A few years ago, Sebastian told us he wanted to run in college and study education. Honestly, we hadn’t planned on college. We thought Sebastian would attend the 18-21 program at his high school. He did for one year, but then wanted to move on. We thought it would be a big jump to go directly into a matriculated college program, so we look for alternatives that would satisfy his academic and athletic goals. Using the Think College website, we looked at inclusive college programs in Division III schools. However, most schools wouldn’t consider having Sebastian on an NCAA team because the inclusive programs are non-degree programs and the NCAA requires student athletes to work towards a degree.
While I understood and respected the NCAA’s rules, I also knew they create waivers for students for a variety of reasons. I felt it was time to acknowledge that over 300 colleges in the US have students who live on campus, audit a full course load, and are welcomed to participate in every club and organization offered to all students….except for NCAA sports. That was an inequity I wasn’t willing to accept. The only way to eradicate an inequity is to find someone who is willing to listen and who is in the position to affect a positive change. Fortunately, we were able to partner with Gwynedd Mercy University in order to secure a four year NCAA waiver for Sebastian and all future Integrated Studies Students.
Today, Sebastian and I are featured in the The Philadelphia Inquirer. Many thanks to Gwynedd Mercy University and the NCAA for working with us, and reporter Susan Snyder for helping us get the word out. Now any DIII student in an inclusive college program will be eligible to compete as stipulated by the NCAA in their “Previously Approved Waivers Checklist.”
When I asked Sebastian how he felt about his role in making it easier for other students to compete for their schools he said, “I’m glad that I’m helping to change the community.”
Indeed. In my mind, there’s no better person to do it.
Somehow 20 years has slipped through my grasp. Why is it I don’t recall anyone telling me that parenthood is a series of letting go?
The other day, I found a pair of your first walking shoes. I can remember holding your hands in an effort to help you balance. A grasp became a fingertip hold and then I let go when I thought you were ready and eager to step away from our connection.
In no time, you were running.
This has been a special year. Your dream of attending and running in college has come true. I know it wasn’t easy to leave home. It was hard for me too, so I welcomed those nightly phone calls. Now, I welcome the absence of them. I never doubted that you would find your balance and let me go.
This week, someone asked me what my vision was for you when you’re finished with college. First I said, “It’s an unwritten rule that parents shouldn’t think too far into the future.” Then I tried to explain that I don’t have a vision for your future. Even if I did, it would be far more inconsequential than the vision you have for yourself. Your future has absolutely nothing to do with my desires. Your future is not about me. My job as a parent has been to follow your lead, encourage your interests, and support you in whatever way I possibly can. That you have your own vision is a success story above anything I could have originally conjured up 18 plus years ago when you were first diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.
While it is true that I have spent your entire lifetime advocating for you in an effort to pry open the doors that were so easily closed, you have taken on every opportunity with hard work, joy and gratitude.
Keep building your visions. You’re doing a fantastic job and I am so incredibly proud of you.
I am so lucky to have a son who still hugs me tight in public and says I love you no matter who’s in earshot. I will always treasure that connection and because you have such great emotional intelligence, I know you will as well. It is a connection that space and time and even the act of letting go cannot break.
I love you and wish you the happiest of birthdays.