By Dennise Goldberg
September 2, 2013
The new school has begun and many of your children are attending middle school for the first time in their lives. It’s a difficult transition for all kids; it’s especially difficult for a child with special needs.
The curriculum becomes harder and there is new schedule of classes they will have to follow. The days of sitting in one classroom for all academic instruction is now over. In addition, kids have to be able to run to their hall lockers in between classes and make it to their next period without being tardy.
To make matters worse, most kids will be required to change for P.E., and then change back into their regular clothes to go to their next period on time.
It’s been many years since I attended middle school; however, when my son started last year, he had a difficult time adjusting the first semester. The following are few tips that helped my son navigate through his first year of middle school.
1. Purchase a locker combination for your child to practice with.
Most school P.E. and hall lockers are combination locks. Many children who suffer with fine motor delays or processing disorders have difficulty using the dial on a combination lock. Buy a lock for your child to practice with at home. This helped my son tremendously! If they can’t get the lock down, request a locker with a key. They always have a few.
2. Have your child pack up their back-packs the night before school.
If your child waits until the morning, most likely they’ll be in such a hurry that something important will not make it into their bag. Organization is the key to success at this level.
3. Check your child’s student planner every day after school.
Many children forget to write down their homework in the planner. If your child is struggling in this area in a particular class, the teacher might be able to check your child’s planner on a daily basis to make sure the homework is written down correctly. Also, many teachers post their homework online, and you can double check the planner against the online calendar.
4. Buy a second set of P.E. clothes.
What are the odds your child will lose a set or forget to bring them home on Friday afternoon to be washed for the following Monday? Just in case, buy 2 sets to be safe!
5. Help your child study for tests.
Middle school is so much harder than we experienced years ago; to me, it’s more like what I experienced in high school. The one skill our children did not learn well in elementary school was how to study for tests. So it’s up to us as parents to teach our children this valuable skill. The key is to know your child’s strengths to help them with the weak areas.
6. Check your child’s backpacks and notebooks every day for handouts or any other materials that have been sent home.
Kids are bombarded with handouts in school every day, so they usually shove the papers some place quickly and forget about them. In many cases, they are important announcements or previous test results. If you don’t check, you might miss them!
7. Know your child’s teachers' email addresses.
Sometimes calling an IEP isn’t necessary; whatever your child is struggling with in class might be able to be straightened with a simple email to the teacher.
8. Call an IEP team meeting if necessary.
Middle school is quite difficult, so if time has gone by and your child’s grades have gone south, call an IEP team meeting before the second semester.
9. Establish a line of communication with your child.
There are many pressures in middle school and not all of them have to do with academics; socializing can be very difficult as well. With the rise in bullying through social media, it’s important to know who your child socializes with in school.
10. Help your child with time management.
This is one of the hardest things for pre-teenagers to do! They have much more homework than they did in elementary school, so we as parents need to have patience and help them remain organized and use their homework/study time wisely.
Break up the time, if necessary, before and after dinner. Whatever helps your child complete their work at home with as little anxiety to you and your child as possible. I know from experience, it’s easier said than done!