Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Guest Post by Cindy Robertson Michie/ Dropping My Son with Asperger's Off at College

Cindy, a friend of mine whom I haven’t seen since high school graduation, agreed to do a guest post for me. The two of us grew up together in a small town. Our graduating class had less than 50 students, so you can imagine how close we all were. I have many good memories of Cindy. She and I were on the drill team together, we ran on the same 880 relay team, we sat next to each other in driver’s ed. (This I remember because she is left handed and we about drove each other nuts trying to write out assignments.) I also recall how she loved tomatoes and would gladly take them from friends in the cafeteria who did not. Her hamburgers always had more tomatoes than beef.  J

I reconnected with Cindy on facebook and had no idea she has a son with special needs until I saw one particular post this week. I read it. I cried. And I knew I needed to ask her if I could share her words of anguish, fear, hope and encouragement on my blog. I am so happy that she agreed and I know that her story will help many families dealing with ASD. Here is Cindy’s article…

"I was looking at the pictures we took a week ago when we dropped Jake off at BYUI. When I saw this one I thought how perfect it was. We took him to lunch before we left town and he ordered this hamburger which was larger than his head! As I look at it I realized that in a way this burger represents Jake’s life with Asperger’s. Due to his disorder, things that we take for granted are extra-large for him to tackle. But that doesn’t stop him from sitting up to the table with every intention of eating every bite! 

Dropping Jake off at college was one of the most difficult things I have done. For 20 years we have worried about this child. We had practice conversations to help him learn to communicate better with friends. We mapped out his every move because the unknown was frightening. We practicing holding eye contact with others, and rehearsed possible scenarios for school days, field trips, church activities and work. He worked on it all until he mastered it to the best of his ability. We set a goal to have no IEP by the time he graduated from high school and it came off as a junior. He set and met MANY goals. Every time I worried about a hurdle Jake simply laced his track shoes on and faced it again and again, falling over and over until he cleared it. Then with that fabulous smile you see in this picture, he would look forward to the next hurdle which was inevitably there.

After dreading for months the day we would drop our Autistic son off to fend for himself at college, he once again surprised me. We had planned to stay for two days to get him settled and after day one he graciously asked us if WE were ready to leave. I was worried that he would be unsure of his ability to take care of himself…  instead I realized that it was me that was worried. He’s totally ready. He has prepared himself for this day and like all the others, tackled it with enthusiasm. He has taken classes at JCCC for the past two years and transferred as a junior. He worked 30 hours a week and paid every penny for school and even managed to put $6,000 in the bank. He called the counselor at BYUI months ago and asked for a meeting to decide the schedule which would be right for him. He is a physics major doing school work that I could only dream of doing. I will never forget the look on his roommate’s faces when after talking to him and making some innocent preconceived opinions about him, patronizingly asked him what his major was…the look of surprise on their faces was priceless! They looked at him a little differently after that.

I remember the day we got his diagnosis and I cried out to the Lord about why he would send this child to me. I am not THAT mother. I am not good enough to be the mother of a specials needs child, one who would be different and would require patience that I didn’t have. I was certain I couldn’t do it! But what I didn’t know was that we would have the best teacher. Jake was there to teach and guide all the way along and from him I have learned soo many lessons; patience, perseverance, kindness, determination and unconditional love. We were not ready for the challenge but he is. He is anxious for this new hurdle in his life. I thank heaven for the extreme honor it is to be his mom and I look forward to the new things I will learn from this gentle giant."

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