I used to think that preschool graduations were ridiculous. That was before Derek. That was before autism.
My perspective has changed.
They say a picture is worth 1000 words. My son doesn't have 1000 words. By definition, Derek is still considered "non-verbal." Does that matter? Not at all. Derek has found ways to communicate. If he can't find the words verbally, he'll take my hand and show me what he wants or point to things. If you ask me, his smile alone speaks volumes. So do his eyes.
When I look at this picture, I don't see a little boy with a cheesy grin in a cap and gown. I see a million other moments that led to this one, great moment. I see a 2-year-old struggling to learn how to use PECS. I see a child with so many sensory issues that putting a hat on his head hurt him. I see the same boy with tears streaming down his cheeks on his very first day of preschool. And I see a child with big, shining eyes chasing after bubbles and finally saying his first word, "bubba."
The cap and gown are symbols of how much Derek has accomplished; how much he has overcome in the past few years. My son learned more than just the ABC's and 123's in preschool. He discovered how to interact and play with other children. He figured out how to follow directions and ask for help. He learned how to dress himself and use the toilet on his own. I could go on and on...
I couldn't possibly be more proud of this little boy.
He deserves a cap and gown.
He deserves cake and ice cream.
He deserves a party.
He deserves all that I have to offer as a parent.
He deserves every opportunity that the teachers and the school can provide.
He deserves the world.
(Because he's ausome.)