5 Days, 5 Colleges, 5 States (Part 4)

Getting your kid ready for college is very emotional. College is like the finish line for parenting. Your job is done. When your life has revolved around soccer games and the school calendar for years, it’s a major change. I mean the change will be good in some ways. I mean, fuck the school calendar. I’m sick of it. But it did give us some organization to life.

And, of course, we’ll miss the kid, too. He’ll be gone for 28 weeks out of the year. He’ll be absent from the dinner table. I won’t stumble into him sleeping on the sofa in the morning after a late-night, video game battle. Jonah’s been my sidekick for so long that it will be very strange to have him gone.

I’m also pretty sure that this will be our last time around at the college tours. We took Ian to Yale for an evaluation last January. Ian’s a very smart guy. His lowest IQ scores were in the average range. The subtests in nonverbal areas put him in the superior range. His pattern recognition scores were in the 97th percentile. But Yale also told us that his social-emotional intelligence and his ability to hold conversations were very low. Probably too low for independent living.

Sometimes, we get huge strides of improvement. Like after this trip with all the attention and activity, Ian was talking normally. Honestly, you wouldn’t even guess that he’s autistic. But that level of attention and activity is hard to maintain in real life. Schools refuse to do that. So, then he slips back again.

Ian’s high and low problem means that he doesn’t fit into special ed classes very well, but he also can’t handle a large traditional classroom. So, that’s why I spent most of the spring looking for a new school for him. We picked something. I hope it works out.

Colleges are starting to create programs for kids like Ian. The public schools are responsible for him until he’s 21. Maybe in seven years, there will be more college opportunities. But even so, I suspect that college isn’t the right thing for Ian. He needs to go straight into a computer training class and go to work immediately at some place where they’re cool about a little weirdness. Those programs don’t really exist yet. But in seven years, maybe.

(more later.)

19 thoughts on “5 Days, 5 Colleges, 5 States (Part 4)

  1. You and I should talk about special ed and shifting up to university. This fall is the start of our own grand experiment. I need to get Youngest to fire up and email to accessibility services and set an appointment with them to get on their lists. I need to email the psychologist to see when we can schedule an updated assessment (to quiet accessibility services as the diagnosis we’re running on is over ten years old).

    Being the parent of a special needs college student is likely to be an enormous challenge, I’m sure, in ways I’m still only vaguely expecting. We’re fortunate in that we can shadow her to all of her first year courses, that she gets a tuition benefit as my dependent and that she can get support on campus to some extent. I’m hoping that the year turns out to be mostly successful. Stay tuned!

  2. Are others peeking in at Out in Left Field? — Her son, who has communication issues + very strong math skills, has just completed his first year of college, and she has blogged some of the issues faced in his program. One of the factors she discusses is the conflict between her son’s needs and the goal of the school to support students who may have academic weaknesses: the schools add classes/work in “soft skills” like communication (say, interviewing a community member) thinking that will be easy work for everyone, but that is precisely the area of difficulty for her son.

    The complexity of these educational plans reminds me of another topic that preys in the back of my mind. There’s a persistent belief in America that equal opportunity is the solution to all societal ills. I am being convinced that we are going to have to address the issue of what happens if equal opportunity is not enough to create a sufficiently equal society (especially in the age of globalism, which I consider unstoppable). Sufficiently equal is, as a minimum, a society where the basic needs of everyone are met, which I think is a requirement of democracy. The difference between equal opportunity and adequate support can be stark when we are talking about disabilities, but, as we become very good at developing talent, I think the issue will apply to a greater range of people, as the separations among different people are amplified by talent development.

    1. bj said:

      “Are others peeking in at Out in Left Field?”

      Yes. It’s nice to see that her son’s college launch is going so well.

    2. “One of the factors she discusses is the conflict between her son’s needs and the goal of the school to support students who may have academic weaknesses: the schools add classes/work in “soft skills” like communication (say, interviewing a community member) thinking that will be easy work for everyone, but that is precisely the area of difficulty for her son.”

      I just had something similar happen in 8th grade with my son. He was struggling in English. I was in contact with the teacher and reassured that they were working on stuff, then bam, I got a report card with a grade of 70-something. I’ve been waiting for him to hit a wall when it comes to abstract thinking and figurative language (hard for literal-minded Aspergery types) so I called an IEP meeting. Well, it ended up that those issues weren’t really the problem. The Common Core is actually not that bad for stuff like that. It was the teacher and the weight she was putting on non-curricular objectives like being able to write about your feelings, and being able to relate your experience to the readings, and being willing to try new things! And the 70-something grade was due to, get this, his failure to try to recite the Gettysburg Address. She required all the students to memorize it and recite it in front of the class as part of “trying new things.” The irony is that E could recite far more of the Gettysburg Address than most. It’s just that the day she scheduled the recitations, E had a Math League meet and wasn’t in class. So he had to self-advocate and do something out of the normal routine (ask to do it on a different day) in order to complete the assignment. Plus, since he didn’t see anyone else do it, he thought he had to do it perfectly. So he didn’t do it. In the end, I said Fuck it, it just doesn’t matter and I sucked it up. After the lukewarm response from the teachers at the IEP meeting, along with the lack of caring from the 3-weeks-from-retirement director of special education in the middle school, I knew I would get nowhere with the middle school and should save my energy for dealing with the high school.

