If you’ve been reading my blog of late, you’ll know that we recently enrolled our daughter part-time at a local high school, and that she’s been having some real struggles with the transition.
After trying different ideas to support her, including medication for her anxiety, we have come to the conclusion that this step was just too much, too soon. We all really wanted this to work, but it’s apparent that she was not ready for it. And once we were able to step back, look at the situation, and recognize it to be so, we also had to ask ourselves if a high-school classroom will ever be a suitable learning environment for her.
I’ll admit, there was a wee bit of grieving on my part. There always is when you put your heart and mind to something, only to realize it isn’t meant to be. But when I was ready to do so, I’m pleased to say the answer was obvious. I’ve seen it before, my girl put in situations she couldn’t handle – preschool being one of them, classes at the local community centre were another. At the time, I despaired over what to do and what it all meant. But I knew in my mother’s heart that these situations weren’t working for her, that she was not yet equipped to deal with them without more…more skills, more support, more understanding. Now we have a much better understanding of her unique challenges and needs, and it isn’t as difficult to say “that isn’t going to work for her”.
We have taken her out of high school and used Spring Break to rethink our options for her education. At first, we thought she might be able to go to school this fall with a private one-on-one support person to guide her through the day. But through discussions with her therapy team, we have come to recognize that this is likely not the best option for her. She would have only one year (Grade 10) in which to gain the skills and ability to take on a full university-track course load* for Grades 11 and 12, and given her current condition that is unlikely to happen. Her brain works so hard just navigating her environment that she exhausts easily. Also, she would be under a great deal of pressure to graduate with her class, and not doing so would likely deal a serious blow to her confidence.
So we’re falling back on our wonderful homeschool program, which offers a special program for the Grade 10 year and options for high school that will allow her to take as long as she needs to earn her diploma while still maintaining her autism funding. She will soon start working with her counsellor on a specific program for managing social anxiety, and I’m looking for tutors and similar programs that might work for her. I’ve already found a local private math tutor who was recommended to me as someone who can work with kids on the spectrum. We’re going to meet her tomorrow and see if she will be a good fit for Miss Em.
This “experiment” with school has, in some ways, been a blessing. It has helped us to understand the severity of her social anxiety and her executive functioning deficits, which allows us to make informed choices for her. And the take-away message from this experience is one that shouldn’t surprise me: our daughter is unlikely to take the conventional path to education and career.
Thankfully there are so many paths one can take, so many options available to her. In the end, I come back to my homeschooling roots, and our family’s “outside the box” approach to life, learning, and personal fulfillment.
- I just want to emphasize that the goal of college/university is hers. Although I loved my university experience, I do not believe it is the right choice for everybody, nor do I believe that success depends on it. If my daughter chooses not to go, then we are fine with that.