the professor, the dean and the revolution

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I just had the honor of connecting two people – a liberal arts college professor who is working on creating a comprehensive system of support for ASD kids on her campus and the Dean of Students at a polytechnical institute that already has such a system in place. After hitting ‘Send’ I am overwhelmed with HOPE. The world is changing. We don’t always see it, and God knows we don’t always feel it, but thanks to people like the professor and the dean, doors will be open to our kids that never were before.

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The other day I shot a quick e-mail off to a reader in response to a comment that I loved. I wanted to let her know how much I appreciated her words. I didn’t expect to hear back. I sure as heck didn’t expect to hear THIS back:

Jess,

I read your blog first thing every day and it’s been an inspiration on so many levels. I’ve been working for my boy for a long time. I started reading diary about a year ago, and it’s nudged me to get working for the broader cause.

My guy is two years older than Brooke, so we’re facing down middle school, but I’m a college prof. and I’m looking to the longer term here. I started thinking about the handful of clearly sorta ASD kids on my campus, and wondered about how we could do better for them — and for my Allen and your Brooke, even at an elite school.

Now we have a little working group across Counseling, Res. Life, and faculty support.

We’re looking big, to a full campus awareness movement and set of supports. It’s going to be SO cool.

So, one more way Diary is working on the world.

: )

Thanks again.

I was, for the millionth time, blown away by the ways in which people in this community are taking the world into their own two hands, finding partners and together, changing the order of the universe.

I copied an excerpt of the e-mail to my girls. (No, not MY girls – my Mama-friend ‘girls’.) And one of them wrote this:

awesome!

(and tell her to check out what they do at my brother’s campus … where they have a lot of kinda sorta ASD kiddos who are brilliant … my brother’s the dean of students there and they have created a whole system with res life and counseling)

It took me approximately thirteen seconds to ask my friend to contact her brother (which she did immediately, cause she’s awesome) and to find out if he would be willing to make himself available to the professor (which he was cause awesome is apparently a family thing.)

And so it was that I had the honor of introducing the dean and the professor via e-mail. God, I love the Interwebz. I really think this whole e-mail thing is really gonna catch on, don’t you?

Anyway, at the end of the e-introduction I wrote the following with a lump in my throat.

Thank you BOTH so much for all that you are doing to support these students. You are opening up a world of possibility for kids (like mine!) who might never have been able to participate in the college experience otherwise. Your time and effort toward this end have given this Mama a very powerful gift – HOPE.

I’ll leave you two to take it from here.

All the best,

Jess

I assumed that I’d left the conversation behind as we all climbed into the car to head to the farm. In the car on the way there my phone dinged, signaling an incoming e-mail. Despite a sidelong glance from Luau, I couldn’t resist peeking when I saw that the professor had written back to me and the dean.

Her words moved me to my core. I wish I could hang them on every wall in every institution of learning in this country – from early childhood kindercare to the hallowed halls of the Ivy League colleges.

Jess, thank you so much for this introduction, and [Dean], thank you so much for your willingness to share your work and experiences at [your school].

I believe that diversity is an issue of fundamental human rights, and it is also an issue of maximizing human capital. I believe this of neurodiversity as deeply as I believe it of racial and gender diversity. We can’t afford to lose these kids and their talents. I want my university to be right there in honoring human rights and in harnessing that talent.

I stared at her words. They danced on the page – alight with all of the energy, faith and hope of a revolution – of a cultural shift – of an awakening – of the final wave of the civil rights movement.

This is about – was always about – basic human rights and *our* right as a society to have all of these incredible human beings participate to their full potential. Without appropriate support, we will never know what that potential might have been.

After sending the e-mail to both of us, the professor sent me a side note.

I’m going to keep thinking about when I can be advising Brooke on her senior honors thesis …

The only thing I could write back was the truth.

And I am now officially a puddle.

I’ll end this post where it began – with hope. We don’t always see it, and God knows we don’t always feel it, but thanks to people like the professor and the dean, doors will be open to our kids that never were before.

And I for one, am so grateful.

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Ed note: Thank you all so much for your love and support on yesterday’s post. I wrote the following last night on Diary’s Facebook page. For me, it says it all.

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“And so it is that within the heart of this place I dwell – this magical place where solidarity crowds out solitude and love ushers judgement to the door. This place of warmth and freedom and sacred understanding – where passersby say, ‘me too’ and no one ever has to explain. This place where the good times are sweeter for the sharing and the hard ones more bearable for knowing we are not alone. This place we’ve built, brick by brick – all of us together. Our place. Our community. Our home. I am so grateful for this place.

