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advice for parent of ASD/High functioning aspergers child

nativeNYernativeNYer Registered User Posts: 12 New Member
Hi- seeking advice to help prepare/support my high functioning asperger's child before and during college. He has applied ED to an Ivy league school, but if he doesn't get in his second choice is RIT which truthfully might be better for him anyway. He is incredibly smart, but has many of the traits of Aspererger's kids: social anxiety and withdrawal, issues with motivation, self-care, cannot seem to wake himself up for school, etc. His grades have been all over the place in high school despite his ability (he got a 1590 on the SAT without studying), but this semester he is getting straight A's without parental involvement on the homework side. Still, I worry about him going to college and never leaving his room to be with friends (he rarely leaves out house except for school); his ability to co-exist with a roommate (he doesn't seem able to regularly take showers or clean his room) and wake up for classes.

Are there any parents out there who have been there/done that and can give me advice on how to prepare him before he leaves?

Replies to: advice for parent of ASD/High functioning aspergers child

  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 Registered User Posts: 3,360 Senior Member
    A close friend of mine's daughter sounds very similar to your son. She got a part time job her senior year in high school and really started to become more responsible for herself. She's a freshman in college now and is absolutely thriving. Much more so than her parents' expected. I hope the same for your son!
  • nativeNYernativeNYer Registered User Posts: 12 New Member
    thank you!
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 72,322 Senior Member
    @sbjdorlo I’m thinking your perspective might be helpful here.
  • bopperbopper Forum Champion CWRU Posts: 11,972 Forum Champion
    Not a parent of a spectrum child here, so ignore if you like:

    If your son is not getting up, showerign, cleaning his room/doing laundry , Homework?:
    Is that because his executive functioning skills are not there for him to do these things...or is it because you, like many parents of teens, you have taken this task to remind him to do things on yourself.

    If he cannot do these things...is he ready for college?
    Because he will have a new room, new roommate, new food, new teachers, new school.That is alot for any teen to adjust to.

    Maybe start talking to him/his therapist about figuring out how he can start to take charge of some of these things.
    With my daughter, I had her start doing things that I know that she would have to start doing in college like keeping track of her medicine/ordering it, etc.

    Maybe starting next semester, let him know that you want to make sure he is prepared for living on his own and go over the tasks that he needs to do...shower daily/every 2 days, wash clothes every 2 weeks, get up, do homework
    Maybe introduce one every couple of weeks?

    Showers: https://www.ambitiousaboutautism.org.uk/understanding-autism/health/hygiene

    One of my friends has a son who I think was undiagnosed Aspergers...he went off to college and didn't make to Thanksgiving before he was asked to leave as he was not attending classes or anythign. I think his mom was a stay at home mom and always worked with him to do homework/etc. All of a sudden instead of being in one physical building where you were dropped off at and kind of have no choice but to do to classes, it is up to you to 1) Wake up
    2) know what classes you are to do to that day 3) Go to the first one 4) Go to the next one (esp if there is a break)
    5) Keep track of assignments 6) Keep track of due dates 7) Do the assignments/readings 8) Turn in the readings.

    Seems to me a program like RIT Spectrum support would set him up for success.

  • EmpireappleEmpireapple Registered User Posts: 1,131 Senior Member
    Also JMHO but I have to echo what bopper has stated.

    If your son has trouble with self care, motivation, waking up, social issues and doesn't shower, he isn't going to be successful with group living or being on his own. The first place to start would be therapy to address these issues. The bigger picture is also that these things are very important to hold down a job and be successful in a career. It ins't enough to be academically talented. Ultimately your son will need to work with others and especially, if planning to go away to college, will have to live with others.

    Honestly maybe community college coupled with therapy is the place to start with the goal of being able to live on his own (which is what college is) would be a more reasonable plan.

