Preparing My Atypical Asperger’s Teen for College

I didn’t know my son had a label, at least not right away. To me, he was just a really weird kid who simply marched to the beat of his own drum. Well, truth be told, some of his behaviors were a bit bizarre, including his almost violent response to loud noises (he hated fireworks), hiding under his desk at school when he was put on the spot, his difficulty holding and operating an eating utensil or a pencil, and how he couldn’t stand tags against his skin or wearing a turtleneck. The food issues drove me batty! In addition, he never looked people in the eye, he always hated signs of affection (touching) and having his picture taken.

The Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) Diagnosis

Once again, I thought that was just him, and essentially this is true. The sensory and motor issues did raise a red flag, so I brought them to the pediatrician’s attention.  The doctor referred my son for occupational therapy, and when he got a little older, to a child psychiatrist. The child psychologist was the one who marked my boy with his scarlet letter, ‘A.’ At the first visit, she knew right away, stating: “that’s Asperger’s. It is not a mental illness, but more of a personal type.” From that point on, we both had a lot to learn about how to work with his quirks to ensure that label never became an excuse.

A Life without Limits

Fast forward several years ahead, and the smart Sheldonesque (The Big Bang Theory) elementary student with the deep monotone voice is now a senior in high school. Together we researched Asperger-friendly colleges and universities to be sure he gets the resources he needs to succeed. Given the way his brain works, everything has to be black and white. When he is interested in a subject or knows his stance to be true, he will debate it to the end. He excels in math and science, yet struggles in some languages. Yet, interestingly enough, straight A’s come naturally with some types of math, but geometry has always been challenging. But, so what? We all have some things we do better than others. This kid has some serious brain power and once he finds his niche, he is going to soar!

Opportunities to Stay Away from Home

Since it has always been the two of us, joined at the hip, I felt the need to encourage college away from home. Given his interests, academic strengths and his need for AS support we narrowed down our list of schools and planned all the visits.

I also introduced pre-collegiate programs the summer of his junior year, and he applied for three and was accepted, by three. He didn’t really want to attend any, but I am happy to say, he has always respected my judgment. I never forced him, I just suggested and he, in fact, attended three pre-collegiate programs at different colleges in three different states, throughout the summer of 2016. I was picking him up and dropping him off all over creation! What we learned through this experiment is that he has the emotional maturity to head off to school. He actually enjoyed each program so much, I never heard from him the weeks he was away! I had to contact him, and he never had time for me. That was bittersweet.

Count down to College Life

When he returned home from the last summer program, he had many memorable experiences to reflect upon, some social and many academic. He also made new friends from different states and from different countries as well. He engages with these friends regularly by phone or online. After spending quality time embracing college life, my one and only offspring is more than ready to take the plunge. He is so ready and he can’t wait for his senior year to end.

At this time, he has received all of his acceptance letters, made his decision and his place is reserved for his freshmen year as an undergraduate in September 2018. Although I am in no hurry to see him go, I know my boy is more than capable, and I couldn’t be more proud.

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