What if college isn’t in your child’s future? Let’s not dance around reality. I have a child with autism who didn’t speak a word until after his 5th birthday. Autism brings challenges that may or may not make college a reality for him right after high school. He may not be able to take a full course load every semester. He may never go at all. What does this mean in the grand scheme of things for him?
It means he won’t go to college. That’s all it means. There are tons of people who don’t go to college that don’t have autism. They lead successful competent lives without a college degree. College is not the end all to future success. There are college graduates having trouble finding jobs even with their degrees. That said, Logan wants to be a herpetologist. He can do that at many zoos or theme park near us. It’s a good job for our area. To work at said zoos or theme parks, he must have a degree. College would be mandatory for him in that instance.
We have some options here.
- Let Logan attend a community college nearby to get the credits for the undergraduate degree. He could take as long as he needs to do it while staying at home. You can transfer into any 4 year college in Florida with a Bachelor’s degree. This is ideal as we could ease him into a full course load. It would set him up for success at a 4 year college should he elect to go.
- We find another way to make his passion work as a job plan. This could mean taking a job at the zoo or theme park that doesn’t include working directly with the animals. He could be an assistant or a cleaner. I don’t care if he’s the guy who shovels the poop. As long as he’s happy and productive, I’m good.
- We come up with an entrepreneurial plan to work his passion. He likes reptiles. He could breed them to sell at expos where other crazy people buy them from him. He could get a poisonous reptile license to care for those animals after they are given up by their owners or confiscated by the police. He could catch snakes in people’s houses for them. You get the idea. There are tons of angles to work it for a home based business.
- We come to the painful conclusion that it will not work for him to pursue this passion for a career. It becomes a hobby. We go back to square one to see what our options are for independence.
Our situation may be different from yours in that we forsee Logan being able to live independently . How he achieves that goal remains to be seen but that is the ultimate goal. What if you have a child with severe autism? What if living independently is not the ultimate goal?
You have some options too
- Make a life plan. A life plan has goals on it for one year , five years, ten years and for the inevitable. The inevitable is the death of the main caregivers or parents. You need to have a plan in place before bad stuff happens. It’s morbid but necessary.
- Could the child live independently with some supports in place? Could you hire someone to clean the house for them? Could you pay their bills for them if money management is not their strong point? You get the idea. Some kids are going to need help regardless.
- Breathe. Remember that college is not the end all. Just because your child doesn’t go to college means all is lost. Grieve over the lost dream of seeing your child graduate then find a new path.
Above all , celebrate your child for who he is not what you’ve lost. My child with autism may not go to college. My dancer girl may not go to college. It doesn’t make them any less in my eyes. Once you realize that hope is not lost because college is then you will be amazed at the new opportunities that seem to show up. You just have to think out of the box. Don’t we need to do that with everything for our children with autism?
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