Guest Post with Sierra

Happy Friday! I’m bringing in a post from Sierra. She’s with Basic Invite and she was amazing to work with! Thank you, Sierra.
I graduated from university recently, and while I’m grateful I got my degree, college was a very difficult experience for me.

In the middle of my college career, I had to go see a psychologist for anxiety disorder and depression.

Dealing with anxiety and depression at the same time was hard, but I learned a lot about myself from this experience.

One thing that really helped me deal with my feelings was making things. Every so often I would paint or do origami and it really helped relieve my stress and fear.

As graduation loomed closer, I knew I wanted to send out graduation announcements to my friends and family.

By this time I had my mental health problems better under control, although I usually still felt uneasy and prone to sadness more often than normal.

I was also really worried about finding a job after graduation, where I would live, and everything else that comes with leaving school and becoming an adult.

Despite my worries, I decided to knuckle down and find some cute graduation invitations to send to my loved ones.

I googled “graduation invitations” and stumbled upon Basic Invite.

I really liked their designs.

I went with their vibrant anemone graduation invitation, shown below since I love flowers.

Although I must say, all their floral graduation invitations are pretty awesome.

Their graduation brunch invitations are cute too.

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What I really liked about Basic Invite was that I was able to edit the font and colors for the card.

I changed the background of the vibrant anemone invite to a lighter shade of blue I liked better, although I kept the font the same.

Designing the invitations was really therapeutic for me, like origami or painting. It kept me from feeling stressed.

I was knocking something important off of my to-do list.

I told my friends about Basic Invite and how I got to design my invites, and a couple of them tried it out too.

One of my friends really liked their elegant graduation invitations and used their sophisticated swash graduation invitation, seen below.

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They also have colored envelopes, so I chose an envelope that matched the background of my invite.

I ordered a sample from their site to make sure I liked how everything turned out, and it was perfect.

I placed an order for all the invitations I wanted the same day.

Designing my graduation invite with Basic Invite was one of the best choices I made at the end of my college career.

It was super fun and relaxing, and I got to show off my work to all of my friends!

If you need graduation invitations, I hope you’ll give Basic Invite a shot. I hope you love their products as much as I do.

 

Looking Into the Future- Autism in Adulthood

I think a lot. My kids give me plenty of topics to ponder: dating, clothes, impending puberty. One topic will remain on my mind for a very long time- how will having autism affect Julian as an adult? Will he need help with managing daily life, or will he be able to do everything on his own? He’s not great yet at self-advocacy, so how will this affect him when he needs his ADHD medications adjusted? Will he find someone that loves him?

Sometimes these thoughts keep me up at night. I have to remind myself that we can only move so fast in life and that right now, I am just trying to get Julian through the 7th grade. He’s currently fine on his meds and otherwise, has friends and is growing- he is finally over 5 feet tall. I think he will be as tall as me soon. (I am 5’2″, but to him, this is EVERYTHING)

Bird nest

Letting Go of Your Baby Bird

Watching our kids grow up and move into their own lives is hard. My mom actually cried when I moved out. I often joke about being delighted when the kids are gone, but I will most likely be a sobbing mess when those days come. In Julian’s case, I have the feeling that I will be happy, but a new set of worries will begin. I won’t be able to help him as much as I can now. I am trying to teach him to speak up for himself in all aspects. He’s quiet and I worry that may hold him back or cause issues.

What about college? Julian has decided that he doesn’t want to go to college (see My Kids and College) and this is okay. For those whose kids want to go to college, remember that this is a time of growth and transition for everyone. Your child is about to be around a lot more people than they were around in high school, which equals more noise, smells, etc. This in itself can be an issue. The buildings are bigger, brighter, and further apart. This is something else to get used to.

College schedules are different. Making friends in college can be either difficult or easy, depending on your personality. In this case, it may be a bit more complicated. You, as a parent, may have to resist the urge to monitor their every step and wait for them to tell you everything they did in class, whether they are at a nearby community college or a thousand miles away.

However, some kids with autism struggle in college, mainly with organization. The extra free time can be an issue because they aren’t always sure how to maintain a routine. It can be hard just to get through the day- class, eating, homework and other essentials. It can be just as difficult to read social cues, as it was when they were children, and/or know what’s expected of them.