    I feel for you and your son. I wish you the very best.
  • Mom2aphysicsgeekMom2aphysicsgeek Registered User Posts: 4,309 Senior Member
    Our ds has somewhat better EF than what you are describing (I never had to tell him to shower or wake him up or tell him to do his laundry, but has extreme anxiety and obsessive behaviors that have made functioning as an adult a huge struggle. I wanted to echo other posters. Your ds does not sound like he is ready to be in an environment where he is expected to be completely on autopilot.

    What would happen right now if you went out of town and left him alone for 6 months with enough $$ for ordering food? Would he go to school, complete his homework, go to sleep, wake up, do his laundry, take himself to the dr if sick, eat healthily? Add the stress of a completely new environment, unknown students and profs, irregular classroom times, how many balls is he going to be able to juggle at once?

    When our ds was around 14, one of his therapists made a comment that made me incredibly angry and defensive. He said, "All of the education in the world won't matter if he can't hold a job." I was so insulted for our ds. He was incredibly intelligent and an excellent student. Unfortunately, they were probably the most accurate words ever spoken to me by anyone who has ever dealt with my ds.

    If I were in your position, I would be far less concerned about the ranking of the school and far more focused on real, effective, in-person on-campus supports. The best model I have seen is WKU's Circle of Support. It is the model I would look for based on your description. https://www.wku.edu/kapcircleofsupport/
  • jym626jym626 Registered User Posts: 55,816 Senior Member
  • threedoglimitthreedoglimit Registered User Posts: 12 New Member
    Some excellent advice from previous posters, and I would reiterate what you have already read: self-advocacy is the key to this transition. The Circle of Support program at WKU lists the following prerequisites for entering students with Autism:

    Able to perform the following pre-college life skills:

    Order and take medication independently
    Get up independently and attend class
    Independently manage a debit card
    Keep dorm room clean
    Independently perform routine hygiene routines
    Independently wash clothes on a regular basis
    Cook simple meals
    Independently able to balance work versus leisure
    Independently transition from preferred activities in order to complete responsibilities during free time
    Independently manage sleep schedule

    If your son is challenged by any of the above, perhaps start with teaching and incorporating these skills now?
  • vistajayvistajay Registered User Posts: 1,247 Senior Member
    No advice but we have a friend with similar issues at RIT who is thriving. They have a wonderful Spectrum Support Program. We also know a student with Aspergers who is doing great at USCal, though I suspect RIT has the better support of those two.
  • DustyfeathersDustyfeathers Registered User Posts: 3,083 Senior Member
    We have a child who is similar. Brilliant to the point that it's almost a disadvantage. And could barely get through any sort of school because of EF issues. Our solution has been a gap period -- like we jokingly call it a gap decade but what we are probably seeing is more like this child is probably going to start college at age 22 if child stays on current trajectory.

    I can't stress enough how great it's been to simply RELAX about the college timeline. The worst mistake is for your child IMHO to go to an academically rigorous school. Especially if his other issues are not addressed. Part of what will address his issues is being allowed to grow up. Brains are not fully developed until mid 20s. EF part of the brain is the last to get integrated (basically).

    Our child spent 9 months after HS graduation in bedroom (agonizing period) leaving for therapy and runs with mom each morning, plus chores around the house -- just to keep some sense of being a part of the world. Clearly depression was an issues. Anxiety is the flip side of depression IMO. After 9 months child walked into the living room and said that s/he had a place to live, a job, and it was about 1500 miles away. We levitated from the couch and discussed things quietly with child. Child left anyway with a pittance from his/her piggy bank, feeling rich. Another agonizing year ensued. Child returned. That was last April. Hearts, spirits, and trust were repaired. Currently child--having discovered the limits of minimum-wage fast-food work--is interviewing at internships that PAY (!!). Child found an organization in the city where we live that provides professional training for young adults ages 17-24 who are not in school and who have no work. They then send them out for interviews at real-live places that actually pay real cash. This feels like a miracle for us. I've never seen this child more confident, more at ease, and dressed in a nice suit and hair neatly done (room is still a disaster, but you know: priorities!) If this continues, the EF skills seem to be catching up and child should be ready for college soon--within a year or so. Plus this child will have the advantage of having worked several years, having defined his/herself somewhat and discovered interests, and I predict will have focus in college, when the time comes.

