It will be a big day in our house. Our third child is headed to college tomorrow.
When he was diagnosed with Autism, we were told he would never gain verbal speech.
When he started 1st grade he still had not gained verbal speech.
School can seem like a life raft for parents. When sending him to school, some think, school can “fix It”. We quickly found the opposite was true. They were trying to understand as we were. It was gut wrenching for our family, mostly for him.
In school, the behaviors from frustration in communication crept in ( hiding under a desk ) Once he did start to talk, the social challenges, misreading of social cues, not just by him but by the uneducated around him, even the staff lead to behaviors that were not appropriate.
When the behaviors became overwhelming, we were told he needed a specialized school. As parents, that was heartbreaking and in my mind unacceptable.
We took him for another evaluation
With this diagnosis, unlike others, we were constantly getting different opinions on therapy and adjustments. Conflicting performances in different classes which at the time was frustrating but also aided in understanding him. He would be a angel in social studies and have “meltdown in math”
It was hard to send him and miserable for him. I am sure he wore a mask and smiled for most. Staff would always reassure me how “nice” everyone was to him. The one counselor said at every meeting- “the kids are so nice to him” I wanted to say shouldn’t they always be nice to him. I think 1st grade was a great year for him. Looking back, the teacher “got it” the aide “got it”. There was one girl in his class who insisted on helping him, and maybe even at that young age she “got it”.
My husband came to the re-evalutaion, after working on a roof. Coming in a little late, a little frantic thinking he may have missed the “update”. The psychiatrist, looked at both of us and said your son needs a private education that can cost more than a year at college. This information, with out even looking at each other we both knew was impossible. The silence was deafening.
He is our youngest, financially, we planned our future with two incomes. That halted with the diagnosis 5 years prior. I can tell you the impact of the financial strain, may have caused more worry than the diagnosis. It was an easy sacrifice, this is our child and one of us had to be here. We, by no means we went without, it was just not as comfortable.
We were informed his local school would be financially responsible for the specialized school but after touring decided the commute would be difficult and adjustments could be made at his school.
The local school adjusted. We adjusted. Team meetings, communication logs, trainings, phone calls & adjusted schedules all became part of my day, every day. I learned the acronym, IEP and all it’s power. He graduated with his typical peers. I was so happy when he graduated because I knew the anxiety he felt.
All those “nice kids” never invited him to a birthday party or graduation party. One “nice kid” came to his.
After 2 1/2 years, of trying different jobs, trying different social opportunities, college will be part of his story.
At his suggestion, he has decidied to go to college. I went with him to tour the school and applied for the parent plus loan. I went with him to meet his counselors. I was listening to them, as they questioned him about his likes and dislikes.
Wondering if they get it, are they trained, do they understand what it took to get here. I sat there trying not answer, he would glance at me with his eyebrows raised, twirling something in his hand wondering, he gives this look when he is unsure of the question, looking at me to rephrase it. I sat there silent.
There will be no communication logs, no team meetings to adjust work or schedules. There will be no “touring for outside placements” if he doesn’t fit. I definitely will not know if the kids are “nice to him”.
My wish is that he is invited to the parties, that he advocates for himself to staff. That this chapter, lights him up inside. That he finds joy. That he finds acceptance amongst his peers. That the world he enters “get him”.