Most young adults age out of supports at age 22 (at the oldest), which means IEP, 504 plans, etc, are gone. There’s nothing to replace them. Transition planning usually starts around age 14 (depending on the state- Kentucky, for example, does start at 14- Julian will be a freshman). This is the time in which parents and teachers start planning for when the supports run out. The adjustment is still a big one.

The best idea for those who want to go to college with autism is to tap into organizational tools. This may consist of a planner, alarm clock, and most of all, be able to ask for support. Ask your college advisor for extra supports on campus- a group may be available, or other resources. Some of this information can be found on Child Mind

Autism Speaks provides a Transition Tool Kit for families. It can help you take the steps you need to ensure a smoother move into adulthood for you and your family.

Boy walking

Decisions, Decisions

College isn’t an option for every child with autism. There are other options. Day programs for young adults are becoming more common and popular- they enable the young adult to get out and participate in the community and go home at night. Participants also learn life skills.

Payments are either covered through a waiver, insurance, a combination of both, self-pay, or other options. I highly recommend looking at different places and comparing before choosing one, and of course, taking a tour. These are usually an option no matter where your child is on the spectrum, but all programs are different.

Another option is hiring part or full-time caregivers. I have been a caregiver (more often called Direct Care Providers) and honestly, it was a lot of fun. I worked with a 13- year- old boy that lived about 5 minutes from me. He was a blast to work with and always kept me laughing.

The caregivers can come in your home, meet you and your child in the community, pretty much wherever you need them to. They can help your child learn skills like money management, social skills, life skills and a lot more. I used to take one client to lunch at least twice a week to work on both money and social skills.

A third option is a group home setting. Again, I recommend looking around and considering what you can afford and what you can get covered. This can create a sense of community for your child- everyone needs that in some form. In most of these settings, they are asked to complete chores, go on outings (fun times!) and have other things provided for them. This information is also from Child Mind

What is Love?

Everyone feels love- even those on the spectrum. I’ve never been able to grasp the idea that people who aren’t able to speak cannot feel love. Just because they can’t talk doesn’t mean they can’t express how they feel.

They still think and feel, they are just unable to vocalize it. One of my favorite kids was completely non-verbal but she would squeeze your arms to say “hello”, “goodbye” and to show she was happy.

Relationships can be a bit hard to manage while on the spectrum. Cues are hard to read and many hate small talk, the kind you would have on a first date. It can be hard to enjoy yourself in a loud, noisy place when you are overwhelmed.

It can be even harder to explain that you have autism because of the myths and stereotypes. Even touching, like holding hands, can be difficult. Some people think that those on the spectrum resemble robots because they don’t show how they feel when it can be the opposite.

Most want a romantic relationship, but it is difficult because they don’t know how. Relationships while on the spectrum can be successful with an understanding partner and a bit of work. You can find this information at The Atlantic

In Julian’s case, he hates hugs, so I am not sure how he will react to a girl hugging him. I’ve explained to him that if a girl hugs him and he gets angry, it’s going to hurt her feelings. I suggested that maybe he should step away and tell her that he doesn’t like hugs, that he would like a shoulder squeeze. He looked at me like I had six heads, so I’m not sure if it sunk in.

Man working on car

Making Some Money

Working is an adventure and autism can sometimes throw a small speed bump into the process.

Finding a Job can help your child get on the path to finding a job that they can enjoy. There is a video on the page that is helpful.

There are issues that some run into while being employed. Two of the largest issues that workers on the spectrum face are the settings of the job itself (bright lights, noise, etc) and workplace bullying. Those can cause a lot of frustration, stress and even anxiety and depression. They can also cause the worker to leave their job unexpectedly.

Discrimination in the workplace is an issue and some have been fired as soon as they disclose that they have ASD. This is not only wrong, but it is also illegal. It’s usually tied in with complaints from co-workers and/or others, habits being seen the wrong way, or other workplace issues. This information can be read in more depth at The Art of Autism

The transition to adulthood is not an easy move for anyone involved- parents or kids. When ASD is involved, it doesn’t mean that the transition is impossible.

It means that we have to balance the need for letting go and still being nearby in case our child needs help. Maybe one night I will be able to shut these worries off and sleep. Maybe not? I’ll see in a few years.

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

My Career in Psychology

I am not entirely sure when I decided to go into psychology. As a kid, I wanted to be a meteorologist. I love watching weather reports, even to this day. If there’s a storm coming, I’m all over the weather reports. I probably would have gone into this had I not realized that there’s a lot of math involved. I hate math.

