July 30, 2017

It’s so unfair.

I didn’t even sign up for anything.

Suddenly our phone is ringing off the hook and our mail is filled with advertisements.

What happened?

Our daughter entered her junior year in high school.

Now every company out there who has a program to help students do better on ACT and SAT tests is knocking at our door.

I understand this is big business as the scores on these tests can determine how much financial aid a student receives, but they really need to dial it back.

My daughter is autistic and while she does well academically (assuming she actually gets the work turned in) she does need help with other skills.

Why can’t there be companies breaking down my door trying to sell me a program to help her with executive functions, learning life skills or advancing her social skills so she can deal with dating?

Oh that’s right, they don’t exist.

It’s really too bad, because we would probably buy every single one of them if they did.

So instead of spending time and money on prep classes we are focused on organization, prioritization and trying to figure out how to pay for it all.


I like to be organized. I use color coded folders at work to track projects.

I use One Note to keep emails organized.

I write a to-do list every day – even though I don’t actually get all of it done, I feel better for having written the list.

Now comes junior year and I feel like the whole world is spinning out of control.

This is our oldest child and we have no idea where to even start.

So we are starting at the beginning – what is most important right now?

  • Start school off right – make sure she is prepared for class and is handing in the homework on time.
  • Look at what works for organization in our house – a family calendar, to-do lists, a bulletin board where we post important papers etc.
  • Look at what might work for organization of college information – for electronic info it will be One Note, for paper info we will create a filing system.

Now that we have a good start it is time to take the next step:

Create a to-do list by month

Junior year can feel really overwhelming, particularly for autistic students who already struggle with executive functioning skills. Parents need to help support students to make sure activities get done.

There are a lot of to-do lists out there for juniors who are preparing for college, but they don’t really take into consideration the special needs of autistic students. Most lists talk about picking colleges, financial aid and getting involved in extracurricular activities.

For our child the list is a bit different. Here is an example:

August/September – start school; verify IEP is being followed and is working; review process to ensure homework is being done and handed in.

October – Determine when to take ACT/SAT. Most kids take it in the spring, but fall dates are available. Prepare a study plan for the test so there is time daily or weekly to focus on preparation. This could be a class through the local community education or something you buy online-there are plenty of choices out there. It can be a good idea to take these tests even the they aren’t planning on attending college. Plans change and it is easier to take them now than to try and get in later. Accommodations are available for both tests.

November/December – Refocus on school. Review your organizational plans and processes. Make changes as needed. The holiday season is a great time to take advantage of volunteer opportunities that are seasonal, but it can also be very overwhelming. If your student has trouble prioritizing there may be a need for additional support this time of year with all of the seasonal distraction.

January/February – Review the processes used so far in the year. How are they working? How can they be changed to make them better? The goal is to create a process that everyone is comfortable with to track homework, classes, chores and anything else that needs to get done. Executive function skills often continue to be an issue for autistic students. If you can create a process that works in high school that is one less thing to have to create after high school. Don’t forget to look at sensory processing as well. Learning how to create an environment where they can relax is a skill that will be used throughout life.

March/April – Take the ACT/SAT Test. It is important to take this test at least 2 months before any deadlines for scholarships or college applications. If you choose to wait until senior year to take the test, be sure to do it in the fall. Continue to work on organizational skills and focus on school.

May/June – Look for a summer job. If there aren’t any jobs available consider volunteering. The experience of working is important to better understand the demands of the ‘real’ world. Learning how to deal with new situations now will help students’ better cope later.

This is just an example with some general guidelines we will be using. Create your own calendar and review it regularly to stay on track. Make changes as needed. The goal is to focus on executive function skills such as organization and prioritization to help them get ready for adulthood regardless of whether they are planning on attending college or not.

About the author 

Dawn Marcotte

Dawn Marcotte is the CEO of WWW.ASD-DR.com, a website designed to help teens and young adults on the spectrum live to their highest potential.

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