You might remember that I hired a village to help collegeman with his foibles over this semester. It has worked out exceedingly well. All the reports that I get are very encouraging and show that collegeman is definitely paying attention to his behavioral issues and working diligently on tackling his problems. In fact the last hurdle of the village happened last week, when the advisor collegeman had requested accepted him as a student.
Interesting things have happened for him this semester. In fact one of his classroom coaches, being an instructor at the school, has an in with the track team and found a way for collegeman to become part of the team. Now, collegeman does not run track. His idea of exercise is to sit on the exercise bike in the basement, and run his legs while he plays a video game. We did buy Wii Fit and he was doing that for awhile. But collegeman being collegeman, always attacking things head on without any moderation, pulled some of his side muscles so the Wii Fit has been put away for another day. What collegeman does for the team is to help keep track of the runner’s times and help set up the equipment. They even gave him this huge title: XXX College’s Mens and Women’s Cross Country and Track Manager and Record Keeper. Doesn’t it sound so important!
What was really nice for him was that this really was a positive social exercise. He found out that the students are nice to him and are very accepting of who he is. In fact, he went to two away meets, riding on the team bus and spent the time talking, interacting and doing homework. It was interesting, but not surprising, that the classroom coach told me that he was very charming, animated and personable. Of course, I had always known that he had possessed these gifts. The reality is that I am just truly glad that he is finally feeling so comfortable and happy, that he is showing his gifts to everyone in the outside world.
In fact, he has actually started to interact with some of the team members outside of anything to do with track. He saw one in the student pub last week and had a lovely conversation with her. She has been sick and was telling collegeman all about it. Of course, he gave her the advice one would always give, “stop running and exercising until you are better or you will die of exhaustion.” The young lady was so impressed that she immediately emailed the coach who was checking up on her health and told him that collegeman gave her the same advice as the coach had done. So it seemed that that was the consensus that she should slow down until she was better.
I think one of the nice things that made collegeman’s entrance into the team so much easier, is that his life skills coach went to a practice before he started to help out and explained aspergers a little to the kids. It did help. Listen, we all know that our children have idiosyncrasies that to some may seem odd and off putting. It is nice to know that once understood though, it is readily accepted. I have to tell you the students on the track team have been terrific. They accepted him right from the outset. In fact, it is my understanding that there will actually even be a runner next year who does have aspergers as well. So for all concerned, collegeman, the team and the in-coming freshman runner, it has been a learning experience and one with a tremendous amount of welcome attached to it.
I have come to the conclusion that education in society is the big issue when it comes to autism awareness. Once people truly understand what our children are about, there is no more mystery. There is no more fear. Now it doesn’t mean that everyone will take a shine to them. It doesn’t mean that they will not come across some assholes in their time. But for the most part, I think that if society gets a true understanding of the autistic world view, it might actually bridge that gap so that there would be fewer issues for our children as they age. Several of my blogging/twitter/coffeklatch friends tell me that they consider everyday autism awareness day, because wherever their children go, the world around them gets taught about autism. (Just some food for thought.)
Now I do have to tell you that the students were very impressed with collegeman’s intelligence. I guess the life coach explaining to them that he was smart didn’t really sink in until they got to know him. But hubby had an observation, can always count on him seeing things in a very different light. He asked did the other students think collegeman was bright for anyone or was he a bright for a person with a disability. You know I can’t tell. I really don’t know. But in many ways it doesn’t really matter. We all have our preconceived notions about who, what, where and how a person will be, even one with a disability, maybe especially one with a disability. But here a group of students met a person with an invisible disability. They saw, hey he is smart. It was a tremendous learning experience for them too. They saw that to have a disability doesn’t always mean a wheelchair or an intellectual handicap. That there are a myriad of disabilities in our world, all with their own set of characteristics and rules. They learned another lesson. That even if you understand that the person you are dealing with has a disability; it doesn’t mean that you know what that disability will look like. It doesn’t mean you know how that disability will manifest itself. It doesn’t mean that those with disabilities can’t give as much if not more to society than they receive.
Oh and one more thing. As I have mentioned before, collegeman’s college is known for being one of the most diversified schools on the east coast. At one point there could be 40 or more countries represented in its student body, never mind the panoply of students from across the United States. It just so happened that the young lady who needed the health advice, was from Germany. Now it is nice for collegeman that after taking several courses on the Holocaust, he has some really positive interaction with some young persons from Germany. Collegeman is very obsessed with holocaust and genocide. Of course, the fact that he is doing a history paper on Ahmedinajad right now doesn’t really lessen his obssessiveness about these two subjects. I had wanted him to choose someone else from the list. Someone with a more positive outlook and positive effect on the world, but no collegeman was determined to follow his desire to research this evil evil evil man. So sometimes you do have to let go and let them make some decision, as if I could have been there and told the professor which individual collegeman was going to do his paper on. Even if we had come to a consensus, collegeman would tell the professor what he wanted anyway.
I know that if he was actually away at school, he would have to make decision like this by himself and suffer the consequences. I know that I try to shield him from a lot and help him to reason out his issues. I know that the coaches do the same thing. But at times, I also know that he has to make his own decisions and figure out how to extricate himself from a mess or two. In this case, I had wanted him to find another subject just because the world is not as dark as this subject makes you feel. I wanted him to see the world in a more positive light. Heck, after learning about the Vichy government in Holocaust class, collegeman when discussing where we should go on a trip at some point in the future, is very adamant about never never going to France. Don’t ask me why France as opposed to any other country in Europe. But he has some kind of bug up his butt about that country. The problem is that I love things French. Truthfully it’s really a non-issue. It’s not like we have any money to go on a trip now anyway. It’s just nice to dream a little normalcy into your life. You know instead of figuring that every penny that you have goes for therapy, coaches, support systems and more therapy, coaches and support systems.
The truth of the matter is, that collegeman has made great strides in his social skills this semester. He is appropriate, interactive and charming. He has professors that deal with him well and coaches that help smooth some of the insecurities for him. I know he had gone on his own last semester but it just didn’t seem appropriate right now. It appeared that he still needed some of that extra support. But the time is coming when his village is going to have to disappear and that he will have to brave the world on his own. That is the next step. But I want it to be done well. I spoke with the aspergers support person at the college and we talked briefly about creating a plan for him for next year. We will have to see. I am waiting on the disability director to give me the ok for his support for next year. I want to present her with a plan that will eventually lead collegeman into a world of independence. I know deep down inside he likes having the support at the ready. It is comforting to know that someone has your back all the time. But if he is to go on to law school, as he wants and then enter the work a-day-world he will need to become just a little more self-assured and be ready to accept the consequences associated with making mistakes.
But for now, the village is in full play. The track team is open to their new manger. The school presents an interesting challenge to collegeman and he to them. It has been a good semester so far. Just three more weeks to go. O K, I am holding my breath and yes I do know that I do need to breathe.
Until next time,