“Middle school” is a scary phrase for most parents. Thoughts of your baby wandering around a big school, trying to find his classes and being run over by much bigger 8th graders are frightening. He will no longer be cocooned in the safety of his elementary classroom with a teacher who knows him well, and there is the expectation your child will be able to function more independently. But what if your child is on the autism spectrum? What if he has difficulty advocating for his needs? What if he is difficult to understand? Or becomes overwhelmed? How do you rest easy knowing that his differences may make him an easier target for bullies?
I am a middle school teacher/media specialist and an autism parent. In my 15 years of teaching middle school, I have encountered many children on the autism spectrum. Some struggle and, yes, some do quite well. I have learned small things can make all the difference for our special kids. Unfortunately, many parents don’t know they can ask for special assistance. Without the proper plans in place to begin with, it can take months or years for solutions to occur to teachers or administrators.
Every child is different — autism or not. The following ideas are things I have seen to be most helpful for spectrum kids surviving middle school:
1. A 5-minute early pass. If your child is overwhelmed by loud noises or people bumping into him, passing time in a middle school hallway can be upsetting. Ask for a laminated hall pass to leave each class five minutes early. Your child will then be able to use the restroom and make it to his next class in peace. A pass may also curtail bullying, which often occurs in the bathroom or hallways. Deans and guidance counselors utilize such passes for students for various reasons and it won’t hurt to have one. If you find your child doesn’t have a problem in the hallways, he can simply choose to not use it. (This post is continued on WhattoExpect.com.)