      As a college professor, I try to be very supportive of the kids with special needs. I try to remember to tell them on the first day I have a son on the spectrum and I understand a lot about what spectrum-y students need and I’m pretty flexible. I try to do a variety of assignments and in the back of my head, I’m always thinking “Would E be able to do this?” In many cases the answer is yes, but he wouldn’t like it, so then I let the students push back a little then coax them into doing what I want them to do. In writing I tend to use templates/models, kind of a “They Say/I Say” model of teaching writing (as per Gerald Graff’s book).

  3. Wendy said:

    “It was the teacher and the weight she was putting on non-curricular objectives like being able to write about your feelings, and being able to relate your experience to the readings, and being willing to try new things!”

    Katharine Beals has talked a lot on the blog about how the “write about your feelings” and “relate your experience to the readings” have been very trying with her son.

    “So he had to self-advocate and do something out of the normal routine (ask to do it on a different day) in order to complete the assignment. Plus, since he didn’t see anyone else do it, he thought he had to do it perfectly. So he didn’t do it.”

    That reminds me of some stuff we’ve had with Big Girl (also in 8th grade). She gets really, really anxious about needing to address an adult about something non-standard, no matter how essential it is that she do it.

    We actually booked several psychologist apts. for the summer just to talk about that.

    Obviously, needing to self-advocate gets to be a bigger deal at the college level, because we’re not going to have the same sort of access to her grades, emails from school, etc.

    “…I knew I would get nowhere with the middle school and should save my energy for dealing with the high school.”

    A reasonable move.

    1. I really find the “write about your feelings” type of assignment to be a problem. I think there are very many kids who are not comfortable doing that because they 1) don’t trust their classmates or 2) don’t trust their teachers enough to reveal something so personal.

      Certainly as a teenager, I was not comfortable. I got told that how I felt was wrong. So, my approach as a teenager became lying (why should I tell some nosy old person how I feel), but many kids are also not comfortable with that, and it certainly isn’t a fair thing to do to kids.

      1. In first-year composition, the memoir assignment is common. I hate it. I used to tell my students they should feel free to lie.

      2. Oh yes Wendy. That crap is even worse. Expose yourself so I may grade you. No thanks. And that crap came up in so many classes – like history. (Why?!) I sometimes wondered if the professors were voyeurs.

      3. Yeah, and they totally shouldn’t trust their classmates. I think some teachers, in some environments, feel so strongly about the community they are trying to create that they delude themselves about the social drama of middle school and high school. Even good kids are still trying to figure out how to deal with traumatic information, confidential information, who the circle of trust is and, they are in competition with one another.

        Some kids know the bounds of what they can write about, but others, the less socially adept, won’t necessarily know the hidden “rules”. And others are simply not self-introspective.

      4. I’m also not comfortable with demanding excuses for absences. Come to class, don’t come to class, whatever. Just take the consequences. If I have over 100 students, I don’t want to have to adjudicate every freaking absence when 10 times out of 10 it’s none of my business.

      5. My oldest child became very adept at making stuff up for memoir assignments. For context, it was a small grade; they had spent the last 8 years together–most of it spent writing memoir assignments.

        I find memoir assignments to be overly intrusive. It is not the teacher’s business. It exposes students to teasing from other students. It’s also impossible to judge the truth or accuracy of such assignments.

  4. I’ve heard teachers tell kids that what they say doesn’t have to be true. For younger kids, their lives are often the only thing they have to write about, though.

    1. This is true. I try to have options for students. Writing essay topics/prompts is the hardest part of my job and sometimes the one I like least.😦

    2. But asking kids to write about something they did or saw (what I did during summer vacation) is not the same as asking them to write about their feelings. For example, my daughter once had a prompt that was “write about a time you were sad”. She was in 7th grade. I don’t think that an appropriate prompt.

      1. Tulip said:

        “For example, my daughter once had a prompt that was “write about a time you were sad”. She was in 7th grade. I don’t think that an appropriate prompt.”

        Awful!

        That reminds me of a time (this was about 2000/2001) I was teaching a workplace English course for emigrant adults. As it happened, nearly all of my students were former Yugoslavian refugees–Serbs, Croats, Bosnians. They were basically civil to each other in class, but the most seemingly harmless conversational prompts from our textbook had a way of going horribly wrong. For example, “my best friend” turned into a story about the woman’s friend who had died in a Serbian concentration camp…Fortunately, I don’t think there were any Serbs in that class…

        I can’t even imagine how the “tell me about a time you were sad” prompt would have gone down in that group.

    3. Speaking of personal revelations, one of my nephew’s classmates at his fancy pants public school had an outburst in class where she said that the WORST THING that had ever happened to her was her parents having a new baby when she was 4.

  5. In a hurry, but will come back to read the comments later. I had to laugh when you talked about being tired of the school calendar! Sigh… sometimes it’s kind of weird and strange to be reminded that when you teach the school calendar IS your life. No choice about that! And since my mother was also a professor, I’ve always experienced that at home too… We’ll never be “normal” people. ;-P

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