college is not summer camp

Tommy’s first semester away at school we learned exactly how much he has changed and just how much things remain the same. The biggest surprise was that Tommy made friends. Real, honest-to-goodness, not orchestrated by parents, friends. Tommy and his friends played games, watched movies and went shopping. You know what they didn’t do? Study. At least one member of the merry little group of campus campers didn’t return this semester. Tommy almost joined his friend in the stay at home and go to community college club. He is back at school now, but under a microscope of parental supervision.

Tommy’s first experience with an unsupervised play group wasn’t the only problem last semester. Tommy was supposed to check in weekly with a counselor who knew Tommy’s entire life story. The counselor had an envelope proving Tommy’s disability that was to be used to get Tommy accommodations. Tommy’s handwriting hasn’t improved since the first grade. It’s not just illegible, it’s a source of stress and anxiety that needs to be fought separate from a college classroom. Tommy needs to do assignments and tests on a word processor or verbally or anything except a blue book. Those adaptations were never made. The appointments with the counselor stopped within the first few weeks and we didn’t understand what was happening until Tommy was deep in the semester. Eventually we learned that when the counselor transferred to another department, Tommy’s files were stuck in a box and dumped in someone else’s office. It’s not the college’s fault. The real world doesn’t hold your hand like elementary school does. We were just so elated that Tommy was happy and interacting with NT peers for the first time in his life that we forgot Tommy has no self management skills. The balance between not treating him like the little boy that he is maturity-wise and the young man that he is physically is incredibly difficult and we don’t have it figured out yet.

I want to say that if this semester goes poorly academically, it was a wonderful year of social growth, but I’m just not feeling that open-minded yet. I don’t want to have to say that. I want to say that we stumbled when we threw Tommy to the wolves without any help and then we learned as we went how to help the child who wasn’t supposed to read, make it through college.

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