I’ve had this “written” in my head for a little while now, and it has taken me some time to edit. 2011 was quite a ride for us, akin to being on an extreme roller coaster with ups and downs, twists and turns, and stomach dropping moments.
I guess we should have suspected that this year would be an interesting one with how 2010 closed out. October 2010 is when our adventure really began, when Kaitlyn was first evaluated by FSU CARD. That was quickly followed up with a visit to our primary care physician, and our first meeting with the psychologist.
Kaitlyn had her “official” evaluation conducted on January 8, and from there it was a waiting game to find out the results. I was certain that we would receive some sort of autism diagnosis for Kaitlyn, probably Asperger’s, but Amber had her reservations. In the meantime, we still had our lives to lead, and that meant regular shopping trips. We made what turned out to be the best trip we have made to Target on January 22 (more on this later, but I am happy that Amber wore an FSU shirt and that I had Steelers gear on).
On February 1, after what seemed like forever (and because of some very slow mail service), I picked up from the psychologist, Kaitlyn’s results. Amber and I read it together, and it was confirmed, Kaitlyn has Asperger’s. I don’t recall feeling any shock or anything, just relief that we knew and it was now time to plan a course of action. Time was not on our side at this point, because the deadline for school choice was just a month away.
March through May were probably the most stressful months of the year, and perhaps of our marriage. Not only were we dealing with our new diagnosis, the school district was putting up obstacles at every turn, which only served to frustrate and upset me. Through it all, Amber was the steady voice, and it is her strength that helped us survive, and keep me from becoming even more upset. The fight we put up paid off in mid-May when we found out that we were approved for Kaitlyn to go to our desired school. It has proven to be the best fight I could have ever had. Kaitlyn had yet another evaluation in late May, this time by the school district; she must have confused them quite nicely, because she would have another evaluation, this time over at FSU, in July. In the end, and after Kaitlyn having been subjected to so many evaluations, the school district had their answer, and were content. There was one more evaluation to come in July, but it was a routine kindergarten screening, during which Kaitlyn excelled and showed she was very ready for school.
After her third evaluation, by the FSU Multidisciplinary Center, we learned that Kaitlyn has an IQ of around 116, which helps explain why she gets bored with some of her assignments and homework.
The spring and summer were not just about stress for us, though. We began our participation in Miracle Sports in March, and my job at the time was to be Kaitlyn’s “buddy” during the baseball season. We had such a great time during our baseball season that we went with a group of athletes to Dothan at the end of May for a Miracle Sports tournament. It was an amazing trip. The summer heat forced us inside for some basketball, and it was during this season that I was dropped by Kaitlyn as her “buddy.” This arrangement worked out well, however, because it allowed me the opportunity to work with other athletes and at least attempt to become more involved.
Kaitlyn started kindergarten in August, and before we even got to the first day, we had a chance to get Kaitlyn acclimated to her new surroundings when her teacher invited us for a visit. That further justified to us what we dealt with earlier in the year, and helped Kaitlyn with the transition. Her first semester in school has gone great. Kaitlyn has really adjusted well and enjoyed her one field trip and riding on the school bus for it. The semester has been filled with mostly “green fox” days, but has had its share of “yellow fox” days, and one “red fox” day. Kaitlyn readily shares with us what color fox she was each day, and knows that we expect green every day. She has had two days during the semester when she has had lunch with some very special people, once with my parents on Grandfoxes Day, and one in December when her “big sister” and BFF Jen surprised her. That surprise made her day, and helped extend a good week that had followed a very rough week.
Really and truly, we could not have made it through this year without some very important people. Amber has been a rock for our family, and has been supportive of my efforts every step of the way; I know this was a stressful year for us, but I can honestly say that it only helped to strengthen us as a couple and as parents. I am thankful every day for her. Our parents have been supportive of us this year as well. While they may not have initially (and possibly don’t fully grasp yet) understood what Asperger’s is, or what it means for Kaitlyn and for us, they have come a long way and I am happy about it. Kaitlyn’s new “buddy” Sarah has been amazing. She is the president of the SPAA group on campus, and they are a group that I am flat-out impressed with. She has really taken to Kaitlyn, and Kaitlyn just adores her, and we look forward to strengthening their bond and our friendship.
Earlier, I wrote about our trip to Target in January, and the impact it has had on us has been unmeasurable. On that trip, we literally ran into a family that we have a tremendous amount of respect and love for. I am not usually one to make friends at Target, but I am so glad that we went that day and that our choice of clothing caught Ryan’s attention. The Spragues (and the Rudziks) have been a big blessing for us. They have accepted us into their family and have been trusted friends to us, and Kaitlyn simply adores their four boys (and I am fairly certain the feeling is mutual). To say that their impact on our lives has been amazing would probably be an understatement. To be able to connect with a family that shares so many of our same values has been a top highlight of our year. We feel right at home with the Spragues, and are better for knowing them; the best part is that they are now stuck with us, but I don’t think they mind at all.
I don’t know what 2012 will bring, but I anticipate it will have some roller coaster moments. The highs may not be as high, and the lows may not be as low, but there will be moments for sure. If 2011 was the extreme coaster, 2012 may be a kiddie ride for us; hopefully it is not the tea cups because I am not a big fan of being dizzy. I know that whatever 2012 throws at us, Amber and I will be ready. Kaitlyn will have plenty of fuel to provide me with things to write about, and I hope you continue to come along with us in more adventures in aspieland.