It’s time for part 2 of Angela’s month long Autism Awareness Series, where she takes us to Easton Elementary School. She shadowed an adorable 5-year-old boy at school, and got a firsthand look at what a day at school for him is like…
It looks like a typical picture- a mom walking her son to school hand in hand. But 5-year-old Garrett Swanson’s day isn’t typical.
Speech Language Pathologist Tiffany Lundeen said, “Garrett comes to speech therapy two times a week. We are working on him labeling objects, as well as his pronunciation of words and just communicating you know making eye contact. He’s a cute little guy and he warms my heart every time I see him.”‘
At one point Garrett was almost completely non-verbal. He was diagnosed with autism when he was 3 years old.
Garrett’s Mother Maeghan Swanson said, “In the two years he’s made huge strides he’s talking more, he’s doing things but there are so many struggles that come with this and the communication is probably one of the biggest at this point for him.
It takes A LOT of support to work through those struggles; and the right support isn’t easy to find. Garret’s mother says Easton elementary has gone above and beyond to accommodate him.
“They are his biggest cheerleaders. They stand behind him, when he has a good day they all tell me about it they all congratulate him in the hallway and high five him, they celebrate with us,” said Swanson.
Garrett’s one-on-one Kathy Adler stays by his side for most of the school day. From the classroom to the cafeteria, where his 6-year-old sister Kaylie joins him for lunch.
“His autism takes a toll on her. Life revolves around Garrett it’s Garrett’s appointments, Garrett’s schooling and oh don’t make Garrett mad. She deals with a lot she deals with so much more than a 6-year-old should have to deal with,” said Swanson.
Like most autistic children, Garrett needs round the clock attention at home and in the classroom to grow and develop through his diagnosis.
Easton Elementary School Principal Wendi Malenfant said, “They have to work 3 times harder to do the same things you and I do without much thought.”
“A school day is hard for him and he’s very tired when he gets home and it’s overwhelming because we’re constantly pushing him to his limits to continue the progress that we’re seeing with him at this point,” said Swanson.
And all that pushing is paying off. Garrett is speaking, reading books, and he can even count to 100.
“He’s amazing. Every I love you that comes out of his mouth unprompted to this day still brings tears to both of our eyes because for 3 almost 4 years we didn’t hear it. We didn’t hear Mommy or Daddy as any other parent would, we didn’t have those words,” said Swanson.
Raising a child with autism literally takes a village, and it’s so important to have the proper educational supports for your child within the school system but unfortunately nothing really is guaranteed. Most parents have to fight to obtain the proper services, and each age brings with it new challenges. As a parent with an autistic child, you need to do your homework, have your child evaluated and keep everything documented. No one is a better advocate for your child than you are.