Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Graduation Trepidation

Son 2 is struggling.  We have always been straight up with him about his disability, and how it impacts him, and what compensatory strategies are, etcetera.  Two years ago, he said to me, "Mom, I'm just not as "grown-up" as the other kids in my class, am I?".  That was quite the moment for both of us, as he realized he was lacking in the social make-up that the other kids instinctively "get".  Of course, we had the discussion that although he was behind them in some ways, in some ways, he's ahead.  For example, he doesn't get into the drama they do.  He's always seen past, over, and around it.  He regards it as foolishness, and questions why they don't "just get on with it".

However, as his graduation approaches, he finds himself in a bit of a pickle.  Though he wants that independence of college, he fears it, as well.  His brother and sister have not been successful in their attempts at higher education, and he fears that independence may well kick his butt as well.  On a few levels, he'd rather stay in high school, and do more AP classes.  Which is great, but frankly, the district hasn't been great for him, with the exception of the Speech Coach and English teacher.  His case manager sort of gets him, and God knows, she's been willing to work with him and with me to resolve differences.  He hasn't been the most academic of kids through high school, it's been a struggle all the way.  He refuses to do homework at home, as it's actually schoolwork, tells teachers "No, I don't have to do that now. My IEP says I get to hand it in later"  (emerging, though wildly inappropriate, self-advocacy in the making).  Naturally, teachers don't hear self-advocacy, they hear a snotty little brat.  Who could blame them?  Sometimes, the frankness of Aspies gets them in trouble.

We've visited the campus (and he's familiar with it from other tours, and events that have been held there - it's my alma mater), spoken with the disabilities director, and arranged special admissions so that he can take only one or two classes while adjusting to the academic rigors.  He'll be living at home, to save money and spare him being thrown to the wolves in dorm life right away.  Still, he worries.  It's who he is.  It's what he does.  I wish I had a way to tell him it'll be all right.  That I expect college will be his baileywick, as he will get to make his own structure, and not live by the bells at high school.  But nothing I say seems to ease the trepidation he feels.  We've had this conversation I cannot count how many times. 

My plan, now, is to get him through graduation.  He needs to get out of this district and see that the whole world is not high school, which is traumatic for everyone, not just Aspies.   He needs to see that people on campus will accept him and he'll have loads of friends.  His best friend and fellow Aspie from high school is also going to the same college, I think that will help ease the transition, as will his peer mentor.  (An upperclassman studying special ed that gets credit for helping to track homework and appointments.)  Sometimes, to ease the fear, the only thing to do is face it.  I believe he can do anything, if he just puts his mind to it.  This is the boy that wired my house for sound at age 5 with his walkie-talkie set. The boy who created a "shock box" to demonstrate electrical transformers.  The boy who isolated DNA from a hair at age 8.   He has creativity in abundance, and just needs to be able to show it.  Success is surely a possibility, if not probability, for him. 

My current plan is to have the Speech coach talk to him.  She understands, accepts, and loves him for who he is and also believes that the creative mind is stifled by the forced structure of high school, and that to be able to set his own structure in college will be remarkably freeing for him.  Sometimes, Mom just isn't enough.  Sometimes, it's a good thing to have a Speech coach to tell your kids what they need to hear.  Hopefully, it'll help.  If not, well, time will show him that he can be successful, if he doesn't give up before he really tries.

We're all in this together,



  1. I have seen many kids who struggled with their disorders flourish in college. Although it can be frightening it can also be freeing. The days of having to fit in and conform are over and he can be the terrific young man that he is and be appreciated for his independent thinking. Anyway - look who his mom is - he has a jump on the pack from the start.

  2. Exactly, Marianne. :) And so sayeth the speech coach as well. High school is as it must be, with the population of underagers, but college - now that's LIFE!

  3. This was collegeman two years ago. The transition is tricky but it can be done. The biggest thing is the responsibility is truly jsut on them. They have to stay on top of everything on their own, no handholding, well except those that live at home and have mom to watch their backs:). But he can do it. He just needs patience and to take it one day at a time.But your right too about the fact that he will find that people like him. Once collegeman realized that people can and will be nice to him it does make it alot easier too. Remember I'm here like always with an ear, shoulder and a thought.

  4. Thanks, Elise. :) " I thank my God upon every remembrance of you" Phillipians 1:3