7 Things You Might Not Know to Ask for When Transitioning Your Autistic Child to Middle School

“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.)

5 thoughts on “7 Things You Might Not Know to Ask for When Transitioning Your Autistic Child to Middle School

  1. Do you have any other helpful tips for my life, as we meet with the assembled team to discuss transitioning our Aspergers 5th-grader to middle school? Thanks for being such a great mind-reader.

  2. Thanks for the list. I completely agree with #5, especially where non-faculty and non-administrative staff are concerned. This should include bus drivers, transportation directors, absolutely ANYONE who encounters your special needs child at school. Singling out a child for stimming is pointing out to ALL his or her peers that this child is different, and is like picking on the star quarterback because he broke his leg in practice the week of The Big Game. You wouldn’t do it to the star quarterback, don’t do it to the special needs child.

  3. Thank you! My son will be transitioning to middle school next year. His IEP is on Monday, 5/13th and am currently working on Accommodations. My son, little Ricky has trouble dressing and undressing, I have to help him. I especially appreciate idea #4, an alternative elective for P.E. I am going to address this on Monday – my son would benefit if he had a study hall class, he is reading at a 3rd grade level and does not finish assignments ~ he works at a much slower pace – time is study hall class would help him complete assignments. My question is this, do students have to participate in P.E. or is there something in the Education Code regarding special education students and alternative elective to P.E.? Any information that you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much Leigh.

    • In Florida, a doctor’s note will excuse a child from P.E. By high school, every student must have a 1/2 credit of personal fitness, but that can be accomplished online via Florida Virtual School. That’s nice, because students keep a fitness journal and learn about fitness online. But, at the elementary level, a note will suffice. I can’t imagine that your state would’t have similar requirements and exemptions. I would definitely ask the school and his doctor. However, I would be amiss if I didn’t point out just how badly younger children often need the fresh air and movement. I know you know that already, but I don’t want anyone writing me claiming that I don’t think kids need to exercise. lol

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