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4 Ways to Help Your Autistic Teen Prepare for High School

March 27, 2024

Preparing for high school can be daunting for any teen, but for teens with autism, it can feel especially overwhelming. As a parent, you want to do everything you can to help your teen succeed in this new environment. High school is a time when teens are expected to start taking on more responsibility for their own lives, and for autistic teens, this can be a challenge. 

It can also be hard for parents to know how to best support their autistic teen during this time. You want to give them more independence, but you also don’t want to leave them feeling unsupported. It’s important to find a balance between giving your teen the space they need to grow and providing the support they need to thrive.

Here are four ways you can support your autistic teen as they transition into high school.

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1. Help them develop a support system

A big part of preparing for high school is feeling like you have someone who has your back. Encourage your teen to build a strong network of friends – both at school and beyond. These friends will become an invaluable resource during the highs and lows of high school life. 

Friends they have in elementary school and middle school may not be the right fit for them in high school, so encourage them to branch out and find new friends who share their interests. People change and grow, so autistic teens may find it helpful to have a variety of friends to rely on in their niche. 

Start by helping them explore their interests.  What clubs and extracurricular activities does their school offer? What are their hobbies? What do they like to talk about? From there, it will be easier for them to find like-minded people with whom they can connect. 

Help them work on their social skills by role-playing different scenarios, coming up with some conversation starters, or attending social events together. The more comfortable they feel in social situations, the easier it will be for them to make friends.

2. Provide them with a planner or calendar

As a teacher and coach, one of the biggest challenges I see neurodivergent teens face during high school is staying on top of their assignments. A planner or calendar can be a great tool for helping them stay organized and on track. If your teen is autistic, consider purchasing a planner specifically designed for students with autism. 

There are plenty on the market. Make sure the planner includes a calendar, a to-do list, and space for recording homework assignments. 

A teen girl using a planner for school https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/autistic-teen-prepare-for-high-school/

Most planners can help your teen keep track of their classes, homework, extracurricular activities, and social events all in one place. A planner specifically for autistic teens can also contain the following:

  • IEP information and progress trackers
  • Daily student activity trackers to keep parents informed
  • Parent/teacher communication pages
  • Rewards systems to encourage positive behavior

3. Encourage your teen to ask for help when they need it and advocate for them when they can’t

High school can be tough for anyone, autistic or not. There will be times when your teen doesn’t understand something in class or feels overwhelmed by their workload. That’s ok. 

Encourage them to ask for help from their teacher, classmates, or other adults they trust. If they’re feeling lost, a little guidance can go a long way.

When your autistic teen can’t advocate for themselves, be their voice. Talk to their teachers, counselors, and administrators about what they need in order to succeed. 

Let them know about your teen’s autism and how it affects them in school. Advocate for accommodations or modifications that will help your teen thrive in high school.

4. Help them build a positive self-image

Most autistic teens struggle with self-confidence issues at some point during high school. It can be hard to feel good about yourself when you’re constantly dealing with obstacles that other teens don’t have to face. 

Help your teen develop a positive self-image by praising their accomplishments, big and small. Point out the things they’re good at, and remind them of their strengths

Let them know that you believe in them and that you will support them through everything high school throws their way. Building a positive relationship with your teen will go a long way in helping them to develop a positive self-image by themselves.

Every neurodivergent teen is different, so what works for one may not work for another. As a parent, it’s important to find what works best for your teen and help them navigate the waters of high school. With your support and encouragement, autistic teens can succeed in any environment.




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Preparing your autistic teen for high school

High school can be a challenging time for any teen, autistic or not. But with a little bit of parental guidance and support, neurodivergent teens can thrive in high school and beyond.

Remember to encourage your teen to explore their interests, stay organized, and ask for help when they need it. Most importantly, build a relationship of trust and communication so they know they can always come to you for advice and support. 

FAQs

Q: How can I help my autistic child in high school?

A: Maintain open communication with teachers and school staff about their needs and strengths and ensure that their IEP is up-to-date and implemented effectively. Additionally, provide opportunities for your child to develop self-advocacy skills and support their social and emotional well-being through appropriate interventions and resources.

Q: How do you prepare an autistic child for puberty?

A: Prepare an autistic child for puberty by using visual aids and clear explanations for physical changes while providing structured routines and emotional support. Build trust with healthcare providers to ensure tailored guidance through this stage.

Q: How do students with autism learn best?

A: Students with autism often learn best through visual aids, structured routines, and hands-on activities that cater to their individual learning styles and preferences. Providing clear and consistent instructions, along with ample opportunities for practice and reinforcement, can significantly enhance their learning experience.

Q: How do you improve the memory of children with autism?

A: To improve the memory of children with autism, incorporate visual aids and structured routines into their daily activities. Additionally, use personalized approaches that cater to the child’s specific interests and strengths.

References

Saggers, B. (2015). Student perceptions: Improving the educational experiences of high school students on the autism spectrum. Improving Schools, 18(1), 35-45. https://doi.org/10.1177/1365480214566213

Autism in the Classroom: Educational Issues across the Lifespan, Bolourian, Yasamin; Stavropoulos, Katherine K. M.; Blacher, Jan, 2019 https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED598702

Szidon, K., Ruppar, A., & Smith, L. (2015). Five Steps for Developing Effective Transition Plans for High School Students With Autism Spectrum Disorder. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 47(3), 147-152. https://doi.org/10.1177/0040059914559780

Mechthild Richter, Maria Popa-Roch & Céline Clément (2019) Successful Transition From Primary to Secondary School for Students With Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Literature Review, Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 33:3, 382-398, DOI: 10.1080/02568543.2019.1630870

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