Alex Wiser graduated from Ivy Tech Community College in Bloomington, IN on May 15, 2009 with an Associate of Applied Science in Computer Information Technology.
Alex came to The Bloomington Center in 2006, he was 19 years old. Before coming to CIP, he attended the Community College DeAnza and took General Studies classes near his home in San Jose, California. Alex had been having a difficult time because he would start classes strong, but eventually lost interest.
Alex stated, “Basically, I wasn’t really moving forward in life in any area. I was focusing on the academic parts, yet was not really focusing on maturing socially or professionally at the time.” Alex explained that he did not think about life after college and was living life one day at a time, not planning for the future.
When Alex arrived to CIP, he only had plans to receive help with academics. “At the time, I thought I was social enough and did not need any help in that area,” Alex said with a knowing smile. “The staff told me differently—the first year was the most annoying because I was in denial over what areas I needed help with.”
Alex detailed the stages of his time in the program: “The first year, I was in the process of realizing what I needed help with, and getting everyone else on a similar level of knowledge. The second year I spent working on social stuff, starting to have more of a say in what was going on—in terms of classes, specific modules, recommending topics in certain modules and building confidence in making decisions. The third year is when many important decisions were left for me to make, there was a lot of advocating for myself.”
It was a struggle for Alex taking basic computer classes the first year at Ivy Tech. He didn’t pay attention in class. He thought he already knew the material, so he didn’t put much effort or focus into his studies. Alex had difficulty balancing responsibilities, and he said he would lose track of time gaming.
Balancing gaming with schoolwork is one of the most common challenges for students at CIP. Because of not maintaining that balance, Alex said he got a “D” in a class during the second semester of his second year at Ivy Tech. He talked with Dr. Lou Pierro, the Program Chair of the Computer Information Technologies Department at Ivy Tech, about distractions that were causing him to not get his work done. After the conversation with Lou, Alex started to be more careful and focused.
Alex felt an internal shift in terms of his priorities and began gaming much less. During the whole month of May 2009, for example, he had not played any video games—he did not have the time outside of completing his degree and planning his move to Oregon.
The Ivy Tech Community College campus was easy for Alex to navigate. The classrooms, professors’ offices, library and bookstore are all conveniently in one building. The Computer Information Technology Department is small, and Alex liked having the same instructors for different classes. “It made it easier to be comfortable with them,” he said. “They knew me and I knew them. I did not have to explain things over and over again—they understood my strengths and the areas I needed help in.”
Alex took the CIP Relationship Development and Theory of Mind classes and found them helpful because they showed what a neurotypical person would do in certain situations and explained the often-hidden reasons why. “I learned the reasoning behind why someone has certain actions when responding to a situation,” he explained.
The discussions and assignments in class helped Alex learn expected social behavior, how to express himself and read social cues, both subtle and obvious. Alex said he finally felt comfortable saying hello to his instructors outside of class during his third year at CIP, “I never would have done that my first year of school.”
Alex’s favorite classes at CIP were the Bookends Executive Skills Group. Here, a smaller group of CIP students are assisted (and assist each other) in prioritizing tasks, time management, goal setting, facilitating communication, and accountability. For example, Alex was required to have an attendance sheet signed by his instructors for every class he attended. This sheet not only assured that Alex was going to class, it also provided a context for Alex to approach his teacher each session. In addition, the attendance sheet fulfills the role of clearing away any ambiguity on assignments and provides a safety net in case a student misses important information in class. Alex had the responsibility of bringing the attendance sheet to the instructor of his Executive Skills Group. Alex also maximized the planning and organizing capabilities of his ipod touch by keeping a calendar of his assignments and schedule.
Alex said he is going to miss the friendly atmosphere of the Bloomington Center and walking around saying hi to everyone (he’ll also miss the excellent internet speed at his Smallwood apartment). However, being from California, he’ll not miss the Indiana weather.
Alex feels confident about the next step of his life. He is pursuing a technical support or systems administration job and has no preference for what company he works for, as long as the job is technology focused. Alex stated, “I like to help people with their computer problems. I like software more than hardware. Software is easy to manage and there is a wide variety of things you can do with software.” Alex continued, “You can see what is causing the problem with software. With hardware, trouble shooting is often trial and error, unless you can get feedback from the system to find out where the trouble area is.”
In his last month at CIP, Alex had much to balance. He finished strong with his classes while completing the myriad of large and small tasks that moving to another state requires. He now rents an apartment in Oregon and is confident in his ability to implement the strategies and skills he has learned in order to obtain the successful future he has envisioned for himself.