School Planning- Old and New: College, Teaching Aides and Autism

As any family with a child on the autism spectrum knows, the school year actually begins sometime in the summer. That is the planning for the upcoming year begins around August 1. This of course, does not include the IEP conferences that we all have to work on with the school districts. I am referring to the independent planning that has to be done. Such as:
-creating new social stories to help our children prepare for the end of summer in order to preempt the transition meltdowns that accompany anything new;
-making sure that the medications are up to date and still effective, especially if your child happened to have a six inch growth spurt over the summer;
-buyiing new school supplies and hoping that the teachers don’t ask for anything that cannot be dealt with- like a child who cannot carry the huge binders, use the smaller pencils, paper clips and thinner ruled paper, or even the simple request of one type of binder that your low muscle toned child cannot open and close properly (surely to lead to embarrassment one day when you are not there to help);
-lining up the tutors, speech therapist, OTs, psychotherapist, social skills classes, neurologists, gastrointerologist, endocrinologist and of course just the good old dentist;
Then a new project has ensued for us, finding someone to support our college son in class. It really is not as easy as it sounds. You would think that finding a graduate student studying special education would jump at the chance to blue ribbon their resume. Well not so. We put out an add in the graduate school listserv and actually out of hundreds of students got one reply. Luckily it seems that she will work out, but we will have to see. She has her own children and their needs come first for her. So where does that leave us or rather our son?
I really do not know. I had a meeting with the disability director at the college, who is a big supporter of my son, and I asked her how do you know when he can go himself? I said he is ninteen years old and needs to be allowed to grow. She countered with it has to be fair to him. OK fair to him, but how is it fair to him that noone talks to him because he walks around with a babysitter? How does it help him socially when he comes with a chaperone? How does he gain respect in the classroom if there is someone there to constantly oversee him like a small child? My husband made a joke the other day, about him taking an aide along on his honeymoon. It really wasn’t a funny joke but rather one fraught with fear.
Yes, he has anxiety. Yes, he asks too many questions. Yes, he has a phobia about bugs. Yes, he has problems, but he should not be infantalized because of it. I think instead the professors should understand that there is a student in their midst with issues and that they have to deal with it. That the hallowed halls of ivy should be just what they purport to be, bastions of thought and compassion and not just for some unnamed survivor in Africa or New Orleans, but compassion for the child in the seat second from your right with developmental disabilites.
Just becasue it has never been done, does not mean it should not be done. Just because a professor’s job description is changing doesn’t mean they should not be held accountable and join the 21st century. Just because they remember a different time, does not mean those times were good for all persons, Its why we as a society grow, change and develop. It’s why civil change can be so uncivil.
Hopefully, we will have support for our son, and everything will work itself out. Otherwise he goes on his own and the bastions of thought and compassion are going to be put to the test. We will see just how 21st century the hallowed halls of ivy really are.
Until next time,

About Elise "Ronan"

#JeSuisJuif #RenegadeJew... Life-hacks, book reviews, essayist...
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One Response to School Planning- Old and New: College, Teaching Aides and Autism

  1. Trish says:

    My 19 year old son with AS is going into his second year of college. In all honesty, the first year was a tough one. He ended up on academic suspension after spring semester and was only readmitted after writing a letter explaining how AS affects everyday things like, being able to ask a teacher for help when the lesson was confusing, being able to organize his time effectively, and so on. So he\’s going back, living on campus where I have no control over his studies, and I have to trust that he is going to remember to take his meds, to get a good night\’s sleep, to organize his papers and get his work turned in on time, to approach a professor or make use of the learning center when he runs into confusion. It\’s all down to this semester, either he swims or he sinks. It\’s terrifying and it\’s an expensive way to learn a lesson, but he is determined that he can do this without any outside help. In reading your blog, it sounds like your son is going to remain living at home – which I think is a good idea if he is not independent in his executive functioning skills. What sort of things would you be asking a support person to do to help your son in the classroom? I\’ve been looking into any way that technology can replace what was done by a para (or parent) in his younger years for the same reasons you point out here. Of course, there\’s no whiz-bang piece of technology that can keep him from blurting out every passing thought in class, or to keep him from getting up and walking around the classroom when he feels restless… but maybe we can invent something!

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