How to Know When it is Time

I am putting down my teacher hat for this post, and picking up my mom hat.  However, I think teachers will find my thoughts helpful and thoughtful if you teach high school students.

In most states, our kids with special learning needs can continue in the public school system until they are 21 years old.  Depending on how old your own kiddo is, this may seem like a long way off, but, believe me, it is right around the corner.  From the time my son was 2 years old, the school system has been charged with not only educating him, but providing a safe and engaging place to go for most of the day so I could live my life and pursue a career.  As we entered the 2017-2018 school year, we were faced with the scary reality that Jimmy would turn 21 in February and his school career (and likely mine) would be over in June.  It was beyond terrifying and, the waves of sadness and panic would hit more often with every passing month.  I had no idea what we were going to do.  I had done all the right things:

  1. Contacted the Office of Vocational Rehab to start a customized employment plan
  2. Made sure we were on every waiting list possible for funding assistance
  3. Tried to start lining up and finding some qualified people to help me
  4. Made sure the school was teaching him good job skills
  5. Went to every training opportunity and even became certified in customized job development

It wasn’t enough.

  1. The Office of Vocational Rehab lost my application for the third year in a row.
  2. The waiting list is REALLY long.
  3. The few people I tried to hire, were in no way able to handle Jimmy’s behaviors.
  4. The transition coordinator at the school quit for the third year in a row (thus my lost applications to the Office of Vocational Rehab).
  5. There are so few opportunities for kids and adults who have significant behavioral challenges.  Pretty much, one strike and you are out policy for most opportunities I found.

So, I just prayed and hoped it would all somehow miraculously work out.

But, then in January, something changed.  I will never really know what it was, as Jimmy cannot communicate very much to us, but suddenly, after 18 years, he no longer was willing to go to school.  I mean, he fought it every step of the way.  He is 220 pounds, so when he doesn’t want to do something, he doesn’t do it.  He even tried to jump out of the school van as it was going 65 mph down the highway on the way to school one morning.  Eventually, the police were called that day to get him safely off the shoulder of Interstate 81 and take him to the school.

I thought it was the van ride, so I started taking him to school myself before leaving for work every morning.  It was 30 minutes out of my way, and left me with a 90 minute drive to work, but I was willing to try anything.  I just wasn’t ready for Jimmy to be done with school and me done with my career.  But, after watching Jimmy be dragged out of my car every morning by 4-5 grown adults, Jimmy screaming no, and seeing him laying in the parking lot as I drove away, I realized whether I was ready or not, the time had come….  school was over for Jimmy Joy.

It was a really good ride, and I am so thankful for all the great teachers, assistants and other people who made his time with them happy and safe.  I also think, God had a hand in all this, as He knew I was literally counting down the days and weeks when it would all be over.  This way, I didn’t have time to get myself worked up into a full-blown state of depression.  It was just suddenly over,  and Jimmy and I were now on our own for most of the day.

The sad reality:  I did have to quit my job (the third career I have lost over the years due to this illness, autism).  Jimmy’s behaviors have also not diminished, so going out into the community is not much of a possibility at the moment.  We are working on it however.  We also got waiver services (YEAH!) BUT, cannot find anyone willing or qualified to work with him at the moment.  We take it one day at at time.  We take a walk every morning which is a huge victory I am thankful for every day.  And, there is a plan in July to start working on customized employment possibilities for Jimmy in our town.  It is hard to remain optimistic without being constantly disappointed, but I am learning to enjoy this new life, and I know it was time.  It was most definitely time.

Jimmy1  Jimmy2.jpg

Lesson Plan Freebie

I have always been so hesitant to include my lesson plans in the units I create for teacherspayteachers.  How you teach is such an individual expression of who you are.  Teaching in special education, especially in mixed grade level classrooms, is even more personalized.  So when people asked me for my lesson plans, I always paused and thought, “I am not sure it will really help you.”  But then this happened.  A teacher from China purchased many of my units, and she reached out for help.  She explained that where she is in China, there is very little understanding of how to teach students with autism and other special learning needs.  She wanted to know if there was anyway I could help her help others to teach better.  So, as I usually do, I said absolutely.

After working all day on a Saturday, I realized this may actually be helpful to other teachers who have purchased my units (especially science and social studies).  By no means, do I think this is a perfect fit for any classroom, but it shares my experience of how I was able to keep a small group of kids from ages 5-10 all engaged and learning using the same material.  I give the typical time frames it took for each activity, as well as teaching tips and why it took me that much time to read through a book or complete a circle map.

Keep in mind, this is a GENERAL lesson plan.  So, if you happen to purchase a unit that does not have the labeling activity that is described in the lesson plan, for example, just substitute the flow chart, time line, or other activity that may have been included.

My science and social studies block were typically 45 minutes, so that is how I laid out the activities.  I am a big proponent of asking lots of questions as well as giving students time to share their completed activities using whichever mode of communication they found most valuable.


Finally, I am a HUGE YouTube and Discovery user.  I found short video segments were a great way for my students to hear the information in one more way, that did not require a lot of prep time on my part.  This can be challenging if your school does not allow YouTube, but I really encourage you to search for accessible videos to add to your teaching time that is relevant and age appropriate.

You can grab this FREE lesson plan filled with tips, links, and details by clicking below.


As always, comments and feedback is always encouraged and welcomed.  Also, never hesitate to ask for what you need.  You never know when someone will give up a Saturday to help you out.  Teachers are one of the most supportive and caring communities of people; one I am proud to be part of.

Looking for Resources?

Time is so valuable.  If you are a teacher, you know the time spent out of the classroom is significant.  Special education teachers face the added challenge of often not having ready-made, published curriculum handed out to them that is applicable or accessible to their students.  We spend hours and hours making our own materials at home.  We use our own money, our own supplies, and tons of lamination and Velcro.

So, in an effort to help teachers, specifically special education teachers, and even more so those of you who teach in severe and profound settings, I have been collecting amazing resources I have found from so many great teachers on my Pinterest page.  Have you checked it out?  I even have a page just for FREE resources.  Check it out here:


I also have tons of other boards like:

social stories snacks    art

Finally, I have a board dedicated to each subject area, and many holidays.  So, if you are looking for a good reference library of resources specifically for students with significant learning challenges, you should definitely check my page out and follow me.

Click Follow Me below.

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