College Is Here 

Aaisha was 2 years old when she entered the education system. She was placed in a full time specialist nursery in the hope it would bring on her development. A year later, aged 3, she was diagnosed with autism. Now, at nearly 20 she’s leaving school. 

She still can’t write or read. Some days we can count up to ten others days we can’t. Some days we get the colours right other days we don’t.

Searching for a college placement has been hard. It was imperative that I could find her a placement that would fully meet her needs and provide 1:1 support where she could continue to learn & shine.

I always knew this was a decision I had to make for her. For the past 18 months however, I couldn’t help thinking over and over again, “I shouldn’t have to chose her college, this should be her choice.”

Then the answer hits me bluntly again. The stark reality that she can’t make those decisions about her life, just like many other decisions she’ll never be able to make. When she was younger I used to think it would get easier as she got older but who was I kidding? It gets harder. 

Words alone can not express just how difficult some days can be. She is now a grown adult, 5ft 7in tall. Looking at her just sitting there you would never guess there was anything different about her but it’s important to remember that autism isn’t just a physical disbility. As her parent I’m solely responsible for every decision I make for her and I pray I always make the right ones. From difficult ones such as college to simple ones to what she’s wearing every day. Even buying shoes can be difficult. Are they comfortable? Are they rubbing against her toes? Will she be able to walk in them properly? The tasks & decisions are endless. 

The thought of college does scare me if I’m totally honest. How will she makes friends when she has such limited speech? How will she react seeing so many new faces?  

 How will she understand this is college and not school? College for young adults with special needs is 3 days a week. For the past 18 years she has had a routine of 5 days a week of school. We now need to establish a 3 day week routine. This will be hard. We begin transition next week with me taking her in. I’m allowed to stay for a few hours and then hand over her care to teachers. It’s a huge change for her & us. I truly hope she settles in well and is happy in this new phase. 

What happens in 3 years when college comes to an end? I don’t know! What I do know is, that for me personally, residential care away from home is not an option. I don’t know how autism will impact her time at college. I know it’s never going to go away, I also know it could be a lot worse. Children with autism eventually become adults with autism, they don’t simply just out grown it. They become Adults but with child like minds. These young adults deserve the chance to experience life as we know it even if they never fully understand it. Please continue to support autism awareness, together we can make the world a better place for those living with autism. 

Pam Malhi

Aaisha’s Hope 

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