Saying Thanks as They Finish Strong

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:18

The last month or so I have looked at so many graduates with their cap and gowns, dangling all their medals and cords they were awarded. I see various pictures with all their relatives. I watch as moms and dads shed tears feeling so grateful for their kids’ accomplishments. It is so great to celebrate these accomplishments for years of hard work. Graduating from high school or college is a special event and moment for sure.

Cap and Gown Graduation Celebration.jpg

Whenever one of our uniquely made children graduate, I think you can add:

  • 100 cords for things they have accomplished that took months or even years

  • Many honor scarfs for all the times they stepped up and accomplished a skill

  • Several pins for all the times they didn’t have aggressive behaviors

  • Valedictorian for making it to the finish line, showing true grit and determination

I have watched as Kerry Magro, a public speaker who has autism, completed his PhD this year! Wow! That was really cool to see. This gives so many of us parents hope for sure. Temple Grandin, who also has her PhD, is another person living with autism who has done tremendous advocacy and brought much awareness to autism and other disabilities in her public speaking.

My own son Charlie, who is almost 18 and has autism has two more years of school left.

He can do it! He can do it!

I can’t imagine the feeling when he actually walks across that stage, when he is handed his diploma, when we get to take those family pictures with his cap and gown. Who knows how many cords or scarfs he will have?

I am currently working on a picture album for him with each and every person that helped him to accomplish this great big goal. I took pictures of every therapist, aide, and teacher. There has been a tribe of folks that have helped Charlie along the way and also have helped our family. I want Charlie to see the large amount of people that helped him to get to this point.

I have said thank you along the way to each of them, but that day I want to scream and shout it. I want Charlie to thank them too. He hasn’t been able to during the journey, or at least hasn’t fully understood the sacrifices they have made to help him.

  • He didn’t understand the hours they gave or the hard hits they endured.

  • He didn’t understand the exhaustion or tears his parents shed in times of not knowing what to do.

  • He didn’t understand all the clean-ups for years of potty training.

  • He didn’t understand how hard the transitions were for not just him, but his parents as well.

  • He didn’t understand how hard it was for his parents and helpers to watch him hit himself.

I hope we don’t forget all the folks that poured into our kids over the years. As you take that picture of your child with their cap and gown, make sure you acknowledge all the people who helped him or her to get there. Without their intervention and love, it may have looked a little different at the end. Here are a few ideas to say “thank you” as your child finishes strong.

Write special helpers a thank you note, with your child’s picture in their cap and gown.

Let them know your child graduated and his or her future plans. This will remind them that their hard work was not in vain.

If possible, invite them to the graduation.

Let them be a part of the celebration. This can be a time for your child to really understand all the folks who helped along the way.

Have your child write them a letter of thanks.

If you have a picture from when your child was working with them, send that, and then another of them in their cap and gown with a note from your child.

Let’s remember everyone.

For Charlie, there have been PE teachers, receptionists, janitorial people, church folks, autism groups, and so many more than the circle you are thinking about. Think hard on all the people that have helped your child to grow to where he or she is today.

I am so proud of all the hard work each and every one of them made to get to the goal and finishing strong. It is a true accomplishment.

Patty Myers is the Director of Building Pathways.