Beware the Trap of Being On the Spectrum and Turning 18 Can you avoid being one of the forgotten ones in this weird, lonely world or will you seize the day?
I’ve got some news for you and you’re probably not going to like it. If you thought it was tough to be autistic and in school or if it was tough being the parent of a school-age child on the spectrum, the party is just beginning.
Forget about IEPs or whatever your school district calls their plans for your autistic child. As most of us know, these pieces of paper are worthless. I say most of us because there are some school districts that truly care and go out of their way to help our kids and who want to help shape them into productive adults.
Those districts are few and far between.
You may be asking yourself, J.R., what the heck do you know about any of this since you were diagnosed as an adult and since there was no autism when you were in school? That’s a great question and I’m glad you asked that.
I coached ice hockey for too many years to count and worked with kids in clinics from age four-adult and coached teams from age nine-high school varsity. Besides teaching them hockey I also strove to teach them life lessons. My point is that for years I’ve been helping kids be the very best they can be.
After my diagnosis with Asperger’s at age forty-six, I hid away for two years telling a small handful of people about my diagnosis. After “coming out” a couple years later I began finding out that if you were a child on the spectrum, the government, charities and other fundraising groups were all too happy to throw their money at charities catering to you.,
Trying to find any funding, programs or help for those around the age of sixteen and up was like trying to find Bigfoot. You heard stories that in other places people had seen such a thing for adults, but no one could actually confirm it.
Earlier in the year when the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) had the number of people on the spectrum as 1-68, there were 50,000 autistics turning eighteen every year. Yes, you read that correctly. 50,000. Since then the CDC has lowered the number to 1-59. I’m not a math genius, but for argument’s sake let’s just say that the 50,000 has now grown to closer to 60,000. Can we all agree on that?
How is the future of America being prepared for life after high school? How are they being prepared for the opportunities to not only contribute to society but to be leaders in their chosen field or in the community? The answer will shock you.
Let’s take a quick look at what middle and high school is like for someone on the spectrum. Since our brains are wired differently, we don’t always speak the same language as the teachers. That’s to say that we don’t always follow what they’re saying and need it explained in a different way.
Many of these kids have IQs that are either average slightly above average or flat out off the charts and the teachers, frustrated with the number of questions and not enjoying he disruptions are sending these perfectly abled autistic kids into special ed.
That’s not a typo. They go to special ed where their peers label them as Sped Kids (Sped for special ed).
A lot of kids on the spectrum have trouble in maybe one or two subjects but either hold their own or excel at the rest. Why should they be lumped in with students who are behind them academically just because some teachers don’t want to deal with the questions?
To answer the question above, schools (in general) are preparing our kids for life after high school by sending them the message that they are less than the “regular” students in the school and that they probably won’t have much of a chance to succeed since they only had a remedial education. I know if I was the parent of a child in this situation I would be frustrated, angry and fight for the rights of my child.
As your child prepares to turn 18 what are you going to do about it?
Will you simply decide that college isn’t in the cards and have your student find a job of some kind or have you decided that they’re going to college? There are more opportunities out there and I’m here to help. Finding the best fit for your particular child is of utmost importance. They’re unique individuals with special skill sets, likes and dislikes, so why not find something for them that’s right in their wheelhouse?
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Photo courtesy Unsplash