Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Rolling Into Second Semester

Back in October we brought you Nick's Story about a young man with autism navigating his way through his first semester of college. Today, Nick's mother Janice follows up with the results of his first semester of school and looking forward to the second semester.

Here I am again, in the lobby outside the bookstore at the East Campus of Bridgewater State University. Nick started classes today for the second semester. For a while there, we were not sure if he was going to qualify to come back or if he was going to have to start all over again – perhaps at Cape Cod Community College. In anticipation of that possibility, Nick enrolled in two classes there as well pending his final grades from BSU.

First semester was a chore and a huge learning process for all of us. To begin with, Nick was carrying a full course load. It took until halfway through the semester for us to figure out what was available for supports and the proper paperwork/channels to go through to get them in place. Nick had extended test times with his exams taken in the Academic Achievement Center, and he also had note takers. Toward the middle and end, he utilized the tutoring center as he prepared for final exams. He was given a reader for one of the exams. Nick also had a Grad Student mentor that he met with twice a week. I do have to say that the Disabilities Center and AAC were very helpful; however, these supports did not pan out to be all he needed. Nick has a specific language disorder related to his ASD called Semantic Pragmatic Language Disorder. In short, he is translating all day and sometimes he interprets things incorrectly. When left on his own to read, take a test, etc. you can actually see where he strayed and sometimes it can be really comical because he takes things so literally. That being said, modification of language is a must but however, it is not something that is considered a “reasonable accommodation”. Wonderful, cut off his feet and tell him to run.

Nick’s Calculus professor, who is not originally from this country, recognized this difficulty about halfway into the semester. She took it upon herself to verbally access Nick in addition to his written tests. That to me was such a blessing. Nick’s English professor took the time to go to the Disability Center and ask what he should do to help Nick pass the course. Such dedicated educators are few and far between when you are traveling the ASD road.

When the grades came in, Nick ended up with an A- , two C’s and unfortunately an F in History – a class which he has been a straight A student in the past. He was in contact with the History professor over the break and found out that he failed because he did not pass the midterm or the final. He has offered to speak with us in the next week or so. So, now Nick is on Academic Probation, which as I remember and still holds true, is not uncommon for first semester freshmen. We attended a seminar on Tuesday and rearranged his schedule to a more comfortable level. Nick is attending part time, seven credits, two days a week. He is taking the second half of Freshmen English and Music Fundamentals (with twelve years of piano lessons and five of drums, he should do well here). We also know that he will need to approach his professors personally to help him with accommodations and he will have the class syllabus posted on his wall at home so I can help him keep track of his assignments. He also learned to check his email more than once a day because this is the way the school keeps connected on all fronts.

Outside of the academics of last semester, Nick made some personal gains that my husband and I are so proud of. Nick always had a paraprofessional with him while he was in school. He brought his lunch every day for twelve years and would not buy so much as a carton of milk at school. Nick navigates the campus alone, attends his classes alone and ate in one of the cafeterias, buying his lunch, three days a week for the first semester. These are huge milestones!

He has also accepted the fact that it will take him more than four years to obtain a bachelors degree. As always, Nick is motivated and dedicated to succeed. He is an amazing young man.

So – here I sit, basking in the knowledge that my son is doing something extraordinary. It is such a wonderful feeling to be experiencing this with him.

- Janice Stephen

*Photo - Nick accepts his Doug Flutie, Jr. Award at the Flutie Foundation's annual golf tournament in June 2010. Each year the Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation and Children Making Strides award the Doug Flutie, Jr. Award to a person who has shown great commitment and dedication to raising awareness of autism spectrum disorder, or has made a significant impact in the lives of individuals with autism. The award recipient can be a parent, teacher, advocate, individual with autism spectrum disorder or anyone else who has made a difference in the autism community. Photo Courtesy of Derek Wilmot


Jared Hoover said...

Excellent! I enjoyed reading about Nick's accomplishments and challenges and find much hope and inspiration having a son of my own with ASD entering High School (9th grade) next year.

Bill Hoover
Milford, MA

marybeth turini said...

Thanks so much for the hope, you must be so proud of all your son's effort. My granddaughter is 7 and you have helped me view her future as much brighter. Thanks again , marybeth turini