• Understanding Autism from the Inside

    “Academics came easily to me. The rest of life—not so much.”
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Aspie Teen and High School

I wrote previously about Aspie Teen wanting to go back to school and try to attend a regular High School. That idea has already fallen by the way side, and I cannot say that I am upset about it either.

After talking to the school district and the staff at the High School about what kinds of programs or special education they offer, I am glad that Aspie Teen opted-out. First of all, there are no services or special programs offered here in Florence , SC. The only option besides regular mainstream classes, which I don’t think he will be able to handle well, is an option for an “Employability Diploma”. Apparently, this is the program that you can enroll your child in which gives the accountability of being in school, requires them to take classes, perform a certain number of hours of community service, and have a paid job in order to graduate. For all intents and purposes it is a CYA (cover your ass) program to ensure you are in compliance with compulsory school laws. I look at it as the delinquent program.

It was explained that the student will spend four years of High School and receive a District Diploma, NOT a state diploma. A district diploma is only good for obtaining work in South Carolina. You cannot use it for anything else, as it is not a “real” HS Diploma. In fact, none of the academic class taken in the program can be used for credit toward a state HS Diploma! What a waste of time! Aspie Teen immediately said, “No-way,” because he wants to go to Culinary College after HS and would have no diploma to do so.

Regular High School is now off the table! We tried homeschooling with him but unfortunately, that didn’t work either. My friend was going through a similar situation with her daughter and she told me she bought a whiteboard from Writey which helped her really engage with the lessons whilst she was being homeschooled. I bought loads of exciting resources and even a whiteboard, to try and make the lessons more engaging for him but nothing worked. I think it was the lack of structure that he struggled with and I completely understand! Thankfully, there is another option. In the seventh grade Aspie Teen attended a virtual public school program called Connections Academy and did very well. The problem was he had no accommodations or IEP on file, and the work was extensive. It takes him much longer to get through a lesson than the allot time should be. For example, each class should have taken about an hour, but Math took the Teen about 3-4 hours to complete. Although he did complete all his classwork, he worked for 10 sometimes 12 hours per day, which is way too long, and was burned out very quickly.

This time, we enrolled him in a similar program through K-12.com, called Cyber Academy of South Carolina, which is the division that is especially for students struggling with their academics. It is a public virtual high school, so it will cost us nothing, which is nice AND this time we are pursuing accommodations (IEP, 504’s etc.) through our school district in order to try to shorten lesson and have untimed tests, etc. Hopefully, this will be a better option for him.

Virtual HS classes begin Aug. 21st-wish us luck!

Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Jeannie is an award-winning author, the Answers.com Autism Category Expert, contributes to Autism Parenting Magazine, and the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. She lives in New York with her husband and four sons, on the autism spectrum.