An Interesting Change

I realized that I love fashion. I love clothes, makeup and at one point, designing evening gowns. Unfortunately, I cannot construct clothing. I can sew by hand but forget a sewing machine. I ended up selling mine to my friend Stephanie’s mother. I’ve tried making clothes but it’s always ended in disaster.

My college roomie, Barbie (Barbara IRL) has her degree in Apparel Design and Merchandising. Before she moved to Omaha with her husband and became a stay at home mom, she was a tailor in a bridal shop.

Me? I started college at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) with the same major but got bored. In one of many long conversations with my grandmother before her death in 2002, she suggested that I change majors.

To what? I had an interest in psychology but really had no clue what to do with it. I put some thought into it and changed my major to Clinical Psychology soon after.

Moving Along as A Working Mom

Fast forward about five years to 2007, after a marriage, changing schools and two kids, I finally graduated from Spalding University with a Bachelor of Arts. Again, what was I going to do with it? I had planned to get a Master’s to become a child therapist, but having the boys had kind of halted that path. I didn’t think that I could pull it off. I figured in the meantime, I would work and see what I liked.

The universe laughed. Lily was born in February 2008.

It was 2012 before I even looked at the GRE. If you’ve never heard of it, the GRE is the Graduate Record Exam and my biggest nightmare. I hate standardized testing and this included statistics. Ugh. I didn’t do great, but I also didn’t do horribly. My scores expired in 2017. I took this intending to get into a Master’s of Arts in Teaching program at Bellarmine University, but I didn’t make it past the conditional admission, which lasted a semester. PRAXIS testing was even harder.

Between 2007 and 2012, I worked at two mental health facilities, an outpatient substance abuse facility and learned a lot in the process. You can read Real Stories of a (Former) Mental Health Worker to get some insight into one of those jobs. That one taught me a lot about myself as a person and a mother. There are some jobs that you cannot leave unchanged- that was one.

Wandering A Bit

I left the job I loved the most in 2015, after Jake’s death. I have not been able to find something I loved that much since. I have worked at an inpatient substance abuse facility, direct support worker, a program assistant at a large hospital, and right now I have a new job as a caregiver mentor, but I don’t know as of yet if I love it. The jury is still out.

To be honest, I feel kind of lost, career-wise. I’m not sure I will find something I loved as much as that job again. I felt like I was where I was supposed to be every single day I was there, whether I was working around the hospital or on the unit I eventually transferred to. I’m not really sure what my next move will be. I don’t like not being sure of things. It creates anxiety, and we all know I am not a fan.

What do I love? Writing. That was something I always wanted to do as a kid. Funny enough, Lily loves to write and draw. I’m glad to see that one kid has inherited my artistic abilities. The boys could care less.

What Keeps Me In Psychology?

The ability to help people. I’ve always liked that. I loved being able to help the kids I worked with. They were a blast, except for the bad days. Those were to be expected. Watching a 15-year-old finally go to a great foster family was super rewarding. The funny stories also help, because this field is full of it.

Also, knowing that all my hard work does pay off. In a way, this blog is a branching out of everything I have learned and done while working. I don’t think I will leave the field entirely, but I’m not sure what is next. I really don’t think graduate school is an option. My short term memory was affected by my stroke. I don’t want to go and not do well.

Do I Have Any Regrets?

None. Not at all. I went into psychology knowing I wouldn’t make a million unless I got a Ph.D. I have no interest in that. I’m not in this field for the money. I’m here for the people. That’s the best reason that anyone who wants to go into psychology or any similar profession should be in it.

I have learned a lot and had even more fun. That is what matters most. The piece of paper on my living room wall was just the beginning.

Pic courtesy of Pinterest

The College Mental Health Strain

College is a time of huge transformation- many freshmen have never lived away from home. If your child is going to a college/university far away from home, it can be an intense change. This is to be expected. Everyone looks forward to this move but not many anticipate the feelings that may appear when it happens.

I am years away from sending a kid to college, but Cameron starts high school in August. I AM NOT READY.

The Big Move

College does have its good points- so much freedom! You can pick the time of your classes (kinda), when you come in at night (let’s get real if you come in) and many other choices. I loved not having classes before 11 am.

This was fantastic until I transferred universities and the only classes left towards my major (Clinical Psychology) were all at 8 AM at the new university.

UGH. Throw in two toddlers and things get outrageously fun.

