Is Your Student Ready for College?
This article was originally written for the November 2015 publication of INSIGHTS magazine.
For many parents, the idea of sending their child with autism onto a college campus can be daunting. A common question is: Is my child ready for this socially?
One of the most critical skills that a parent can teach their child is to self-advocate. Preempting difficult situations is an effective method of helping your child prepare for the complex social demands of a college campus. Talking through hypothetical situations with your child is a wonderful means of preparing for tricky scenarios. Brainstorm scenes your child might encounter and work with them to generate solutions, scripting what they should do and say. Make sure to write things down or draw pictures to help visual learners. Social Narratives are also useful tools. They are short stories that describe social situations and the desired or expected behavior in that situation. Social Narratives are not just for younger children with autism – they can be a useful tool to help college-aged students know how to appropriately self-advocate.
You can also help your child prepare for future problems by discussing past events. Make a habit of doing a “daily download” with your child, making sure to ask him or her about any difficult parts of the day, reviewing what they could have done differently. Ask questions. Your child may not volunteer information because it may be difficult for them to know if a situation is worth discussing.
Endless situations can be addressed in these methods, ranging from talking to a teacher about a misplaced homework assignment, to politely insisting on disability accommodations while taking a test. It’s essential to equip your child with the power to stand up for themselves and express their needs.
Some resources that might be helpful on this journey include: Navigating College: A Handbook on Self-Advocacy written for Autistic Students, by Autistic Adults published by The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN), Socially Curious and Curiously Social by Michelle Garcia Winner and Pamela Cooke.
Rachel Hoover ’08, MS, CCC-SLP, participated in the Montgomery Scholars Honors Program. She is a speech-language pathologist who specializes in working with young adults with autism. Follow her on Twitter @rachelchoover for helpful tips for parents and therapists.