Right now I’m sitting on a college campus while my son is in class.
My autistic son.
He’s starting his third week of classes. The first week, he wanted me to walk with him to his classrooms. The beginning of the second week, he just wanted me to walk part of the way to his buildings. By the end of the week, he knew where he was going and felt comfortable with just being dropped off at the campus.
Today, he started a new lab for his English class so he wanted me walk with him to the building because he wasn’t quite sure where it was located. I waited the 50 minutes for him to get out of class only to have him say a quick hello, tell me class was okay, and say a quick goodbye as he sped off to his next class.
It’s been so fun to watch him adjust to this new phase of life; one we weren’t sure he would ever achieve.
He’s thinking more about fitting in with other students and looking more like a college man. He’s thinking more about his future and what he wants that to look like. He’s gaining confidence and feeling more mature. I’m in awe of all that he has accomplished!
I have to say, though, these last few weeks have also been a little challenging for me. Normally, during the first week or two of school, I email his teachers to introduce myself. I ask a few questions and give them my information so they can contact me with any problems or concerns. I tried to let my son manage his classes during his last few years of high school, but I followed his progress pretty closely. (Particularly since we were in a very bad school district.)
This time around, it’s all on him. He’s the one who has to communicate with his professors and give them his accommodations list. And because it’s college, now he has to plot out his own calendar to make sure he gets his homework and projects done. I can help, but having him do it is part of the learning process for him and me; him owning it and me letting go.
This learning process is different than it has been with my other kids. Autism has a way of doing that. It adds a whole different layer of issues and concerns.
I find myself anxious about his homework. Can he do it to the level that is required? Does he fully understand what’s expected of him? Does he understand all aspects of the assignment? Can he really keep up with the work load? How will he handle himself in class if he doesn’t do well or as well as he wanted?
I find myself nervous about his social interactions. Will he talk to his fellow students? Will they accept him as he is? Will someone mock or tease him? Will he find someone to have lunch with? Will he make friends?
I find myself questioning his future. Can he complete everything needed for his degree? Will someone take a chance and hire him? Will he make enough to support himself living on his own?
All the questions.
None of the answers.
I remind myself to focus on what I do know.
I know that when he was first diagnosed, they told us he would not be able to go to college. Man, did he proved them wrong!
I know that countless therapists, teachers, paraprofessionals, behavior specialists, and counselors pushed him to do what they knew he could do even if he (or I) didn’t think he could.
I know that he has continued to learn, cope, advance, and manage new and difficult challenges at every new stage of life, even if the process didn’t look pretty.
I know that God knows him with all his challenges and has a plan for his life which includes a career and friends.
I know that only time will answer all my questions.
So continue to live in the uncertainty and trust God. I just wish the reality of living it out was as easy as it looks on paper…