People warned me that the years go by quickly. Boy, were they right! Time really is flying by. I’m reminded of that when Ronan’s big sister checks out a new college. Fiona’s been checking out colleges for about a year now. She hasn’t narrowed which course of study she’ll major in yet, but she’s definitely interested in careers in the science and/or medical fields. With how much her brother has been immersed in all things medical, I’m not surprised that she’d want to pursue that sort of path. I’m actually very excited about that, especially when I remembered one of my facebook statuses from several years ago.
Let it be known across the land: there is no crying at math today!!! Yay, Fiona for building that confidence.
At that time, Fiona, who always liked school, hit a road block. She always excelled in Reading, Writing, History, and Science, but she was just not grasping Math concepts. The more she tried and failed, that road block became a big, fat stop sign. She wasn’t just not grasping the concepts, she didn’t care to do Math at all. It was just too hard. Half-way through middle school, though, she realized that by the time she got to high school, she’d be a year behind where many of her peers were. She wanted to love Math like she loved other subjects, like Science, but there were more tears than high fives after each lesson. When she began talking about going into the medical field as a pre-teen, I cautiously reminded Fiona that she might want to reconsider – Math and Science go together. Did she realize that?
But that wasn’t going to stop her. That girl, who’s always been one determined kiddo, finally got herself exactly where she wanted to be. It took a while, but she was able to do that by requesting tutoring, by asking her teachers for help afterschool, and by asking us to enroll her in a self-paced year-long Algebra II class (which she successfully completed in 9 weeks’ time) to catch her up with her peers. Where is Fiona now? She’s prepping for and cannot wait to take an AP Calculus class this fall.
What an accomplishment!
Last week, while talking to a college admissions counselor, I asked Fiona what sort of questions she was asked. Now finally able to say she’s “on track” for some pre-Med programs she’s been eyeing, she said she was able to share her goals, dreams, and future career interests with the college rep.
She added, “Oh, and I talked about Ronan, too.”
My heart swelled, “You did? Tell me about it.”
Fiona started, “Well, it began with me talking about my interests, like volleyball and photography, and then answering some typical interview questions: what are my short-term goals, what are my long-term goals, what are my academic achievements… Those kinds of questions.”
“And how did Ronan come up?” I asked her.
“Remember you gave me some pointers before I went in, tell them I’m the oldest of five and that I have a brother with autism,” Fiona reminded me.
“Yeah, I’ve read that sharing that sort of information has been helpful for some other autism siblings who are a few years ahead of you,” I told her.
Fiona continued, “I think it helped because I was able to tie in a lot of things, like the goals I have for after college. I’m thinking medicine, maybe research, too, or something like Neuro-Science. I’m really interested in that and think working in that field could be something I want to do. The counselor asked me, ‘Why Science?’, so I told her that my brother has seizures. He’s had them for a long time and I want to understand better why they happen. I wonder a lot about them and why they happen all the time. I want to figure out how to stop them altogether, and I think studying Neuro-Science could help me help him and other kids like him. I really want those seizures to stop.
Fiona ended her explanation quite casually. Meanwhile, I was jumping for joy on the inside. What a gift to hear that my daughter’s goals include bettering her brother’s life!
If they take the college route, my kids could study anything. Drama, Engineering, International Business, or any other major offered. As adults, I know that they could go anywhere, too. We know that eventually, their life goals might take them far, far away from us and from Ronan. But here is Ronan’s older sister thinking about taking a path that still includes him. I was so comforting in hearing that and knowing that she may be like other autism siblings who’ve gone into careers that stem around their affected siblings’ medical issues. Who better than someone knee-deep in the trenches to stay close to the subject?
I can honestly think of no one better.
Fiona is not going off to college yet. But she’s thinking very hard about where she wants to go and what she wants to study when she gets there. Time will tell where she heads and which path she ultimately takes. For now, I’m cheering for her like I cheered when the crying over Math classes stopped. Go, girl. Keep going. And keep doing what you do best – being that awesome big sister to that amazing little brother of yours!
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.