The Factors Add Up

However, things can get stressful. There’s a lot of pressure. Grades are a thing. Scholarships depend on grades, as does most of the financial aid. Many college students work. Working plus studying can create stress. If you have other factors adding to it- kids, issues with parents, etc, things can seem almost unbearable.

Another factor is coming into college with a mental health condition, either diagnosed or not. The extra stress can exacerbate these illnesses and contribute to “breaks”, in which someone loses touch with reality and almost always needs hospitalization. Many of those with severe mental illness (SMI) have the first break around college age. A break can also mean a severe depressive episode.

This is just a short list of mental health conditions that are seen in many college-age students:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Major depression
  • Anxiety
  • Eating disorders
  • Self-injury
  • ADHD
  • Addiction/other Substance Abuse Disorders

This information can be found at: Affordable Colleges Online

Colleges and Universities Have Options for Care

Your child has an option right on campus- may have an office for mental health care. It’s usually free or very low cost. Some take insurance, some don’t, depending on the school.

They are run by graduate-level psychology students and faculty. The major downside is that they can only offer so much help due to their limited training, hours and other factors. These offices can, however, refer patients out to local therapists or other locations like the ER in case of emergency.

Another option is a more difficult one- reducing hours or even taking a semester off. This can mean a loss of financial aid in many cases. Nobody wants that. Many don’t want to take time off, even a semester, especially not for mental health issues. It makes the condition come out in the spotlight.

Some colleges and universities are seeing the issue and doing more to help- therapy dogs during finals week, encouraging students to seek help earlier instead of waiting. They are also encouraging students to look out for their friends. This can be a huge help. Some are including self-care topics in their freshmen seminars.

From (Not So) Far Away

What can you do?

  • Talk to your child. Ask how things are really going. Let them know it’s okay to struggle a bit. It doesn’t have to be easy all the time.
  • Encourage your child to look out for their friends- not like they already don’t. This is a different kind of looking out.
  • Remind them they can come to you if they don’t feel okay. You’re here to help them.

College can be a great experience. It’s full of change, fun and sometimes really dumb things. Growth is scary. That’s why our baby birds need to know they can always come back to us.

Pictures courtesy of Pixels

Unsplash

For further reading: Learning and Performing Under Pressure

Have you had a child go off to college? How was it?

Twin Mummy and Daddy

My Kids and College

I’ve got three intelligent kids with different personalities. Like many parents, I’ve thought a lot about sending them to college-besides the tuition.

My First Idea

I want my kids to live full, healthy and happy lives. I want them to find a career they love and pursue it. This usually includes college, and when the discussions started some time ago, I let them know that all of them would be going.

I explained that college is not cheap, that since they’re so close in age and that Dad and I are not millionaires (at least not yet), they will have to work, get grants, scholarships or something similar.

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I took out student loans, but I’d rather my kids not do so because the rates are outrageous and I am still paying them off. It was well worth it because I have had a great career.

Changing My Mind

Julian is not a fan of school. He’s in the 7th grade and while he doesn’t protest going, he isn’t the most excited about it. He does his work, isn’t disruptive or aggressive, and tries his best. These factors are the most important to me, considering his diagnoses.

He told me that he doesn’t want to go to college. He just wants to finish high school, get a job similar to his dad’s and live a quiet life with his cat. (He knows Tails won’t live forever, so he plans to get a new cat once Tails leaves us.)

I’m okay with this. I told him that if he finds a job that he likes, it’s legal and pays his bills, I’m good. Matthew is a delivery driver for a local company and Julian is fascinated by what he does.

Our school system has programs for kids that don’t want to go to college because college isn’t for everyone. There’s even a heavy machinery program that might be the program for him. Julian’s always been into taking things apart.

Cameron applied for a high school that has an auto collision program, and the other has a patient technician program that he’s interested in. We will find out in March or April where he’s been accepted.

The Final Theory

Thanks to Julian, that new theory has spread to all three kids. I’m not entirely sure where Cameron stands on college. He’s nervous about high school. Most kids are, so we have talked about a few things.

Lily has talked about becoming a paleontologist, and that requires a lot of colleges. She loves history, so even if that isn’t her final decision, I can see her doing something in that field.

College is a difficult topic without trying to force it upon your child, so I think I have it handled.

Probably. For now, at least.

This might change next week, so stay tuned.

What are your thoughts on sending your children to college? How do they feel about it? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Twin Mummy and Daddy