Saturday, August 29, 2009

Going to College

These past two days have been amazing. Here's N., turning 19 tomorrow, at his college campus, SUNY-Cobleskill. While we've always set short-term and long-term goals for N., and college was always, at least in my mind, a real possibility, seeing him in that setting, with the rest of his freshman class, was a mind blower.

Why? Because N. is high-functioning autistic. Don't tell him that. When you mention it he protests, with a bit of a whine. Recently, when he heard someone says he was autistic, he rebutted, "No, I'm authentic." And he is.

When we got his acceptance letter in early October last year, it was, in itself, enough. N. had been accepted to college, completely on his own merits. There was nothing on the application that would have given anyone at the school a glimpse at his, as they say, "special needs." What a great moment.

In December, he and I went to Cobleskill, and met with the Dean of Liberal Arts, the head of disabilities and one of N.'s possible Graphics professors. She got him right away, giving him a tour of the computer building, pointing out the bathrooms (which he loves) and bringing him in to a senior lab. He studied what the older kids were doing and, as I watched him intently look at their work, I felt that he could make a go of this.

This past Thursday he checked in, got his freshman T-shirt and lined up his support network - note takers, test accommodations, etc. On Friday, N. and his entourage (meaning his parents and his aide) sat at the orientation speech. He didn't listen; neither did most of the new students.
We marched to the School of Liberal Arts meeting and he had a group picture taken. N. went missing for a bit after this. He was found sitting in the back of a study hall with a large group, where his mom found him quite at ease. That's it. Classes start Monday.

He's got all the fixins - new Mac Book laptop, an iPod touch, a Go phone - he's only mildly interested in what other kids would go crazy over. Homework is becoming a worry - he likes doing it at school and maybe he will.

Everything is falling in place. We have a one on one aide situation set up, replicating his public school experience. We have all the on campus support lined up and have made good connections. The professor we met back in December will be his adviser. We've done our part, now it's up to him. Can he succeed? Can he graduate from college? Damned if I know, but we've always set the bar high for him and he hasn't let us down yet.

He calls college his "Cobleskill adventure." We're all on board for the ride.

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