Most families have probably had a transition meeting with their school team, but there may be things that were not addressed. Hopefully your child will have a smooth transition, but there may be things that have not yet been addressed and may impact your child’s success in Middle School.
Areas of concern may include:
1. Before School. Most schools require students to go to a specific location before school until the first bell rings. Often this is the gym or the cafeteria, and usually these are loud places that may be difficult for our kids. Consider arranging a specific place in the school that is quiet, such as a lobby area at the front of the school.
2. Start new, productive routines. Using transition years to start new routines is often a good time because you can always use the excuse, “in middle school, this is how it is done”, or “now that you are in middle school, it is time to …”. A new binder organization system or a new homework organization system will probably be needed for middle school because there are so many more classes and assignments to keep organized. Work on this over the summer, rather than “springing” it on your child when school starts. Remember that ALL 6th graders are disorganized, so it will take a while for new routines to become familiar and comfortable.
3. Pep Rallies and the like. Keep in mind that there will be lots of “school spirit” activities that may or may not be appealing to your child. If your child has a lot of sensory sensitivities, it may be best to have an accommodation in his or her IEP to have an alternative activity for your child at these times.
4. Meet the Team. Most middle schools use a team teaching model consisting of a team that includes the math, language arts, social studies and science teachers. It may be helpful for your child if you meet all of these teachers before school starts.
5. Locker issues. When the Chapel Hill TEACCH Center did a middle school group a few years ago, the number one concern that the kids had were worries around their locker. Consider asking for a locker at the end of the row (and at the top if your child is tall enough) so your child won’t have to deal with people on all sides when going to their locker. Practice opening combination locks over the summer and ask for the combination of their locker before school starts. Some schools will let your child practice opening their locker before school starts.
6. Lunch-room plan. In elementary school, your child’s class probably all ate lunch together. In middle school, this probably won’t be the case. Consider finding a friend for your child to eat with, especially in the first days, so that they won’t be sitting at a table by themselves. Also consider making arrangements for your child to have another place to go if the lunch-room is too over stimulating. There will be adult supervision, but it will probably be much louder and more crowded than in elementary school.
7. New start and end time to school day. Don’t wait until the last minute to change bedtime if your child has to get up earlier for school for middle school. Even a half hour difference can make a difference if you don’t remember to go to bed a bit earlier in the evening.
8. PE Accommodations. PE is required every semester in middle school, except when your child is taking health. Some children on the spectrum struggle in the locker room, and have difficulty with changing clothes in a large group. Consider asking if your child can change their clothes in a bathroom near their locker and walk to the gym from there, rather than having to deal with the locker room.
The Chapel Hill TEACCH Center offers a “Transition to Middle School” parent workshop every Spring, usually in April. If you are the parent of a rising 5th grader, consider attending next year. It will be posted on the TEACCH website under Trainings.