For those of you whose kids are now leaving high school behind, you may be wondering, as I did, “How did we get here so QUICKLY?” You may also have some degree of anticipation as to how in the world you and your child are now going to navigate the big, new, wide-open world of college. The feeling of uncertainty was very present in my family and you may be feeling the same thing. As challenging and chaotic as the grade school and high school years can be with ASD children, there is a wholly different dynamic in this next life-step but it is one you can do successfully with the proper plan and involvement.
There are two main aspects to the college era which we will explore here: Social and Academic. In my experience with my own kids and observing many other students at this phase, the social aspect is generally a much bigger adjustment than the actual academic studies. Often times your child will be seeing things which are new, taking in a ton of information he/she is not used to. And like any other kid, yours may absolutely be taken with the opportunity to try to be “cool”, whatever that is. Especially for ASD children there is often a more pronounced desire to fit in so they may be very open to trying new things – new clothes, new friends, new activities. Fortunately, the world at this stage may be a bit more accepting than what you and your child experienced in earlier school years so don’t always expect the worst. As a matter of fact I will even suggest that you intentionally encourage the changes and embrace the positive – it’s part of the adventure!
The best advice at this point is to try to limit the number of major transitions at any one moment. You know your child better than anyone so trust your judgement and know when enough is enough. Take the significant changes at a measured pace, not overwhelming your child. Living environments, clothes, daily routines, and friends all are brand new so make sure to actively set expectations with your child, discussing the discipline needed to navigate this step. You’ve been developing these skills during the younger years so apply the tools you already have!
Although your kiddo may be far more focused on fitting in versus classroom performance, the very first thing I recommend you do is sign up for disability services in the administration office. There are AMAZING resources available at most schools related to academic accommodations, student & campus life, financial aid, etc. Use them! I will also take a moment to acknowledge that not every student will/can attend college so please hear me… IT IS OK! What is not OK; however, is to allow your child to sit around at home and do nothing. College is not the only option after high school, of course. Explore whatever work co-op programs may exist near you. Encourage him/her to get a job. Get involved in a service or charity. There is so much to do – just do something.
Remember this truth – your child is a beautiful bright light which the world is waiting to see shine! Encourage, discipline, support – this is your job as a parent! Good luck and we will be back in November for a fitting dose of GRATITUDE in the next newsletter.
The PediaPlex Family,