    I strongly recommend letting children take lots of gap time. It's true that twice exceptional children are children that are developing skills asymmetrically. They are gifted in one area, and deficient in another. This doesn't surprise me as it takes until age 25 (about) for the human brain to come fully on board. The frontal lobe, which controls executive functioning, is fully integrated at around ages 24-25. Knowing this helped us relax the timeline for this child and allow him/her to develop without the constraint of school -- the deadlines, the pressure, the expectations, the requirements that don't interest etc. etc. etc. We also told this child that it's not that s/he CAN'T go to college, s/he doesn't seem ready yet. And that when s/he is ready, s/he will know. It will seem natural at that point.

    So far this has proved true, at least in this one instance with this one child.
  • ColoradomamaColoradomama Registered User Posts: 1,944 Senior Member
    We have a close friend who has Aspergers, attends local flagship near home, found supportive living arrangement, where he can live on campus all four years, and I think he is now much more social in year three. All boys but especially Aspergers students need TIME to get to know their surroundings. I think we expect too much too quickly and then that sets up students for failure. Also isn't social life totally overblown, the importance of it? I think so,
    but maybe i just was more studious than most, and like being alone.

    Your son must play to his strengths, and if social life is not his strength, then he can become very successful in MANY careers like actuary, computer programming, or law, which require concentration and solo work. There are dozens of other careers that require almost no social interaction, but depend on skills and intelligence.

    If its not too late, I would encourage him to apply to other schools with good supportive living arrangements.
    Self care may come with time away from home. Don't overthink this,although I understand your worry, he may be able to do fine. RIT is good for many majors, in arts, CS, optical engineering, photography, and the program there is supportive, for twice exceptional students.

    I see about 1/3 of Colorado boys, from our region, often have undiagnosed learning differences pop back home after a semester out of state. This is not talked about much, but many boys do not adjust to college life away from home, maybe some of that is maturity, or other factors.
  • ColoradomamaColoradomama Registered User Posts: 1,944 Senior Member
    @nativeNYer Your son can and maybe should request a single room in freshman year, if he feels that he would
    be more comfortable. Comfort is key to success in college. Once he is comfortable he may be able to make a friend or two, as he matures. Friendships take time for anyone. Friendships are something extroverted people need more than introverted people. If he is happy, thats the important aspect of life. Many people, including my older son and husband are perfectly HAPPY studying, all day long, and then walking their dog, for instance, or doing a solo activity, like sailing ! They THRIVE on alone activities, with limited social time. If they get too much social time , they shut down in fact. Not everyone needs lots of friends. One might be enough! In fact many introverted people are happier alone. I don't know if your son is introverted, but he may be more comfortable without pressure to "make friends".
  • ColoradomamaColoradomama Registered User Posts: 1,944 Senior Member
    I personally think gap time can cause depression in some students, but I appreciate that some students may mature enough to attend college. Your son is very INTERESTED In studying, so I don't see a gap year being necessary for him.
    Gap years if they are not well planned, are just idle time. This student can study independently and is ready for college study life and wants a challenge. He just does not have social aspects mastered, so RIT may help him make gains there, but having lower parent expectations on social gains is KEY. Parents need to change, NOT the student. The student may be happy with once a week showers, and no social life. inadequate hygiene will eventually lead to health problems though so continue to work with his intellect on why hygiene matters. Its not just about dates, its about health.
  • roycroftmomroycroftmom Registered User Posts: 1,677 Senior Member
    No, once a week showers is unacceptable in this century. The student needs to change that if he is ever to leave his room. Not stinking is part of being around others.
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