Mae has a red backpack that I ordered shortly before she started school. Her two brothers have similar backpacks, also in bright colors, each embroidered with their initials. I love the sight of my children’s backpacks hanging together on the hooks by our back door. It makes me feel that things are in order.
What you can’t see when you look at their backpacks is how differently they experience school. My sons, who are in elementary and middle school, are on a largely regular trajectory. Mae, however, is autistic; she is almost completely nonverbal and, at the age of nine, still in diapers. Five years after Mae entered a classroom for the first time, school is a vital but incomplete experience.