Happy New Year, 2015! I now have only two more semesters of high school to look forward to… My choir directors just handed out the new songs that we’ll be learning this semester, and I’m totally psyched—especially because my Madrigals group will be singing Ubi Caritas by Ola Gjeilo, one of my absolute favorite composers. I love helping people “discover” Gjeilo’s pieces…his music touches my soul. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvI5sNucz1w
I’m also excited to continue rehearsals with my a capella quartet. This is the third year running that I’ve put together a group and, like last year (when I was “officially” a senior), we were chosen to perform a solo at school holiday choir concert. This time, we sang In the Still of the Night (I’ll Remember) by Fred Parros, and the audience started cheering and clapping even before our last note was done—I love performing! (Read about inspiring Fairview choir traditions in my post, Holiday Joy https://benjaminbreakingbarriers.wordpress.com/2013/12/26/holiday-joy/ )
So, people often ask me, “What is a super-senior?” (I finished my regular senior year in high-school this last May, and went through the graduation ceremony with my class.) Because of my autism, I have an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) so that we can adjust my schooling, making it manageable for me. The IEP also allows me to remain in the public school system until I turn 21 years old. Many kids with IEPs go to a separate “transitions” program after their senior year, but for me, it has made most sense to spread out my academic classwork over more than the usual four years. I’m fulfilling the regular graduation requirements, but academics tend to overwhelm and stress me because my mind is so slippery—I may remember all kinds of learned information on one day, but the next day, it may be gone again and it feels like starting over. Reading comprehension is an ongoing challenge, and I have to repeat things so much more than my peers. So I need extra time for everything, and I can’t handle as many academic classes per semester as other kids.
I guess I’m following an unusual path, spreading the academics out and balancing them with joyful classes like fitness and choir, but it’s just right for me; maybe I can inspire others to consider this approach. Since I’m such an active autism advocate, kids at school are supportive of me—they see me as a role model, and my being older doesn’t matter. Besides, I enjoy people of all ages, and I always work at making new friends. When I was a freshman, some of my best friends were juniors, and now that many of my same-age friends are off at college, I have some wonderful new friends at school. Besides that, theater projects like Tapestry, and youth groups like Cultiva encourage kids of all ages to mix and work together—we can all enjoy one another and be sort of like a family!