My Autistic Son Is Smarter Than The World Gives Him Credit For

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“Today my son took a qualifying exam for a HiSET program; this is a high school equivalency exam resulting in a high school diploma.

My son who didn’t talk until well past the age of two.

My son who completed early intervention and preschool disabled.

My son who was diagnosed with Autism around the age of 11.

My son whose last complete year of schooling was the 6th grade (4 years ago).

My son is now 16.

Autistic son standing by framed football photo wearing camouflage shorts and grey shirt
Courtesy of Jacqueline Waxman

We moved after 6th grade. The new school district was awful. They sent him out of district to an ‘Autism school.’

Except, my son was exposed to domestic violence. He had PTSD. The behaviors of the kids in the ‘Autism school’ triggered a fight or flight response in him.

I begged the school to send him to a peaceful and quiet school. I found the school. I pleaded with our home district. I would even drive him the 45 minutes there and back every day.

The school refused.

I do not believe in purposely placing people in situations that bring out the worst in them. That causes pain. That causes harm.

I was out of options.

I withdrew my son for homeschooling.

I tried my absolute best at homeschooling while working full-time and raising two other children.

Still, I failed at homeschooling.

My son worked at various local businesses doing odd jobs.

He was 14.

Autistic son working on building a white fence
Courtesy of Jacqueline Waxman

Next, I bought a house in a district with an amazing alternative education program. It was a pilot program the year before Covid hit.

I bought my house in the town I did so my son could return to school.

When it was time for my son to start the program, Covid had changed everything and the program was now computer-based.

My son cannot learn solely from a computer.

He quit the program after a year.

We both patiently waited for 16, the magic age for him to be ‘old enough’ to enroll in a GED/HiSET program.

He had to test at a 5th-grade level to meet program criteria. He had been out of school for so long that he forgot the technical stuff like how to calculate area, how to do long division, or how to divide fractions.

Mom, daughter, and two sons sitting on porch of house for family photo
Courtesy of Jacqueline Waxman

We crammed hard, and I prayed harder.

One of the first things he said to me after the test was, ‘I would have failed the entire one section, but while working at the store we had to take sale percentages off of items. A co-worker taught me how to do that!’

The way things worked out, he will have his high school diploma before he is 17.

If he listens to me (at all), he will complete a post-high school trade program of his choice before 19.

My son would have graduated high school at 19.

There were so many moments of thinking we were not going to make it. So. Many. Moments.

However, we never gave up. Ever. Either one of us.

We took a lot of detours and unplanned stops, but we never gave up.”

school grades of autistic son
Courtesy of Jacqueline Waxman

This article was submitted to Love What Matters by Jacqueline Waxman. Join the Love What Matters family and subscribe to our newsletter.

Read more from Jacqueline here:

‘The school district took the very blunt stance, ‘It’s my way or the highway.’ Special education is under attack with little pushback.’: Special needs mom urges ‘we must draw a line in the sand’

Read more stories here:

‘School become unbearable for her. It was as if everything around her intensified tenfold and life was just too much.’: Mom gets candid on daughter’s journey with autism

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