Goldilocks and the Three Programs
This is the story of Goldilocks and the Three Postsecondary Programs for Students with ASD.
Once upon a time, Goldilocks went looking for a postsecondary program for her son with ASD. She merely wanted a program that would aid her son's progress in achieving long term goals. The first program she looked at didn't provide enough support. The next program she saw provided too much support. And the third program was just right. And Goldilocks and her son lived happily ever after.
Nice story, right? Unfortunately, I'm beginning to think the happily ever after, "just right" program exists only in fairy tales. I'm smart enough to realize that I am not going to find everything on Cameron's postsecondary checklist in one program. But the compromises I am faced with based on what I've seen so far, make me wonder if I'll ever find anything "right enough."
In order to keep myself focused, I've drafted a document with Cameron's long term goals. I've done this document in the style of IEP goals. I've saved myself the burden of making the goals measurable, as in "five out of six times, Cameron will ..." I've just tried to form an outline of what's important in this phase of Cameron's education.
My goals are in the basic categories of academics, socialization, and employment. According to statistics, basic employability skills require ninth grade level in reading, writing, and math skills. To many this may seem like a meager academic goal, but it's probably the one I struggle with the most in seeking Cameron's postsecondary placement. It seems that programs catering to Cameron's academic level focus more on basic independent living skills that Cameron has already mastered. And programs that focus less on independent living skills don't provide the social structure Cameron so badly needs. It's a vicious cycle, with nothing coming close to "just right."
Cameron needs structure, but he also needs to hone his abilities in forming his own structure. Cameron needs help socially, but will someone structuring his day and providing daily social events teach him social independence? Or will he return to his isolating ways as soon as he exits the program? And what about the fact that Cameron has been in a "special" school for the vast majority of his education? Will putting him in a program without opportunity for inclusion benefit him when it comes time for the real world?
I've been researching postsecondary programs for the better part of three years now. The good news is there are more programs emerging with each passing year. The bad news is, the newer the program, the harder it is to assess outcomes. This postsecondary phase for Cameron is crucial in moving him forward in life. It's not just a parking space for a few years, only to then be faced with another "What now?" scenario. The step after the postsecondary step is real life. Yes, it's out there in the not-so-distant future, just waiting for Cameron. Ready or not. Will it be a happily-ever-after future? It will all depend on the finding "right enough" program.