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Middle School Transition for a Child with Autism – Part 1

In May of this year, my son was asked about how he felt leaving elementary school and entering middle school for the 2015-16 school year. He said he felt good about it, and he said his mom is “overly worried.”

Why was I worried?

Well, my son had been at the same school for seven years. K through sixth grade. Both my son and his parents were comfortable at this school.

Most importantly, many of kids new my son. They “got” him and accepted his “uniqueness.” He could run and flap his arms a bit and most of the kids would say, “Oh, that’s just ______. No big deal.”

My son’s transition to middle school had been on my mind for two years before it even happened. I talked to parents with older kids and I talked to a few middle schoolers.

I wanted as much information as possible going in, which I guess was interpreted by my son as being “overly worried.”

Of course, I call it prepared. Responsible. Being a mom.

Was I worrying about one thing in particular?


My son was transitioning to a school where a lot of kids DIDN’T know him. And, that made me worried. Well, nervous actually.

Did we prepare for this big transition?

First, I talked to my son about options on how to handle a bully. What were some of things I told him?

1. Ignore the bully and walk away
2. Let the bully have his or her say. Typically, the bully will walk away.
3. Tell an adult.

I have always stressed with my son that he can tell me anything. I have also told him that I want to know if he feels he’s been bullied. If a peer says something negative, mean, or hurtful. He needs to tell someone. If it’s not me or his dad, then an adult at school.

I told my son about the school counselors in middle school. They are there to help students. They are a safe place to report bullying.

Were we worried about anything else?

The new location. The size of the campus and the newness of the campus.

Seven years in one location meant my son was comfortable. He knew where the auditorium was, where the library was, etc.

The middle school is not only a new location, but the campus is very large.

How did we help our son get used to the new location?

We did three things, all BEFORE the first day of classes.

1. Four or five times during the previous year, after taking our dog to the park on a Sunday, my son and I would stop by the middle school and walk around. The front gate was unlocked because various sports teams were using the practice fields on Sundays. We couldn’t get into any buildings, of course. But, just walking around from building to building, I felt would be helpful. At least, it was a place to start.

2. Orientation night. Try not to miss your child’s orientation night. This is not the day where they get their schedules and lockers. This is a meeting at night that is mostly for parents, yet we brought our son and walked around with him. The hallways were open so this time we could walk through the buildings. (We also dropped in on the Open House night, even though we didn’t have a child in the school at the time. The administrators said it was okay for incoming students to visit on Open House night, so we did.)

3. Summer classes. Our son is very good academically, yet he’s always been a bit behind in English. He has always had trouble with abstract concepts, any concept that’s not concrete.

So, we coordinated with the elementary school RSP person and the middle school and got him into the summer English class. This class would review 6th grade English, plus touch on 7th grade curriculum.

Therefore, for four weeks during the summer, my son was attended one class, which I believe helped him feel comfortable at his new school.

Plus, there was a bonus…Our son liked his summer school teacher. He seemed to get along with her well and felt comfortable. I sent the principal an email requesting her for my son’s 7th grade English class, and he got assigned to her!

In my next blog, I’ll continue to dissect my son’s transition from elementary school to middle school.

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