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