This graduation is very close to home …. my first born son earned his High School diploma last week and I could not be more proud. I know it seems like a typical rite of passage, but for him …. this is significant.
Reece was diagnosed with autism at age 3 and 1/2 … the journey that followed for the last 15 or so years has been one filled with bouts of uncertainty, frustration, lots of hard work – and so much joy. Reece is probably the most joyful person I have ever met – his smile is infectious and his energy is pure light. Everyone who meets him falls in love with him instantly. Even as a quiet, introspective toddler, he drew people in. And although he didn’t speak until he was about five years old, (and I had a few doctors tell me that he probably never would), he later became quite the communicator – and now, advocates for himself beautifully.
I’ve written about our story before, so I won’t go into great detail here about our journey, but I did want to take this opportunity to post Reece’s speech from his graduation ceremony. For a kid who didn’t talk for the longest time, and still struggles with social skills, he delivered an incredible graduation speech that he wrote on his own – and received a standing ovation! It is inspiring, intelligent and moving.
We love our school. Anyone who knows us knows that we would not have our kids anywhere else. It’s a newer school; one that is often misunderstood. When something is new and on the forefront, it’s oftentimes put down by those in the mainstream …. but let me tell you, a HUGE reason why Reece is who he is today is because of this school and these facilitators and administrators. Reece started at SCVi in 6th grade after years of typical public school (both general ed and special ed – and homeschooling) …. none of them seemed like the right fit. We took a chance on a very new charter school that specialized in project-based learning (PBL) We didn’t know how he would do there, but we knew we had to try.
I am so, so grateful that we did.
The personal attention he received – the genuine CARE – the individualized learning …. made all the difference for him. (It has also made a difference for our other two kids as well – both neurotypical) But you don’t have to take MY word for it – you should watch his speech. He talks about all of this, and more… and hopefully can give someone out there HOPE.
When Reece was a little boy and newly diagnosed, my husband and I searched and searched – anywhere and everything to find help; we desperately wanted him to be happy – to grow up to find friends – and a job …. we needed to know that he could be okay. Seeing a speech like this would have been life-changing for us at a time when we were so very uncertain as to what the future might hold for him.
Watching HIM deliver this speech was beyond anything we ever dreamed of.
He was surrounded by his peers – most of whom he has been in class with every day since 6th grade, all of his past and present facilitators (this is what we call teachers at iLead Schools), and family. We are beyond grateful to each and every person who has helped Reece along the way (far too many people to list or count, but please know that you have all made such a difference in our lives).
Reece has BIG dreams. Every day he tells me about some cool idea for an invention – or has questions about how to start a business …. he wants to make a big change in this world and plans to be a leader in the tech industry.
The next step of this journey is upon us …… this guy is ready.