Lucky Mom!

I am a lucky mom.  I have a son who is growing up to be an incredible young man.  Yes, he says and does awkward things at times, but he is learning and growing.  I see it more in the last year.  Noah thanks us, his parents, for always supporting him, even when he drove us crazy.

This year he realized and understood the importance of asking for help, going for help, and organizing his time.  Noah was on academic probation in the beginning of his sophomore year of college.  The probation was due to one bad grade in French.  It still baffles my family because he speaks French with my husband.  It was the grammar that threw him a curve ball and lack of organization when it came time to study.  We suggested tutoring, which is provided for free at Whittier College.  He said he would go, but never did.  He let his pride get in the way of his success.  We had many discussions about asking for help.  We talked about working in the real world and CEO and CFO’s all need a strong support and help from team members to make a company successful.  We would tell him repeatedly, the wisest people in the world are the people who are not afraid to ask for help.   Noah and I had this conversation several times over many months.

Once he read the probation letter and we discussed his options, he realized he needed to make a change.  For us, his options were to ask for help and work with an academic counselor or go to our local city college.  He made the decision to work hard and stay at Whittier.  He turned his attitude around.  Noah would meet with his academic counselor weekly, he would talk more with his professors, and even stay on campus over the weekend to study.

Now, Noah works for the summer.  It is his second summer as a courtesy clerk for Vons.  They rehired him this summer.  He works long hours cleaning the store, bagging groceries and retrieving carts.  He loves Thursdays because that is when he gets paid.

Now that Noah makes his own money, he offers to treat me to lunch or ice cream.  During our outings he always says, “I love you mom.  You’re the best.  Thank you for everything you have done for me.”  I am a very lucky mom.

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.

 

 

 

How Hard is to Hard to Push Your Aspie To be Social?

Noah continues to struggle at school on a social level.  He walks around depressed about his old friends that graduated or left the school, but refuses to move forward to reach out via Facebook and make new friends at school.  If Noah’s father and I didn’t push Noah, he won’t move forward.

Last week, I sat with him and showed him how to use Facebook to find his friends from last year.  I showed him how easy it was to stay connected.  But, I feel he really doesn’t get it.  Once his friends accepted the friend request, I explained that a good friend asks questions and doesn’t just spew stuff about mangas and anime.  No matter how many years he had in social skills group this part just doesn’t seem to connect always.

Yesterday, Noah had a senior swim party.  He wasn’t going to go at all!  This made my husband and I so sad.  It is his senior year; he should go and hang out, even if it is for a short time.  So, the day before the event, I drove Noah to school.  I had his undivided attention.  We usually have the best talks when it is just the two of us.  Originally, Noah’s plan was to visit the library, check out some books and movies for the weekend and have lunch.  I explained that he should make an appearance at the swim party and he might know some people there.  In fact, I told him he might have fun.  That’s when he told me he just likes to be alone.  That was hard to hear.  I told him lots of people like to be alone.  I have moments where I just need “Me time.”  However, I really want him to understand in the real world, he needs to try and step outside of his comfort zone, even if it just a little bit.  Any movement forward is better than none.

Recently, Noah told us about a class trip during Spring Break.  He really wants to go.  Perfect!  It is the bait we needed.  We told him that we would only agree to pay for this trip if he works hard in school and begins to be more social by making new friends and attending some events.

I just don’t want him to be alone in the world.  This is my biggest fear.  Am I pushing too hard?

Who else does this?

I just sent out my yearly emails to the teachers.  I give them a heads up about Noah.  I also let them know I am here to support them in any way they need it.  Sometimes I hear back from the teachers.  Other times, I don’t hear a word.

I am just curious do any other parents of special needs students do this too?

Going Above and Beyond Recource Classes

Since Noah has had an IEP since 3rd grade, I have learned how to help him where the IEP services can’t.  In the real world, people aren’t going to be as forgiving for the Aspie remarks that mostly go unfiltered.  In addition, I will not always be with my child.  I know he needs to learn how to manage without me by his side.

In order to fill in the gaps where resource classes leave off, My husband and I discuss some of the skills he will need in the real world and how do we provide those skills in a safe setting.

