By Karra Barber-Wada
Just received an acceptance notice from San Francisco State University in the mail.
“Ok, everything you need is in your backpack on the bench by the front door. I have your lunch and a folder inside with all the documents you need. I put your transcripts from Junior college, and a print out of the classes you are currently taking (specifically college Algebra). You know that algebra (a math requirement) is the last class you must complete before you transfer to San Francisco State, right?”
“Yes I know Mom. You’ve told me a million times. I need at least a C in Algebra to transfer as a Junior. I know.”
“OK good. You are all set,” I say out loud while giving my husband, Scott, a slight look of apprehension.
I dropped them both off at the BART train in Walnut Creek. Thomas had mapped out the route to San Francisco State the night before online. They were to get off at the last stop and take the shuttle bus to the campus. He estimated that it would cost $11.20 for BART (round trip) and $2 for the bus, but that the shuttle would be free if available. Thomas figured it would take about 1 hour and 10 minutes in total commute time. Scott purposely took Thomas on his commute route (instead of just driving him there) so Thomas could get familiar with the route to school.
“Bye,” I yelled waving as they walked toward the BART train.
3;30 p.m. My phone rang. It’s Scott. He tells me that Thomas won’t be able to register for his classes without his MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) results. “What, What?” I yelled into the phone. He continued, “And it’s not in the folder in the backpack!” I didn’t know that information was required.
Long pause, …I quickly pulled myself together. “Ok. I will find it and fax it to you,” I announced promptly. He gave me the fax number and said he’d wait. I tore my house apart looking for that form. Ten minutes passed, then twenty, and finally thirty minutes passed before I called him back. I CAN’T FIND IT. The result: Thomas couldn’t register for his classes that day.
Long story short…..I contacted his pediatrician, got his MMR record and faxed it over to San Francisco State. Whew..
And then….a couple months later…..
Thomas finished his last semester at Junior college and was ready to transfer. We were just waiting for his final grades. Then they arrived. Thomas opened them up, came into my room and said, “well looks like I won’t be going to San Francisco State in the Spring as I’d planned. “I just stared at him for what seemed like an eternity. Then I finally said, “really, why?” I could tell he was disappointed. Then he waved the piece of paper in his hand and said, “really!! I got a D in my college algebra class. Not a C. I got a D.” Then he walked out of my room. I was devastated for him.
10 minutes later… I walked up to Thomas and said, “Well, I know how hard you worked in that class. You had a tutor, you turned in all your homework on time, you always sat in the front row and you never missed a class. Right?” I said proudly.
He slowly looked up at me and finally said, “Right.”
“Well then shake that off. Because YOU have everything to be proud of. Sometimes these things just happen. It’s just life. And when they do, you just move on,” I said smiling. “So let’s figure out your Plan B. What math class do you want to take at the junior college in the Spring?”
Thomas thought about it for a minute. Then he selected a Statistics course. So, I hired a tutor once a week. He got an A!! In fact he got straight A’s that semester. So proud!
It’s 6:00 a.m., on a Thursday morning in July 2015 – Registration Day.
Ok, everything you need is in your backpack on the bench by the front door. I have your lunch and a folder inside with all the documents you need. I put your MMR report, (even though it’s already been faxed) transcripts from Junior college, and a print out of your last semester grades (including an A in Statistics).
3;30 p.m. the phone rang. I couldn’t believe it! It was Scott. He said they needed Thomas’ computer “password” to open up his San Francisco State online account so he could register for his classes. “What?” I asked him. He continued, “Thomas said it was in his green folder on his desk.” So, I quickly shuffled through his green folder, and on the last page in that folder I saw where Thomas had scribbled the word “password,” and next to it was the password. Unbelievable!! I took a picture of it and sent it to Scott from my phone. I didn’t hear from them again until that evening with class schedule in hand.
This story is remarkable to me because Thomas has Asperger’s Syndrome, and change is particularly difficult for him. Yet he survived. Thomas is becoming more independent. And because he had HIS OWN ducks in a row, he knew exactly where he had filed away his login/password. He is learning to have systems so he can keep track of these important things HIMSELF. Brilliant!
He is planning to attend San Francisco State for Fall 2015. His major is cinema.
Karra Barber-Wada, author of Living Your Best Life with Asperger’s Syndrome, The Social and Life Skills MeNu for Adolescents on the Autism Spectrum, and Plan B Empowering the Single Parent to Benefit their Child with Autism. She is the mother of a 21 year-old son with Asperger’s Syndrome. She lives in Northern California with her husband and three children.
Editor’s note: This is a parent’s perspective so I asked for Thomas’ perspective about college and Asperger’s.
“Honestly, the hardest things in college are schedule co-ordination, trying to figure out how to manage time so that I could pass the classes and keep up on my studies while still maintaining some time for myself to just relax and give my brain some much-needed rest. I also highly recommend studying up to a week before any major test, and also doing some last-minute review before each test period just to make sure the information is fresh in your mind. I pack my own back pack, make my own lunch, charge my cell phone and smart pen the night before just to be prepared. I’ve learned its better to rely on myself instead of my parents. In terms of accommodations, I’ve asked for extra time on tests and a private room for me to complete said tests, and those accommodations have been approved for the fall.” Thomas Barber
Thomas shared some of his art work with the Art of Autism.
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