Finding the Right College

High Function Asperger’s will be successful in college.  It doesn’t matter if it is a city college, a state college, or a university, there is a college that is the right fit for your child.  However, in order to find it, you will need to reach out to parents that have children on the spectrum or children with similar issues.

My luck came when some friends of our from temple began speaking to us about their son.  They shared some of the same issues my husband and I went through with Noah.  They shared their story about this little college 30 miles from Los Angeles and how this college and it’s staff supported their son.

Noah didn’t want to discuss college.  However, on the side, we did research into small colleges that had services for kids like Noah.  We bought books such as Colleges that Change Lives  and  The K & W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities …We marked pages and looked at locations.  Once Noah started talking about college, we asked him if he wanted to stay in state or out-of-state.  He thought about this and decided he wanted to stay in state because he wanted to be able to one home on weekends.  Then we began to search both private and public college in the state that were no more than a 3 hour car ride.

Don’t shrug off those private colleges.  Most of them will give scholarships that will compare the cost to a public university.  In addition, most private colleges are small, they provide support for all students such as, free tutoring and academic coaching.   Furthermore, the professors teach the class and not a teacher’s assistant. Most private classes have less than 20 students in a class.  Some classes can be as large as 40 students but at least it is not 500 students in a lecture hall.

Not matter if your child’s choice is public or private, make sure you take the tour.  Most colleges offer an overnight experience for the student.  The overnight experience consists of sleeping in a dorm with a student volunteer, eating all meals with other students, and attending a few classes.  Noah participated in this overnight in two different schools that he wasn’t sure about attending.  It really helped him envision himself in the school environment.

When we set up these tours, we also set up appointments at the Disabled Student Services for each school, even in the schools he didn’t attend an overnight.  Noah talked to the advisors about support.  He was able to discuss where he needs the most help (this took some pre-coaching before the meeting).  The schools discussed what they could offer him as accommodations.

Living in a single dorm instead of sharing is an accommodation recommended to us by the Disabled Student Services.  We pay for a double room and the Disabled Student Services pays for the difference in price.  The school states that students on the spectrum should ease their way into the environment in order to perform better and be more relaxed. By having  his/her own private space at the end of each day helps him/her rejuvenate for the next day.

Noah experiences positives and negatives with the concept of having a private dorm room. The positive is that Noah does relax once he is in his own space.  It does reduce his anxiety because he doesn’t have to worry about another body in the room.  The negative about this concept is that most Aspie’s avoid social settings.  So, Noah becomes a hermit and makes excuses as to why he can’t go to a social function like a club event.  Or, what drives me crazy is that sometimes he eats alone.  We have already prepped Noah for next year.  He will have a roommate.  Furthermore, we require Noah to participate in one activity per week.  Noah has found a group that meets on certain Friday afternoons to practice French and every other week, he participates in the chess club.  I hope this continues.

College is possible.  It takes time to research and most importantly visit.  research on the supports each school provides for all its students and then contact the Disabled Student Services for a meeting.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel, even if there are bumps in the road along the way.




He Made It Through 1st Semester of College

Noah made it!  He made it through his first semester in college.  This is a huge accomplishment.  Noah lives on campus.  One of his accommodations is a single room with out any roommates.  The Disabled Student Services felt that kids on the spectrum do much better the first year with this accommodation.  However, there is a slight draw back to this accommodation, which I will discuss later.

The entire family was nervous about Noah leaving home to attend college.  He would have to do is own laundry, clean his room, and organize his own work load with out support from me, his unofficial assistant to help with executive functioning.  He did it!  There were many hiccups but he pulled through.  One hiccup he had was checking his emails.

Noah has a personal email and a school email account.  I helped him put both on his phone but he would forget to check them. He often became agitated when checking because he didn’t understand about the two separate systems.  Noah missed several emails from a professor who was worried about his performance in the class.  Luckily, on a weekly breakfast outing, I asked him if he had been checking emails.  He thought about it and realized he should check them.  That’s when he found the several emails from his professors.  This continues to be an issue but he has set up a system where he checks the emails at least twice a day for both accounts.  It’s a work in progress.

Noah had to master planning out study time and homework.  He struggled with executive functioning.  He would become overwhelmed.   He wouldn’t know where to start or how to start his assignments.  He is fortunate enough to be at a college that has academic advisors to assist with helping plan out study time.  He would meet with the advisor once a week.  Every now and then, Noah would call me with an anxious tone.  We would have a conversation about going to the Disabled student services and his academic advisor to discuss his issues.  My goal was to teach him to reach out and use the school resources and not rely on me as much anymore.  It’s not that I didn’t want to help, it’s just that I needed him to help himself with the support at his college.  Noah finds it difficult to ask for help.  He is like many Aspie kids.  This opened the door to a conversation about huge corporations where the CEO and CFO’s need support in order to move the company forward. Moreover, many people need a strong support team in order to have a successful work environment.   This is an ongoing conversation but we are making head way.

A few years before Noah left for school, I taught him how to wash his clothes.  I stopped washing his laundry.  I made him wash his own clothes all by himself.  I started this a few years early so that it became the “norm” since he was going to be thrown into an environment that was so new and confusing.  Well, it worked!  He washes his clothes, sheets, towels, and even folds them and puts them away.  Shocking!

Noah survived.  He had some bumps in the road, but he overcame them on his own.  I am so proud of him.  I send him texts every now and then letting him know how proud we are about his hard work. I text him messages that are positive and uplifting reminding him that he can do anything he puts his mind to.

College is scary but finding the right college and empowering your child will help to promote a successful transition.