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After high school: Different ways to thrive

By Victoria Scanlan Stefanakos

At a Glance

  • Many career paths can lead to a happy life.

  • College, vocational programs, and the military are just a few of the possibilities.

  • The right career path should meet your child’s needs right now.

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As the parent of a teen with learning or thinking differences, you may wonder what options your child will have after high school. School may have been a challenge. But there are many paths that can lead to a happy and independent life. Here are the most common options for life after high school.

Four-year college or university

A traditional four-year college or university prepares your child for a wide range of professional careers. College can be a challenge for any student. It requires hard work without much supervision. Students won’t have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) to help them stay on track in college, either.

Talk with your child’s IEP team about what type of college is the right choice . Smaller schools may offer more attention. Larger ones may have more resources. When looking at colleges, meet with each school’s disability services office to make sure their team can support your child. Some colleges have LD programs that offer additional services and supports.

Two-year college

A two-year college may be a great option for kids who are unsure about their career path or who aren’t ready for a four-year college. These programs give students the option to move on to a four-year school. Or they can strengthen skills and prepare them for careers.

Two-year colleges may offer tutoring and training to help students move into adult life. They can help students build time management and study skills and get used to college life while still living at home.

Trade and certificate programs

Trade or vocational programs offer a direct path toward specific jobs. Students who struggle in school may prefer this type of hands-on learning. There are programs in a wide range of areas, including things like web design, electronics, and medical assistance. Many colleges also offer certificate programs.

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Programs tend to provide more supervision, to help participants keep up with their work. Many also offer internships or apprenticeships that help participants move into the workforce.

The military

This can be a good option for young adults who thrive on structure and physical activity. The training involves a lot of practice and repetition. Service in the armed forces can lead to a job or college-level education.

It’s important to consider how your child’s learning and thinking differences could impact training. Can your child work without ? Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act guarantees access for people with disabilities. But it doesn’t cover all parts of the military.

Gap year

Some teens don’t feel ready for college directly after high school. One option for them is a “gap year.” A gap year is becoming more common among American students. And many colleges will now allow students to defer enrollment for a year. Many students spend their gap year exploring interests through internships, volunteer experiences, a job, or travel.

Work

If more schooling isn’t right for your teen, going straight to work can be a rewarding path. But in a tough job market, young adults may have trouble getting a job, especially if they have no experience. If that’s the case, they might consider volunteering for a while to build skills. School guidance counselors and community centers can help find internships and volunteer work.

Family members and friends may know of jobs that would suit your child, too. As young adults learn solid work skills, they’ll become more independent. And they may discover a career path that leads to further training.

Key Takeaways

  • Your child’s counselor or IEP team can offer advice on what path might be best.

  • It’s important for young adults to find and follow their own interests.

  • Work experience and internships offer a great start to choosing the right path.

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  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom