that he is navigating successfully this new experience. Joaquin is a very aware, engaged, and active member of the community, and in this new second family his contributions are valued: Bollo has organized and initiated a record number of field trips and activities in his rookie month, for which Nick called him a community driver.

I was also thrilled to learn that (so far) his personality and authenticity, far from being a source of social conflict are accepted and even welcomed: Joaquin knows all the school rules and is quick to notice and point out when someone is breaking them. The staff members appreciate this, and the kids accept it realizing that he is right.

This school is rich with yummy soil for Joaquin’s growth. Not only does he have a digestible and diverse community with whom to expand socially; he also gets to participate in the school’s democratic system learning about, proposing, and voting on all school matters; he has the power to pursue his interests with the added complexity of bringing them to others by organizing workshops and field trips; he is exposed to many interests and subjects by participating in the varied number of school activities (all optional) which include workshops and committees led by students. I bet Joaquin will be teaching a workshop sometime in the future.

His calendar this month has been full with meetings, team chores, art, math, crafts, hikes, sports, and cooking, and he just signed up as photographer for the Yearbook project (but something tells me he’ll end up contributing some writing too). In this month he also pursued to be promoted on his Food Freedom Level (i.e. his permissions to eat in different areas of the building); he got the majority’s vote and his first “political” triumph.

Now I just have to figure out what to do with my life in the three hours I have free of cooking and driving him around. But I’ll wait a bit before going out of control with ambitious projects. We’re just beginning this adventure.

1 image from AngelSense GPS tracker
2 Joaquin, comfortable in the middle of School Assembly

1. (Sep 21): The young eagle keeps stretching his wings and this school is so perfect for him. Last week I was asking Joey for help, expressing that the new school routine was feeling very heavy on my shoulders. Joaquin’s response to the conversation: Yeah, but the solution is not for me to stop going to school, right!?.

Just this morning he was telling me that they are like my second family. And even though this month I’ve felt like I haven’t had much quality time or connection with him, I am so happy for Joaquin. So happy that he’s feeling and loving this beautiful sense of belonging, and that we’ve found a community that is so nurturing for him right now.

Safe travels my beautiful son… And thank God for technology; this GPS tracking device has helped me get out of his way.

2. (Sep 27): Our month trial has come to an end and don’t you dare take this away from Joaquin! He loves his school and everybody in it. By the end of the month I’m seeing (in the 5 minutes I get to be there for drop off and pick up) interactions with kids that make evident he belongs here. This community has embraced him and is organically nurturing him socially.

Look at his comfort here! Today, at the school Assembly I saw him so independent during the potluck dinner: He got his food, found a place, came back for seconds… When the meeting started I was surprised to see him in the middle of it all far from us. He asked questions, participated, and introduced himself to the group. In fact, it was us parents doing the introductions, but when the turn came near him he took it and told everyone: Hello, my name is Joaquin. I like sports, specifically basketball and soccer. My social butterfly!

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