It was a simple enough question that Jan asked.
“September 2013” was the answer.
If I had been quick enough, I would have turned it into a Jeopardy skit:
Jan: “I’ll take Amazing Milestones for $400”.
Me: “The answer: ‘September 2013’”
Jan: “When did Ben start university?”
When Ben was in high school, I remember being asked repeatedly what I thought Ben would be doing once he finished. At the time, I didn’t have a good answer. The options were few.
The fact that he doesn’t walk or talk on his own, and needs a full time assistant, meant getting a job was out of the question.
On the other hand, sitting at home and doing nothing was also a non-starter.
The only possibility that made sense was for Ben to stay in school and continue to learn. It’s what he enjoyed doing. So we looked at community college and university programmes.
That, also, was a non-starter since he didn’t have the academic requirements to be admitted, the result of following a modified learning plan in high school.
But there was an alternative. The university offered a certificate programme, which accepted students who couldn’t meet the entrance requirements.
In this programme, Ben would take the same university courses as those students enrolled in a degree programme. He just wouldn’t have a major and could graduate with 10 credits.
Seemed like it was designed specifically for Ben. But it wasn’t that simple (it never is!)
For starters, who would be his education assistants?
Where would we find these people?
How would we pay for them?
Who would pay for them?
How would he get to campus every day?
Where would he study?
If he had to read “the first 5 chapters” by his next class and be ready to discuss them in class, how would that even be possible?
How would he write up his first assignment?
How could he complete his first mid-term exam?
It was painfully obvious that we had no idea how to answer any of these. Was university just a fantasy?
After he attended his first class with no full time education assistant, we wondered if we were just setting him up to fail.
It was like going from playing street hockey one day to playing in the NHL the next.
Needless to say, we stumbled a lot. And it was taxing and stressful to keep all the balls in the air: assistants, technology, transportation, you name it!
But we eventually found a rhythm.
We eventually found good people to support Ben.
We found a learning environment that was accessible and inclusive.
And, we found the right staff and profs who wanted to help Ben succeed.
So, here we are. Six years later!
Ben is one exam away from completing his University Certificate of General Studies. It’s next week!
At the end of the day, it is nothing short of amazing considering he had no formal means of communication until his last year in high school.
So, back to Jan’s question of “when did he start?”
I guess the point isn’t when did he start. It’s really THAT he started.
That’s the big takeaway here.
You just have to start!
You have to try even though you don’t have everything figured out.
You have to convince yourself to be unafraid of failing because failure will happen no matter what you do. And that’s OK.
Ben’s university education journey is just about over.
Time to START something new!
C’mon Ben. Time to get a job!
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