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Looking Past High School: Options for my Asperger Son
College and Beyond
As we forge ahead to the end of his junior year of High School, I am left with the question: what's next? Unlike many of the friends I have made through this long journey, my son will graduate high school with an advanced diploma. He receives letters and emails from colleges daily offering the excitement of their programs and campuses for him to explore. Do they know that it is still difficult for him to cross the street unattended at 16 and a half years of age? I sincerely doubt it. They only are looking at the numbers and the numbers list him as a high achieving student amongst his peers academically.
We are finally in a good place at school. He has friends. Amen. For the first time in his life he has REAL friends. Classmates who value and respect his intellect and dry wit and sense of humor. They want to talk to him and miss him when he is absent. This is a major step for him. He smiles much more now than he ever did.
These past 11 years have been a miserable struggle filled with hurt, tears and anger. There have been triumphs along the way but the joy rarely seemed to last a week when we were on to a new problem or issue. Sadly, most of the problems were not caused by our son being "differently abled", they were caused by adults who were either misinformed or unable to comprehend that what they were doing or saying was not helpful and would lead to major problems. The other major stress was the education system deciding that a student maintaining a high average did not need services that were recommended for him by those who work closely with him. These services were largely for issues that did not appear to be academic, but would affect his performance greatly if he were to be without them. As a result, I have been unable to work full time for the past 6 years. This has been a major strain on our family both financially and emotionally. I spend almost every waking hour advocating and finding out what I can do to protect my child from losing the things that are helping him to be successful.
One part of this difficult journey is about to end. When our son graduates, he will no longer receive services from our Department of Education. I appealed to them that in order to treat his disability properly and allow him to transition into college successfully he needed to complete the transition program the summer before college. They have declined stating that the diploma is their stamp of approval to cut our son loose and forget about him. Never mind the fact that he is a success story for them, he is one of the very few disabled students graduating as highly ranked as he is and going on to more than likely an excellent college. They would rather see him regress in those six weeks and possibly be a failure. Six weeks to finish up what they have been doing for 11 years. But this is what we have. SInk or swim, don't let the door hit you on the way out. We have better things to do like prepare more test prep materials and ban words from the schools...Don't let me get started.
On I move to the next level. What to do after graduation. Of couse as I always have for many years, I go to the internet to see what our options are. I am pleasantly surprised to note the number of Colleges that have decided to embrace Asperger Syndrome and offer programs that support students with this diagnosis. Amen, I say once again. Colleges have so much to gain with this move. Most Asperger students are high achievers academically and will progress nicely in a college setting. I am hopeful finally for the first time in many years that my very intelligent and witty son will find happiness and success in this life. I have spent too much time concerned that he will sit home after graduation and do very little because he is unaccepted in this world. It seems that this is starting to change, little by little.
He began College Now classes this year where he can take college level classes in his High School with certified teachers he is familiar with. He has turned the corner since these classes started. He is behaving, he is interested in school and feels hopeful for the future as well. He has even made some career decisions. He wants to study digital media and communications. He wants to take more computer classes. He is interested in designing video games and maybe apps He has excellent ideas and is definitely an expert in video gaming, his passion.
I have gone to visit agencies and spoken to others on the telephone. There are many people who want to help us. He is very high functioning, therefore what has plagued us all along will continue to do so throughout his life. He is rarely eligible for any help because he is thought to be capable of doing more due to his IQ. This is unfair because this is no way a judgement of his life skills which are very poor. My 10 year is far above him in this area, but the powers that be do not really care. Its about money and we are not eligible to get it for a variety of reasons which would not be politically correct to list on this hub. Our system is flawed and I cannot hope for it to be fixed anytime soon, so we will continue to forge ahead to advocate as best we can for our son. What I have observed at the agencies is amazing. What is accomplished in making all people have a "purpose" is the most wonderful work I have ever witnessed. I bow to those who make this happen, they are truly angels. To see someone who has only limited use of his body working in a greenhouse setting, smiling, feeling important, having a purpose is the best. I have so much hope for my son because these people and places exist.
Our quest now is eligibility and a college that will suit his needs properly since he has the ability and every right to a future filled with success and happiness. Onward and upward.