My son was meant to do a reading in front of the entire school this morning. He and several of his Year One friends had been chosen to do the “Prayers of the Faithful”, little prayers they take turns to read out, ending with them asking, “Lord hear us?” Then we all say, “Lord hear our prayer”.
When his teacher first told me that Giovanni had been selected to do a prayer at mass, my first thought was, “He’s never going to do that”. Giovanni, seven, is on the autism spectrum and some feats are just beyond him, speaking in front of large crowds being one of them.
He’s good one-one-one though. It’s one of the reasons he was diagnosed so late. “But he talks to me all the time,” people would assure me. Except if he doesn’t know you or isn’t comfortable with you and becomes mute, starring at the ground, slightly to the left, as he tends to do.
"He's just shy," people would assure me.
"He just enjoys his own company," others said.
Now that he has been officially diagnosed life has been better. His teachers and I no longer push him to do things he's not comfortable doing. If we do push him he tends to shut down. Sometimes if he is particularly anxious he starts rocking back and forth. We've learned not to push him and to let him try things in his own time.
I was surprised he had been chosen. I know why he was. He's made such amazing progress this year thanks to his brilliant teachers (I really can't give them enough credit) and excellent school staff. We figured, why not?
Except a little voice told me he wouldn't do it. Then I became angry with myself. I told myself to stop putting limitations on him and assuming the worst. He may just surprise me, surprise us.
Then my mummy-brain leaped ahead to the morning of the mass, how he'd step up to the lectern and clearly read out the words we'd practiced at home:
I'd beam as he read it and I'd film it so I could show everyone how far he'd come. See, my son has autism, and look at him now? He can read in front of a church full of people. He will have a normal life. He will achieve. He will be happy.
My worries are over.
Afterwards I'd catch his eye and we'd smile at each other. I'd hug him later and tell him I was so so proud of him, my special little guy.
The day before the mass his teacher called and told me that when it came time to rehearse in the empty church, he didn't want to do it. I felt so deflated. She said they'd keep trying and I told her not to worry about it. Still, she tried again but no luck. She sent me an email to let me know that he wouldn't be doing a prayer after all, but he would be doing actions along with a hymn with the rest of Year One.