Aspergers and College
Education is the best provision for old age.
Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC), from Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers
Aristotle’s got a point.
The question becomes, “Is college the best option for an person with Asperger’s?”
We could ask the same question for any person going to college.
College is helpful for many, but not all. There are many people who have great careers without a college degree. In fact, here’s a list of 100 entrepreneurs who did not go to college!
On the other hand, statistics show that, generally, those with a college degree make a higher salary than those without.
Here are some of my thoughts about Aspergers and College.
Pay Attention to Your Child’s Strengths and Weaknesses
Has your child ever had full neuropsychological testing conducted by someone who knows what Aspergers is?
Neuropsychological tests are helpful in that they measure both cognitive and emotional functioning. These tests can diagnose Attention Deficit Disorder, or a learning disability, or a psychological issue.
It’s so important to uncover these factors before a child gets to college, and not after. Many times, as a counselor, I’ve met with college kids who devastated with their performance deficits. They fail, their parents become concerns, and it becomes clear that they had learning conditions all along that were never diagnosed at an earlier age. So these people struggled through school, but when they get to college they start sinking.
Know Your Child’s IEP (Individualized Education Plan)
All the reports and testing from school become the data with which to assess areas of both strength and weakness going forward.
Also, a child is entitled to state funded services through the age of 21 in the United States through an IEP.
Often, if neither college nor technical school are viable options for an individual with Aspergers, the IEP team will meet to work on a transition plan to help a young adult find the best vocational goals and resources available given the young person’s skill level.
Make sure that you share your child’s IEP with him. He should understand his educational goals, as well as his progress toward meeting those goals.
Assess, with your child, whether a college setting or technical school setting will be more helpful to your child’s career goals.
And realize that, sometimes, neither college nor technical school may be the best option. Autism is a spectrum for a reason. Each person may have more or less talents and abilities. Therefore, it’s important to develop a career plan that stretches everyone within her realm of capabilities, and not unrealistically beyond them.
The best time to get to know colleges and career choices is early on in your child’s academic life.
Starting in high school, it may be helpful for you and your Asperger’s teenager to get to know the social services team at the school informally.
Pick their brains about choosing colleges that are helpful for people with special needs.
Listen To Your Child
Sometimes, as parents, it’s hard to separate our hopes and dreams from our child’s. We think we know what’s best for him, but we also need to be sensitive that he may know best what he wants.
Listen carefully to your child. What careers and interests does she have? What are her hopes and dreams? What are her strengths and talents?
Be willing to let her struggle through her own decisions and walk her own path. Don’t be afraid, as a parent, to seek your own professional counseling and support if the letting go process seems overwhelming.
Take Advantage of Career Planning Services
If you are an adult, enroll in just a couple of community college courses, to get your feet wet.
Then, make sure you get to know your career services center! Is there a course on career planning your can take through the center? Can you meet with a counselor for vocational counseling?
These great services are part of your benefit as a resident who is taking classes at a community college. Take advantage of them!
I personally took a couple of community college courses as prerequisites for my graduate program for counseling psychology. I was still somewhat unsure that I wanted to become a counselor, so I stopped by the career services center. For a very low fee, I was able to take a series of career tests that identified what I valued in work, the types of work I was interested in, and a series of other variables that showed me I was heading in the right direction with my choice of counseling psychology.
Aspergers and College: Some Questions To Consider
- How much does the support staff at the college know about Asperger’s and other conditions?
- What kind of academic support services exist at the college?
- Is there a counseling department at the college? Does it offer peer counseling services to help students get and stay connected at school?
- Consider how far away the college is. Depending on the person, proximity to home may or may not be important.
- What kind of living arrangements will be best for your child?
I remember watching Alex Plank, founder of Wrong Planet, talking about how he moved into a freshman co-ed dorm.
He’s sensitive to noise, as are many on the autism spectrum. So you can imagine the difficulty he had trying to study!
Eventually he got his own room, or I think he may have moved in with some graduate students who were more focused on studying than partying. (I can’t remember the exact details, but it was something like that).
In other words, consider your child’s tolerance for noise and other sensory stimuli when choosing the type of living arrangements.
photo credit: zappowbangThese are a few of my initial thoughts about Asperger’s and college. I’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas, and experiences!