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Back to School for an 8th Grader with Autism – Part 1

My son starts 8th grade tomorrow. Last year at this time I was worried about the transition from a comfy elementary environment to a potentially overwhelming middle school experience.

However, my son felt confident and 7th grade went well. He had no negative experiences (that I know of) and his grades were excellent.

What about 8th grade?

Well, my son already has experience at this school, he knows the campus, and feels comfortable there. He really doesn’t need the prep that we did entering 7th grade.

However, we did do something to help in the transition from summer to school.

What did we do?

I’ve done this in the past:  I sent my son to the on-campus day care/camp during the week right before school. For two weeks, my son attended the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center summer camp, but for the last week of his summer break, we switched it to the middle school summer camp.

I’ve done this in the past in order to get him back onto the school campus to help with the transition.

What else happens during that last week of summer?

Last year, as an incoming 7th grader, we had to attend the orientation day, which was the Monday of the last week.

This year, since we didn’t have to attend, we casually picked up my son’s schedule, books, and reminder binder on that Tuesday (returning 8th graders had the entire week to do this).

My son received his schedule and, like we did last year, we walked the route he would take from class to class, including a snack break and lunch break, and a stop to his locker.

Were there any issues?

Here’s an interesting one:

How many times has a parent heard something about Teacher A or Teacher B that makes them feel uncomfortable about that teacher?

Not anything serious, but “scuttlebutt” that the teacher “isn’t very good” or is “difficult” or “doesn’t communicate well” or whatever.

You know, parents talk to other parents. We talked to a parent of kids who had already attended this middle school and they told us about one teacher in particular. We were told that this teacher was “difficult” and that the teacher “didn’t handle some kids well.”

Our friend, knowing we have a child with autism, suggested that perhaps this teacher in particular wasn’t the most flexible teacher in the school. This friend suggested that we switch due their experience with this teacher (they switched from that teacher when their second child got the teacher).


And, of course, my son had that teacher assigned to him.

What did we do?

First, we mildly complained. We sent an email saying we’d like to discuss the possible switching of this teacher. We figured that school hadn’t started yet, so schedules were still somewhat flexible.

Well, the school explained to us that we didn’t have to panic. Our son did fine last year, and he’ll have assistance in the classroom, and this teacher “was fine.”

Did we accept that?

In the past, we haven’t pushed every little thing. My husband and I are of the same mind that you have to pick your battles.

We decided that this was a battle we needed to choose.

We sent another email asking if the schedule can be changed.

I went into the office, and they accommodated us.

Was there a catch?

Yes. We were told that the classroom that our son was originally assigned was an “inclusion” classroom, which meant accommodations such as longer test times and classroom breaks could be more easily handled. Apparently, when we switched classrooms, our son was no longer in an inclusion class.

So, I had to sign an addendum stating that I understood that my son was—for one class—no longer in an inclusion setting.

I’m assuming when we meet for my son’s IEP that this will be brought up again. Hopefully by then things will be going smoothly and we won’t have any compliants about any of my son’s teachers.

In my next blog, I’ll discuss a bit more about how I get my son ready for school.


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