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Conversation with an Autism Mom: Plans after High School

December 28, 2021

What are the concerns of parents with children on the spectrum for life after high school?

Conversation with an Autism mom: Plans after High School

It is finally here—senior year! Senior year is the most momentous year in a student’s high school journey. 

What will the next phase of life look like after high school? Every decision in your child’s senior year determines their success after high school.  

Senior year creates new stressors and anxiety for students and their parents. For example, prom and the senior trip are two exciting milestones. These events, however, will not change the outcome of their life. 

There are other factors that play an important role in making post-grad life a success. I spoke to several parents of high school seniors, and the intensity of preparation was the same. Most seniors are taking college tours, increasing their extracurricular activities, boosting their grade point average, and prepping for the SAT and ACT. All this preparation, in hopes of being accepted by the college of their choice. 

Some students feel pressure from their parents, peers, family members, and friends to choose a college that will make everyone proud.  

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“Should I go to my parent’s alma mater to keep the tradition alive? Will I get an academic scholarship? Will I get an athletic scholarship? Have I completed the right classes in my senior year? How will my parents pay for college?” These are just some of the concerns students have as high school comes to an end.

A major concern one father had was his daughter’s ability to make the right decisions based on the values and morals she had been taught all her life. He was emotional about her being able to handle peer pressure and make the right decisions without guidance from him or his wife. He knew they had set standards for her, but could she handle making every decision on her own in college? 

These are the questions most seniors and their parents deal with. I believe all these are valid concerns, but there are greater concerns for parents with students that are autistic.  

Senior year for parents with autistic children

Parents of seniors that are autistic or have other exceptionalities may have very different concerns about life after high school. Parents of seniors with exceptionalities have a different perspective when it comes to their seniors—the pressure is greater than determining which college will accept them based on their GPA, extracurricular activities, or scholarship opportunities. 

Most of these parents are hoping their child will graduate with a diploma versus a certificate of attendance. These seniors have gone through 12 years of education, but their accomplishments can and may be defined differently from other seniors in their class. 

These seniors have challenges that may prevent them from seeking higher education. Parents of these students are contemplating job corps opportunities, trade school, or hopefully colleges that accept (and have provisions for) students on the spectrum.      

This is not the case for all students with autism, but it is the case for most. There are some parents who have autistic children that are brilliant and exceed academically, but not socially.  

Social anxiety is common in children with autism and can prevent them from making the right choices and trusting the right people. This becomes another concern for parents with children with exceptionalities. How will my child survive without me after high school and where will he/she go? The answer to this question can be quite different for every child on the spectrum depending on the severity of their autism. 

My concern is the safety of my child in an environment where she can easily be taken advantage of despite her ability to understand the danger.

Post-grad life is quite different, and every parent will have to make decisions that are appropriate for their senior. Every parent must help their child research and determine the factors that are important to him/her so that their child can have a successful life after high school.

This article was featured in Issue 124 – Autism Around the World

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