Have you heard that term before? Not sure where I ran across it first-- probably in an online forum--but I can't get the phrase out of my head today. The best way I can describe an "autism angel" is that it's someone who makes a positive difference in the life of a child on the autism spectrum. Even more so, it's someone who isn't looking for accolades or glory, just doing their job, doing what they consider ordinary, but it's oh-so-EXTRAordinary to us, the families of those ASD kids.
When I stop and look, I can see these amazing angels all around me, and I'm humbled by how fortunate we are. Like the sweet concession stand guy at the minor league baseball game last Sunday night.....or should I say, the NONgame. It rained, and rained, and rained, and we stood there under an awning for an hour hoping it would stop. Dreading the moment we knew was coming, when we'd have to tell Mr. L that the game was called off. And it was, and we did, and he did.........meltdown, that is. Crying, sobbing, almost wailing. He'd asked to go to this game for his upcoming birthday, we splurged for seats right behind home plate, and now there's no game. The concession stand guy motioned K over, and gave him a bag of cotton candy for Mr. L, to try and help us I guess. I can't say that the meltdown was completely stopped in its tracks, but the cotton candy was a definite distraction, and that's almost always good. Bless you, nameless concession stand vendor!
Or how about Mr. L's 2nd grade teacher last year? The sweet young lady who freely admitted that she had to look up what Asperger's Syndrome was after I told her about Mr. L. Out of all of her great qualities, the one thing I can say that was best is that she "gets him", if you know what I mean. She's patient, listens to him even when he takes forEVER to get to the point of a story, and has learned just how to handle him with the kid gloves that are often required if you want to avoid meltdowns. And best of all? After telling me in the year-end IEP meeting that she'd think through the 3rd grade teachers and decide on one to recommend to us, she did just that. Went and spoke to that teacher privately, gave her background info and suggestions, and recommended to the school that Mr. L be placed in that class. :)
That new 3rd grade teacher even earned a spot on my autism angel list! Today, we got a postcard in the mail from her, addressed to Mr. L. It welcomed him to her class, assures him they'll have a "super year" and she is so excited to start, etc. He's been apprehensive, and I've tried and tried to tell him to give 3rd grade a chance, see what it's like before you make up your mind that it's hard, teachers are mean, etc. But after reading the postcard, he said something like "now, maybe I will begin to believe her, that it WILL be a super year". :) 4 sentences on a postcard accomplished more than I have all summer!
I could keep on listing, but I'm going to sum it all up by telling you about one especially priceless autism angel---Mr. L's baseball coach from this season. He's a pretty young guy, single, drives a cool sports car, you get the idea. K and I decided from the start not to "come out" to him about Mr. L, just to go along and see how things progressed. If he needed to know, we'd tell. As it turned out, we didn't tell until after the season ended.
But Mr. L demonstrated his fondness for meltdowns early on in the season, and Coach T quickly realized how close to the edge Mr. L stays.......one strikeout, one dropped ball, and you could be witnessing an unstoppable screaming, hitting, wailing explosion. He took extra care to be nothing but positive and encouraging to Mr. L, even letting Mr. L throw the ball at him after Mr. L was hit by one of the pitches. That broke the spell of the meltdown somehow, and made him laugh, and then everything was ok again.
During the season, in casual conversation, he learned that Mr. L loves Lakers basketball. Coach T had seen the Lakers in person a few years ago, and so he brought Mr. L some of his up-close pictures of Kobe Bryant. And now, that the season is over........well, this week I was told about yet another angelic act from the coach, and I just about started crying. Coach T plays adult softball, and as it turns out, his team plays against the team of Mr. L's former 2nd grade teacher (see above)! So she emailed us, told us she'd seen him, and that he told her the story of the playoff game that ended Mr. L's season. He was the last batter, last out, of the entire freaking season for his team. :( Coach T told the teacher that he was actually praying as he pitched that last ball to Mr. L. That he'd never wanted someone to hit the ball and get on base so badly in his life. I know that's how I felt, but to know that he did too.......
Coach T, your halo is on its way. Not a coincidence, me thinks, that your team was called the Angels. And for you, the concession stand guy, the teachers, the lady at the baseball clinic that gave us a T-shirt during the collapsing-on-the-ground meltdown, and all the rest of our autism angels.......you have my unending thanks and gratitude. Your real reward is in Heaven.