It’s graduation time! Congrats to everyone who completed a school program this year. Taylor earned his degree at Central Washington University and his cousin graduated from UW. All these celebrations remind me of Zack’s high school graduation two years ago. It was a great time and, of course, I had to write about it.
Our graduate: Zack
Zack’s teachers are often surprised at the abilities I report compared to what he shows them, and my knowledge of his ability to adapt and function is often expanded when I see him in new situations. One of these times was his graduation from high school.
We opted to skip the usual three-hours-in-the-hot-sun ceremony we sat through for our eldest son’s graduation, and instead signed up for the smaller graduation celebration for Zack’s special education program. I wasn’t sure how he would handle it, but I trusted his teachers to manage the situation so it would be a pleasant event for all of us.
They must have promoted the event well at school because when I purchased three choices of shirts for Zack to wear, he chose the button-up-real-man shirt over his usual preference of a well-worn t-shirt. He was proud to wear this grown-up shirt and posed with a big grin for a photo on our front porch before we headed to his school for the ceremony.
When we arrived, we were immediately handed a cap and gown, and we put it on him with only a small amount of resistance. The cap was not easily anchored onto his head, and he held it for most of the event, but we still managed a photo or two with it in place.
It is a thrill for parents when their child of any ability steps up to the expectations of others, but especially so when they least expect it. In a room crowded with families and graduates, we saw a Zack who fully participates, has friends who genuinely care about him, and is able to sit through an entire graduation ceremony, up-front, while facing the audience.
Mind you, Zack sat with his arm across his face for much of the event, but at least he didn’t get up and walk away. When it was his turn to be praised by the vice principal and given his certificate, he was allowed to sit instead of stand up. This was still difficult for him, because he doesn’t like to be talked about … but he made it through that portion and even pointed out his favorite part in the speech—a portion that told how much Zack loves the news anchor Tom Brokaw and is actively lobbying for him to come out of retirement.
Once the official ceremony was over, Zack was greeted by many teachers, assistants, and students, all of whom spoke warmly of their interactions with our son over the years.
More photos were taken. Punch and cake was consumed. And he danced with his special friend, Annika, who was his peer tutor that year.
Danced. Did you hear that? My son who hates loud music and flashing lights and prolonged physical contact—which was what a dance floor is all about—DANCED. I videoed it for proof. Annika took him by the hand and led him to the floor, and there he held her hands while they swung back and forth for a good 30 seconds to the beat of the music.
We left the party exhilarated. It was a complete success on so many levels. Savoring the moment completely, Zack went to bed wearing his new favorite shirt that night and didn’t take it off for two full days.