Onto University

GMU badge

It’s hard to believe that a whole year has passed since our last post! We went from high school graduation last June to completing enough  hours at NVCC to make transfer applications this Spring. James focused on two local universities, both of which were incredibly supportive and open to working with him as a student who uses a letter board to communicate. He ended up transferring to George Mason University and is now a proud patriot!

The application process to University was stressful at times and James had to do quite a few interviews that were challenging but he pulled them off. He learned so much as he was asked to do interviews, write entrance essays, keep up his grades and take some tough courses at NVCC this last year. I don’t want anyone who has autism to think this was easy. It wasn’t. But all of us persevered and he is excited to start the next chapter of his life. My prayer in particular is that he will find some real friends and community at Mason.

Below is an admissions essay he wrote on what education means to him.

What does it mean to you to be educated? How might our college help you achieve this aim?                                                                                      

To be educated is something I am very passionate about. Education, to me, is the great equalizer. We are all born into certain advantages and disadvantages. Often times these circumstances play a big role in how we run the race of life. I have autism, so getting a head start or having more hurdles than my peers can sometimes feel like it is out of my control. I realized that being educated would be the one thing that might even the playing field. To be treated as equal, educated, and independent is what matters most to me. University can help me achieve this goal by providing me with the opportunity to participate, learn, and excel in an environment where I can obtain an education that will serve me for a lifetime.

At thirteen I sat in a classroom of partitions. Each student had his own aide and his own assignment and had to work through another mindless day. No plays, no novels, no textbooks to be seen – and especially not discussed. So what did I do? I matched colors, objects, and numbers. I often failed in the tasks, out of boredom and frustration. Because of my experience, I lost hope in education, and I lost hope in a meaningful life. I believe that every person deserves to be taught at any age, at any complexity, and with material that matters.

My life consists of many things I cannot control. If current research holds true, I will always have autism. This fact is what makes equality of opportunity for me, and many like me, an uphill battle. A slew of symptoms define my autism including sensory integration challenges, difficulty with motor planning, and a lack of reliable speech. Then, add on emotion dysregulation and impulsivity, partly from autism and partly from being a teenager. Because I could not communicate for fourteen years, I lived as a prisoner. For me, communicating via a letter-board has given me the freedom to pursue what I’ve always wanted most, a meaningful education. I am being challenged now, I am learning new content, and I am thriving. As I reflect, my journey has been about more than just feeding my interest in academics and learning, it has actually been about being treated as an equal, and having a chance at equal outcomes.

Access to a communication assistant, my parents’ ability to home school me and provide health and nutrition support has made a big difference in my life. In addition, I have had accommodating teachers and schools, and it has allowed me to play on the same field as peers who have some advantages. They don’t have to spell out each word in a 5-page essay and have it scribed, or take breaks when the room gets too loud. These things are out of my control, but my access to the resources that allow me to participate, is what gives me an equal opportunity.

 College can help me continue on this path by helping me maximize my potential and ensuring that I am able to access the resources that allow me to be an active participant in educational environments. I feel strongly that ….  will provide a community that will embrace diversity and be inclusive of perspectives from all backgrounds. I also have confidence that I will find many similarities between myself and my peers at ….. My faith, strong work ethic, desire to learn, and need for community and belonging are all aspects that make me very much like other college students. With the support of …. College, I am excited to be able to explore how I can gain new experiences for the next few years. I trust that my needs will be met so that I can have the opportunity to share my experiences as well. Equality of opportunity in life is definitely an idealistic concept. However, in the realm of education it is a necessity that should always exist for the benefit of society. I know, at …., I will find an atmosphere of equality and acceptance.