Let us say that I knew CM2 would have a hard time transitioning into college. Unlike his older brother CM1, CM2 holds fast to his comfort zone, which includes where he studies, where he works, the people he knows and interacts with and how he lives his life. He does not like to change his schedule, his surroundings, or the way he accomplishes anything in his world. In other words, he likes what he likes, so I knew that moving on from high school was going to be hard for him.
I took him to meet the disability director at his college last week. She is a terrific young woman, very attuned to the needs of those with disabilities. She is patient and kind and very much into self-advocacy. Of course for me, the helicopter mom of the century, the self-advocacy part is hard for me, especially since I don’t think that CM2 is very ready for every aspect of it. But it is part of the program and I am going to have to let go at some point, not yet, but soon. Luckily the disability director is gently shoving me out of the way.
It is ironic I know, that I wanted CM1 to be more of a self-advocate and I expected it of him. Of course, the boys are two different people, in fact very different people. CM1 is more self-sufficient, more of a self-starter and always seemed more intune with what needed to be accomplished in school. CM2 is more fragile, more in need of cajoling and cuddling to be able to accomplish his goals. He is very bright, as bright if not smarter than his older brother in fact, but he is stymied by his own fear of coming out of the world that he knows. As a child he was cowed and overwhelmed by any new information and immediately decided that he would not understand concepts. When you calmed him down he realized that nothing was beyond his reach. Luckily we have been able to get him past the issue of immediately doubting his ability, but still, fear of the unknown keeps him from taking the leaps forward that he needs to take. It is our goal that in college he learns to take the chances he needs and to understand that he is as capable as anyone in the world. So yes, it starts with self-advocacy and I know that quite well, that is why in time and once he is settled, I will be getting out of the way as I did for his brother.
Meanwhile while CM2 was in the meeting he would not put down his iPhone or his Nintendo DS. He would occasionally answer a question about his abilities and the accommodations he had in high school, but for the most part you could tell he did not want to be there. The disability director quietly and calmly kept trying to get his attention. She was kind and understanding with him. Politely asking him to focus and requesting his attention. There was even a time in the meeting that I was asked to leave the room, so she could talk to CM2 alone. I did. It was her telling him that he needed to sign a paper that would allow her to talk to us if there was a problem. I let her know that he had already signed such a paper for the college and I told CM2, in private, that if he didn’t sign the paper, I didn’t pay his tuition. “Yeah, yeah, yeah…. I get it,” he said. So once he turns 18 he will sign her paper.
Yes, I know a lot of 18-year-olds, think that they are adult enough to make their own decisions and some of them are. But when you, the parent, are paying a small fortune every year to educate your child, you should be able to find out what is the real story. I have already faced this issue, with CM1, when I allowed him and his advisor to figure out his program and was told that he was on track to graduate. Well lo and behold, he is not and now I am taking a little bit more control. Going to find out exactly what he needs to graduate so there is no more mix-ups. Sometimes parents do need, and should be able to keep a handle on what is happening with their children. Eighteen may be legally an adult but it also depends on the child, and when you are dealing with an aspergean, we know that that person could have delayed maturity and may still need, even if they don’t want it, parental support and guidance.
Now CM2 and the rest of the meeting…. the disability director wanted to show him the library and the testing/tutoring center. I actually mentioned that I would meet them in the pub, near the bookstore, and that they should go alone. I think the director liked that idea and she and CM2 went off together. She was able to introduce him to the campus without parental oversight and he met the director of the testing center. They then met me at the designated place and she said goodbye. CM2 was very subdued and not quite himself.
In the meantime, we have signed CM2 up for a summer course, just so he becomes a little familiar with the college campus and understands just what a college course is all about. Granted it might be a little bit faster than a regular course but it is only one course and the amount of work he puts into this course over the next five weeks is probably close to how he will have to deal with his five courses in the fall. They are allowing a para for him, as we hired for CM1, and we were able to hire even one the paras that have been working with CM1 for the past several years. So we are good to go with that issue.
Once the disability director left, I took CM2 into the bookstore and had him buy his book for the summer course. I asked him if he wanted college attire, shorts and t-shirts, special notebooks, agendas, folders, etc. All I got was “I don’t care.” Needless to say I bought it all for him anyway. I figured if he had these things it would be better for him. Wear the clothes of your new school and it will help make him more comfortable and make him feel a part of the school. Carry a folder with the school logo on it, and it will help. Have an agenda with the school colors on it and it will help. It may take time, but he will eventually feel like he belongs on that campus.
When we got home CM2 wouldn’t look at the books or the items I bought. They sat in the shopping bags on the floor of his office where he had thrown them, putting them to another side of his life, not wanting to acknowledge their existence. He ignored their importance and he ignored their abject reality. Finally the Wise old Sage went to help him set everything up for his college course. He is helping CM2 organize his office, get rid of things that are unnecessary and prepare him for the next stage in his life.
It is not an easy task. CM2 is fighting tooth and nail all the way. But WoS will win. He always does when it comes to the boys, that is why we have him work with them when it comes to the harder issues. I am their mother. I am there to feed and clothe them and make sure their worlds are ordered, but I cannot tell them what to do and how they are to do it. That is what the hubby is for. They give him a hard time but they listen to him.
So CM2’s office is coming together. The highschool books and folders are being put in the attic. His desk is now cleared of knick-knacks and we are about to finish cleaning his office as well. The next step is to organize his backpack and get him to organize his class draws and folders.
I heard CM2 at 2 AM this morning talking to himself in his bedroom and went to see if he was ok. He said he was trying to sleep. This morning CM1 woke us up at 8:30 saying that CM2 had been up since 5 AM this morning. CM2 said he was worried about a law aimed at video games that was a violation of freedom of speech. WoS went over the legislation with him and showed him how it would be just fine and that noone was taking away his video games. Of course, hubby and I know that it is not the legislation that he was worried about. We know that it is the change that is coming that is keeping him awake. We know that it is displaced anxiety.
Poor kiddo… transitions do not come easy for him...but he will adjust. This college is a welcoming place for all students. It is a place that CM2 will eventually feel comfortable, he just has to give it time. Hopefully eventually he will also come to understand deep down in side that he is very capable of doing terrific in college and by inference he is capable of doing terrific in every situation that he encounters.
Until next time,
P.S. To those who think that I am being over protective when it comes to having the boys sign the parental permission slips for college. If you do not have them sign the slip, the college does not have to talk to you about your child, in fact they are not allowed by law. The same when it comes to medical issues when your child turns 18. That is why they need to sign healthcare proxies, living wills and power of attorneys. If your child is hospitalized at 18 the doctors do not have to talk to you, listen to you and can do what THEY think is best for your 18 year old with autism, or your 18 year old neurotypical child as well. There have been cases, where parents of children who have committed suicide at college have lost their cases when suing the school for not informing them of their child's problems, because they never had the child sign the parental permission slip. It is important to make sure that you have a way to communicate with the school and that you have legal recourse to protect your child.