This past week, the teenager and I went on our first college tour. This wasn’t just any old college tour though. This was a tour specifically for potential students on the Autism Spectrum. So, I’m calling my last post of April, College Tour for Autism. This is also the last week of Autism Awareness month and what better way to end this month than with a talk about college for our children on the Autism Spectrum.
Our first tour was at a local Community College. Holyoke Community College (HCC). I will admit that because I knew nothing of this college I was apprehensive. Truth be told, I was not ready to take my high school sophomore on a college tour for Autism. I know this played a big role in my apprehension. Adam really wanted to go though. He signed up for it a few weeks ago and was really excited about it.
I am one who really wants to support her children in their endeavors so I agreed to take him.
The directions to get to the college was easy. Once there though, I realized that we both forgot the flyer to tell us which building we were to meet at. So on this rainy afternoon I parked in visitor parking and went into the Administration building. The lady at the desk was very helpful and friendly. She directed us to the building down a short hill.
Finding the floor to the auditorium was a challenge but we found another student who was nice enough to direct us again. She was also very friendly. We like friendly. I was stressed by this time too because we were 20 minutes late and I hate being late. So finding friendly people when you’re stressed helps a lot.
Finding this college tour for Autism wasn’t so easy but at least the students and staff were helpful to us and we eventually found our way. When we got to the auditorium we were handed packets by even more friendly students. On the stage were a panel of six students. All of them are on the Autism Spectrum.
I loved being introduced to this tour by students on the spectrum. It was amazing to see these young people up on stage speaking about their college experiences. Some had transferred from other colleges that didn’t offer the services that they needed. One student, who transferred from Virginia, spoke about one of her early experiences at HCC where she had a melt down in class.
She was so overwhelmed and stressed out that she couldn’t communicate her words. Any parent with an Autistic child knows what that is like. The amazing thing is how the professor and counselors helped her. They were understanding and empathetic. Because of that she was able to calm down and speak to the professor and together with the counselor, came up with a coping strategy for her.
I was very impressed by this. It’s one thing to be in a high school with all of the supports at the ready when a child has a meltdown and even then it can be difficult because it disrupts the other students. College is a whole other ball game. The fact that she had these supports and was able to advocate for herself afterwards, then to add that the professor was also understanding and helpful blew my mind.
Then came the Q & A portion of the college tour for Autism. I didn’t ask any questions during this because I was still just taking it all in. Adam did have a question though and I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous for him. Usually his questions are really just comments accompanied by a fictional story and not always related to the topic at hand. My boy really surprised me though. He ask, “I am a literal person and I don’t always understand innuendos, idioms, and sarcasm. How does the school handle that?”
Then came the tour part where my son went with the students on a tour of the campus – WITHOUT ME. It was surreal. I’ve gotten so used to always being there to back him up that it was hard to stay behind and speak with the staff along with the other parents and educators.
By the end of the tour he met back up with me and he is in with love with the campus. This won’t be our last college tour but it was a wonderful first experience and I learned something very valuable. As any parent who is about to send their child off to college can probably attest, he is growing up. I don’t need to hold his hand anymore. It was a bittersweet moment of realization for me.
The reason I wanted to talk about this College tour for Autism though is I want other parents out there to know that there are colleges who will support your son or daughter. Many parents think their kids can’t go to college. For whatever reason and not all kids can. Even with neurotypical kids, not every kid is built for the college life.
But the option is out there if you and your child want it. It is possible to send your child to college. I found many colleges throughout the U.S. that do provide services and programs for those on the spectrum and Asperger’s.
I walked into this with apprehension and fear. I walked away with a new found hope for my son’s future.
Let me know your opinion in the comments.
Thanks so much for reading!
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