Dachel Media Update: Disability Rights, Autism Blood Test, School Policy
David Kirby on Congressional Autism Hearing

Juggling the Astronaut: Failure to Launch

James Frye GraduatesManaging Editor's Note: We ran a post by Wendy called Juggling The Astronaut, Autism into Adulthood last summer.  Below is her follow up. Unfortunately, there was no lift off - but we keep reaching for the stars for our children, whether tots or adults.

By Wendy Frye

The disability services advisor at our local community college needed to meet with us before our son could be admitted to classes. The gate-keeper in charge claimed 30 years of experience in disability services while he eyed our son. Our son, who just happens to be a very talented artist, diagnosed on the autism spectrum when he was three and half and a recent high school graduate.

My husband and devoted father to our two son comes from a family of educators. It was only logical that our son continue his secondary education as an extension of his student experience that started when he was 3 1/2 years old. Like a long rising phoenix, this young man had paid his dues and deserved a college experience, Right?

Wrong. Apparently we were dead-assed wrong and the minutes scribed during our brief meeting will only relay our ignorance. The road we travel just got infinitely longer supporting our now adult son with ASD.

The gate-keeper required him to pass a 3 hour reading and writing assessment, unsupported, with a timer looming in the corner. For art classes - even labs. Awesome. Didn't we cover our Achilles heel well enough over the 15 years of education, therapies, assessments, awards, grades, passing federal standardized testing, his web-site, posted online art submissions all while earning exceptional honors? Nope.

Losing eye contact. Right. About. Now.

We, the parents, knew exactly what was happening. Our son was being deliberately set up to fail. This was not acceptable, on any level, with any student. On the way home, the conversation in the car yielded a new plan. Anxiety was replaced with reassurance that he would NEVER again have to take class or be assessed just to learn the skills he needs to use equipment and techniques to create his own brand of graphic arts.

As a preemptive strike against the looming reality that would be our son, sitting around all day playing video games in his boxers, I resigned from my professional daytime career. Not only isn't it safe to leave him alone during the work hours of the day, it's lonely. With crystal clarity, we need to assist our son farther into his adulthood to achieve his dreams and ambitions, not just for him, oh no. Not just for James. We will do this for the legion of children on the Spectrum who will be aging out, falling off the fragile cliff of security of their younger years.

Since that fateful meeting, his creative genius has been ripening. With just stopping and looking around to find a different and more direct educational path for him - he is happier and more relaxed than ever. A local agency that interns young computer geeks offers classes and welcomes this young man with his mother at his side. 

Incubating his new skills, refining old ideas and thoughts that he so desperately wants to communicate with us all, The Astronaut is learning his new language in graphic arts. Assisted by his family and a soon to be elevated non-profit, this trip continues.......

~ Wendy Frye

"Ground Control to Major Tom
Commencing countdown, engines on
Check ignition and may God's love be with you" ~ David Bowie



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Wendy Frye

Hey! Thanks for such supportive comments. We've since decided to put a little "pressure" on the community college regarding admittance procedures. Including and admitting capable students of all disabilities is the right thing to do - We have to hammer that point home. We've always said as parents that when people are rude, unfair or unjust - that they just earned the honor of being the one we take out our "Autism Stress" on. Got call number one into the Chancellor of the local community colleges....

Shawn Huntley


You rock! I so much wished I could have stayed in the area, but your brave pursuit inspires us all! Shawn from Omaha

Vicki Hill

Wendy, nonPareil Institute in Texas exists to help young adults like your son. At nonPareil they can learn graphic arts as well as how to create video games, iPhone apps, and e-books. We have over 90 adults with autism in the program. There are solutions out there; it will just take time to get them to all areas of the country. www.npitx.org

Dee McVicker

Wendy, we hear you all the way from Exceptional Minds in Sherman Oaks, California, where an innovative program for young adults on the spectrum is now in its second year. And what an exceptional year it's been! We are so amazed at the bright young minds and the talent as our students reach for and acquire skills for working in post-production and computer animation. There's so much more that these young people can do, and we're just beginning to tap into what's next in autism as so many of our youth age out of the system. You are not on this new frontier alone. We're out there, too! (www.exceptionalmindsstudio.org)

Paul S

The "Gate Keeper" lives in the "NEGATIVE DOMAIN" of life>
I feel sorry for that person because it is self limiting!

Wendy, You are great! I'm sure you will find the path around this block and your son will continue to grow!!!

first do no harm

It sounds like you've made some great decisions for your son! However, I would like to know where the community college gatekeeper's criteria came from. Did he write that criteria or is it some kind of state mandate? Why is a high school diploma not good enough to qualify a student for community college? I'm not even sure if these roadblocks are legal.

I would definitely want to know more before crossing that option off my list.

Lori Orrico

Thank you for that much needed inspiration today. This reminds me of what I constantly have to remind myself...that nothing is written in stone for our kids. Thank you for blazing the trails for them and thinking "outside the box." It's the only way anything will ever be accomplished.


I'm angered that your son was not accepted as he deserved to be; I am inspired by your determination and the results it is bringing. Keep going warrior mom!


Oh I edited and left a fragment of a sentence
"She said no"

I asked the vocational rehabilitation director if there was any work for graphic arts with computers around here


I hope it works out for him, graphic arts is what my son loved the best too. My son has great spacial skills - what the psych said.
But what to do with great - superior spacical skills???

My son was able to get an AA degree in electronics in a local community college.

He has even finished a course in electrical construction. She said no.

So far my son has not launched either.
He took his two year degree in electronic down to a local company that was hiring a whole lot of people.

Obama Care - health care - government has given this company money -
The job was putting data in a computer. They also wanted someone to lift some things in the ware house and we are fortunate - my son is very strong. He got an interview (oh gosh) but no job.
He would be haappy to play video games all day long,that is amazing to me!

Life here though requires that he can't do that.

I think about this all the time; just like my father -- we two of the family seems to be the only two that worries about it.

I tried to get my son to go back and take automotive at his community college. He did talk to the professor a year ago - and he said the professor was in a hurry - told him the classes were filled up anyway. Such an attitude would scare my son off and he would never try again.

So I would imagine I can't get him to try it again. I am not sure what to do next?

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