College is already a tough transition for teens everywhere. So naturally, it’s a little more difficult when you process social information slower and your anxiety is always at a 10 on a scale of 1-5! College overall has been a different, but nice, transition. I think that it is mainly due to the fact that I did dual enrollment courses in high school to help the transition move along smoother. It helped me get used to talking to professors, finding classes in different buildings, taking care of online assignments, and handling things without my mom’s help. I recommend dual enrollment to all Aspie high school seniors. I can’t imagine what this transition would have been like otherwise. So here is a little bit of what my transition has been like my freshman year.
Anxiety is almost a given for the upcoming school year. It has happened every year of my life so far, and college was no exception. My biggest stressors have been over getting homework submitted on time, getting to class on time (especially when professors let you out late and you have back-to-back classes), and trying to be social. My roommate has a friend back home with Asperger’s, so she was already familiar with the highs and lows of Aspie life. My suitemate had never heard of it before but is supportive of me nonetheless. Telling them this huge part of my life was really difficult, but I am so glad I shared it with them. We are in Hill Climbers (a leadership course) together and are even in the same sorority, Alpha Delta Pi. Whenever I’m upset or stressed out, my suitemate has helped me. Actually, we help each other out.
My first week at college was amazing and a little crazy. After classes, I had Greek recruitment every afternoon, so making time to eat and get homework done was really stressful. I loved all of my professors and classes. The academic part of school hasn’t ever been an issue for me. I just had to get used to the crazy, hectic life of college. Piece of cake, right?
The hard part about college is the social part: What clubs did I want to try out for or join? Where could I meet people who had similar interests as me? Where would I fit in and be happy? Where was my college family?
This has probably been the most socially stressed out I have ever been in my life. I decided to try Greek life. Sororities are supposed to be your sisters and have your back no matter what. What better place for a socially awkward girl to hang out? Another reason I wanted to join Alpha Delta Pi was because of the work they did with kids and Ronald McDonald House Charities. I find it easier to socialize while doing a task and helping others. And guess what? I was just chosen to be the philanthropy chair for the sorority to organize our philanthropic work—how about that?
I was so excited when I got my bid. I had a new family. I love all my sisters and new friends. I looked into other clubs at my school. I joined BCM (Baptist College Ministries), which is a ministry club, and Hill Climbers, which is a freshman leadership club. The best advice I can give to other transitioning Aspies is to at least try to get out of your comfort zone. Find a group or club with a shared interest to experiment in building a social life.
Lastly, living with someone I just met was a little strange. I am a “rule follower” and my roommate was not. The first day of school we had to sign a roommate agreement provided by our resident assistant (RA), and we realized that our biggest “arguments” would be over the thermostat and her boyfriend being in our room. I could only study in the room. If I studied at the library or student building, people would see me and try to talk to me. I would never get anything done. I have to keep study time and social time separate. When she left, I turned the heat way up and most of the time forgot to turn it back down. If her boyfriend was with her, I was expected to take my studying elsewhere. We tried to talk out our differences and even got our RA involved, signing a new contract together. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out, and she moved out of the room. At first, I took it personally. Why didn’t she like me? What did I do wrong? It took a while, but I realized it was for the best and she moved out because we didn’t fit together the way roommates should. It helped to remember that she was just like me in this: we both had no idea what we were doing. We were both new to this whole college thing, and it was OK to not know things. But I have new friends and I am slowly building relationships—although I am still known in my sorority as “Hermit Sydney.”
Sydney Holmes was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at age six after multiple suspensions, expulsions, and behavioral challenges. She has overcome many of the difficult behaviors associated with AS/ASD. She graduated high school with several honors, including a scholarship from Girl Scouts for her Gold Award project, which exceeded standards. She is in her first year at Shorter University, majoring in secondary education with a concentration in history. Her full story and additional articles can be found in Confessions of a Christian Counselor: How Infertility and Autism Grew My Faith, written by her mother Stephanie C. Holmes, MA, Certified Autism Specialist.
This article was featured in Issue 62 – Motherhood: An Enduring Love