In previous blogs, I have discussed parental roles in the lives of individuals with Autism going back to school. With the Fall semester just about to kick-off, as well as the ever-present COVID-19 variants making life more difficult, I believe it is essential to talk about coping skills for students returning to college. Although this information is geared towards students returning to college, many aspects can pertain to any age child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) returning to school.
When I think of what it was like for me to start college, I can remember fear and excitement. To be completely honest, it was much more the fear than anything else. Being neurotypical, I cannot tell you what it must feel like to have ASD and leave the safety of home and go to school. Years of coping mechanisms geared towards safety and interaction now have to be adapted, shifted around, and at times thrown away. I have worked a great deal with college students with ASD, and although no two individuals experience the same thing, one definite trend that gets repeated is “People just don’t make sense.” To further elaborate on this statement, I thought I would give a few helpful tidbits to the new or returning college student with ASD. Take what you need from this, leave the rest behind.
Don’t assume what makes sense to you will ring true with anyone else. Everyone experiences the world in a unique way. Your way may seem like the best… or only… way to do something, but respect other people's views and hopefully do the same in return.
When in doubt about anything, ask for help. No one expects you to have all the answers. Far more people get in trouble by not asking then by asking.
Use every resource you possibly can. Many people don’t ask for what they need out of fear of being looked as at being different or less than. Individuals with ASD process the world in a way that can be different than many, this is not a pro or a con, it is simply the truth that classes are not designed with this difference in mind. Getting resources to help with a class is a way of making the playing field even.
Isolation isn’t good or bad, and it depends on the situation. Isolation is typically associated in a very negative way. I look at it as a tool in a toolbox required when the world becomes too much. Over-stimulated, over-stressed, or sometimes just tired of trying to fit in requires time for a recharge. As with most anything, you can overuse this tool and try to hide from the world. Recharge and head back into the world. It needs you.
Take your time. College is as much about the experience as it is the diploma. Make friends, cut yourself a break when you make a mistake, and always remember- you got this!
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