By Dan McManmon, CIP Director of Marketing
Finding out that you are failing your college courses can be a scary thing. During this time of year many families are left with little to no options after their student has had an unsuccessful college experience. Many students are ill-equipped to manage the transition to college, even after making great strides during high school or while living at home. When students experience failure, it’s important to get them back on their feet as soon as possible and turn those distressful times into teachable moments.
Many parents want their students to have a “real” college experience; living with peers, studying in a field of interest and learning to manage life’s lessons as they come. Unfortunately for students on the Autism spectrum or with learning differences, there can be many other layers of adaptation that need to occur prior to such a major change in environment. Many young adults enter the college environment ill-prepared.
So what options are available? The quick answer is plenty. From support programs developed at colleges to residential or gap year programs, there exists many “solutions” depending on who you talk to. However, the most important piece of making a well planned transition back into college, employment and life is to base realistic goals on an individuals dreams and aspirations.
Below are a few methods from the College Internship Program that assist in outlining successful goals:
1. Person Centered Planning
The Person-Centered Plan (PCP) is a unique self-exploration and assessment tool that provides each student an opportunity to conceptualize his or her short and long-term goals in a visual, creative process. At the College Internship Program, students drive their own services through the creation of these plans. A person centered plan is a “living” document which changes frequently. If you have not assessed you values, strengths, challenges, and goals, a person centered plan is the first step towards doing so.
For a step-by-step walk through of the Person Center Plan, see A Design for Life, published in the Autism File Magazine.
2. The Power of Positive Thinking
AT CIP we have a saying that summarizes the core of what we do throughout all areas of the program: “You were made for good purpose and inherently valuable”. Too many times students come, for whatever reason, with feelings of low self-worth. They may have failed out of college after a single semester unable to cope with the rigorous social and executive functioning demands that were placed on them. Some students have had trouble connection socially all through high school or were teased or bullied.
3. Cognitive Flexibility
From a very young age my parents always reminded me that all questions and answers are intelligent. This stuck with me my whole life and I realized that in keeping an open mind to this, you essentially become respectful of others opinions and expand your own sense of the world. Being flexible in social situations can be the difference between making or breaking relationships. If your student struggles with this area you will want to address this as a core issue before attempting higher level academics. Many of our students enrolling at CIP attend a single college course in order to receive social thinking, social mentoring, cognitive behavioral therapy and personal advising to successfully support them in that endeavor and ensure a successful experience. This can create positive pathways in the student’s brain, increasing self-confidence.
In a recent Psychology Today blog post titled “Shift Happens”, my father, Michael McManmon provides valuable insight into cutting the “steel umbilical cord” and how that can be a two-way process for parents and students. It sounds counteractive, but letting go can give new perspective to a transitioning student and can change a parent/student relationship for the better.