Guest Blog Post: "Enjoy the Moments"
I never thought I’d be able to attend college. I tried it in 2007. I started out with four classes, dropped three of them, and finished one. Then, I left college. It just didn’t seem right for me. Maybe I just wasn’t ready for it. Maybe the college wasn’t ready for me as a person on the autism spectrum. Maybe it was both.
One day around 2015, I was in the college bookstore again, and something caught my eye. It was a lanyard with the autism ribbon theme. I realized that it was time to try again. Not only was I more prepared, but perhaps the college was more aware of my needs as well.
I signed up for the first class. My autism services were allowed to come with me, and helped me to create a “coping journal” that I could use to remind me of the skills I used to cope in moments of stress. I also wore a special butterfly necklace containing my dog’s ashes, so she could always be with me. The process was slow. I took one class, and decided even just getting through one day was enough. That one day turned into an entire semester. Some days were more difficult than others. Some semesters didn’t work out. However, after a few years of taking one class per semester, I had several classes under my belt.
On May 16th, 2019, I accomplished what I thought I’d never be able to do. I graduated from Delaware County Community College, earning my Child Development Associate, Certificate of Competency with high honors. And while I have realized that I am more interested in working with animals than children, I wouldn’t have learned that if I hadn’t attended college.
I feel a very natural connection with dogs rather than children. However, I would still love to help others on the autism spectrum, which is what I was planning to do in the Early Childhood Education profession. Therefore, my future plan is to hopefully become a service dog trainer.
My advice to others is that there is no limit on education, or when you can learn. It may have taken a little bit longer for me to earn a certificate, but I just kept going. Even if you don’t plan on using a degree, earn it anyways. Not everyone can say that they went to college. And even fewer people can say that they graduated from college. As my college professor has said in her emails, “Enjoy the moments.”
About the blogger: Erin Clemens is the author of the book I Have Asperger’s, a public speaker, and an autism self-advocate. She enjoys sharing her experiences, and hopes that others can benefit from them. You can follow her on Facebook (erin.clemens.58), or Twitter and Instagram (AspergerSadie). She is also a contributor to The Mighty, and you can find her articles here.