So today it began again.

What is “it”

“It” is college

Year number two.

So one would think that with the success of the previous year, getting ready to start the second year would be without too many emotions.

I thought this.

I was wrong!

Big time.

I am not sure when the nerves started. I think it was when her sister was nervous to start her next year at medical school. It was like Elizabeth pulled Emily’s energy and got nervous with and for her.

Then when Emily left, Elizabeth had many feelings about Emily’s empty room and no Emily here.  Then just as we got that all settled, Elizabeth got anxiety over the start of HER year of school.  So for those doing the mental math here, that is about six weeks of anxiety/nerves. Pretty much when we returned home from our trip to Disney.

So with much talking, many emotions and many prayers.  Along with offering many calming sensory items and times, we were able to take Elizabeth from a very anxious and overloaded sensory state to a calmer, more focused one.  Elizabeth’s Sensory Processing Disorder ( SPD) showed itself very strongly.

I will say that today went great!! She came out of the building happy, calm and proud.  But the journey to this point was pretty bumpy.

So with all this in mind, and thought I would share what I learned about starting year two of college with a special needs child.


By this I mean about how they should feel.  Logically, I knew that she should be fine this year.  That the second year will be a continuation of the first.  But to her sensory system,  NEW is still NEW.  And NEW things create anxiety as she tries to prepare for them.  Due to her Dyspraxia, preparing for the unknown is anxiety provoking.   So the anxiety from one disorder adds to the other.


For us, talking has always been a big part of life.  We talk about any and everything.  But sometimes when you do the first thing and ASSUME, your conversation tends to go in a predetermined direction instead of the one led by the feelings and concerns of your child.  I hope this makes sense.  But for example, if I assumed school was not the source of anxiety for Elizabeth, then I would not even begin to ask her about it.  I would ask about other things.  I say this because I wish I had asked her to talk about  WHAT she was nervous about, instead of offering to talk about what I THOUGHT she was nervous about.   Trust me, big difference between the two.  Even 21 years into this life with Elizabeth, I am still learning.


I know her SPD creates anxiety.  I know dealing with her Dyspraxia creates anxiety.  But what I did not do and again, I am learning as we navigate new territory, is that her anxiety can simply be the same kind of anxiety that you or I will feel.

No more, no less.

Meaning with or without SPD as a component of it, it is anxiety and needs to be talked about and acknowledged.  She needed to be reassured and supported through it the same as one would do for a child/young adult who does NOT have special needs.


I look back on the advocate I was when Elizabeth was young and think wow, I was a pretty big novice.  Then, life with Elizabeth made me into the strong advocate I am now.

So I have learned the critical need to advocate well, often and completely.

We share information about her disorders, how they affect her and where to look up more information.  Even at the college level, in her special needs program.  Because without it, those new to her will not “get” her right away.

This advocacy allows Elizabeth to share her feelings on her disorders and what she wants from her support system at college.  And it opens the door to good communication. Which we all know is absolutely critical to success.

So these last six weeks have taught me a great deal.  And they are lessons I will add to the others that life with a special needs child has taught me.

One thing I have known for a long time though, is just how strong and driven our wonderful children are.  And how determined we, as their parents/caregivers, are to give them every chance in the world to live and succeed.

So I hope something I wrote tonight helps someone!

We are ready for day two tomorrow!!!

I wish everyone a peaceful week.

Michele Gianetti

Author of “I Believe In You: A Mother and Daughter’s Special Journey” and “Emily’s Sister”