Having Autism and Choosing a College

At The Price Group, we often have parents reach out for our assistance with their adolescent or young adult children, with high functioning autism, for help with day school, boarding school or college placement.  The profiles of many of these students is they are extremely bright, with a deep, particular interest in one or two subjects, and yet with a need for more than the usual levels of support for executive functioning and social skills/social connections.  Thankfully, as we research options, we find that there are indeed great places and great educational options for students on the Autism Spectrum.  What I liked about this article was that this student was able to admit she had some special support needs and was ready to advocate for help!

11 Pieces of Advice for Kids With Autism Thinking About College

My name is Tema Krempley, and I have autism. I want to speak to you about what comes after high school. As someone who is on the spectrum, I have been exactly where you are, on the edge of the rest of your life.

I’m sure many of you are thinking about college. I know I was. My family and I started the search for a college during my junior year in high school. When graduation finally came around in 2006, I was more than ready to leave. I’m sure many of you are. How many of you want to get away from your parents? Make your own choices? Same here. I thought I was entering paradise when I started college. I thought everything would be perfect if I just made it to college. I was wrong. I didn’t even last three months.

What happened? I spent a long time thinking about it, and here’s what I realized: I denied I was autistic. And that leads to my first tidbit of advice for you:

1. Never deny your diagnosis. Autism never leaves you. It just changes form. You need to work with autism, not against it.

I had to figure out what to do next after I left college. This wasn’t an easy task. It took some soul searching on my part and a frank acknowledgement of what happened. It was clear from the start the school I had originally chosen was a really bad fit. I was not ready to deal with the labyrinth of scheduling, textbooks, disability services, tests, classes, syllabi, professors, laundry, grocery shopping, finances, friendships or roommates.

It also didn’t help that I was 120 miles away from home without any support whatsoever. I decided, after a little nudge from my parents, to go to Columbus State Community College.

Here’s my other advice for you, based on my own experiences:

2. You will not always succeed. This is a fact you cannot deny. You will fall down. You will feel bruised and lost. You may question yourself, get tired or feel frustrated. However, that doesn’t mean you should give up. Stand up, brush yourself off and challenge your limits head on. To do that, you need time and experience. This is what Columbus State gave me.

3. Ask for help. It is not a weakness. Recognize the fact that you need support. 

I was at Columbus State for two quarters before I went back to college full time at Ohio Wesleyan University in the fall of 2007. During my first week, I approached disability services to apply for accommodations. I received extended time in tests and asked for permission to type my answers for essay questions and use a smartpen to take notes. I approached my professors in person and talked to them about my needs.

4. Be an advocate for yourself. At 18, you are legally your own advocate. You will be expected to speak for yourself. You can learn to do this by knowing who you are and what your needs are. Then you need to actively seek out opportunities to practice.

5. Take time for yourself. Join clubs, hang out and do nonsensical things. Laugh over the stupidest things and take classes that cover a fun topic. This is your time to explore as well as study.

6. Sleep and eat well. It may seem like common sense, but you may find yourself letting it slide come mid-terms and finals. All-nighters are useless. Trust me, I know. You just end up falling asleep during the exam and/or forget everything come morning. That pizza will not lessen your stress. If anything, you’ll feel guilty about it later. Your health will serve you much better in the end. Taking an exam while sick is not a good experience.

7. There are people in the world who will always judge you.  Know that fact and accept it. Take your time with people to gauge how they react to you on the whole.

8. Know you can choose whom you associate with. In college and beyond, you can walk away. If someone hurts you consistently, whether they mean it or not, you have every right to cut ties with them. This is your life. Don’t waste it on undeserving people. 

9. Go and find others who share your interests. I found friends by seeking out people who shared my interest in clubs. The friends you end up making might be oddballs in their own ways, too. Those who are different tend to be the ones who are more accepting, since they have also been rejected by others.

10. You are a work in progress. It takes time to reach your goals. I graduated from college in May 2011. It took me five years to get my degree. It took me one year to get a job and two years to get an apartment. Overall, I took me six to seven years to get to where I am today. It took time to reach independence. And I am still working on it. You may reach your goal in one year or 10 years, but you will get there in the end.

11. You can create your own world. Every person has the power to shape their world. Use the strengths autism has given you. You can choose to fall into despair or you can stand up and face your future. Success is born from failure.

Tema Krempley the mightyhttp://themighty.com/2015/05/11-pieces-of-advice-for-kids-with-autism-thinking-about-college/

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