Special Needs kids and college

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Wishing, Oct 25, 2008.

  1. Wishing

    Wishing New Member

  2. Nancy423

    Nancy423 do I have to be the mom?

    Oy.......I'm hoping difficult child will want to try community college and live at home.....I think I'm being over protective tho. I'd be thrilled if difficult child would consider college!!
  3. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I can speak from experience, but with the Australian education system.

    difficult child 1 needs a lot of help with college. His best friend did too. Best friend is Aspie, was shattered emotionally by ghastly school experiences which left him without a change to graduate (unofficially expelled due to major misunderstanding, his mother didn't know to fight for him). Our college system does courses for kids who haven't fully completed high school, and I talked both boys into enrolling in this course. However, neither of them could have handled even the enrolment process without individual support. So I went with them and walked them through it. I nearly had friend walking out and giving up even before they got started. I set up the interviews with the Special Education staff, told friend what papers he had to bring and made sure we had difficult child 1's papers also.

    For us, Special Education support in tertiary is fabulous, compared to the lack of decent support in high school (the worst). Tertiary provides overwhelmingly the best support.

    The interesting thing for us - autism and ADHD are defined as neurological disabilities in tertiary, but psychological/intellectual ones in secondary. Crazy.

    I found I needed to be kept in the loop with support and was needed to keep it all hands-on. I made the appointments, I kept tabs on how difficult child 1 was coping and even with friend, I talked him into continuing and completing his course. He now has a completed course to his credit, which partly resolves the lack of high school graduation. For us in Australia, once you're 25 you can get into uni without a high school graduation, if you do a matriculation exam instead OR if you have a relevant college course completed (which is what the boys now have).

    My recommendation to any parent of a student who you feel will need ongoing support - you need to be involved. However, your child is now an adult (or close to it) and should be treated with the same respect you would give if you were a professional working with your son/daughter. Don't set things up without their approval (unless you do it tentatively, grabbing an opportunity when it arises - but only if you can back out of it without causing inconvenience or harm to their reputation if they say they don't want it), don't do something they have specifically asked you not to do.

    You need a good cooperative working relationship, in other words. Your child must take the overall decisions and control, you are now just the tool, dealing with the practicalities and the paperwork. Think - Radar, in M*A*S*H; he was the one who had the paperwork lined up and told the Colonel where to sign; if asked, he would explain what it was for. If you need to use this analogy to explain to your child how this works, do so. Your child MUST feel like it's their decision.

    I found I needed to be able to "cut through the ****" and give a fast summary of what the paperwork (or whatever) was about. difficult child 1 and friend would stare at a notice and wonder exactly what it meant - college staff are not always careful to be exact and specific in their signs & notices. I'd look at the sign and say, "It's alright, it doesn't apply to you, it's to the kids doing the diploma course, you guys are the certificate strand. let's move on."

    Getting the two boys to enrol in the same course meant that they also supported each other. They also competed with each other, trying to get better marks. This was a Saturday morning course and they would meet at the train station to travel in to the city together. Because I took them there first on enrolment day, they knew how to get there. Slowly they learned to ask other students for advice on how to get places as well as ask their lecturers about the things they needed. The support people would stay in touch with me, made fortnightly appointments with the boys (they would have done more if we'd needed it) and ensured that the lecturers were kept informed of any problems (and vice versa). I needed to make sure that each of the boys had signed a waiver that allowed me to talk to counsellors on their behalf.

    The level of support - for us, it seems the sky is the limit. When difficult child 1 was having difficulty with his most recent course and couldn't take notes from the lectures because the lecturer, frankly, was bad at his job, the support staff hired a tutor to sit with difficult child 1 and take notes for him. It was almost like hiring someone to listen to the lecture for him! It seemed quite extreme to me, but apparently commonplace to the support staff.

    So ask around, find out just what they can do.

    As for labels - generally by college, kids are more mature at least when it comes to people who are different. There are laws about discrimination which you can fall back on should it become necessary. We never found any problems with discrimination at all, no bullying (apart from possibly one lecturer, with easy child 2/difficult child 2 - but she IS difficult sometimes).

    If your child wants to avoid being labelled as different, they risk missing out on support which they might desperately need. And often to no avail - you're dealing with a smarter class of individual when it comes to college lecturers and students, especially those who are studying psychology or education. How many parents can spot a difficult child under a rock at 100 paces? If your mannerisms/characteristics are sufficiently different for people to notice something unusual about you, then you may as well embrace your disability and get whatever support you are entitled to.

    I hope this helps.