Meet 14 yo Andre. His sense of humor is scalding, his style of dress is prehistoric and he in a bona-fide hero…he saved another person’s life while risking his own. He insists on routine, he is stubborn as the day is long, and he has autism which while not completely defining him gives you a hint of what is to come.
Today was Andre’s first college class. It is hard to express just what I am feeling but I can tell you this…I am very proud of him.
We are fortunate that there is a high school that is located on the local college campus and besides the regular curriculum the kids also have the opportunity to take college classes. The goal is to graduate with a high school as well as a college diploma at the end of their four years.
We are also very fortunate that Andre, despite his challenges including autism and severe ADHD, is able to navigate the system as well as he does. He is a great student and has a very unique perspective on many issues. And while I am glad he has this opportunity I also worry about my 9th grader.
It’s hard not to be apprehensive about Andre as he steps into this new, more mature world that isn’t set up for someone on the spectrum.
It’s not the drugs I worry about. In Andre’s very black and white world, where rules are to be adhered to at all costs; illicit drugs are just not in his game book.
It is not all the bad influences that concern me. Unfortunately, no one is interested enough to go beyond Andre’s quirky behaviors to get to know him yet alone influence him.
It is not the classwork that has me sleeping less at night. With a son who is a human calculator I am confident in his ability to master anything that his instructors throw at him.
What worries me is those who will take his natural kindness and abuse it. His openness to everyone and everything and exploit it. His way of singing through life and squash it. But most of all, I worry about predators, especially sexual, who will see a target who has no understanding of how protect himself and they will move in. And on a campus that offers hims so many opportunities, a campus full of adults, I pray that no one takes advantage of a young man who takes advantage of no one and desperately wants to have one, just one, friend and to fit in. And if I had the chance to say something to all the students about Andre I would say just let him be himself, listen to him and help him navigate when he becomes rudderless but most of all just be his friend…everyone deserves to have at least ONE friend and by being his friend you will be the one who will gain the most.