CM with Special Needs in High School

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  • Twinsmomxtwo

    I’m sorry this is long but I need help…

    I have 4 children – two are 15 and two are 13.  My 15 yo daughter is quite self-motivated so I’m not worried about her and my 13 yo’s are doing fine as well and have another year of middle school to go.

    I am most concerned about how to approach high school with my 15 yo son.  He has high-functioning autism.  For the past 4 years we were part of a classical community, with the last 2 yrs using their middle school level “challenge” curriculum.  He did ok in his first Challenge year in this classical community but his 2nd year was a disaster. It was a lot of work at a very fast pace and he just couldn’t keep up and lost the desire to even try.  Some social factors played into that as well but also I could not give him the 1-on-1 attention he needed because I was directing his class of 11 students.  The high school levels just add more and move even faster.  So because of this and some other factors we’ve decided not to continue.

    As a result of this past year’s experience I am embarking on returning to SCM for our homeschool.  I have been devouring courses, blog posts, and videos from Sonya Shafer about the CM methods and feel confident that I can implement them for 3 of my kids. I am concerned, though, about how to go about high school with my 15 yo special needs son.

    He’s always struggled academically and scored “below grade level” on our annually required standardized tests.  But his most recent testing shows some regression in his skills after this past terrible year. Now, I don’t look at these scores to define my son as a student but they have been pretty accurate at revealing skill levels in these areas and confirm what I see day-to-day.  Here are his Grade Equivalency scores:

    Reading (vocabulary, comprehension) – 7.0 GE

    Math (computation, concepts & problems) – 9.2 GE

    Language (Mechanics, usage & structure, spelling) – 6.6 GE

    How in the world do I approach high school level work with him when he is clearly not even capable of middle school level work? I thought since he has a “disability” that I could just do things at his level and count it as high school credits but is that wrong?

    FYI: our state does not have any required criteria for high school or graduation and he will likely not attend college.

    I have Sonya’s book Your Questions Answered: High School and the issue of how to handle special needs at this level is not addressed.  Help and advice is greatly appreciated.  Thank you.


    I think you can just approach him at his level. I also know that my neighbor with a disability went to “highschool” until she was like 20 or 21…..I think she wanted to though.

    We are in a state without highschool graduation requirements as well.

    My sister who is not disabled but struggled in math was homeschooled 4th-12th. She only got through algebra 1 in highschool but was counted to have 4 credits of math on the homeschool assistant program transcript. Our cover teacher helped mom write it out. Incidentally she went on to get a nursing degree;)

    Just a few thoughts …I haven’t navigated highschool as a mother quite yet, but I’m sure oldest will be “behind” on spelling/writing due to dyslexia and I plan to just have him do what he can. He’s in 7th in the fall.


    Thank you Ruralmama for your feedback.  It’s very helpful and encouraging.

    Unlike your neighbor, he’s probably not going to need that much extra time in high school but he will definitely need his course of study adapted to his abilities.  He, too, probably won’t go further than Algebra 1 in math but I plan to count any math he has done since turning 14 and in 9th grade as a math credit including Saxon 7/6 up to this point and going forward MUS Pre-Algebra, MUS Algebra 1 and Foundations in Personal Finance (Dave Ramsey).

    My post mainly takes into consideration the history, language arts, and science studies.  These subjects will look significantly different for him than for his twin sister, who is already writing novels and reads all the time, but since there are no guidelines in my state as to what constitutes a high school credit and according to our  law homeschools “determine the scope and sequence of academic instruction…” they will both get high school credit for their respective courses of study.

    So I guess it’s really up to me and his high school course of study should be guided by his abilities and his future plans…?


    I would like to follow this post as well. I had a similar situation with my eldest son, also 15 (turning 16 this month) and also with high-functioning autism. The abstract math has gotten to a place where he just isn’t getting it. He struggles so much. We have abandoned the progression for this coming year and we are doing MUS Stewardship, which is consumer math with a Biblical devotion attached to it. But the reading level has regressed as well. I am in the process of deeply researching this regression because it has thrown me for a loop as teacher and mom. Spelling and grammar when writing, it’s just not there. He just doesn’t want to work so often…that is new and we have always focused on habits of attentiveness and striving for excellence as working for the Lord in all we do. I know this must be a feeling of failure situation. It’s been a hard year. Appreciate all of the ladies on here and love reading the posts.


    hotchameleon –  I wonder if it’s hormonal, meaning their bodies are going through so many changes it must affect their moods and energy levels.  And our HF-ASD kiddos find it especially hard to cope with and manage given all the other sensory and executive functioning skills they must work so much harder at than “neurotypical” kids.

    I wonder if given we may need to dial back the length of lessons again to the elementary level to give them some extra leeway in dealing with these changes?

    After I posted this concern, I’ve given it a lot of thought and I am just going to meet my son where he is, continue to work on habits, continue to work at his level on everything and that is HIS high school program.  I am going to scale back the amount of time on task to about 15-20 minutes for each subject like language arts, math, science & history to begin the year and gradually build 1 minute at a time as I see the need to do so. I’m also not going to force on him the prescribed grade level books from the guides.  I plan to start with the lowest level books to enable him to have some success with reading and narration (oral only unless he wants to write, which sometimes he does) and increase a little at time when I see his confidence and skills begin to increase.

    We’re also going to continue to foster his love for the guitar and music and experiment with finding some kind of trade he may be good at and enjoy.  He’s not going to college – at least not right out of high school (he may change his mind as an adult).

    I’ve accepted that high school will look different for him, and that’s ok.

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