This is one of my favorite posts to share each month. The Share Your Story Guest Posts! I love reading others stories and tips. This months story comes from Kerry J. of Homeschoolers On The Spectrum. You can check out her facebook page, here and also follow her on twitter, here! Kerry is writing about preparing your ASD child for life after High School. Thanks Kerry for sharing!
I guess it’s inevitable. Because it’s a bit of an understatement to say that the elementary and middle school years of your child on the spectrum are intense. So, it’s really no wonder that you can suddenly find yourself within three or four years of your child’s graduation and be absolutely flabbergasted at how fast it all went. Wasn’t it just a few minutes ago that you were negotiating with him or her about which playland you would go to after speech therapy? And now you are thinking about whether or not they will go away to college?!
It’s true, though. While individual days with our special kids can sometimes feel never-ending, the overall journey moves in the same way it does for every parent of a child- – at warp speed. I know it has for us. And if there is one thing I have learned along the way, it is to prepare for all contingencies. Would college be in our future? Trade school? Vocational work? If none of those, then what?
With a child on the autism spectrum, you can’t just make a plan, create a goal, and go for it. That’s a pipe dream. No, as parents, we have to recognize that our kids’ paths may go in any of a number of directions depending on their current development, goals, motivation, etc. And we also know that all those things can change yearly, if not monthly. So, when we’re preparing for life beyond homeschool, we have to prepare for multiple scenarios.
Scenario #1 – What if they go to college?
Thousands of students on the spectrum are attending colleges and universities around the world. Your student may just be one of them. Even if you think this is only a remote possibility, you need to be aware of the general course requirements of colleges you may be interested in, and keep those in mind as you plan out your child’s homeschool high school years. We have found LetsHomeschoolHighschool.com to be invaluable in our planning. We also have made sure to cover all our main coursework bases by using Time4Learning’s online high school program. Not only is T4L certified as an autism resource by IBCCES, but the courses offered include at least 80% of the suggested track for most four-year colleges. Whether or not you use a traditional curriculum like Time4Learning or create your own courses, the important thing is to keep an accurate homeschool transcript throughout the high school years. Another vital thing for parents of high schoolers on the spectrum to research is what personal and educational accommodations are available at any school you are considering.
Scenario #2 – What if they go to work?
Our son gave college a “college try.” Really, he did. He attempted two different programs through our local community college, and even completed one of them. But not surprisingly to his dad and I, college just wasn’t for him. Yet, we knew he had the ability to not just survive, but potentially thrive in a structured workplace environment, so Plan B was for him to enter the job force. Thankfully, we had prepared for this scenario too. During high school we made sure he practiced career-oriented life skills including job searching, filling out applications, interviewing, and employer expectations. We acted out workplace scenarios, and talked about social skills that might be needed with co-workers. And we had fun exploring a multitude of careers – – ones that required college degrees and ones that didn’t. There are some terrific career exploration resources on the web – – even some aimed directly at homeschoolers!
Scenario #3 – – What if college or work is not an option?
Depending on the severity of your child’s autism, the stage of his or her development, and even the comorbid conditions he or she is dealing with, the stage following high school may not look all that different from the stage you are in now. That doesn’t mean that any time you spend on college or career preparation is wasted. On the contrary, by introducing these options, you’re reminding your child that with the right support and accommodations anything is possible. It’s always a good idea, also, to introduce your student to all the other options for contribution and personal growth outside of the traditional college/career track that exist including: volunteerism, vocational programs, apprenticeships, and independent living skills training.
You may have no idea which of the above scenarios will play out for your student after graduation, and that’s perfectly okay. Because that’s life. Life after high school is unpredictable for all students – – not just those on the spectrum. In fact, my suggestion to prepare your child for multiple scenarios is the same advice I would give to any parent. Along with this other tidbit: enjoy every possible moment of the journey. Because it really does all fly by way too fast.
Kerry Jones is a homeschool alumnus with two homeschool graduates to show for it. Both her sons have special needs, including one on the autism spectrum. She’s enjoying spending her homeschool “retirement” years helping other parents along the homeschool journey. One of her favorite new projects is overseeing a group of social networks for other parents homeschooling children on the spectrum, including a Facebook page, Twitter profile, and Pinterest boards.