A Message to Special Needs Parents: Dream Often and Dream Big!
This is a story that should be shared. It’s about one young man’s accomplishments and his dreams for the future. Can he get there? Absolutely! Maybe you’ve heard the old adage: plan your work and work your plan. Well, it’s our job here at home to assist Nicholas in shaping that plan and then supporting him on his journey ahead as he turns 21 years old this year. My name is Nick also and I am proud to be Nicholas’ stepfather for over the past 12 years.
Nicholas was diagnosed (PDD-NOS) just before his third birthday. My wife said she experienced shock, denial, anger and sadness; a roller coaster of emotions. She explained to me that she will never forget the moment when a group of professionals told her that “there are places for Nicholas” and “no one would blame you.” These words stuck with her through the years, even after the birth of Nicholas’ brother, Louis, who was also diagnosed with PDD-NOS. There was no other place for either Nicholas or Louis but home. Have the past years been challenging at times? Yes, they have, but we have all learned a lot about life with each other and have made our way just fine.
I remember all the IEP (Individualized Education Program) meetings and the silence, soft laughter and side conversations when Nicholas’ mom brought up the fact that he wanted to play in the band, wanted to run track and wanted to learn how to drive. And when she mentioned the word college, well that sent everyone over the edge and they told us that we should be realistic and understand that Nicholas will not go to college.
Many of the parents reading this can certainly identify with all of this. My advice to you all is to stay the course. Dream often and dream big! Take the challenges one at a time and make a plan you can work moving forward. You might be surprised at what can be accomplished. I encouraged Nicholas to write, but he doesn’t always cooperate. I’ve explained to him he can be a mentor to so many individuals who want to achieve their goals but fear they will fail. Nicholas’ wrote when he felt like it; sometimes you have to pick your battles. He completed the College Experience Program at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York. This program was offered through Living Resources, Inc. and I can’t say enough good things about the program and the staff there. They are an amazing group of people. Here is Nicholas in his own words as he achieved what he set out to do:
Nick’s first blog entry November 5th 2013
Hi, my name is Nick. I’m 18, and I have autism. I plan on using this blog to let you share my experiences as I make it through my sometimes confusing, but amazing life. I am a senior in high school. I’m really enjoying this year more than I could imagine. I’m currently in a work program at school, learning to drive, and hoping to get into college in the fall. We’re still working on it.
I started this blog today because I voted for the first time. We went in the car, and we drove to the Town Hall building to vote. After my mom took pictures (she always does that) my mom taught me a lesson on how to vote for each party such as the Democratic, or the Republican Party, either way.
I’m also learning on how to drive, and obeying the laws and rules of the road. When I first started learning how to drive, I was practicing in parking lots. After a while, I started driving on non-busy roads. I know that driving can be dangerous, and that my parents told me that a car can be considered as a “weapon.” Either way, the more you practice, the better you drive. I plan on practicing a long time!
December 16th, 2013
Hi, this is Nick. A lot of things happened last week. On Tuesday, my parents drove me to the College of Saint Rose. I was so excited to stay overnight. Vincent (a senior at Saint Rose) took me on a tour around campus and showed me the campus I’ll be in next September (if I’m accepted). Also, Vincent took me on a tour at the cafeteria and we ate lunch there. It was snowing, haha, but I knew it was a great day to be hanging out with a senior who is 21 and attending his last year at college. At the house where Vincent lives, everybody had a job to do, such as cleaning the dishes, making their own dinners, and food shopping. Keep wishing me luck, because I’m getting closer to going to college.
March 2nd, 2014
Hey, well after all the hard work, I finally got accepted to The College of Saint Rose. As soon as I got a phone call from the college I knew I was accepted. My parents were very nervous waiting for the phone call, but I think in their hearts they knew I would be accepted. Once my mom heard the good news she was hysterical crying because she was so happy. So I called all of my family members. Everyone was so excited and happy for me.
After all, I’ve been waiting to go to college my whole life.
May 7th 2014 (Mother’s Day entry)
The most influential person in my life is my mom. The reason why my mom is the most influential person in my life is because:
- I wanted to be in band. My mom made sure I was in the band.
- I wanted to play basketball. My mom signed me up for basketball.
- I wanted to do track. My mom signed me up for track when teachers in school said I couldn’t… but I did it.
- I took drumming lessons at the age of 5. “People” said I was too young to do drumming, but then everyone said I was good at it.
- “People” said I was too young to play basketball or soccer, but I did it.
- I want to go to college…and here I am.
All of this is because of my mom. And my mom said that I can do a lot of things if I work hard. My mom graduated school at the age of 50 and became a nurse.
May 30th, 2016
I finally graduated from the College of Saint Rose, and I’m now a college graduate. The last two years I’ve been in college is now done for me. I’ve learned so much over the two years that I’ve been in college. I’ve learned how to cook, do laundry, going shopping, going to a local bank to withdraw or deposit money, and going to events inside and outside of college.
When I first started college in 2014, I went for an interview with staff residence and that when they said that I got accepted, my mom and everyone else was so happy and so excited to hear that I got accepted into going to college. The College of Saint Rose was a great college campus, and that I loved the way it looked.
My first year in college started off pretty good, but unfortunately I lost two of my roommates. So I was a little bit lonely lol. But it was quiet for me to do my chores and catch up on homework, and things. My second year is so much better. I’m rooming with someone who I went to High School with. Now there’s four guys in the dorm house, and that we all get along really well. We watch movies, hang out, watch sporting events on TV, and cook together.
I have a job internship at Pioneer Bank in Downtown Troy. My job tasks at the bank are prepping and scanning files in a scanner. If the scanner gets jammed, I re-organize the files and rescan the files again. If there’s nothing else to scan, I ask my fellow employees what I should next. My fellow employees are very nice to me, especially my supervisor. Whenever I ask for help, my fellow employees help me right away.
My second bit of great news is I finally got my driver’s license! I had a great opportunity to drive and drive and drive until I finally took the road test and that my driving instructor said that I passed. When I first heard the word “passed,” I was so stunned and couldn’t believe it. I got out of the car with excitement and pride. The hardest part of driving was parallel parking, and looking over my left shoulder to see if any cars or pedestrians were coming. The easiest part of driving, was driving on the road and obeying the rules and regulations. When I first started learning how to drive a car, and when I first put my foot on the gas pedal to make the car move, I thought it was the most amazing thing ever.
July 29th is my last day at college, and that when I come back from college, I want to find and live in an apartment, get a job, and hopefully buy a car, and get married and have children.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com
Website: onestep4autism.com with links to Facebook and Twitter
Blogs: http://nickmonestep4autism.blogspot.com & http://liferiffs.blogspot.com/
This article was featured in Issue 53 – Working Toward the Future