Both the wife and I have college degrees. Our parents, too, have college degrees. It was, before the Monster was born, a foregone conclusion to us that our kids too would go to college.
And then we found out that the Monster has autism.
I suppose the biggest thing that hit us in the wake of discovering how serious his language delays were, and then in realizing the extent to which this might affect him, was the doubt as to what his life would be like down the road. We want him to be a functional member of society, not dependent on a Social Security Disability check or on our supporting him, but rather happy and healthy and eventually having a family of his own.
This also affected our thoughts on college for him. Obviously, we still want him to go if he’s capable, but that’s now this nebulous concept of ‘being able to go to college’. Would he be able to function in a classroom to the point that he could study something? Would he be at a level that college makes sense?
It took us a while (a few extra years, in fact), but we finally came to the conclusion that it made the most sense to actually open a 529 plan for him on the contingency that he’s going to go to university. The alternative was really hard to grasp as a good solution after a while – after all, if it turns out in ten years that he may well be “okay” to go to college, we’ll have lost ten years of time to save up for it. And we’re fortunate to live in a state that has a plan that guarantees full tuition and fees at the state public universities. (Full disclosure – I’m an alumnus of two separate universities in our state that are part of the state public system, so I’m biased. The Monster’s permitted with my blessing to go to either of them. ;))
The financial part’s therefore taken care of. The remaining issue is ‘will he be capable of going?’.
That’s the harder part. I think it will eventually depend on what programs are available when he’s of age, what his specific issues are at that age, things of that nature. There are a few programs that are coming online for children with intellectual disabilities (such as the SUCCESS program at University of Maryland Baltimore County), but he’s still far enough out – thirteen years at least – that we have time to keep an eye on what’s coming down the road…
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