Executive functioning issues don’t go away after high school. They’ll continue to have an impact on your child, whether she’s in college or trade school, on the job or navigating everyday situations. Helping your child learn to manage challenges doesn’t mean you’re letting her off the hook. Your support can help her refine self-advocacy skills as she enters a new phase of life.
Learning Challenge #1
Your child can’t tell whether she should go to college or trade school or get a job.
The role of executive functioning issues: Executive functioning issues can affect the ability to self-monitor and figure out strengths, weaknesses and even passions.
How to help: Encourage your child to make an appointment with her student advisor or the school’s guidance counselor. Together they can explore options and gather information about specific programs that match your child’s strengths.
Learning Challenge #2
Your child doesn’t know where to turn for assistance in meeting her goals for after high school.
The role of executive functioning issues: Executive functioning issues can make it hard to break big tasks into smaller, more manageable steps.
How to help: If your child is still in high school and has an IEP, the law requires that the IEP outline transition goals for after high school. IEPs should begin including transition goals at the age of 14 and provide specific information about what community services are needed and available to help your child meet these goals. Learn more about how IEPs can help teens prepare for life after high school.
Learning Challenge #3
Your child needs help finding work, educational opportunities or life skills assistance.
The role of executive functioning issues: Your child’s executive functioning difficulties can affect everyday activities like keeping appointments and paying bills.
How to help: Check out the National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center. This government-sponsored center provides families with information and resources to help make a plan for life after high school. You may also want to learn how vocational rehab services can help your child with the transition from high school to work.
Learning Challenge #4
Your child has decided what to do after high school, but has yet to fill out applications or apply for any jobs.
The role of executive functioning issues: Executive functioning issues can make it hard to know how to create a plan and get started on something.
How to help: Acknowledge that your child isn’t lazy. She’s just stuck—“frozen” like a deer in headlights. Help break down the job hunt or application process into manageable steps so she knows how to start. Work together to create a short list of the basic things she’ll need to have for job applications, including contact information for personal and professional references, her social security number and school contact information.
Learning Challenge #5
Your child is at odds with her boss because she’s learning the routine more slowly than expected.
The role of executive functioning issues: Executive functioning issues can make it hard to juggle information. What may seem to others to be a simple task can be difficult.
How to help: Encourage your child to speak to her employer’s human resources department about her learning challenges. Doing this could open up more resources to your child and also protect her from job discrimination. (The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from firing employees because of a disability.)
You can also get your child a job coach who can shadow her at work and provide real-time feedback to help turn things around. Look for free or low-cost resources at your state’s vocational-rehabilitation department.
Learning Challenge #6
Your child is going to college or trade school and is struggling to make it to class on time and with the right materials.
The role of executive functioning issues: Executive functioning issues affect the ability to organize and plan for enough time to accomplish things.
How to help: Help your child come up with a daily checklist for what needs to be done to get out the door on time as well as a checklist of materials needed for each class. Do a couple of practice runs to get a good sense of how much time is needed. Help your child use Post-it notes and cell phone alarms as reminders. Writing important schedule information on a whiteboard in a high-traffic area of the house can also help.
After high school, there are fewer supports in place to help your child navigate executive functioning issues. Your guidance is still a valuable asset for her, though. You can coach her to seek out the extra support she needs and to use strengths to her advantage.