Roller Coaster Start


I (Brooke) am writing today’s blog post with a special guest post by our friend Alan in Long Island. We’ve had some big ups and downs since we last posted. James successfully took two three hour placement tests at Northern Virginia Community College. He had to take these  in order to be a “dual enrolled” homeschooler there this fall. The benefit of taking a class at NOVA this year is that it gives him an opportunity to be around other students, continue to build tolerance for a classroom setting and begin “wading” into post secondary education waters as he hopes to attend a four year university someday.

It seemed like a simple goal back in the spring to take an introduction to Psychology class! Well, we’re learning. The first difficulty reared up 4 days before class was to start. James was so nervous about keeping it together in an unknown classroom that his behaviors tanked and we had to scramble his teaching team and all the schedules we had planned for the fall. There was great relief after the first class or two when he realized it wasn’t so scary, the teacher was nice, the other students accepting and he could handle the work.

But a short time later he went back to his demanding Literature and Composition class and we began to see the stress of having to keep his body and emotions under control three days a week in a classroom. Throw in a first college exam and a bad’s night sleep and you have a recipe for disaster, or at least the feeling like you are riding a roller coaster. Because when you get a 96 on your first exam and you do keep it together in class that feels really good too.

In the midst of this James received a wonderful letter from his friend Alan in Long Island. Alan is a friend and client of James’ sister Jane and like so many people with autism he has a very deep and intuitive sense about people and events going on all around him. He didn’t have any first hand information about James but God must have placed him on Alan’s heart because this is what he wrote:

Dear James, 
I’m thinking of you because I heard you were struggling to adjust to new circumstances. For us autistics thats life’s biggest challenge. Just know you’re not failing. You’re doing the best you can. Failure is not caring. Sometimes I forgot how to care. A long life of struggling meant a growing apathy in my soul and if I wasn’t careful I would soon grow sadly hard. I don’t think you’re in danger of the same fate. However, I do think you’re in danger of hurting yourself with unrealistic expectations about how much you can handle. Again and again I tried to impose standards on myself I couldn’t meet. All the while God was telling me I was good enough. He didn’t impose those standards. Why should I? So please go easy on yourself. I will check back in soon.
Love, Alan. 
Such profound and important thoughts. We are grateful for Alan and everyone in James’ life who is helping him find the balance between reaching for his goals and taking care of himself. A life long challenge.

6 thoughts on “Roller Coaster Start

  1. Important reminders from Alan! These kids are so wise! And, I agree. James, be patient with yourself. YOU will adjust to your new environment and you WILL succeed. Just keep the course and when you fall off course…muster up more courage and keep going. Love you sweet James.

  2. Thanks for sharing Brooke. The “behind the scenes” are often the things we don’t chat about more than the successes. James is so lucky to have his support team. As Soma says, “The only way forward is through it!”

  3. Bless you guys! A lot to deal with (even without autism)! Zack didn’t do NOVA until his senior year and then, only after 8+ years of Mrs. Evans! James obviously loves to set his sights high and we love him for it, but reality checks are useful too….James, you continue to awe and inspire, but it’s not something you have to keep earning from us. We celebrate in your successes, and we always hope for the best….But every human being has setbacks, and if you have setbacks, then you learn and you move on. That is life! You have vaulted past so many setbacks, James, after being “stuck” for so long. Maybe you feel like you have to make up for lost time. I always sense an urgency in you to catch up…to get ahead….In that sense, you keep your peers on their toes, I know. Just don’t forget to breathe and enjoy the journey too. 🙂

  4. Wow! So proud of you, James. I almost cratered during my first college exams, and I didn’t have the extra challenges you face. As you keep caring, remember the One who Invites you to …”Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for YOU.” I Peter 5:7

  5. James – and Brooke – people will continue to love and to care for you both when you find yourself in need. I have witnessed so much struggle, deep sadness, but also growth during my time with your family. James, you continue to set goals, meet them, and continue to push higher. We all fall down, we all have days of defeat, we all fail. But, these moments teach us who we are, what motivates us, and who we want to be. You once told me that you wanted the world to see who you wanted to be – you show me every day. I see it in your perseverence, in your remorse, and in your love for others. Be true to yourself, take a breathe, and enjoy your successes.

  6. James,
    I had no idea that you have been so stressed! You see, from my side of the desk, you’re doing just fine.

    Granted, I’m coping with some health issues of my own these days. But I’m certain that I would have noticed if you were showing signs of stress in MY classroom.

    Plesse heed Mrs. Rieman’s words above. You don’t have to “be in a rush.” College is there when YOU are ready to handle the demands thereof.

    BTW, I glanced at your first timed essay. No worries, James. It looks good and has honest voice. This year, I’ve shifted the focus of the timed essays, and you’re going to shine because this new focus demands voice. AND YOUVE GOT VOICE EVERY TIME YOU WRITE!

    You’re going to love the next prompt. I guarantee it! You’ll know exactly what you’ll want to say. The trials you’ve been through — and “The Alchemist” — have prepared you for a prompt like the one you’ll see on October 4.

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