Monday, July 12, 2010

Dear Son~The Graduate!

As I mentioned previously, Dear Son's High School graduation was scheduled for Tuesday, May 18th, the week of his Make a Wish trip. As you know, I was very disappointed. This year, was the only year the school had ever had their high school graduation in May and for 2011, it will be in June. What were the odds? As a result of the date, we were unable to attend. They did however decide to have a mini ceremony in his classroom, a week prior to our trip. Although I was unable to attend, they had a great time.

Prior to our trip, we had his annual IEP (Individual Education Plan). At that time, we talked a bit about graduation. It was then that I learned that they don't really "graduate" at all, instead they get a, "Certificate of Attendance". Let me explain. I was under the impression that when he completed twelve years of school, he would graduate. When he completed the 8th grade, he graduated with the class and got his diploma. At the IEP, they informed me that he would not be getting a diploma. I got that impression after reading the high school manual regarding the requirements for graduation which included the special education classes and the IEP. I talked to the Director of Special Education after the IEP regarding the diploma. She wasn't entirely clear herself and after checking with a few sources, she called me back to explain the rules.

Apparently, if a special needs student takes "for credit" classes and complete the required number of credits, they will get a high school diploma. If however, a special needs student completes their IEP but does not take "credit" classes, they earn a Certificate of Attendance. (They still participate in the official high school graduation ceremonies, complete with cap and gown.) It wasn't a big deal however I never really thought about it that much. The reason it was a surprise was because in all of Dear Son's eighteen years of school and twelve IEPs, no one had ever mentioned that he would not get a diploma. In addition, he received a diploma at his eighth grade graduation. That being said, the Director of Special Education and I had a good conversation around this topic; she was surprised that it was never mentioned in any IEPs. They did some checking and apparently, not many parents knew either. The bottom line was that they will be informing parents in the future. She asked me at what age they should tell the parents. I said they should inform them right from the start, at the early IEPs. I think it's important to know what to expect and to be honest with people. I was fine with the Certificate of Attendance but it just wasn't what I expected.

Now then, on to the party. Since we couldn't attend the graduation, they were nice enough to present his diploma and throw a party for Dear Son at school! Here is Dear Son and his classmates, getting ready for the ceremony.

I thought this was a sweet picture of his classmate and Dear Son.

Reflecting back over the years before the ceremony?

And now the "Certificate of Attendance!" His teacher is the one in the green top.

His teacher trying to help him open his hand to accept the diploma.

Of course, what's a party without a special pinata for the graduate!

Every student in the classroom gets a chance to try and knock it open!

Another classmate.

And finally, bingo!

A class photo.

Pictures with a few classmates.

Congratulations from his favorite teacher!

Time to celebrate! He's been going to school since he was three years old!

Tossing the diploma up in the air (with a little help)!

After the ceremony, they put on some party music. Each student has a song for each of the decades (70's, 80's, 90's, etc.). One of Dear Son's songs was, "Achy Breaky Heart" (Still not sure why he likes country music, lol!). When the song came on, he looked over at his teacher (O.K. stared at her across the room until she came over.). Then she asked him if he wanted to dance. Here they are holding hands and dancing. I love his face in this photo!

And finally, the diploma in his room on top of the bookshelf. It's sitting in front of one of my favorite pictures of him when he was four years old. It was 8 o'clock in the morning and he had on his Disney shirt and his new "wide leg" jeans in a size 4 slim. I took this picture in front of the flowers at my house. At that time, I told him it was my favorite picture because it's of my two favorite things, "flowers and little boys". Since he couldn't sit up alone, I sat him on this little white chair. I figured I'd take a lot of pictures hoping one would turn out. As he sat on the little chair, he slowly started to turn his body around trying to get his foot into my flowers. He knew he wasn't supposed to do that and he ended up laughing so hard that he fell off the chair. When I got the roll of film (this was before digital cameras), I fell in love with all of the photos and framed them all.
And now, the diploma and his graduation picture sit in front of the photos of Dear Son as a little boy. It seemed like he went from four to eighteen overnight. My how time flies. All these years when he would be really sick in the hospital, I would pray that he would get well and that he'd live long enough so could see him all grown up. I wanted to know what he'd look like as a man. So Dear Son got his wish and I got mine. I am so happy I got to see him grow up.


Anonymous said...

I remember when my brother graduated from school. It was a special day worth all the partying in the world. Will Dear Son be attending any Post-HS programming? I wasn't sure if there was anything available where you live.

Rambling Round said...

Congratulations to Dear Son! I bet he enjoyed the party more than a lengthy grad ceremony anyway. My son graduated this year too, and we were also on vacation when the official ceremony took place. My son would not have wanted to wear a cap or gown anyway. He received a Certificate of Completion rather than of attendance. Not sure what the difference is, but I can't recall being told the difference between it and a diploma either.

Michelle said...

me too, DM, me too.

Anne in NY said...

What a happy party for all! Just makes you realize once again how much these kids love what every other kid loves at that with friends, laughter, music, and dancing -- congratulations to you all!

ANewKindOfPerfect said...

Congratulations Dear Son!! This post is so beautiful. He looks absolutely happy and thrilled in all the pictures. Thank you for sharing his special day with us!

Anonymous said...

Dear Dream Mom,
Congratulation on dear Son's graduation. It is an achievement for you as well. You are an inspiration to me and I wish you all the best.

Donna said...

Love these pictures.
Congratulations DS!

Kristin Drohan said...

Congrats to DS. Love the happy face!

Gloria (The Little Red House with the White Porch) said...

Dream Mom - I just saw Dear Son's graduation! CONGRATULATIONS! I, too, love the pictures of him with his teacher. She looks like a lovely girl, and you can just see how he loves her, and she loves him right back! I didn't realize Dear Son was 18 already! You are right - he is a grown guy now, as my son is, and we just have to accept that the years have FLOWN by. (I certainly agreed with you when you said it went from 4 years RIGHT TO them being 18 years old!) Again, congrats to Dear Son and his Graduation. And don't worry about him not get an official 'diploma' - his Certificate of Completion is just as much of an achievement.
Best regards,

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