Is Your Aspie Ready for College? Be realistic about the process and give them the tools they need, so when they get there, they not only succeed but thrive.
At some point, usually during the early years of high school, students start to receive more mail than they’ve ever received in their lives. Mailboxes become stuffed, inboxes overflow. It seems that every institution of higher learning wants your kid. At first, it’s flattering (despite the fact all this derives from mailing lists.) Then, it becomes tedious. There’s a lot to sort through. But when your teen is on the Autism Spectrum, that pile can look like kindling, and not much else. As brilliant as our kids can be, there are other areas in their lives where they seem to struggle so much more than their peers who are barely scraping by in class. At times, it may seem impossible that college will be an option. Today, I want to get you thinking about college and your teen, to truly get you to consider if college is something she should look into.
Is Your Aspie Ready For College?
First, I’m going to ask you a few questions.
All social skills, PT concerns, etc. aside, does your teen have the aptitude for college? In other words, do they have the grades? What do the teachers say? College is a jolt for many. And, to be honest, it is not a fit for everyone. That’s ok.
When you think of college, what do you envision? Are you solely thinking life in a loud dorm, miles from home? Or are you considering the bigger picture of what college has morphed into today? There are so many options out there, from living away from home to taking online classes at home. If your Aspie appears college bound, be open to considering them.
To be clear, not all college situations will fit all Aspies. As it’s said over and over again, if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism. There are certain skills required to live on campus that not everyone will share, and that’s ok. That being said, do not keep your kid in a box. Be realistic with yourself and see if you want them to commute or take online classes because you have concerns about what will happen. Sometimes, these concerns are quite warranted. Other times, we have to be honest and admit we are being overprotective.
Take a moment and consider your main concerns for your teen. Write them down. Be honest. Don’t confuse things that tripped you up with things that affect them. Identify these concerns and work through them. You may find some will resolve themselves in time. My daughter changed tremendously from her first day of high school to her last.
Now, if you’ve decided that your teen may be ready to live on campus, there are a few areas to consider. There’s plenty of time to develop some of these skills, so if she doesn’t have them yet, don’t fret. As always, speak with a trusted counselor for advice or simply an outside opinion.
This is a brief list, but something to consider before living on campus:
- Can she create and stick to a schedule all on her own?
- Can she stay on top of her work, especially as grades can be few and far between compared to high school?
- Is she able to be flexible and figure out when there are changes, such as time and place of exams?
- Does she know how to do her own laundry? (Some schools actually offer a laundry service, but those are few and far between.)
- Will she give the dining hall a chance, and eat enough nutritionally balanced food? (Hey, its college. These kids still load up on pizza and other things that aren’t exactly healthy, but…)
- Has she shared a bedroom before? (If not, start a conversation on that. Also, there are schools that offer singles to freshmen, but not many. It’s worth asking about if this is a concern.)
- Does she know what to do when she gets sick?
- Will personal hygiene while living in a community be a concern?
Some of these certainly apply to commuters, but remember, if your teen is living at home she still has you to constantly follow up on her. You may not even realize you are doing so! But once she is away, there is only so much you can do. Also, the school will not give you grades once your teen turns 18.
Those are only a few questions, but they prove a point. Much of college is about living independently. From getting to class on time to keeping up with laundry, all of these require executive functioning skills and a methodology to stay on track. Many, many Aspies will not only go on to college, but to some of the finest institutions in the world. I know this first hand. It’s up to us as parents to not only be realistic about the process but to give them the tools they need so when they do get there, they not only succeed, but thrive.
Want more articles like this about Aspergers (High Functioning Autism)?
- Safety Tips for College Bound Students
- Asperger’s and College: Starting the Conversation
- 7 tips for motivating kids on the autism spectrum
- personal hygiene for kids with autism and sensory processing disorder