Our daughter’s psychologist always said… just get her through high school. College will be easier once she gets to choose her courses. Well, in some ways yes — in other ways, not so much!
Once your Aspergian is an adult, there’s little you can really control — unless they allow you to. Privacy policies and over-enthusiastic freshman advisors will block you at every turn in the effort to ensure this young adult starts to test their wings (no matter what the consequences!)
At orientation, the big message to parents was to “let go”. I’m sure that with NT (neurotypical) young adults, that’ is absolutely the best thing to do. However, with Asperger’s Syndrome in the mix, the decision-making capabilities can be more diminished. Some Aspergians will accept authority and not question things enough. So, at orientation, parents were not allowed into the course selection process and our daughter ended up with THREE virtual courses and only two on-campus courses.
LESSON #1: REAL CLASSROOM TEACHING WORKS BETTER FOR OUR ASPERGIAN THAN VIRTUAL COURSES
First semester completed. We’ve been told by our daughter that she did pretty well, although she had dropped one class. Well, wasn’t she surprised to receive a letter from the university right before second semester letting her know that she is on academic probation. Failed two courses her first semester. Of the courses she had trouble with — all three were “virtual” – requiring her to keep track of assignments, tests, etc. and do them on time via computer. Two F’s and a withdraw. For her on-campus courses, she earned an A and a B!
LESSON #2: COLLEGE PROFESSORS ARE NOT AS SYMPATHETIC AS HIGH SCHOOL TEACHERS
This was a rude awakening for someone who was pushed and prodded through high school by instructors who contacted her or us about missing assignments or low test scores. She contacted one professor and was told pretty succinctly that she had not turned in two assignments that were a large portion of her grade, therefore she had earned what she got. There were some tears and (I hope) the realization that college professors are not as forgiving as her high school teachers when it comes to grades.
LESSON #3: AN ASPERGIAN WILL HAVE OPPORTUNITIES TO EXCEL IN COLLEGE WITH THEIR SPECIALIZED AREA OF INTEREST
On the bright side, during her first semester, she joined many student organizations, including the staff of the university newspaper. Politics within the newspaper staff resulted in editors playing favorites with some of the writers — which didn’t include her. She attended editorial meetings and presented many ideas and articles, but was only published once or twice during the semester. She was becoming frustrated and ready to quit, but we encouraged her to stick with it.
It paid off. This semester, she is taking some different courses (ALL ON CAMPUS, thanks to mom helping with the registration this time). Her journalism professor took notice of her writing skills and told her how talented she is. She mentioned to him her frustration with the school newspaper not including her articles. He must have made a call. Right after that, she got a full-page feature article in the university newspaper and was promoted to Senior Staff Writer! In addition, her professor has recommended her to the local newspaper as a freelance writer.
Compared to many Aspergians, our daughter is really only mildly affected, but it DOES affect her daily life. She must learn to embrace her strengths, but know that she has a responsibility to push through and improve upon her weak areas, such as communication, time management and organizational skills, in order to gain opportunities. In starting to let go as parents, it is a daily struggle to deal with the worry about the decisions she will make; things she might forget; things she should be doing, etc. All parents of college students probably go through this as their sons or daughters make possibly life-altering mistakes. However, we must remember that it IS their life, and every mistake will lead – hopefully – to learning accountability and self-sufficiency as they begin to take life on their own two feet.