Choosing A College: How To Help Your Aspie Find A Good Fit. Let them create their own unique path, as they’ve been doing since birth.
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Remember when our kids were young? When they could read before most kids could write their own names, but had such trouble with social cues they wound up in special classes at school or outside therapy sessions? Were you, like us, thinking you have a brilliant child on your hands but college may be out of reach for a myriad of other reasons? But, now, she is in high school, and college has totally entered the landscape as a possibility. Sure, she can handle the academics. She’s proved that over and over again, but what about the other areas? The areas that aren’t graded? How on earth will she find a college that is suitable – for her?
In today’s college rat race, there is a term used over and over again that many spout but few welcome. That term is “fit.” As a mom of an Aspie in college, I cannot stress to you enough how important the concept of “fit” should override everything else. Here’s what I’m talking about. (And this, to be frank, applies to any student, really!)
Choosing A College
But first, I’m going to ask you a few questions.
Do you know what your family can afford when it comes to college?
Yes, I went there. I did that annoying thing of talking money over grades or social skills. The reason being you may find the best college on the planet, your teen may be admitted, but if you can’t swing the payments they will be crushed. (These schools may be personal “fits,” but are not financial “fits.”) Trust me. I was that teen. To be true, schools do offer scholarships, etc., but do your homework as a family when making the initial list.
Is your teen planning on going away and living on campus? Or are you still sorting that out?
When looking at the distance from home, how much is “mom wants to be within arms’ reach” versus accessibility to essential therapies (or other bona fide reasons) in which case your teen really truly needs to be closer to home? (This is where we insert the “not one size fits” all clause.) Seriously, MomDad, if your Aspie has made it this far and is looking at going away to college, let her spread her wings a bit. If you are still concerned, I highly suggest enrolling her in an overnight summer camp session to see how she handles roommates, dining hall type food, etc. It’s not cheap but compared to the cost of college, it is a solid investment.
How To Help Your Aspie Find A Good Fit
Those major hurdles addressed, we can now talk about how to go about finding fit for your Aspie.
Fit encompasses many things, including average class size, graduation requirements, social (read party) scene and what the campus is like. When you are talking about someone on the Autism Spectrum, there are other things to consider on top of all that. For instance, roommates are a mixed bag for anyone going off to school. For Aspies, this area can be particularly difficult as most need to have a space they can go to unwind and recharge. That can be difficult to do with certain roommates, and can also make your teen a bit difficult, as well.
Another thing to consider is what services are on campus that can help them if needed. Keep in mind counseling centers vary greatly in style, and they may or may not have staff trained to help someone on the Autism Spectrum. If navigation is of concern, a large, sprawling campus can be too much. However, do not discard campuses located in or near major cities. Many of these have mass transit which can be a wonderful resource for these kids, especially for those who do not drive, or who will not have access to a car. Assuming they can learn the system, this opens up an entire world to them!
As a parent, think about your main concerns (and hopes!) for your teen. Be honest. Don’t assume they are looking for the same experiences you had. Let them create their own unique path, as they’ve been doing since birth.
This is just a taste of what to consider. When it comes down to it, no matter where your Aspie goes, professors will vary within the school, staff comes and goes. Try to look at the overall picture. You may not check all these boxes, but identifying what looks like a fit will further help you narrow down your list. I firmly believe choosing the right school, along with all the work they’ve done up to this point to get them there, will yield success for your Aspie!
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