College Bound: A Journey to Independence
Clayton also learned that he had to find a balance between responsibilities to his friends and school. One of his friends needed someone to ride the bus with him to therapy at the same time Clayton was supposed to be attending the first meeting of the scuba diving club. His friend was frustrated when Clayton said he had another obligation. Clayton decided to go with his friend and then travel back in time to make his meeting. When the return bus did not show up on time, Clayton walked the 2 ½ miles back to campus to get to his club. Unfortunately, he arrived late and missed his first dive. He now has a better understanding of the importance of saying no (note that we are grateful that he learned this lesson for such an innocuous event, rather than something having to do with alcohol, drugs or other more dangerous circumstances).
Finally, Clayton was excited about the opportunity to volunteer at the dolphin research center, but it was over an hour away from campus. To get there, Clayton needed a ride to the bus stop very early in the morning. He would then need to board the right bus, transfer to another bus midway, and walk to the center. Given his limited experience with public transportation, we held our breaths until we heard that he was safe and sound and having a blast at the center.
Living It Up in the Florida Keys
Clayton’s life in college is not always easy, but he is happy. He has had experiences that would never have been possible if we had kept him in the “bubble.” He has made friends and enlisted support of his teachers, coaches, dorm mates, and bus drivers. He shops, does laundry, gets his hair cut, dines out, and exercises all on his own. He even gave blood. Clayton is making good grades in his classes. He is learning to budget his money. He enjoys his work with dolphins and diving club (where he carved a pumpkin under water this fall to practice dexterity). He hosts dinner parties on Sunday nights to show off his culinary skills. He asks for help when he needs it, but more often just reports his successes.
Understanding Clayton’s Success
As much as Clayton has learned through his college transition, we may have learned even more. We recognize that all of the work we did to help Clayton learn to do things on his own and problem-solve have paid off. He has learned to be assertive enough to ask for help and perseverant enough to try to address issues independently. He knows that kindness breeds kindness. We are lucky that we finally listened to his vision and allowed him to become everything he wants to be.
Meme Hieneman, has a Ph.D. in Special Education and is nationally certified as a behavior analyst. She has published a variety of articles, chapters, and books including “Parenting with Positive Behavior Support: A Practical Guide to Resolving Your Child’s Difficult Behavior.” In her professional career, Meme has worked with children with severe behavior problems for more than 20 years.