It’s been such pleasure writing for We Know Stuff. As Denine and Daniele know, my family has been a bit overwhelmed this past year. It happens. But, sometimes, something envelopes you and everything else seems to fade into the background. For us, it has been a major change coming soon in our family’s life. That change is college.
When my daughter was young, before we even knew she was on the Autism Spectrum, there were challenges. In fact, her preschool teacher was so concerned about her (all she wanted to do was go down the slide and didn’t interact with the kids like the others. She was all about solo play.) she told me flat out she was worried she may be headed to juvie someday. I’m not kidding. And those of you familiar with our story read this tidbit in “Asperger’s in Pink”. Back then, I thought it was a bit much. I still think it’s a bit much. The child was four years old. Really, now? However, her lack of understanding our daughter was replayed throughout the years by others who did not “get” her flavor of autism. We didn’t settle with her assessment, but reached out to others for their highly qualified perspective and help, and chose to move forward. The rest is history in the making.
You see, we are all persistent types, and we’ve all (especially Kristina) worked long and hard, sacrificing on a level most would never comprehend. The result? She’s blooming. She’s thriving. She’s taken our breath away. And those who took a negative view of her along the way couldn’t have been more wrong. And those who believed in her share our tears of joy, knowing she could “do it”. She made it to high school and is graduating with honors. And she’s headed to college, to a Top 20 university in the US. (*pinch me*)
There is so much more to this story, but what I want to share here over the next several months are some things we’ve learned along the way, especially if your child is young and college seems like a longshot. (Psst… we were there, too!) I want to encourage you to work with your child with the goal on independence in mind. In order for our daughter to be able to go away to college, she needed a certain set of skills, and these did not happen overnight. Also, I want to be very clear that there are those on the spectrum who will not have college in the cards, and that is ok! This is not a guarantee, but a way to see your child in a new light, and realize that for many kids on the Asperger-end of the spectrum, college really can happen.
As we start the conversation, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Early intervention really does work. Don’t put it off. Keep in mind we’re looking at long term goals here.
- Executive Functioning Skills are key for independent living, which includes college (we’ll talk about these in another post.) If anything, this may be the greatest key to success.
- Resist the urge to do everything for your child, which is hard for us moms of special needs kids, as life has already thrown them a curve ball. Foster independence early on. For example, start with making a simple sandwich – hard to go wrong there!
- Preschool does not determine your child’s future career, or lack thereof. In other words, understand, deep down inside, that no one holds the crystal ball that shows what your child will be capable over when she turns 17. No one. This means she may wildly beat your expectations.
- Sometimes, sacrifices have to be made. Swapping season tickets for regular visits with the therapist may be in the cards. Toning down vacations to make the copays and other modifications may need to be done. It isn’t easy, but, for us, it was investing in our child. That has come with unexpected and amazing dividends, which have made this year a whirlwind.
- Your child will be an adult someday. Now is the time to picture what life skills you want for her, so she can live as independently as possible.
- Be realistic during the process, but choose to be optimistic. Believe your child will continue to grow and improve, and remain flexible throughout this journey.
It may take years (yes, years) to see the results. The analogy of planting a seed and nurturing it along the way really does ring true with these guys. It’s the best one I can think of. And it is worth it.
Julie Clark is the published author of “Asperger’s in Pink”, which you can buy here, and speaks professionally about Autism. She is also the creative force behind Julie Clark Art. Julie is happily married and has a beautiful daughter. She is currently working on her second novel.