The 4th Grade Transition

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My child is entering 4th grade, what should I expect?

4th grade is a big transition for all kids. It’s a move from “lower grade” to “upper grade.” There is more independent study and, at least at my child’s school, there is no more afternoon recess. There is only one morning recess plus lunch.

4th grade is a big deal.

What about special needs kids?

Transitions are harder for special needs kids. 4th grade is a huge transition. And, if your child is in an inclusion program, they’re going to have to deal with this important transition.

The first problem our kids will face, at least in California, is a jump in the number of students. In my child’s school, the number from 3rd grade to 4th grade jumps from 22 to 36.

Imagine the special needs child who has trouble dealing with her peers suddenly facing even more of them in class. That’s a sudden change.

What can you do to help with more peers?

One idea I had with my child was to photocopy the yearbook photos from last year’s 3rd grade classes. Not just my child’s class but all three third grade classes.

Then, for the first two days of school, I had my child identify people in his class. I’m hoping this helps him approach familiar peers sooner.Our kids are visual learners. My child has been at the same school since kindergarten. He has known a lot of the same kids for years. He was able to visually identify many of his new classmates. My thinking was that once he visually identified some of his more familiar peers, then he’d have an easier time getting more comfortable  

You can also make a social story to help your special needs child with this big 4th grade transition. The story can depict a larger classroom with lots of kids and even more desks in the room. It can begin with a panel of a typical 3rd grade-looking class and end with a 4th grade-looking class. Then, your child can have a visual of the difference.

What are some of the other obstacles in 4th grade?

More homework and more independent study is a given in the upper grades of elementary school. Kids are being seriously prepared for middle school and high school. It makes sense.

If you live in our house, homework is done before any computer, Wii, or game playing. We established that rule long ago. 4th grade will be a challenge because of the increased amount of homework. Hopefully, we can find a balance between completing homework and squeezing in some “fun time.”

Like I mentioned before, in my child’s school, there is no more afternoon recess. Eliminating one recess could be a potential problem for our kids. My child has a lot of OT issues. In the past, he often assisted his body during the afternoon recess. Now, he has to learn to do without it. Or, while he still has an aide, he has to negotiate a five minute break, but only when his body really needs it. We are trying to teach him to monitor when he body’s engine is only a little bit in need of a break or when his engine is really running high.

Physical education class is more serious in 4th grade. They even have P.E. standardized tests in my child’s school. Your child will have to eventually be able to do five push-ups, five pull-ups, etc. If your child is physically challenged, this may take some time for them to accomplish.

I’ve noticed one more important thing that begins to happen in 4th grade – cliques start to form. If your child already has trouble making friends becoming part of a clique at this age will be an even bigger challenge. Some groups will not be all that welcoming to special needs kids with obvious issues. They may be seeking “easier” friendships, ones that fit into their clique.

4th grade is yet another obstacle for our kids! Yet, if you prepare well and talk to your child about the changes, you should be able to assist help them with the transition.

To find Kimberly Kaplan:

www.kimberlykaplan.com

www.smashwords.com – ebook “A Parents’ Guide to Early Autism Intervention”

Twitter: @tipsautismmom

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