University options for students with autism
Many parents begin planning their child’s future soon after their children are born. They may envision what their kids will be when they grow up, or what university they will attend. However, parents with children on the Autism Spectrum seem to have fewer choices for their children who are leaving high school. There are not many institutions of higher education prepared to take on the needs of these students, so where exactly does that leave these students? Will they have to remain at home with their parents? If these high school graduates dream of going to college, will these dreams go unfulfilled?
Depending on the severity of their disorder some students may still be able to attend college. Schools like Rutgers University, in New Jersey, Pace University, in New York, and the University of Connecticut offer programs to help make the transition for high functioning students with autism into college. Those desiring to attend both, Rutgers University or Pace University must still meet the regular admissions requirements set up by the school. The University of Connecticut, on the other hand has a separate admissions process for students interested in being a part of the Strategic Education for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (SEAD).
Unfortunately, most of these programs come at an additional cost to the student in addition to the school’s regular tuition. However, some parents may feel that fee associated with the cost of these programs is worth paying because it assures them that the children will receive the necessary support and services required for them to become high functioning, independent adults. Hopefully, other universities will eventually create programs supporting students in the autism spectrum, but until then you can find information about the aforementioned schools, as well as a detailed list of all the services they provide on their websites.
Joseph Peralta Jr.
Carmen Nivar and Joseph Peralta Sr. are the parents of Joseph Peralta Jr., but before Joseph Sr. had the chance to see his first-born son a NYC bus took his life away from him abruptly on the evening of his baby shower. This tragedy occurred just eight days before Joseph Jr. was born, consequently sending Carmen into a depressive state. Carmen credits her depression as a part of the reason she did not start to see some of the signs that her son was not doing some of the things her other children had done at his age. During her regular doctor visits she was always told that he was fine, so she concluded that Joseph Jr. would eventually start to exhibit the typical behavior of a child his age. It was not until Joseph Jr., who is known to his family as Bebo, was 2 ½ years old that Carmen realized that he still wasn’t speaking. According to her she was giving him time because she was told that all kids are different. She would soon find out exactly how different Bebo was after taking him to be evaluated.
After being evaluated at least five times Bebo was diagnosed by a psychologist as having mild to moderate autism, a diagnosis that no other doctor had been able to make. This diagnosis caught Carmen by surprise and left her wondering what this would mean for her child. For a while she just felt numb, but found the strength to cut through her own pain, so that she could help her son as much as possible. She would soon learn that Bebo had nearly missed the opportunity to receive early intervention services (EIS) because his diagnosis wasn’t made sooner. According to Hear Our Voices, if early intervention services include Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) parents will see their child improve dramatically.
Acronyms like ABA and OT (Occupational Therapy) were not things Carmen typically had to think about. However, Carmen would now have to enter a world of which she knew nothing about and educate herself on different forms of therapies for autistic children. She realized that not only are there so many people who are unaware of the prevalence of autism, there are also not as many resources made available to the parents. Finding the services Bebo would need seemed like a scavenger hunt, however, with the assistance of agencies like ICare4Autism, Carmen was able to find a school that Bebo could attend. With so few teachers willing or knowledgeable enough about how to educate an autistic child, Carmen was happy to find that the teachers at Katharine Dodge Brownell School (KDBES) were adequately prepared for the task. Since attending KDBES, Bebo has made significant improvements. He now speaks and is able to tell his mother when he wants to eat or if he doesn’t want something. After three years and eight months Bebo has also finally said the words that all mothers long to hear, “I love you.” While these improvements may seem modest to some, they have made a huge difference for the relationship between Carmen and Bebo. Having the ability to finally be able to effectively communicate with her son isn’t something she will ever take for granted. Carmen is currently seeking ways to become a more effective advocate for children with autism so children like her son Bebo can reap the benefits.