One of the skills that all people need to learn is how to work with others.  In order to teach this vital skill we wanted our son Noah to work in a safe environment.  Luckily through our temple, Noah volunteered during his 8th and 9th grade year.  He answered phones, prepared snacks, and helped the janitor clean-up.  Noah had to learn how to answer a phone politely. This was a real challenge.  Normally he would answer, “Yes?”  The temple was very patient and took the time to teach Noah to answer the phone, “Hello, XXXX synagogue, student speaking.”  What an improvement.  He had to learn how to take direction and ask for clarification instead of saying, “I got it.”  When in fact he didn’t understand and needed the directions repeated.  What a great learning experience for Noah.

My husband and I didn’t stop there.  We knew he also needed to continue his learning to work with others but also Noah needed how to learn to be on his own.  So, we sent him to a counselor in leadership training program (KILT).  It wasn’t any program.  We knew about this program and knew the head of the KILT program.  We took the time to talk to other parents whose children attended the program.  When we applied for the program, we made sure the camp and the head of the KILT program were aware for Noah’s issues.  Noah was accepted for the summer of 10th grade!  He went to the KILT program for 3 weeks.   This would be the first time he went away for more than one week.  He would actually be away for 2 weeks without us and one week we would be part of the family camp.  The first year was challenging for Noah and the camp leader.  However, he returned last summer and completed a very successful year.  This summer will be his last summer in the program.  Noah is very excited about going.  Now that he has gone to the camp for 3 summers (one summer as a camper and 2 summers as a KILT) he is more open to participating.  Noah has gained confidence, learned to help others, and take direction.

Now, Noah is heading towards his senior year.  College living and dorm life can be scary for any person.  Noah wanted to go to computer camp during his summer.  So, I found a computer camp on a college campus.  In fact, I found a computer camp on a college campus where he needed to stay in the dorms for 2 weeks.  Noah realized staying n a dorm with other students isn’t as scary as he had once thought.  In his mind, it was doable. He learned how to be responsible for remembering to take his medicine, shower without being reminded, sleep in a room with strangers, and go to camp away from home.  Having conquering his biggest fears helped build his self-esteem as well as erased some of Noah’s fears about college life.

Taking the time to think about the skills needed in order to be a successful adult and finding a safe environment to practice these skills will be so enriching for your Aspie child.

Summer time fun…to be or not to be

Summer is supposed to be fun in the sun with friends. Kids should be hanging out at the beach, eating ice cream everyday, swimming, going to movies, or hanging out on the street shooting the breeze. However for kids with social and emotional issues this type of frolicking in the summer is challenging. These kids prefer to be isolated in his/her room, only to be forced to connect with friends in order to get out of the house. Now take this one step father by sending this child to a sleep away camp for a few weeks. I have sent my child to a leadership training program. He wanted to go. He filled out the application. I just wanted to support him! My husband and i were so proud that our son took the initiative to apply. As his mom, I am nervous about certain things but I am familiar with the camp and I know I sent him to a safe place. He is with nine other boys in a cabin and the camp leader. He is forced to deal with being social at some level.

As a child, my parents always told me that I needed to fall on my face so that I could learn how to help myself work out my problem. This is the same for my child. He needs to work things out for himself without me running interference for him. The most difficult part in parenting is watching this process happen. There is an ongoing conversation happening inside my head, “It is good for him. He will be fine. He needs to go through these issues on his own in order to grow.” Then the reply is “Oh, I hope he can work this out. I don’t want him to be unhappy or feel anxious.” Then, I hear myself saying, “The only reason he is having issues is because he wants to retreat, be alone and play the addictive game boy. So chill out! He will be fine.”

How does a parent work through these types of situations without having a panic attack? I would love to have some helpful tips.

Remember there is always hope…

Last night the family went to the weekly session. We started working on the social deficit component in our son. Through our discussion the therapist presented our son with his perspective. The therapist told our son that he has a blind spot when it comes to connecting socially. In addition because it is a blind spot, requires more effort on our son’s part, that our son doesn’t want to put in that effort because it can be difficult. After our son hemmed, hawed and rebutted, at the end of the session our son finally admitted, the real reason he hasn’t reached out to make friends is he is lazy and it takes work to make new friends.

So, why am I happy about this realization for my son? I am happy because the light is on and now the work can truly begin. He may not be open to all our ideas but we can always bring him back to his words, “I am lazy…” Because these words are his way of realizing his blind spot and needs help!

I will keep you all posted!