Paths After High School
Once a neurodivergent individual turns 18 and graduates from high school, services run out. There is so much out there people do not know about. Want to know various paths neurodiverse individuals can take beyond their high school years?
Here are different paths neurodiverse individuals can transition into after completing high school:
4 year college or university: Before high school graduation, parents and neurodiverse students should research the type of college right for the neurodiverse individual. Students, families, and school staff should be part of this conversation. 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 see what support is available. Some colleges have special programs that offer extra services and support to students with learning differences. For example, I communicated with Purdue University Global's disability services via email to receive my accommodations and modifications I needed to succeed in university online. I'm so happy to share I graduated from Purdue University Global with my Bachelor's Degree back in October 2022! It is super important to make sure supports and structure are in place in order for any neurodivergent individual to succeed.
2 year college: A two-year college can be a great option for young people who are unsure about their career path, who aren’t ready for a four-year college, or want to save money because four year colleges are expensive financially. When I attended Brookdale Community College, I had an amazing experience because the campus was small enough for me to navigate easily and smaller class sizes for me that I gained a lot of support from professors along the way. Two year colleges can help neurodiverse individuals strengthen skills and prepare them for careers. After I graduated from Brookdale Community College in 2019 with my Associate's Degree, I gained a job as a paraprofessional for Middletown Township Public School District in NJ to work with autistic students in a self-contained classroom. This was only a couple of months after graduation! Lastly, 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. When I attended Colts Neck High School, a lot of my friends attended vocational school in Freehold, so it can help them for earning jobs after graduating from high school. Many young neurodivergent people 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 offer certificate programs, too. I know Brookdale Community College has trade and certification programs, such as mechanics, electricians, cyber security, etc. Programs tend to provide more supervision to help neurodivergent students keep up with their work. Additionally, many programs offer internships or apprenticeships that help young neurodivergent people move into the workforce.
The military: This can be a good option for young neurodivergent 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 to college-level education. Before joining, it’s important to think about how learning and thinking differences could impact training. The military has rules for qualifying if a young person has taken ADHD medication in the past, or needs special accommodations.
Volunteer or intern: Though often unpaid, these positions can help neurodivergent people identify and strengthen their skills and improve their confidence. These opportunities also can provide on-the-job training and experience to prepare young adults for traditional employment.
Work: If more schooling isn’t right, going straight to work can be a rewarding path for young people. 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 young adults find internships and volunteer work. Family members and friends may know of jobs, too. As a young person learns solid work skills, independence will follow, and they may discover a career path that leads to further training.
I've been asked before about other options for neurodivergent people who do not apply with these paths due to severity of disability. When your neurodivergent child turns 18, parents must reapply for social security disability insurance. Other financial and legal matters that can affect your neurodivergent child include obtaining health insurance, applying for home- and community-based waivers, and establishing guardianship and a special needs trust in the event something happens to parents themselves. Lastly, there's resources and services out there in every state in the U.S about adult day time programs for those with significant barriers to living independently and group homes.
Do you have any questions about different paths for neurodiverse individuals beyond age 18? Share your questions in the comments section!