For many young adults with special needs, it’s difficult to move forward when the world seems mostly unnavigable. Many of these children ages 15 plus have spent their school life being pushed down a path that they didn’t really want to be on in the first place. Their seeming lack of interest is only compounded as classroom sizes grow, and the one-on-one attention and resources they need decline.
For parents who simply want to see their child graduate from high school and become successful in life, witnessing your child going through this stage can be overwhelming, and lead to the feeling of helplessness. You begin to feel lost, stressed and desperate to find advice and guidance on how to motivate and inspire your child. Though sometimes the world of special education is murky, confusing and seemingly impossible to understand, the fact is you’re not alone. As children grow up in a school system that’s underfunded and resource deficient, this lack of interest usually builds over a long period of time. Unfortunately, it seems this epidemic is growing. The good news is, there are people who care and resources available to help.
When it comes to children with special needs, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. That’s really the point of special education in the first place; all children learn differently and require their own unique approach to reach maximum success.
Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to work with children and adults of all ages. Through it all, I’ve uncovered some techniques and ways of thinking that seem to go against the norm of today’s education system.
Here are 4 Steps To Re-Energize Your Adolescent and help them reach success by their definition, not that of societies.
1. Ask Them What They Want Out Of Life;
In a world that’s seemingly predetermined for us, very few people actually stop to ask children what they want, what success looks like for them, and what they feel is the best approach to getting there.
Now I’m not suggesting this is the perfect step for a 6 years old who’s life dream may be to stay home, eat cheerios and watch Mickey Mouse all day. These techniques are designed for children with special needs old enough to truly be able to formulate and communicate meaningful life goals.
It’s amazing how intelligent and engaging children are when they’re asked these simple questions. Most people spend a lot of time dreaming about life, dreaming about the possibilities that lay before them and thinking of what it would all be like “if”. As parents and educators, when we simply ask what their “if” is and help them create goals to get there, you’re finally playing in their field and on their terms. You’re helping them set a goal that they’re passionate about, not one the public school system says they have to strive for. The results of this simple conversation can truly be life changing.
2. Help Children Create Their OWN Plan To Reach Their OWN Dreams And Goals;
In special education, an IEP is the baseline of everything academic and behavioral related. The largest problem with this process, is that often the people involved don’t stop to ask the child what they want to gain from this plan, or whether or not the goals set forth will help to achieve their dreams.
I know what you’re thinking, “my child has to graduate high school in order to be successful.” Guess what; most dreams and goals derived from a child’s mind INCLUDE this important milestone as part of the associated plan. The difference is THEY came up with the goals and the plan to get there, not you, not the school system and not their therapist. Everyone is this world works better, faster and harder at something they’re passionate about, and children are no different.
3. Ensure Your Child Writes Down Their Goals;
A goal not written remains a dream. Without a written document detailing the goal and the plan to achieve that goal, focus is lost and everyone is back to square one.
This doesn’t have to be complicated or confusing. Simply pull out a notebook or open word on your computer, write the goal in large font and create a bulleted list of the steps needed to attain that goal. The most important 2 parts of this technique are;
- Just Do It! Meaning, the act of putting the goals and the associated plan on paper.
- Set timelines (dates) around each step of the plan. Again, coach your child on creating THEIR timelines, not yours. Doing this will give you the ability to hold them accountable to the steps they created and the timelines they estimate for completion.
4. Communicate Often And With Purpose;
Once your child has written down their goal and the plan to reach it, communicate frequently. Be upfront and discuss your intent to hold them accountable to the various milestones set in the plan. Also be clear that you are there to help guide them through this process and assist when needed.
Purposeful communication with children comes from a place of love, acceptance and understanding. Communicate every single positive step they make, and utilize the shortfalls as a learning lesson to help them continue toward the path of THEIR success.
Furthermore, communicate this goal and written plan with the members of your child’s IEP team. Most schools can offer resources to help guide children toward a specific profession or life goal. Though these special education resources may be outside of the classroom environment, schools are connected with the community and can offer great feedback on transitional service and guidance.
Utilize All Available Special Education Resources;
Using these 4 steps can truly make a difference in your child’s life, and teach them important lessons they will use time and time again as they enter into adulthood. There are additional resources available such as various therapy options, special education tutoring, and assistive technology that can help both of you on this journey to excellence.
In short, you are their parent, and nobody in this world wants to see your child succeed more than you. Sometimes taking a step back and working off their playbook not only empowers your child to create their own success, but you’ll feel better knowing that you’re navigating them toward finding their own purpose and passion in life.