Thursday, October 23, 2014

Asperger's and Picking the Right College

2014 was a bitch of a year.

Excuse my language, but man, that year put my son, myself, and my husband through the ringer.  Like many other kids, my son started getting seizures at the age of 17, and then had to deal with adjusting to anti-seizure medication.  Anti-seizure medications, for want of a better explanation, MAKE YOU STUPID.  Right when you are preparing for college, submitting your grades to colleges, writing your essays for college, and taking your college entrance exams -- these poor kids have to do this while taking a medication that purposefully DECREASES the brain's ability to trade synapses.  It's incredibly cruel punishment for a time when you need to be at the top of your game.

So, we did what a lot of other parents with kids who have cognitive or physical challenges do -- we bought and read the book "Colleges that Change Lives."  We spent the summer visiting many of these schools.  We tried to get a "feel" for each college, through interviews, walking across campus, and reading their class offerings.  We visited dorms, and read info on the internet, and just generally managed a cram session to make a choice of the appropriate college.  Many colleges may have been good choices, but finally my son decided on Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana.

This is a college that is smaller in numbers than a lot of U.S. high schools.  The downside of this school is that Richmond, Indiana is a small town with supposedly little to do.  Another downside is that Earlham's size makes it so that you get to know everybody, and you may tire of everybody after a short amount of time.  Maybe classes aren't offered as often as they should be, when compared to constant and consistent offerings of other, much larger, schools.  But, from what I can tell, the negatives, for the most part, stop there.

Like many of you, I have a son who has been a kind, funny, smart and good young man who has had problems socializing.  I don't know how many times I have been at home with him on the weekends, knowing that he should be out with friends getting into trouble.  Well, now he's at college, not getting into trouble but consistently socializing.  Even when his roommate moved out (they were a bad mix from the very beginning, even though the kid was a good kid), my son managed to figure out how to get out and do things with people.  He has CONSISTENT and REGULAR activities with a group of friends.  This is a HUGE blessing.  I almost don't care about his grades (notice I said "almost").

Rarely do I feel like choices made are clear and obvious.  The choice of a college has such a variety of factors that it's almost impossible to make a choice without second-guessing.  There is just something about this college, with it's emphasis on collaboration rather than competition, that seems to be so healthy for kids who need a slightly more understanding environment.  There's something about the high percentage of international students that really makes the rest of the student body open to differences of ALL kinds.  Currently, my son's friends come from Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, and a few from the U.S.  It's an incredible high for me to message him and receive a text back that says "sorry, can't talk right now, watching tv in a friend's dorm room with a bunch of people."

I've never been so happy to be ignored.

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