You’re here. You know the feeling. You know, that feeling of “How am I old enough to have a kid in high school? There is no way either of us is ready for high school.” The secret’s out. This feeling is universal. You feel this way if your child is the star quarterback who is taking all AP classes and fielding multiple scholarship offers. You feel this way if your child has special needs big enough that there is a chance they will always live with you. No parent ever felt ready for high school. Whew! No matter where you stand, you’re not alone. Your child is not alone.
Special education covers a huge range of kids. By the time some children with special needs reach high school, the focus is to make sure they have the life skills and the basic academics to enable them to move on to college, a job or an assisted living situation. Suddenly, you’re faced with things that you have been saying you could put off for years and years. You can’t put them off any longer. There are a number of Special Education Resources that will help you get started and guide you in the right direction no matter where you stand. What this means for you will depend on what your child’s physical, emotional and learning challenges are.
For some kids entering high school your job remains getting them to learn to focus and organize themselves and their work. For other kids, it might be time to talk to a social worker or an attorney about the best route to take when your child turns 18. Don’t let it take you by surprise. Some children are faced with enough challenges that they will never be able to live completely independent lives. The sooner you tie up loose ends, the less chance there is that someone will take advantage of your child or that they will be left at odds in the event that you become ill or die suddenly. (This worst case scenario is unlikely. Think of it as the grown-up equivalent of your mom telling you to put on clean underpants every morning – just in case you’re in an accident. Prepare for the worst and be happy when it doesn’t happen.)
Your plans for your child’s high school journey might include homeschooling, Special Needs Tutoring or working through the local private or public school system. No matter what you are going to do, if you are not already familiar with FERPA, take a moment to visit the link and read and understand what your rights as a parent are and what your child’s rights are as well. Keep in mind that unless you have made arrangements, when your child turns 18, you are no longer entitled to immediate access to their school or medical records. Start asking questions well before you child becomes a legal adult.
Okay, we’ve touched on the hard and scary stuff. Let’s look at the reality of high school. High school can be a lot of fun for you and your child. Below are a few suggestions, special education resources and general education resources that can help you get a handle on how to best help your child. Get your special education resources into a handy folder so you can find things that interest you but that you might not need right away.
Special Education Resources For High School Age Children;
- Rules and Discipline – Ultimately, your goal is to help your child become the most independent person they can be. How do you give them freedom – especially the freedom to goof up – and keep them on track? The linked article has some great suggestions. Set a few clear rules and expectations and make sure you and your child both agree as to what they are. Be consistent when you must discipline. Avoid random punishment and substitute logical consequences.
- The M.O.R.G.A.N. Project – If you are not aware of this foundation, check out their resources, particularly if you have a child with a physical disability and learning challenges. Their program is not limited to high school students only. If they can’t help you, one of their friendly volunteers might be able to steer you in a better direction.
- Just go to the YMCA – Y’s in larger cities offer teen programs for kids with special needs and learning disabilities. They have trained staff and a regular program designed to engage the whole group. If you need after school care or if your teen is just craving time with their peers, look into your local Y.
- The Thinking Mother, a blog by a mom with an ADHD and 2 children with special needs, offers a lot of detail into handling homeschooling, dealing with public schools, diet changes, adding and subtracting medication and more. She’s honest, very detailed and answers questions from the comment section if you have them. Even if your child does not have ADHD, the blog is worth visiting for the general information on organizing and handling life with an extremely challenging child.
- If homeschooling is in your future, check this link to 50 Homeschooling Blogs for all age groups. There are some terrific, well-established blogs in the high school and in the special needs section. If you are not a homeschooler, check these blogs anyway for tips on organizing your house in a way that works for your child, meals and just general commiseration when you’re not having a great day. Special Education Homeschool Resources are very useful for parents who’s children are still in school. Modified slightly, these resources can easily be used for homework and self study.
- Have you been working “life skills” into your teen’s life thus far? Let’s be honest, it’s often just easier to do it yourself than to break a chore down for your teen. Now that high school is here, it’s time to take the long road and start teaching those skills. It’s well worth the effort. This article will get you started on teaching the six basic life skills: Transportation, Housekeeping, Meals, Self-Care, Money and Planning Leisure/Work Time.
- It’s never to early to start thinking about your child’s transition from school to their adult life. Paula is a special education teacher with years of experience helping kids transition from one phase of their lives to the next. Her site has links to special education resources as well as practical advice.
- Finally, where would any teenager be without apps? One Place for Special Needs has a HUGE comprehensive list of apps for a wide range of learning challenges with reviews. There are applications for kids who need help with social interaction, kids who are verbally challenged, and kids who struggle with day-to-day schoolwork. This is definitely a site to bookmark – you’ll come back to it again and again.
- Special Education Tutoring can be an amazing asset during the highschool years. If you feel your teenager slipping, or see their grades declining, this maybe a viable option to ensure their success (and graduation)!
The high school years are challenging for every parent. They can be doubly challenging when you have a child with special needs. Use these resources and others that you find as you read to help you navigate the next four years. If you feel like you’re “behind,” don’t worry – start a check list (or two or three) and work methodically through them. You’re your child’s best advocate – remember that!