When I watched Caroline step on to that stage my heart was filled with so much pride.  I thought about how hard she worked, the skills she gained and all that she accomplished since starting her journey at Monarch Center for Autism Preschool.  My little lady was standing before a room full of people with a mortar board on her head celebrating the fact that she had completed preschool.  Her smile and dancing eyes told me that she knew what a special moment this was.

I thought about how much both Caroline and I had changed since the first day that I dropped her off at Monarch.  When we stepped out of the van, I had to hold her hand tight because if I didn’t Caroline would have immediately run off.  Today, Caroline rarely runs away during drop off even when no one is holding her hand.  Caroline had a VERY limited ability to communicate two years ago, she had a few signs, could use PECS, made gestures and spoke a few words.  And of course, Caroline’s larger than life personality always helped her get her point across. But when she began to use her communication device and sign language to share her thoughts and not just ask for things, I felt like I was really getting to know Caroline.  That first day, I dropped her off in August, I was wearing long sleeves to make it less painful when Caroline scratched me – now when she engages in aggressive behavior it is so rare that I consider it a blip.
The amazing team of teachers and therapists at Monarch helped Caroline to deal with her sensory needs, helped her to find her voice, taught her the alphabet, showed her how to dress herself and brush her teeth, held her accountable and made her a much more aware and happy child.
On the first day, when I dropped off Caroline she never had a friend her own age and I didn’t know parents of kids with special needs.  That all changed.  Caroline learned to play with and engage her classmates both in the classroom and in the community.  And I met a group of women who love their children fiercely, celebrate Caroline’s victories as much as their own child’s and provide me a shoulder to cry on or someone to laugh with when needed.  Caroline and I found our people at Monarch which helped us both to find ourselves.
Caroline is who she is today because of the countless teachers, therapists, nannies and other specialists who helped her develop the skills necessary to function in

Caroline celebrating her successes!

Caroline celebrating her successes!

a natural environment – and not just those at Monarch. There has been, is and will continue to be a village teaching, guiding, supporting and cheering for Caroline. Without the help of so many I would not truly know Caroline because she would still be locked inside of herself. I am so thankful to everyone who helped Caroline gain the skills she needed to climb that stage and claim her hard earned preschool diploma.

I will celebrate Caroline’s successes and milestones whenever they may come because Caroline marches to her own beat and keeps her own time.  Sometimes I forget to focus on far Caroline has come rather than how far she has to go but on this day – when Caroline stood before her classmates and their parents accepting her diploma – all I could think about were her accomplishments, growth and amazing ability to overcome adversity.
It is with swelling pride that I share Caroline will be attending Monarch Center for Autism this fall as a Kindergartner majoring in General Studies with a minor in Causing Trouble.