What if your teen wants to take an alternative, post-high school path? | Sharon Saline, Ph.D. | 7 Min Read

October 19, 2022

I remember the phone call like it was yesterday, although it occurred more than 35 years ago. In the summer between my freshman and sophomore years in college, I performed in a student-directed production of the musical ‘Hair’ in Harvard Square. It had moved from our alma mater in Providence, Rhode Island beginning in June and it was my first real chance to follow my dream of acting. As a cast, we lived the ‘Hair’ experience, sharing a three-bedroom apartment in Somerville, cooking meals together, rehearsing in local parks, and doing seven shows a week. It was exhilarating, inspiring, wonderful, and exhausting every single day. 

In mid-August, the show was picked up for an autumn run by an independent and our college offered, in fact, recommended, that we take the semester off instead of combining our studies with such a rigorous performance schedule. I agreed. So, on a sunny August afternoon at a payphone on a busy street, I called my parents to tell them that I wasn’t returning to school. There was dead silence on the other end. Then my mother shrieked “WHAAAT? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I don’t think so.” My father simply said, “I’m not supporting this in any way, including financially.” Then the call was over and I was in tears. Of course, I did it anyway without a single regret and managed perfectly well on my own.

While taking a gap year or semester is much more commonplace now, it’s still a leap of faith for many parents to let go of the socially prescribed notion that college is the logical and direct next step after high school. In fact, many neurodivergent teens, especially those with ADHD, can really benefit from an additional year to strengthen executive functioning skills and build strategies for connected independence. But all too often, families are afraid to opt for an alternative plan. They’re not sure if their kids will actually go to college, they worry about what to say to friends or family members, and most importantly, they don’t want this gap period to “be a waste of time.” How can you redefine what post-high school success looks like for your teen and set up a program that benefits everybody?

The first step is to define what success means to you as parents or educators and to your students. For my parents, success meant graduating…

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Sharon Saline, Psy.D.

Sharon Saline, Psy.D. is a top expert in ADHD and neurodiversity. Dr. Saline specializes in an integrative approach to managing ADHD, anxiety, executive functioning skills, learning differences and mental health issues in neurodiverse and 2e children, teens, college-age adults and families. With over 25 years of clinical experience, she brings a positive, strength-based approach to improving the challenges related to attention, learning and behavior. As a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Northampton, MA, Dr. Saline helps people reduce frustration, develop daily living skills, communicate better and feel closer. An internationally sought-after lecturer, workshop facilitator, and educator/clinician trainer, she adeptly addresses topics ranging from making sense of ADHD and executive functioning skills to managing anxiety to understanding the teen brain. You may contact Dr. Sharon Saline at https://drsharonsaline.com.