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.

 

 

 

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.

Trying to Let Go

As a parent of a SENIOR, I am trying to have Noah do more for himself.  It is hard for me to watch him stress over minor situations and not help him find a solution.  I am the Italian-Jew mom who hovers and helps no matter if he wants it or not.

He is almost 18!  So, I am trying to step back and wait for him to ask for help.  This transition for both of us is not easy.  I know he will benefit in the long run.

 

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?

Back To School…Anxiety Rears its Ugly Head 

Noah is home from all his camp experiences.  He is vegging out like all kids should during the summer.  However, he still has chores and various tasks to complete before school starts.  

I can tell the idea of going back to school is causing him anxiety.   Noah’s tone of voice has changed from happy go lucky to high pitched defensive tone.   In addition,  he seems to become more fatigued doing simple tasks.  After the task, he takes long naps.He says the idea of school isn’t stressing him, but his behaviors tell a different story.  

I try not to engage in a discussion about better choices when Noah is loosing control. His father and I try to wait until he is calm to discuss the ways to handle a situation better.  some days are better than others.

The beginning of school season can be a bumpy road.  I need to remember to try and stay calm and breathe.  I may even need to go for a walk to avoid a confrontation with Noah.  

I need to take one moment at a time.  This to shall pass.  

Working Ahead and Chunking Tasks

As I mentioned before, executive function skills must be explicitly taught.  Don’t leave it up to the school system to do this task.  It needs to be reinforced daily by the parents.  It needs to be modeled by the parents as well.  It can feel like a broken record at times but it is crucial to the Aspie’s development.

Last week, Noah came home from camp.  He would only be home a total of 8 days.  He had many assignments to complete.  It felt overwhelming for me, so I knew it would be mind blowing for him.   He needed to work on his UC essays, his questionnaire for the college center, read his summer book, and start his journal for the summer book.  This can be an overwhelming for anyone.  Honestly, I didn’t expect for the reading and the journal to be completed.  My goal for Noah was to complete the UC essays.

The tool that works best for Noah is to plan together.  So, we sit down with the items and a calendar.  We systematically plan each item some have start and end times, while others have a certain number of items to complete.    In addition, we discuss ample break time limits.  Noah loves to sleep.  So, we plan to start after 9am.  Then, he feels he has a voice.  Once he is awake, I remind him we will start work after 9am.  He sometimes grumbles.  He is a teenager.  But, he does get to work.

The first task began answering the college center questions.  These are three pages of questions that need to be answered in order for the college center to write a letter of recommendation for you.  Chunking the questions into smaller sections over several days seemed more digestible for Noah. Click this link to read an article about what it means to chunk tasks.  Even though this article is based on chunking for adults, the same principle applies to children.  Here is how Noah and I chunked his tasks: each day, he sat and answered 10-12 questions.  I think the entire questionnaire was completed in three days.  The only part he needs to complete is typing the answers.  This can be done when he comes home in August.

The next task was working on the UC essays.  I had prearranged three different sessions with the tutor for Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.   The tutor’s goal was to help Noah brainstorm with an outline for the questions.  Then, Noah would create a draft from the outline the next day.  Noah focused on one essay at a time.  For example, Noah and the tutor created the outline for essay #1 on Sunday.  Noah then wrote the essay on Monday.  On Tuesday, the tutor and Noah edited the essay and began the brainstorming and outline for Essay #2.  On Wednesday, Noah wrote essay #2.  On Thursday, Noah and the tutor would edit the essay #2.  By Thursday, Noah finished both UC essays.

Now, Noah still must complete the summer reading.  I chunked this too.  I asked him for 20 minutes of reading each day.    He actually become engrossed in his book and read for more than 20 minutes each day.  While he read, he needed to highlight 10 quotes throughout the book to discuss in his journal assignment. I explained how much easier it is to highlight as he read instead of going back after the fact.  By Wednesday, he was done with the book and had his 10 quotes.  So, I said let’s put the quotes into the journal outline.  I helped him set up the template in the word document.  He completed 5 quotes on Wednesday and 5 quotes on Thursday.  On his own, Noah wanted to start inputting the literary device the author used.  The next thing I knew, he even inserted the commentary without being asked.  What a proud moment! Now, Noah can revise and edit the journal when he returns in August, but the tough part is over.

The key to working ahead and chunking is to allow your child down time.  This is the “buy-in”.  The child feels the tasks are doable as long as he/she has down time.   Down time is important for the child to reboot the system in order to continue working.  In addition, give your child a “heads up”.  Don’t spring things on the Aspie child.  Aspies do not respond well to surprises.

I love my son.  He has taught me as much, if not more, as I teach him.   Aspie’s Rock!!!