One Step Forward…

Posted: September 16th, 2009 under education, parenting.
Tags: , , , ,

Our son’s been increasingly interested in getting more education, for the very practical reason of earning more money…having the part-time job has taught him that he’s unlikely to ever make enough to live on from it, even if it were full-time.

So we took him to the nearest city’s community college to find out what was available.  Very sensibly, they insist on all incoming students (not just ones who have special ed and resource courses in their high school transcript) taking their assessment test.    I had been encouraging him to read and write something every day, and he had been, but what with my own work I hadn’t been teaching him.   We had hopes he would do well, at least on the math part of the test.

He didn’t.

He was quite upset with himself.    I think part of it was the stress of the whole experience–he hasn’t ever had a test like that before, or a test in that environment before, and for someone on the spectrum this can produce a lot of cognitive shutdown.   I was delighted that he stayed the whole time (it’s several hours) and at least kept trying.

When I looked at what the writing test was asking for, I realized that he’d never been asked to write that kind of essay before.    I started working with him a few hours a day,  and he quickly caught on to the structure (it’s an essay with rules–this here, that there, this many paragraphs.  Rules, he grasps easily.)

He was given the results and an appointment with a counselor for this week, to which he went yesterday.  The counselor is in the office for students with disabilities.

It turns out that all he’s allowed to take are their lowest level of reading (developmental, they call it) and lowest level of math and a course designed to help students learn how to cope with college.   None of these produce real college credits, but they do offer the chance to learn in a college environment.    I thought he should start with just one course, but the counselor recommended all three.

My husband (who had driven him down), took him to the bookstore and bought the books for these courses.  Last night when they got home (our son had a few hours at his job), we looked at the books together.    I could tell that he already knows some of this (but didn’t show it on the tests, apparently) but that other parts he doesn’t.  So these courses should provide a good transition.  Getting him to and from the school will be difficult–it’s almost 50 miles away and will add to our driving time and gas costs.  Tuition’s higher because we’re outside the right area.   But the nearest apartments that have some support for residents on the spectrum cost more than his entire disability benefit.   And that would be adding another new thing to cope with–more new people, more new responsibilities.

Those are still discussion points, but he will definitely start in January.    We’ll never know how far he can go until progress stops.


  • Comment by source.of.all.trouble — September 16, 2009 @ 11:46 am


    That last sentence says a lot about each of us, no matter where we are, on the spectrum or off.

    It’s nice, even with the extra costs, that he is able to both want, and attain, the transition classes.

  • Comment by Elizabeth — September 16, 2009 @ 11:50 am


    Thanks. I’m full of that uneasy mix of hopes and fears. He probably is, too.

  • Comment by AnnMCN — September 16, 2009 @ 7:38 pm


    That is so cool! And yes, that last sentence is Truth.

  • Comment by OtterB — September 17, 2009 @ 9:10 am


    This is great. All the best to him.

    I often think in these situations about a rule of thumb someone gave me about working with kids learning to use augmentative communication systems. “Teach new content with familiar function. Teach new functions with familiar content.” If the academics are on the easy side for him, well, that leaves him with more processing capacity to deal with the unfamiliar functions of being on a college campus.

  • Comment by Beth — September 18, 2009 @ 4:14 pm


    That’s wonderful! Just making that first step is a huge undertaking.

  • Comment by carolyn — October 12, 2009 @ 12:03 am


    Hi there.

    Just finished the book. WOW! I’ve been a fan of your writing, but I’ve never read anything that reached so deeply inside my being! I think you’ve touched something regarding autism in the book that never entered my mind. I read the first 6 pages and found myself in tears. Not because of pity for the character, but amazed that the language of the character seemed to me to be my own interior language before “the editor” is applied. It’s raw, simple, beautiful…


  • Comment by Elizabeth — October 12, 2009 @ 3:28 pm


    Thank you! I’m delighted when someone new finds this book, and then finds it “works” for them.

  • Comment by arthur piantadosi — January 7, 2010 @ 1:13 pm


    Hello. This is Arthur Piantadosi. I have to say, I’m one of your biggest fans. I read the Speed of Dark, and from the first chapter I was hooked. Being on the Autistic Spectrum, I think your book is the best I’ve ever seen about Autism. I don’t know if you know, but there is a book by Diane Duane, part of her Young Wizard series, called a Wizard Alone, that has a autisic character in it. I hated it when I read it, especially the ending. It was ignorant of the truth, and very patronizing to me. I want to get Duane to apologize for it, sometime.

  • Comment by Elizabeth — January 7, 2010 @ 1:17 pm


    Hello, Arthur, and welcome to the discussions. I am glad you find my book realistic in its presentation of autism. I have not read Diane Duane’s book.

    Our son is starting the local community college this coming semester. In about two weeks, in fact.

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