24 thoughts on “the professor, the dean and the revolution

  1. This is wonderfully exciting, Jess!! Once again, I am floored and inspired by you and the community that has grown up around you and ‘Diary.’ xoxo

  2. You are doing incredible work! These kids are so incredibly bright and have so much potential. It is good to know that colleges are realizing that. Thank you for making these connections. They are so important!

  3. this is really exciting and hope giving to so many of us.

    it also reminded me of something my husband mentioned the other day. He works in the field of computer science and mentioned that there are companies now, that are recognizing the gifts of workers on the spectrum and actively trying to recruit them for jobs. I don’t know any specifics but the idea of that melted away some of those thoughts of “how is my boy going to find work?”

    thank you again for all you share!

  4. This is just awesome, inspiring stuff. You have definitely got some momentum going and I can just feel everyone being pulled in! I know you got me hooked and asking myself every day what can I do to increase awareness not just for my kiddos but for everyone’s.

  5. Amazing how things work-out! You put the energy of hope out into the Universe yesterday and it seems to have perpetuated on it’s own. Yesterday, though not official, seemed to be a “Day of Hope” all around. Keep up the strong work my warrior friend!

  6. Your words and exchanges with Academia give me hope, too. In so many ways. Thank you for sharing light where there once was seemingly infinite darkness.

  7. Hope really is everything sometimes. Also, I just wanted to say I copied your FB status, made the font bigger, bolded it, printed it and it is now hanging on the wall in my office. There are so many days (and so many times in 1 day) when I need that reminder. Thanks for all you do!

  8. Jess- I also read your blog every morning and in those first few months of diagnosis it got me through. My husband and I have a 2 1/2 year old boy w asd and my husband has a 17 year old boy w asd. This post hit home for us, particularly bc we are in the college process right now. You have no idea, ok well maybe u do, lol how much this is needed. There are hardly any programs out there that cater to our kids. We have been forced to look into the local community college that really has no support . I thank u from the bottom of our hearts for the dialogue and connections u are making for our community. Much love and gratitude

  9. This is becoming more and more of a personal concern, as I watch my son (Asperger’s and gifted) now in high school, and wonder if he will be able to handle college. My dh, a gifted engineer on the spectrum as well, did, but he has more of the social deficits, rather than the frustration and communication issues that my son has. I know there are a couple universities that have programs, but $70k on top of tuition is way out of our reach.

  10. How exciting and hopeful! As colleges and universities begin to fill with persons on the spectrum, their siblings and friends they grew up with, I see a greater involvement of colleges with their community in supporting unique housing for adults with autism. Support during college years and beyond.

  11. thanks for your post. it just spurred me to contact a good friend of mine, who is dean of students at our local University – the one I had half assumed my aspie might attend one day- and asked her what if anything is going on now for support.

  12. You are unstoppable! My son is in 7th grade and I have already started looking into college programs for him because I am so concerned about his future. Thank you for all you do!

  13. Jess – wow! THANK YOU again for using your skills and talents to benefit all of our families. I wanted to share some information that might be helpful on this subject. My husband and I attended a workshop last year sponsored by AANE called Supporting Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders in College: Strategic Education. It was facilitated by the Director of Disability Services at Boston University and the Director of Student Support at the University of Conn. School of Law. Both parents of kids on the spectrum. A website they shared at the workshop is http://www.CollegeAutismSpectrum.com
    It is a great resource for all parents in our community and following your blog. As we have just transitioned into high school with our oldest son – these supports are greatly needed in our very near future and I’m so hopeful that the support he will need is being thought about and planned so that he can develop all of his incredible potential.

  14. Jessica, I will tell you once again as I have throughout your life, each one of us matters, and a small voice out in the world joined by other voices make for great power and they can move the world. Your voice is far from small as it reverberates now through the world.
    Your voice is a bellow of “sound and fury signifying” everything for the children and families who need you to be there.
    We all need you there.
    Love you,
    Dad

  15. Ah, the awareness that such a high was followed by such a kick to the gut. The roller coaster continues. Its will all be “fine” in the end. Not storybook fine or Hollywood fine but fantastic contributing to a neuro diverse world because our kids have a lot to give and we are finding the people to help them do it. Thank you!!!

  16. Thank you. Just thank you. I don’t know if there are any other words that suffice to say how I feel to know that there is hope. Thank you, so so very much….

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