Apr 29, 2014 0 Share

To Stay or Go

Illustration of man standing in circles of arrows.

As one school year winds down for Reilly, we remain uncertain what the next one holds.

We pick him up from his second year at NYIT’s Vocational Independence Program in mid-May, not knowing whether he’ll be back for the final year of the program, or if he will be transferring to a four-year college to begin a degree program in the fall. The “unknown zone,” again. The decision from Mitchell College in Connecticut is on hold, awaiting parts of the application that aren’t under our control. As I write this, Mitchell has not received Reilly’s high school transcript (the school assured me they sent it a month ago—they are re-sending) nor the recommendation from his current academic advisor at NYIT (hopefully written and sent soon!).

The VIP faculty and staff really want Reilly to stay for the final year, as was evident in a conference call with his entire team last week. He has grown and matured immensely in the last two years, and the VIP program has served him well. While we agree with the staff that another year would be beneficial, we think he’s ready to take on a bigger challenge; in fact he needs to be challenged to continue growing.

Reilly is popular with students and staff alike at VIP. His counselor notes with amazement the change from the boy who sat alone on a rock in his first summer in the program, to a confident leader with good friends today. His literature class is reading and performing “Romeo and Juliet,” and Reilly is … Romeo! He’s done well in his other VIP classes, and in his credit classes at the school’s other campus, with one major exception. He’s doing well in a college-credit speech and communications course this semester, but is struggling in a business management class.

He texted me: “Mom, MJ (his advisor) talked to me a few minutes ago and she told me she got my mid-semester evaluation from my business management teacher and it wasn’t good.”

I immediately panicked, thinking we were wasting our time applying to college if he can’t handle the academics. But I took a breath and texted back: “Oh dear. What’s the problem?”

He failed the midterm, which he took the day after returning from spring break; he simply wasn’t prepared. He didn’t do well on a group project, which isn’t surprising when you think about it. He lives on a campus 40 minutes away from the main campus where he takes the college-credit classes. And he has autism. A group project with kids he doesn’t know is going to be a problem. He’s not a great self-advocate yet, and is likely to take the path of least resistance in an uncomfortable situation. And frankly, he ought to have been getting more help from his academic advisor with this class. It seems clear he wasn’t asking for help, and his advisor wasn’t on top of the situation.

In the conference call last week, MJ said if Reilly comes back next year, he can take more college credits and they will work with him more on his executive function and self-advocating skills. But, I couldn’t help wondering, why did his problems with the management class this semester go unnoticed? In MJ’s defense, Reilly is good at smiling and pretending everything is OK, when it might not be. He has vowed to study hard for the final, and to ask for accommodations and help.

In the third year of VIP, most of the students get paid internships. The vocational teacher said Reilly has already done a clerical class, and she would look for a clerical internship for him next year. But Reilly has said he wants to intern at the main campus athletic facility—his interest is in sports management. After some discussion on this point (frustration clearly evident in my voice), it was suggested that he might be able to get a clerical internship in the athletic director’s office, if he comes back next year.

My husband and I left the conference call still united in our hope that Reilly gets accepted to Mitchell for the fall. We think he can handle the classwork with the supports provided by the school’s learning disabilities center. All of his classes will be on one small campus, and the LD office promises strong communication between the LD support team and individual class instructors. We don’t think Reilly will fall between the cracks. At least we hope not.

For his part, Reilly is looking forward to coming home for the summer. He got his job back at the community pool and is excited about a trip to Iowa for our family reunion. Beyond that remains to be seen. Stay tuned and send good thoughts our way for college acceptance!