Transition Planning for Teens with Special Needs, Interview with Peggy Ployhar

This week on Homeschool Highschool Podcast: Transition Planning for Teens with Special Needs, Interview with Peggy Ployhar.

Transition Planning for Teens with Special Needs, Interview with Peggy Ployhar.

Transition Planning for Teens with Special Needs, Interview with Peggy Ployhar

Our high schoolers are going to graduate one of these days, so let’s help them (and ourselves!) with being prepared for what happens next. Let’s talk about transition planning for our high schoolers!

Peggy Ployhar, with Sped Homeschool, is going to fill us in on what transition planning is and how to get started.

About Peggy Phar

Peggy Ployhar is the founder and CEO of Sped Homeschool, which stands for Special Education Homeschool. Her oldest was diagnosed on the autism spectrum when he was five and that opened the door for other educational opportunities the Ployhars had never even considered.

Peggy has been homeschooling for almost twenty years. Before forming Sped Homeschool, she worked for two different state organizations as their special needs consultants. She didn’t come into this by accident, though. She started her own homeschooling journey in similar situations and she’s now helping other families. So you can say it’s helping families and homeschool children who struggle that is really where her heart is!

What Is Transition Planning?

Transition planning is the process of making sure your child with special needs will have the necessary support when they “age out” of the school system.

There are just so many kids that struggle on so many different levels. And, having the experience of homeschooling her own children who all have had struggles in certain areas, and then her parents who have adopted ten children who have homeschooled on and off, Peggy understands the importance of transition planning.

It’s important to ask questions, such as Where are they going? and How do we bridge that gap?

And that’s what transition skills really are. Whether you have a student who struggles or not, that’s something we should all have in the back of our mind, along with having the answers to questions like, “Do they know how to do the laundry?” and “Do they know how to cook?”

In other words, transition skills are life skills.

How To Begin Transition Planning With Your Kids

If we are going to really face the facts that our kids are going to have to live life and do it well, how can we plan for transitioning not only our special needs kids but also all of our kids?

1. Evaluate where the gaps are they need to fill

The first thing you have to do is take a step back and really evaluate what you can fit in the next four years, or the remainder of the high school years, by looking ahead.

If you know your child is lacking in communication skills, for example, you know to introduce more learning opportunities that help strengthen these transition skills. If your kids aren’t great housekeepers, then start a game plan to make them better ones. See where their personal gaps are and then make a plan to fill those gaps.

2. Set goals for those gaps

Once you’ve identified what those learning gaps are, set goals to strengthen these gaps. Consider where you want your child to be and talk to your kids about what their goals are for themselves. Many kids will not really know exactly what they want to do, but it is good to think about it and consider the options. Even trying their hand at a few different subject areas is good for them to discover their likes and dislikes in order to plan properly for the future.

3. Introduce transition skills in their experiences – not only academics

Be sure to do this also for life skills, not only academics. These other transition skills can be cognitive skills, emotional skills, communication skills, life skills, social skills, physical skills, and so on. Find an activity or something helpful that your child can do on a regular basis where they will continue to work on those skills.

They can take co-op classes, join a club, and explore different extracurricular activities. Encourage your child to just try something different that will fill these gaps. You never know where these different activities or classes will take your child!

For example, Peggy’s son originally wanted to go into the military. Because of this, they directed a lot of their studies around the beginning of his first year of high school.

But then the next year, he decided he wanted to be an underwater welder. And even though that took a whole different spin on their classes, they aimed to study more about that.

And then for the following year, he decided he just wanted to go to welding school first before he did underwater welding. And he did that, for three years, until one day he woke up and decided he didn’t want to do it anymore.

And now? At the end of the semester, he is graduating with a degree in biomedical engineering. How’s that for a change?

What If Plans Change?

If your child, like Peggy’s son, decides to go a different route, that’s totally okay. You tweak, and you change as the kids figure out what they want to do. When you’re looking at transition planning and looking at the high school years, learn how to embrace the bigger picture.

Get the bigger picture in your head and review it on a constant basis. Finish half of the school year or a semester, and then take an evaluation. Is my child still wanting to do this? The great thing about high school students are the opportunities to have wonderful life conversations with them.

When the plans do change, be flexible enough with your homeschooling to let them know the direction they’re homeschooling is going. Help them understand if something isn’t moving them toward their new goals. You can still count the work you’ve done as half a credit, but it’s better to head in the right direction now versus getting to the end of the year knowing it wasn’t helping serve the overall goals.

And if you do change plans mid-year, you will still have notable work to put down on your child’s transcript. So, it’s never a waste of time.

Final Tips For Transition Planning

One thing we often do not think about is communication skills because they kind of go off our radar. But yet employers say that communication skills are the biggest thing they are looking for in employees.

We do not have to have a formal education plan to develop communication skills. We need to put our children in various situations that require them to communicate. And communication is verbal, nonverbal, body language, and written. (Check out these HSHSP episodes on job hunting and interview skills. Also, this post on first-day-on-the-job skills.)

Communication is probably one of the most important things we should be focusing on and just having normal, everyday conversations. There are several things we can absorb and do in our homeschool life to help build those communication skills, and it doesn’t have to look like a classroom or a course to do.

Other ways to help build communication skills:

  • Listening to audiobooks
  • Learning correct grammar through hearing
  • Making videos and podcasts
  • Making videos or podcasts

The more you do these things, the more you learn to control what you say and to think about it before you say it.

Peggy also shares tips for homeschooling high school in this Homeschool Highschool Podcast episode.

About Sped Homeschool

Sped Homeschool was formed in 2017 after taking a look around and deciding that there are a lot of organizations that have little help available for special needs kids. Their website is full of resources, partner organizations, and interviews, with an interview showing every Tuesday night live. Also, they are now broadcasting on Facebook and YouTube all at the same time with the primary goal of the interviews to empower parents to be able to make this journey successful.

BTW- Thanks to Richie Soares for transcription work. She is awesome and so is her website: Homeschool and Humor. Check it out!

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