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Yin and Yang: Preparing A Teen With Autism to Head to College

FAFSA. Pell Grant. College Prep company. One hundred and thirty colleges and universities represented.

Day habilitation. Support Coordination agencies. Vocational training. Supported employment.

The two piles sit side by side on my dining room table, spoils from two almost back-to-back evenings of a college fair for my mildly autistic son, Zach, and a transitional fair for my profoundly affected one, Justin.

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Both piles have colorful brochures, are as yet haphazardly thrown together (these things are exhausting), and are voluminous.

One pile, the one from the transition fair, has chocolate. It is my favorite.

The first evening involved resuscitating my alphabetical order skills as I searched for undergraduate schools (my skills are lacking), and an hour long lecture regarding college financial aid which was brilliant, but overwhelming. I know I’m in over my head.

Grateful I had those kids long after everyone else did. Cue smart friends.

The second evening involved dozens of tables and a hot room, with bare bones descriptions on a piece of paper listing every entity with titles I wasn’t sure I understood until I actually talked to people, some of whom I’d tried to speak to unsuccessfully on the phone prior to that evening. So victory was had.

It doesn’t take much these days.

It turns out having your kids four years apart when one has severe special needs and is graduating at twenty-one is not the greatest idea. Literally everything of any importance to my two boys (shy of where Justin will live and who Zach might marry, two biggies) will transpire in the next two years.

The pile on my desk is pitiful.

Here, however, is the fun part, the secret I will share with all of you.

I was just as jazzed up at Justin’s transition fair as I was at Zach’s college fair.

I will admit, I viewed both as social opportunities, and I enjoy a good social opportunity whenever possible. Give me a venue where I can brag about my kid(s) get free chocolate, and perhaps make a connection, and I’m in. For Zach, I got to meet a woman who would love to meet him at her campus when we take our tour next week. And for Justin, I got acronyms and blurbs explained (woohoo!), and options for day hab and vocational training, and in-home support.

I also got ideas for pure fun that his future DDD budget just might pay for some day. Bonus knowledge.

There is a part of me that will never stop mourning all that Justin might have had, the life I am confident that his little brother will lead, with all its many options (I am an option girl).

I am profoundly okay with that.

But as the pieces come slowly together for both my boys, things crossed off lists, information acquired, I am actually excited for both their futures. I can live with the yin and yang of excitement, and sadness.

Both are valid.

And as I treat myself to a Hershey’s kiss before I dive into disentangling all my spoils, I’m okay too.

For more on my family visit my blog at

Follow me on Facebook at Autism Mommy-Therapist

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