As my son began his journey to campus life, I quickly realized that the experience brought about not only the expected challenges but also some insights into his growth and development. Here are four lessons I've learned about my autistic son living on campus for the first time:
1. Selective Self-Advocacy:
While we had prepared him to be a self-advocate, I soon discovered that my son was selective about the issues he chose to advocate for. It became evident that he prioritized matters close to his heart, not mine. LOL. Don't you wish you could jump in your child's body and make some decisions for them? Only if life was that easy. So, I am learning the importance of constantly communicating with him to understand his evolving needs.
2. Unique Self-Care Practices:
My son's self-care routine on campus differs from the practices instilled while living at home. Simple tasks, such as cleaning the shower, needed to be remembered, as I was reminded when he came home for Thanksgiving. It served as a reminder that transitioning to independence involves adapting to new responsibilities, and occasional oversights are a part of the learning process.
3. Money Management Revisited:
Reflecting on our conversations about money management, I realized the importance of reinforcing these lessons. College life exposed my son to new temptations, like wanting a PS5 while having an outstanding account balance. Revisiting financial discussions is imperative to ensure your child can navigate these temptations responsibly.
4. Untapped Resources:
Although the college provided numerous resources tailored to accommodate his needs, my son wasn't and needed to utilize them fully. Although I have encouraged him to explore and take advantage of the available support systems, in the end, it is his choice and what he deems important. I also hope he matures more each year in college and understands that asking for help is okay.
As a parent, it's natural to wish our children a smoother transition from high school to college. However, recognizing that they are individuals coming into their own is crucial. Like many others, my son is on a journey of self-discovery, and my role is to offer support and guidance, not control, which is so hard. While he continues on his path, my goal remains constant – to witness him happy and independent, build a fulfilling life, and embrace college's unique opportunities.