Sometimes as we struggle along with our struggling children, the time for high school sneaks up and leaves us feeling overwhelmed with inadequacy. A child with special needs, by definition is two years delayed academically; meaning typical high school subjects may be too difficult. Your private school, either the one in your home or your private school satellite program (PSP), can decide what merits a diploma for high school.

You may decide that your child needs to learn character qualities, social skills, and life skills to be able to move on after high school graduation. And these may be at the core of graduation requirements rather than typical English, math, and science. Or your student may need to learn tools to accommodate their abilities. For example, a student who has dysgraphia will need to learn to take notes in a different way than paper and pencil. Learning this tool, along with practice, may be a requirement in English class.

If your special learner is gifted, typical high school course may not be appropriate also. You may have to be more creative in what constitutes graduation requirements. Twice-exceptional students, gifted with a learning disability, may cross both areas. This child may need highly accelerated course material in a format that accommodates the learning difficulty.

If you are enrolled in a PSP, work closely with your school leader to develop graduation requirements that prepare your child for the future. As you prayerfully plan your course of study for your special learner, here are some ideas to consider.


Reading along with Bible on CD helps with understanding and can increase reading speed, which helps with comprehension. If your child is unable to read the Bible, be sure listening to the audio version or listening to you read the Bible will give your child needed spiritual food. You may want to plan some time to chat about what your child has listened to. Remember, the important thing is not reading the Bible per se; it’s the saving grace of Jesus.

Teach Biblical thought and worldview (discuss with your teen, do not assume they can get it from a book). Books that will help your and your child are Christian Ethics for Youth by Wilmer Bechtels, Right From Wrong and Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door by Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler, and Mere Christianity by CS Lewis.

Life Skills

Create a Life Skills class or something similar. Remember your delayed learner needs to actually do these, not just learn them from a book. Some examples of life skills include:

  • Household management – This can include cleaning, cooking, laundry, and other skills for independent living.
  • Handling money and banking
  • Making appointments
  • Making phone calls to find information
  • Health – Know how to fill out health history, how to read medication directions
  • Manners – The book Teenage Book of Manners Please by Fred Hartley may be helpful.
  • Peacemaking – Consider the book The Peacemaker by Ken Sande. Young Peacemakers resources may be more appropriate for your child.
  • Understanding of cultural pressures – Dr. James Dobson’s book Life on the Edge is recommended.

Academic Skills

Perhaps instead of subject titles, you may want to focus on needed academic skills. Examples of skills to consider:

  • Learn to copy from a book and from a board or presentation screen.
  • Note taking from books and from lectures, etc. (Use sermons, tapes, TV news, or your lecture). Try to offer an opportunity to take notes from a presentation or chalkboard. These are often used in education beyond high school.
  • Summarizing (précis)
  • Reading from texts to discern what needs to be learned for test
  • Test preparation Many jobs require aptitude or skill tests.
  • Writing an essay and a research paper
  • Business letters
  • Reading aloud
  • Arithmetic, basic geometry, and personal finance (balancing a check, for example)

Study and Thinking Skills

Our teens need to learn to learn and think for themselves and often must be taught ‘how’ to do that. The following resources are recommended.

Remember that you don’t have to use all of these areas. Pray about what your child needs to serve God and plan high school according to your child’s needs.