Preparing for College on Asperger’s

As I recently graduated from high school, my focus lately has been on preparing myself for college. I have found it necessary to take extra steps in this preparation process as to avoid the transitional mental breakdown of epic proportions that greeted me with the beginning of high school. In order to avoid the chronic and severe panic attacks and fits of anxiety that plagued me for about 45% of my freshman year, I have already begun to coordinate the transition between therapists by connecting with my college’s psychological counseling center and have been sure to transfer my 504 plan (which allows me to have extra time on assignments and tests and requires that I have a quiet testing area) to the disability resources center to ensure that I may retain the same accommodations that proved to be necessary during high school.

Though I am enrolled in the honors program and most likely going to be double-majoring in piano and bass clarinet (double the practice time, double the lesson time, etc.) it is not the academic workload that worries me most when considering the changes that I will face. Instead it is the fact that I will be in a brand new social environment with all new people and will be spending more time with these people than I spent with my grade school peers. Luckily, I have attended camps before in which I have lived in a dormitory setting, so I have a general idea of what the living situation is. Through the disability resource center I was able to secure a single room with a bathroom that I will only have to share with one other girl. My dorm is brand new and so it is fully air-conditioned and heated, and I am positive I will be comfortable there.

However, I recognize that it would be infinitely more helpful for me to go into college knowing people I will be spending time with. At my orientation for the honors program, I had hoped to meet somebody who I could plausibly become friends with. I connected with a few girls over our love for the web-movie-musical “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” but forgot to take mental note of their names so that I could find them later. Once I got my housing assignment, I began a Facebook search for girls who would be on the same floor as me, but found that it was extremely difficult to find ways to connect with them as I do not share in typical female interests like make-up and fashion or Nicholas Sparks books and movies.

In fact, I don’t really share any typical interests with teenagers. While many enjoy “Jersey Shore” and partying and hip hop or rap, I like the Food Network, crocheting, and classical music. A lot of my peers enjoy drinking alcohol, but I only enjoy wine tasting and can’t stand to taste more than a sip. This, combined with my natural inability to, well, talk to people, makes it extremely hard for me to advance socially. I fear often that I will come across as being like an old person because of the stereotypes attached to my interests, or that I will be thought of as uninteresting without the person giving me a chance and talking to me. In a pinch, most people respond well when I explain that I have Asperger’s Syndrome, but I am taking care to not use this explanation unless I have no other options, as I do not want to be labeled “the autistic girl.”

I have another orientation coming up on July 13th for the arts program, and am hoping that that will be my best opportunity to find people to connect with. In this situation it will be most helpful to me to create real-life relationships, and hopefully I will be able to meet somebody despite having to sit through “get-to-know-each-other” ice-breakers that really do not reveal much about a person besides their favorite color and that they wear contact lenses.

It is important, I feel, that I remember that everybody will be facing new things in college, and that others may be experiencing the same anxieties that I am, whether or not they have Asperger’s Syndrome. This sentiment could ultimately be the one that leads me to meeting somebody who I could consider to be a close friend, so it will be beneficial for me to keep it in mind. College is scary for everybody, and having Asperger’s Syndrome shouldn’t make it more scary than it needs to be.

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9 responses to “Preparing for College on Asperger’s

  1. Hi Nicole! Nice to hear from you again. πŸ™‚ You are gonna do awesome in college I just know it. Your classes will keep you so busy you won’t have time to worry about all the petty stuff that kids blab about. I don’t have an autism label or anything (I think I’m just a shade older than the autism boom), but I always felt the same way you’re feeling about college. I was very lucky, same as you, to be an accomplished classical musician. I also liked a lot of local indie music (which is a tough job, being a Christian and all) and always ended up making friends with the musician-types. Just spend all your time in the music bldg (which of course, you will have to, with a double major! πŸ™‚ …I believe you will meet some cool, good-weird, deep-thinking kinda people. That is my prayer over you at least! Best, Ms.CJ

    • Hello, Ms. CJ! Thanks for commenting! I don’t know if I mentioned to you that I’m going to be majoring in music therapy in college. I shadowed a local therapist a few weeks ago for a session, but found that my style and philosophy is very different than hers in that she used music as a way to sneak occupational and speech and behavioral therapy in, like a parent sneaking vegetables into brownie mix. I want to be able to use music as the sole therapy, and after watching some of your videos, I know that my style is much closer to yours. Do you just use the piano, or did you have to undergo vocal and guitar training as well? I think I want to just stick to piano, percussion, and orchestral instruments for tools.

  2. Awesome Nicole! what school are you going to? You will soon discover, music therapy is a *very* small field, comparatively speaking. Yes, we have to be proficient in voice, piano and guitar. There are different styles and approaches that MTs take – I definitely would take you as a Nordoff Robbins kinda gal. πŸ™‚ For me too….it’s all about improvisation. For some MTs that can be intimidating though….especially if music is not their first love, but they really just want to work in the field. It’s important to have MTs like that in the field, as well as the more creative types like us. “Creative Music Therapy” is def a buzz word. I’d like to get my NRMT from Molloy, after I finish my MT-BC next year. We shall see! πŸ™‚

  3. Are you on the FBmachine? I see you wrote that you were doing some searching on there. my name is Christy Joy Ackerman Diachenko on there, if ya wanna look me up. i keep it pretty open to the public, what for all the advocacy work i keep myself busy with and all. πŸ™‚

    • I will look you up on Facebook. I have my college on there. I am excited for my music therapy courses but a little nervous about doing the practicums for topics other than special needs children. It seems silly to me that I have to spend time in other environments when I know what I want to do but I suppose I should be “well-rounded” or something. Doing improv makes me nervous and always has because I always have music running through my head that I have heard in other places, so I am afraid that if I improvise or compose the music will not really be mine and that I am abusing music. I think that listening to music is just as important as creating it, especially in therapy.

    • Ms. CJ, I found your Facebook page but it will not let me send you a friend request.

  4. Well hello there again! gosh I can’t believe 2 weeks have gone by….so much has been happening! The 3rd Sensory-Friendly Concert was a huge success, I started teaching summer school at the special ed center, and I actually started dating someone (after 2 years of being die-hard single – so that has stolen a little of my time, although Jim is as much into the Neurodiversity Movement as I am, and is helping me with The Musical Autist, which is awesome!) Anyhow – I’m trying to figure out my FB settings so that you can find me. I think it’s because we don’t have any mutual friends. What is your name on there? That will be funny when we finally get connected that way. I’ve got a lot of stuff posted there. πŸ™‚

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