If you’ve heard the expression “the hardest part of raising children is the first 50 years”, it rings particularly true for parents who have children on the Autism Spectrum.One of the reasons Mabel’s Labels started 16 years ago was because of my son’s autism diagnosis. No longer was the traditional workforce going to suit my life. I needed to be flexible enough to put a program in place, hire therapists, take him to appointments and advocate for him.
As Mabel’s has grown, matured and flourished, so has my son. He is now living away from home in residence at University. This transition, however, has not necessarily been an easy one. There were a few hiccups along the way. Here are some of the challenges you might find yourself facing if you're sending your child with autism to a post-secondary school:
His first choice university did not offer him guaranteed residence, so I felt I could not send him there. The residence experience was important to us. We wanted him to be supported while also having some unique social opportunities. I was frustrated that the university he wanted to attend would not accommodate his diagnosis and offer him a guaranteed spot. In the end, he landed at a wonderful university where he is enjoying residence life.
Executive Functioning Skills.
This is often an area of weakness for kids on the spectrum. My son is no exception and has difficulty staying organized, managing his time, prepping for exam study, chunking out homework tasks, etc. Guess what skills a kid needs most when they move away from home and are independent for the first time? You guessed it – all the skills my son does not have. We struggled through first term, and then he agreed to accept the help of an Executive Functioning Coach. Having someone help facilitate his organization and planning has been monumental. He is thrilled to see the impact it has had on his marks, and his self-esteem.
Not wanting to be different.
Although my son’s learning profile allows him some academic accommodations, he refused them for first term. He did not want to be different and because of his sometimes “black and white” thinking, he viewed this help as cheating. After a rough first term, we were able to convince him to take the accommodations for a couple of reasons. We reminded him that everyone learns differently, and for him, getting the accommodations actually levels the playing field. I also reminded him that there is a WHOLE department called Student Accessibility Services. That means, there are enough students to warrant the department. As such, he is not so different after all! There are many kids also using their services!
So Mamas, your job is not over just yet. My kid on spectrum is 19-years-old now and there’s no sign of things slowing down!