What’s going to happen after high school is over?
You and your student have made it to high school and are nearing the end. “What happens after high school?” is looming over your thoughts. You’ve spent the last three to four years preparing your special needs student for the “real world” with life skills and vocational education, but how do you launch them into adulthood?
Legal Guardianship or Independent
Obviously this depends largely on your child’s particular challenges, and you will have to adjust to his/her needs, but I will help point you towards resources and ideas to encourage you on this new journey. For most of us, we will be managing some aspect of our child’s life as long as we can. So part of this adult plan will be deciding on our child’s capabilities and if legal guardianship is necessary. Discuss this with your child, your child’s doctor and your family. Have realistic expectations going into this new season.
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Even those children that may have to live with someone for the rest of their lives, need to feel useful and have a purpose in life. God created us all for a purpose and it’s our job to help our child discover what that looks like for him/her. Hopefully the high school years have provided opportunities to explore different vocational skills, giving you a good idea of your child’s gifts and talents. If you need more help identifying vocational aptitude, try a test like this. It’s ok to help your child to understand the questions, we just want an accurate picture of their abilities.
Take what you know of your child and help them find useful tasks using their abilities. Make a list of everything they do well and everything they want to do well. Then the real fun begins!
Plugging It In
Every person is different in their abilities and interests and talents. The list you made for your special needs child, or any of your children for that matter, will guide you in finding opportunities and experiences to enrich your child’s life.
I’m not gonna sugar coat it. Most people aren’t willing to hire special needs employees, with a few exceptions. But many are willing to teach them as interns. You just have to ask. Building experience is the way to an amazing resume. I have a bold personality and love to research, so digging to find internships, training events and possible jobs in my area is fun.
But if you think that sounds daunting, there are resources available to help you! Always look into your local Vocational Rehabilitation Office (VR) first. They have courses on how to write a resume, interview skills, and sometimes different job skill training courses. Plus they know who’s hiring and can work with employers to help your child find a position in the workforce.
Another great avenue is the local community college. Many classes are available through the continuing education department. Each campus will have a center for students with disabilities that are there to help accommodate your child in classes. My deaf daughter was able to attend continuing education her senior year of high school, then graduated with a high school diploma and a floral design certificate from the local community college. It was a great fit for her! And if your child is able and interested in a 2 or 4 year degree, dual credit is a great option during high school to get a jump start on that degree plan!
And if the atmosphere of the local college is too much for your student, try online elective classes like those offered by Schoolhouse Teachers. You can alter the class to fit your child’s needs and find subjects that interest your child. My kids have taken up photography, small engines, poultry raising, dairy goat farming, and robotics. We have also reached out to friends in these professions or with these hobbies and they have been a valuable resource for furthering their experiences.
Not all of our special needs children will be independent and our goals may look a little different for them. Learning to wash laundry, pay bills, and cook a meal may be on the agenda. It is so very important that our kids feel useful and needed. They may not live on their own, but they should have a part in the family dynamics. Always be willing to teach them new skills around the house. Jobs around the house could include laundry (or any part of that), kitchen duties (even if wiping down the table is all they can do right now), keeping their area clean, help plan meals, budget if they like math, or
Include them in family activities and ministry opportunities. If their gift is smiling, visit the nursing home as a family. Make no-sew fleece blankets for the pregnancy center. Help set up before church. If they enjoy the outdoors, take the family on a picnic or camping. I’m sure you know these things, but I also know that being the caretaker of a special needs child can be exhausting physically and mentally. We forget to enjoy them and include them in our daily lives. I have to say having an adult special needs child is much more challenging than a minor.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember that they are an adult now and we continue to treat them as a child. They need more support than our other children and tend to not get respect or given independence opportunities. They are still learning new things and we can feed that by exposing them to either ministry or vocational opportunities. Helping them to feel a valuable part of our everyday lives. They are a precious child of God, created for His purposes.
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More about Felicia Johnson
I’m Felicia. Daughter, wife and mama. I’ve been homeschooling now for 16 years! I have eight kiddos ranging from infant to 19 years old. Every child is unique and special, just the way God made them. I just happened to be blessed with a deaf child, a couple ADD kids, a sensory kiddo and four more incredibly unique individuals. Come visit me over at www.teachingmyzoo.com.
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