Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Word on Self-Advocating

There is a great reference web site maintained by Dan Coulter and his wife, Julie (www.coultervideo.com). The couple began producing educational videos after their son was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Their son recently graduated from college, but the Coulters’ work creating videos and other helpful materials continues.

There is a long list of articles on the website, most (or all?) written by Dan. Just having perused the list of titles, I can imagine many would be very helpful and supportive for parents of children with social communications issues, or for young (or not so young) adults struggling with such issues.

Dan’s article entitled “Learning Self-Advocacy Skills” hit home today. He asserts that this skill is (or should be) one of the most important skills a high school student with AS (or NLD) can learn before graduation. My son continues to wrestle with the concept. This week he has mid-term exams. Having recently met with the Disabilities Director, he knows that he should be presenting a letter from that office to his professors so they know his handwriting problems. As of last night, he didn’t have the letter. One teacher he spoke to told him no one could use a laptop for a blue book exam. But I wonder if my son actually said “I have grapho-motor deficiencies and you won’t be able to read my handwriting.”

He was stressed about it; worried that he would not do well because of his handwriting. I suggested that he go to the office this morning to see if he could get the letter on short notice. Even if it was too late to make arrangements for a computer to use for his exams, at least the professors would understand that there is a real disability underpinning the bad handwriting.

Knowing, as Mr. Coulter writes in his article, that it can be really hard for people like my son to ask for help or explain what they might need, I emailed the director this morning letting her know my son should be dropping by, and I copied him to give him an opening. I don’t think he got there before his 12:30 exam. But she has the letter for him and I hope he will present it to his history professor before that exam. It’s probably too late for this Friday’s test, but he should try. Poor handwriting should not be a factor in his grades. In any event, I think when final exams roll around in May, the process should be easier to manage.

On the plus side, he did report his missing iPod to Campus Security; I guess when something is important enough he can self-advocate!

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