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Autistic Student Heads for College

One autistic student proves its possible to move out of special ed, into regular ed and onto college.

My youngest son, Matthew, promoted from fifth to sixth grade last week. Before we left for the promotion ceremony, he surprised me by crying.    

As I dabbed away my autistic son's tears, I asked why he was crying.  He replied that he felt "sad." 

When he expressed his emotion, it hit me that he fully understands that he's leaving elementary school and may not see some classmates or school staff ever again. He was reacting like a typical kid.   

I hugged him and told him that it was okay to cry. I said, though, that he should try to cry happy tears instead of sad ones because he's moving into a new phase of his education as a middle-schooler.  

As we left for the promotion ceremony, I hoped that I wouldn't cry later. However, it was hard not to get misty eyed, especially when a Presidental Academic Award was given to one of Matthew's former classmates.

The classmate had overcome great obstacles to move from a special education class into a regular education class this past school year. She beamed in front of the cheering audience as she accepted the award. Her parents must have been crying.

The day after Matthew's promotion, I did tear up a bit when I heard a news report about Alexander Myers, an Arkansas teen with severe autism who had just graduated from high school.

Alexander had a determined mother who helped him learn how to function in society and earn a diploma. She even walked side-by-side with him to school almost every day since kindergarten.

"If there was one thing I wanted people to know about Alexander or the situation with autism, the war with autism, is not to underestimate. Set your expectations high and just be determined to be as consistent as possible and persistent in accomplishing that goal," Veronica Myers said.

Thanks to his mother's hard work, Alexander has become more independent than his diagnosis implied was ever possible. He's also on his way to college.

Like Alexander's mother, I plan on seeing my son graduate from high school one day, and then I'll let myself cry happy tears.     

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TVOR June 01, 2011 at 05:00 AM
I've always felt the only real limitations we have are those we place on ourselves. This is also true of the limitations we place upon or teach our children. Dare to dream. Anything can be achieved with enough willpower.
Michele Clark Powell June 20, 2011 at 05:21 PM
I disagree. In our case the more society and the school system pushed my son to be 'normal' the more he would break down. Finally I demanded they stop. He did home hospital his entire high school career, graduated on time and on his own started looking for work. After a few years he finally got the job he wanted and has been doing it successfully for almost a year. These kids are different but they also are capable of doing what they need and want in their own time. I have never understood why society feels the need to try to force them into a mold that they have labeled as normal. Nothing is normal these days. Who decides what is normal? We each should be given the respect to do what we need to in our own time. Success comes with achievement made not by force but will. Of course this is just my opinion and I am sure there are many who will argue it. In our case it is true though. I am quite proud.
Michele Clark Powell June 21, 2011 at 06:52 PM
Thank you. I appreciate that! It is by no means easy and I am still having to be an active parent so that he can accomplish these basic things BUT I find his uniqueness refreshing, although inappropriate at times (LOL) he is more like a grumpy old man than a 23 year old. It's worth it and I can't help but admit that it would be nice if there was more help for the adults with HF Autism so the parents could get a break. There isn't so we persevere. Next up is learning to drive. If he can manage that (and I am sure eventually he will) then I will be ecstatic! Finally me time. Until then we just march ahead... I wish you all luck and love.

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